Military History subtopic within History Topic:

At the heart of Military History is the pursuit of historians to gain a better understanding of the thousands of armed conflicts in human history, and how they have impacted human societies, cultures, economies, civilizations, and international relations between countries. 

Military schools place a major focus on lessons learned from past conflicts. This helps current military leaders to avoid the mistakes of the past and improve current performance. The study of Military History enables students to examine the underlying reasons for war, military doctrines, logistics and technology, social and cultural implications, and the impact war has on a nation’s military and political leaders.

Military History provides a discipline within the humanities to remember and appreciate the millions of brave soldiers who have given their lives in the pursuit of worthy causes, as well as to increase the awareness of evil ideologies that bring about war.

Throughout history, there have been famous military leaders and strategists that have forever shaped the course of warfare. According to www.totallyhistory.com, the first great military strategist was Sun Tzu (544-496 BC). This ancient Chinese philosopher and military general is credited with writing the Art of War – the first major work to develop a text that would influence military strategy for generations to come. Sun Tzu was the first to propose guerilla warfare, which continues to be effectively used to this day. Guerilla warfare enables a small group of combatants to defeat a larger, less-mobile traditional army through hit and run tactics, which include ambushes, raids, and sabotage.

In the ancient world, the largest empires were created using military power. This includes military successes Alexander the Great (356-323 BC), who was never defeated in war, Hannibal (247-182 BC), who successfully fought the Roman Republic, Julius Caesar (100-44 BC), who created the Roman Empire using vast military power, and Genghis Khan (1162-1227), whose unstoppable hordes conquered the largest empire in history.

Modern Warfare and World-Wide War  

In the modern era, the tremendous impact of World War II in the annals of military history can be seen in the top military leadership profiles found at www.biographyonline.net. War was forever changed through German dictator Adolph Hitler’s use of blitzkrieg to overrun France. The blitzkrieg is the dense concentration of armored, motorized infantry that uses speed and the support of air power to quickly obliterate an enemy. On the Allied side, two American generals whom the Biography Online website credits with the liberation of Europe from Hitler are Generals Dwight Eisenhower and George Patton, who distinguished himself in the liberation of France. Eisenhower was the Supreme Allied Commander for the D-Day invasion of occupied Europe – one of the largest amphibious military assaults in history (https://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/d-day)

Another mega-event in both military and human history took place during World War II with the United States dropping two Atomic Bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. The Atomic Bomb killed more than 200,000 people in a minute. This followed the firebombing of Dresden, Germany the previous month, killing 135,000 people and the March 1945 air raid on Tokyo killing 80,000 Japanese.

According to a www.historyplace.com article by Michael Lee Lanning, Lt. Col. (Ret) US Army, these bombings broke with international law that regarded the bombing of civilians as “illegal and barbaric.” US President Harry Truman justified the use of the A-Bomb because it shorted the war, and possibly saved hundreds of thousands of lives that would have been lost if the US invaded Japan.

In its top 10 greatest battles in history, www.topgtens.com also puts a heavy emphasis of World War II’s importance in military history. It ranks the Battle of Stalingrad as the most important battle in history because it is where the Soviet Union’s Red Army stopped the last great offensive of the Nazi army on the Eastern Front. Approximately a half million soldiers and civilians died in the defense of the city. The German defeat prevented the Nazis from taking Moscow and the Caucasus oil fields. The Battle of Britain was ranked number 7 for the effective use of radar in helping the British spitfires stop the powerful Luftwaffe. The Battle of Midway was ranked number 8 because it is where the US Navy destroyed the heart of one of the greatest fleets ever assembled by the Japanese Navy.

Weapons that Changed Military History

The constant evolution of weapons and their greater power has made warfare ever deadlier. According to www.warhistory.com/war-articles/weapons-changed-world.html, there were ten major weapon developments that changed the course of military history.

The first major weapon that made a major impact in ancient times was the trebuchet. This giant sling fired massive stones, which pounded the once-impenetrable castle walls. This weapon greatly the decreased the duration of siege.

Mark I “Mother Tank” helped put an end to trench warfare in World War I. A precursor to the more sophisticated tanks of today, it served as an iron bunker that provided protection against enemy fire.

Many people think that World War I was the first time that biological warfare was used in a massive way, but it all started in 585 BC when Hellebone was used during the siege of Kirrha. This poison was used to destroy the water supply flowing towards the defenders.  It is true that World War I brought biological warfare to a whole new devastating level with the development of chlorine gas. The brainchild of Fritz Haber, it was the first chemical weapon created and used to kill thousands.

The first highly effective, mass killing gun used in warfare was the Maxim Machine Gun, which was developed in the early 1900s. This automatic machine gun could obliterate columns of the enemy in a very fast time. It was the Harquebus gun developed in the 15th century that totally changed the way soldiers viewed the battlefield. Prior to the creation of this gun, soldiers were forced to often use hand-to-hand combat with the use of swords.

Air power first came into play in World War I with the development of the Fokker Airplane. This first fighter aircraft, which could fire through the propeller without causing damage to the plane, began the battle of the skies.

Predator drones are number seven on the War History’s most influential weapon list. This weapon has radically changed modern warfare. It can fly over an enemy in silence and stealth. It can effectively attack a hard-to-reach terrorist hideout. The drone can fly over mountainous regions, and provide a surgical strike without putting ground troops at risk.

Today’s drones and nuclear weapons are a far cry from the weapon used for most of early human history – the bow and arrow. This weapon, ranked ten on the list, was first used 12,000 years ago and played a major role in warfare through the 16th century. Its influence shaped ancient and modern societies – from Egypt to modern Europe, the Arab world to China.

As weapons grow more sophisticated, and their lethal power threatens all humankind, we are entering a period of Military History where there will be less room for errors in judgement by military and political leaders. Increasingly, going to war must be a last resort. Millions of lives are on the line.

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