Definitions

Bombardment

Bombardment

[v. bom-bahrd, buhm-; n. bom-bahrd]
A bombardment is an attack by artillery fire directed against fortifications, troops or towns and buildings. In its strict sense the term is only applied to the bombardment of defenceless or undefended objects, houses, public buildings, etc., by an assailant with the object of disheartening his opponent, and specially to force the civil population and authorities of a besieged place to persuade their military commander to capitulate before the actual defences of the place have been reduced to impotence. The practice was especially common during the 19th century; during the 20th century the tactic was largely superseded by the use of aircraft and missiles in various ways, under the general term "bombing".

Bombardment can only achieve its objective when the amount of suffering inflicted upon non-combatants is sufficient to break down their resolution, and when the commander permits himself to be influenced or coerced by the sufferers. A threat of bombardment will sometimes induce the target to surrender, but instances of its fulfillment being followed by success are rare; in general, with a determined commander, bombardments fail in their objective. Further, intentionally intense fire at a large target, unlike the slow, steady and minutely accurate artillery attacks directed upon the fortifications, requires the expenditure of large quantities of ammunition and wears out the guns of the attack. Bombardments are, however, frequently resorted to in order to test the temper of the garrison and the civil population, a notable instance being the Siege of Strasbourg in 1870. The term has evolved during the twentieth century to incorporate boarder massed artillery attacks by one army against another, for example the front wide bombardment prior to the 1916 attack on the Somme or the massed bombardments proceeding Operation Uranus during the second world war. The term was previously often loosely employed to describe artillery attacks upon forts or fortified positions in preparation for assaults by infantry.

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