2 May 2023

What is a War of Attrition? – Know all the effects left by the War of Attrition

By Donald

The war of attrition It is a tactic that was popularized between 1915 and 1916 during the Great War, but it is an older tool that even Napoleon suffered from it. So, this article explains the definition of this type of armed conflict and how it develops. In the same way, some of the historical events where this technique was applied are mentioned, in addition to listing the phases through which it goes through in the fight.

Meaning and Definition of the War of Attrition

In a war, a set of combat techniques must be used to seek to defeat the enemy. One of the most popular techniques is attrition warfare, as it has been used in several of the world’s major armed conflicts. Among the best known examples are the confrontation named with the same title between Israel and Egypt. In addition to the resistance of the Soviet army before Operation Barbarossa.

A war of attrition is one in which the resistance of the armies that are in conflict is measured. In other words, the winner is the battalion that can stand the longest, fighting and enduring the attacks of the other. In the same way, in its definition it is highlighted that said war is necessary to have the capacity to overcome losses suffered and replace them with more people or better economy.

The war of attrition is usually carried out in a stalemate, so it is essential hold position. In this sense, in this type of conflict there is no advance of the troops. Thus, the position is defended and maintained while casualties are caused to the opposing troops, not only in men, but also in weapons, ammunition or food supplies.

The definition of a war of attrition can be found in its own name, since the main objective is to wear down. So, it is sought that the enemy does not have reinforcements, gets tired for not sleep and have no food. Likewise, the weather can be an ally or an enemy of an army in this type of combat. Just as it happened in 1915 and 1916 in the trenches, also in World War II or in Napoleon’s attempt to conquer Russia.

What is the war of attrition in the first world war?

During the events of World War I, the largest and most prolonged wars of attrition took place. In this sense, in this period the construction of spaces for the refuge of troops on the battlefield was developed, which is known as trench warfare. There, the main objective was gain enemy territory and to make the troops advance, however, the confrontation was strong and exhausting.

In the conflict in the trenches, months could go by without an advance into enemy territory, thus keeping the wear and tear on men high. It must be remembered that in the trenches there were no conditions to inhabit the ‘resting places’, since these holes or hiding places were full of mud. In the same way, millions of men died there by bullets, bombs or diseases such as trench foot.

Thus, the trenches in the First World War became a refuge, but also a possible place to find death. The wear and tear in these hiding places also occurred in the psychological aspect, since the men suffered from stress waiting for the night attacks of the enemy. For this same reason, the troops slept very few hours, since many of the battles took place at night.

What is the war of attrition in the second world war?

Now, the war of attrition in the Second World War took place in a different way from the events of the first. In this sense, in most of the conflicts of this world event the combats did not last for months, since Nazi Germany attacked in a single phase. The Blitzkrieg It took the rivals by surprise and as a consequence the other armies were quickly defeated.

However, when Hitler decided to invade the Soviet Union, he did not prepare the contest correctly, despite anticipating a little less than a year for the capture of Moscow. the main Fuhrer’s mistake It was the same one that Napoleon Bonaparte committed a century before, that is, not taking into account the climatic factor of the Russian territory. Thus the Nazi troops began to attack the Soviet Union and managed to advance thanks to the panzer tanks to the most important cities, where a war of attrition began.

The Russians had to fall back on their own territory from the Soviet Union, but they concentrated on Stalingrad and Moscow to prepare the defense. In the same way, being closer to the industries, they managed to stock up on provisions and new weapons, including an improved tank. The new plan was not to retake their land, but to hold on and defend the cities at all costs.

With the entry of the Germans into the Soviet Union, winter also came, for which they were not prepared. Furthermore, the advance also depleted Nazi resources of food, ammunition and oil for fuel tanks. The war of attrition in World War II favored the Russians as they had the resource advantage. Well, with cold, hunger and fatigue they could not continue gaining ground, on the contrary, they began to lose due to the casualties of men.

What are the phases of the war of attrition?

A war of attrition can go through different phases, which are affected by the duration of the confrontation. It should be noted that each conflict is different and in some a different event can happen in the search for victory.

  • Declaration phase: Marks the start of the war, in which the parties involved begin their military movements.
  • Settlement phase: This is the moment in which the armies settle in the place they are going to defend. Includes the setting up the camps, the trenches as in World War I and other defenses.
  • Fight phase: It is the most important part of the war, since it corresponds to the time in which the events take place. attacks, bombardments and gain of territory. It is usually the longest period of the conflict, in which resistance is measured. In this phase it is necessary to have a good economy, reinforcements and supplies.
  • Phase of final attrition: Marks the end of the armed conflict, where one of the sides begins to decline before the other. tiredness, hunger or lack of resources. It can end with extinction by death of the army or in a peace treaty.

What are the consequences of the war of attrition?

The consequences of a war of attrition are suffered by the soldiers who are on the front lines. Well, these people begin to feel physical tiredness in the absence of rest. Similarly, troops can suffer from malnutrition from not eating well for a long time, in addition to other types of diseases.

As for the psychological factor, the consequences of war go through the stress suffered by the person in the fight. In addition, when leaving the war, the individual is left with the consequences of the acquired memories and traumas. In a war of attrition, it should be noted that the conflict extends over time, so it can last for months or years. So, it affects not only the troops, but the population in general.

How to win a war of attrition?

One of the most important factors leading an army to victory in a war of attrition is the economy. In that sense, the side with the most resources has a great advantage over its rival. So, you have the ability to buy more weapons, develop technology and supply your troops with food. In addition, the war does not affect the internal economy of the country much.

In the same way, another important point to win a war of attrition is the attempt to supply the army with troops. Thus, the more reinforcements arrive at the battle site, the greater the number of troops to employ. This happened in the War of Attrition that occurred between Israel and Egypt in the year 1968.

Israel did not have as many troops when it tried to invade Egypt, while this country had one of the highest birth rates in the world. Thus, in 1968, the ruler of said country ordered the population to assist in defense even if they had no military training. This order was issued without consulting lawyers or parliament, since they needed troops as soon as possible. The idea was to replace the casualties with new people and not feel a numerical disadvantage.

Resistance is the main guarantee to win in one of these contests, so the preparation of the troops is essential. In 1915 and 1916 trench wars were massacres of people trying to reach new terrain, but the conflict was decided diplomatically in a treaty. In World War II the Russians they won against the German attrition. While in the fight of the year 1968 a technical draw was declared, since both Egypt and Israel obtained benefits and avoided further consequences.