Theater of war

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Classification of a theater of war based on a diagram from the American War Department from 1940

A theater of war is a land area with adjoining marginal seas and the air space above or a sea area with islands and adjoining mainland coasts and the air space above, in which armed forces are moved for the purpose of war and combat operations take place between armed forces of different states .

Strategic importance

The entire war zone is subdivided into different theaters of war when operations or battles of armed forces of the same country take place in spatially separated areas, which no longer influence each other on a tactical or operational level, but only influence each other on a strategic level.

Often times, commanders -in-chief are deployed in the various theaters of war, independent of their own troop commands , and have overall responsibility in the respective war zone. During World War II , the Allies had General Dwight D. Eisenhower in command of the European theater of war , while General Douglas MacArthur and Admiral Chester W. Nimitz were in charge of the Pacific theater .

Depending on the intensity of the conflicts in the various theaters of war, or depending on the number of troops and resources assigned to the various theaters of war, a distinction can be made between main and secondary theaters of war . This distinction was introduced in the First World War , analogous to other classifications (see main battle line ).

Combat zone and connection zone

The division of the war zone into theaters of war also serves the military order of the area. The theaters of war themselves are divided into an enemy combat zone and a rearward communication zone. In the combat zone (NATO term: Combat Zone ), the army groups conduct the battles and operations with their large units ( corps , divisions , brigades ). In the connection zone (NATO term: Communications Zone ) are among other things also the parade routes and central supply facilities. Each theater of war has its own base of operations and has its own lines of operations that end in the communication zone.

History of the term

It was not until the first half of the 19th century that the newer word theater of war replaced the older word war theater . The term theatrum belli ("war theater") has been used since the end of the 17th century and in German since the end of the 18th century, initially in the form of war theater . Corresponding terms are still in use in many languages ​​today (English theater , French théâtre militaire , Spanish teatro de operaciones , Polish teatr działań wojennych ).

Image published in the Lübeckische advertisements under the heading Aus dem Felde , 1917

The term war theater became known primarily through Carl von Clausewitz , in whose book Vom Kriege it occupies a central position. The first definition can also be found there:

“War theater: Actually, one thinks of it as a part of the whole war space that has covered sides and therefore a certain independence. This cover can be in fortresses, in great obstacles in the area, even at a considerable distance from the rest of the war space. Such a part is not a mere piece of the whole, but itself a small whole, which is more or less in the case that the changes which are taking place in the rest of the war zone have no direct, but only an indirect influence on it . If one wanted a precise feature here, it could only be the possibility of thinking about a procedure on one, while on the other it would go back, a defension, while on the other one would proceed aggressively. We cannot take this sharpness with us everywhere, it is only intended to indicate the actual focus. "

The need for such a term arose after the image of war had fundamentally changed in the course of modern times. At the beginning of the modern era, as in the Middle Ages, the armies were used in a concentrated manner against one goal with one purpose, but in the Silesian Wars at the latest the necessity arose to detach parts of the total armed forces with other tasks . While Frederick the Great was operating with his main army in the south or east, there was an observation army in the west, which resulted in two theaters of war in the war zone. If you look at the British operations of that time, you come across four theaters of war: Central Europe, North America, India, the Caribbean.

Of course, the great powers of antiquity had already fought their wars in several theaters of war at the same time, for example the Roman Empire in the Second Punic War , in which Roman troops fought against Carthage in Spain and Italy at the same time . The need for a separate term does not seem to have arisen. It was only in the modern era that strategic realities required an appropriate set of conceptual instruments in order to be able to address the associated phenomena with sufficient precision, even in the ever increasing theoretical penetration of war.


  • Ulrich Steindorff (Ed.), War Pocket Book - A reference dictionary on the World War , Leipzig and Berlin 1916
  • Army Service Regulations 100/100 Leadership in Battle , Bonn 1973
  • Military Publishing House of the German Democratic Republic, Military Lexicon , Berlin 1973
  • Ernst Lutz, Lexicon on Security Policy , Munich 1980
  • Etymological Dictionary of German, Berlin 1993, ISBN 3-423-03358-4 .

Web links

Wiktionary: theater of war  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Ulrich Steindorff (Ed.), War Pocket Book - A reference dictionary about the World War , Leipzig and Berlin 1916
  2. ^ Army Service Regulations 100/100 Leadership in Combat (TF / G), Bonn 1973; Attachment 1
  3. Marian Füssel : Theatrum Belli - The war as a staging and theater of knowledge in the 17th and 18th centuries (PDF; 1.3 MB), in: 14/2008, pp. 205–230
  4. Wolfgang Pfeifer (Ed.), Etymological Dictionary of German , Berlin 1993
  5. Carl von Clausewitz: Vom Kriege , Part Two, Book Five, Chapter Two