Total war is warfare that includes any and all civilian-associated resources and infrastructure as legitimate military targets, mobilizes all of the resources of society to fight the war, and gives priority to warfare over non-combatant needs. The American-English Dictionary defines total war as "war that is unrestricted in terms of the weapons used, the territory or combatants involved, or the objectives pursued, especially one in which the laws of war are disregarded."
In the mid-19th century, scholars identified "total war" as a separate class of warfare. In a total war, to an extent inapplicable to less total conflicts, the differentiation between combatants and non-combatants diminishes and even sometimes vanishes entirely as opposing sides can consider nearly every human resource, even that of non-combatants, as part of the war effort.
Actions that may characterize the post-19th century concept of total war include:
- Strategic bombing, as during World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War (Operations Rolling Thunder and Linebacker II)
- Blockade and sieging of population centers, as with the Allied blockade of Germany and the Siege of Leningrad during the First and Second World Wars
- Scorched earth policy, as with the March to the Sea during the American Civil War and the Japanese "Three Alls Policy" during the Second Sino-Japanese War
- Commerce raiding, tonnage war, and unrestricted submarine warfare, as with privateering, the German U-Boat campaigns of the First and Second World Wars, and the United States submarine campaign against Japan during World War II
- Collective punishment, pacification operations, and reprisals against populations deemed hostile, as with the execution and deportation of suspected Communards following the fall of the 1871 Paris Commune or German reprisal policy targeting resistance movements, insurgents, and Untermenschen such as in France (e.g. Maillé massacre) and Poland during World War II
- The use of civilians and prisoners of war as forced labor for military operations, as with Japan and Germany's massive use of forced laborers of other nations during World War II (see Slavery in Japan and Forced labor under German rule during World War II)
- Giving no quarter (i.e. take no prisoners), as with Hitler's Commando Order during World War II, or the Ordinance of no quarter to the Irish of 1644.
INTERNET SOURCE: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Total_war