Military engineer

Military engineer

A military engineer is primarily responsible for the design and construction of offensive, defensive, and logistical structures for warfare. Other duties include the layout, placement, maintenance and dismantling of defensive minefields and the clearing of enemy minefields and the construction and destruction of bridges. In some cases an engineer may be required to destroy something that that same engineer designed and constructed. In many armies the military engineers are also called pioneers or sappers. [citebook|title=From Crossbow to H-bomb|author=Bernard Brodie, Fawn McKay Brodie|year=1973|publisher=Indiana University Press|id=ISBN 0253201616]

"In some countries, the modern military may comprise engineering units in say, weapon design or procurement, or of non-military civil engineering (e.g. flood control and river navigation works) which are not covered by this article."

In modern times a military engineer that usually operates during battle and under fire is called a combat engineer. "For more modern aspects of military engineering and tools of the combat engineering corps, see combat engineering."

Origins of military engineering

Perhaps the first civilization to have a dedicated force of military engineering specialists were the Romans, whose army contained a dedicated corps of military engineers known as "architecti". Roman military engineering was pre-eminent amongst its contemporaries, and the scale of certain military engineering feats, such as the construction of a double-wall of fortifications convert|30|mi|km long in total (both walls combined total) in just six weeks to completely encircle the besieged city. Such military engineering feats would have been completely new, and probably bewildering and demoralizing, to the Gallic defenders. The best known of these Roman army engineers due to his writings surviving is Vitruvius.


Defensive fortifications are designed to prevent intrusion into the inner works by siege infantry. For minor defensive locations these may only consist of simple walls and ditches. The design principle is to slow down the advance of attackers to where they can be destroyed by defenders from sheltered positions. Most large fortifications are not a single structure but rather a concentric series of fortifications of increasing strength. Fortified cities would typically include an inner "old town"' within walls. Should the city be attacked, those residing outside the walls would enter the inner city. Within this would be a redoubt, or citadel, to which defenders could retreat should the walls or gates be breached.

The placement of mines to create minefields and their maintenance and disassembly is another defensive task.

When the defender must retreat it is often desirable to destroy anything that may be of use to the enemy, particularly bridges, as their destruction can slow the advance of the attackers. The retreating forces may also leave booby traps for enemy soldiers, even though these often wreak their havoc upon non-combatant civilians.


In ancient times, fortifications were assaulted by siege engines. These could be projectile throwing devices or simple moving towers that could allow attackers protection while positioning them above the top of the fortification's walls.

The undermining of the defender's walls by tunneling is called mining. With the military use of gunpowder this explosive could be placed in tunnels to explode directly under the walls. The most spectacular use of this technique in the 19th century was during the United States' Civil War.

The clearing of enemy minefields is another offensive task.

Often the defender in retreat will destroy bridges to impede the attacker. These must be quickly replaced by the attacker in order to retain offensive mobility. In World War II a short portable bridge called the Bailey bridge could be quickly placed by a specialized transporter vehicle. Pontoon bridges have long been used as temporary replacements for destroyed river crossings.

Image gallery

The design, construction, and demolition of the works and devices shown would be the task of a military engineer in the appropriate era.

Famous Military engineers

*Menno van Coehoorn
*Leslie Groves
*John Rosworm
*Pierre Charles L'Enfant
*Charles Gordon
*Paul R. Smith

ee also

* Bailey bridge
* Civil engineer
* Earthquake engineering structures
* Fortification
* Military technology and equipment
* Siege engine;Some military engineering projects of World War II:

*Mulberry Harbour
*Operation Pluto

;Military engineers
*Society of American Military Engineers
*Canadian Military Engineers
*Royal Engineers
*Royal Australian Engineers


External links

* [ German Engineers]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Military engineer — Engineer En gi*neer , n. [OE. enginer: cf. OF. engignier, F. ing[ e]nieur. See {Engine}, n.] 1. A person skilled in the principles and practice of any branch of engineering; as, a civil engineer; an electronic engineer; a chemical engineer. See… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • military engineer — noun a member of the military who is trained in engineering and construction work • Syn: ↑army engineer • Topics: ↑military, ↑armed forces, ↑armed services, ↑military machine, ↑war machine …   Useful english dictionary

  • military engineer — member of the military unit which plans the construction and demolition of structures (such as bridges, mine fields, etc.) …   English contemporary dictionary

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  • Military engineering — For soldiers who perform construction and demolition tasks in battle, see Combat engineer. For engineering research and development conducted for the military, see Military technology. Relief map of the Citadel of Lille, designed in 1668 by… …   Wikipedia

  • military machine — noun the military forces of a nation their military is the largest in the region the military machine is the same one we faced in 1991 but now it is weaker • Syn: ↑military, ↑armed forces, ↑armed services, ↑war machine • Derivationally related fo …   Useful english dictionary

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