Theater (warfare)

Theater (warfare)

Military history

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In warfare, a theater, is defined as an area or place within which important military events occur or are progressing.[1][2] The entirety of the air, land, and sea area that is or that may potentially become involved in war operations.[3]

In a technical sense,a theater as described here, is defined as being a type of locus.[4]


Theater of war

The term seems to have been coined by Carl von Clausewitz in his book "On War".

Clausewitz defines the term as one that:

"Denotes properly such a portion of the space over which war prevails as has its boundaries protected, and thus possesses a kind of independence. This protection may consist in fortresses, or important natural obstacles presented by the country, or even in its being separated by a considerable distance from the rest of the space embraced in the war. Such a portion is not a mere piece of the whole, but a small whole complete in itself; and consequently it is more or less in such a condition that changes which take place at other points in the seat of war have only an indirect and no direct influence upon itTo give an adequate idea of this, we may suppose that on this portion an advance is made, whilst in another quarter a retreat is taking place, or that upon the one an army is acting defensively, whilst an offensive is being carried on upon the other. Such a clearly defined idea as this is not capable of universal application; it is here used merely to indicate the line of distinction."[5]

Nigel Inkster, a former British intelligence officer has written "Terrorism is as much as anything an act of theater," also Alexander Nicoll in Survival, a journal of the International Institute for Strategic Studies.[6]

Theater of operations

Theater of operations (TO) is instead a sub-area existing within a theater of war, the boundaries of this being defined by the commander who is orchestrating or providing support for specific combat operations within that location.[7]

Soviet and Russian Armed Forces

For example a large geographic subdivision used by the Soviet and Russian Armed Forces to classify the continental geographic territories with their bordering maritime areas, islands, adjacent coasts[8] and airspace. The division of large continental and maritime areas assists in determining the limits within which the plans for operation of strategic military groups of forces are developed, allowing conduct of military operations on specific significant strategic directions. The Russian term is театр военных действий, teatr voennykh deistvii, abbreviated ТВД, TVD.

United States

The term "theater of operations" was defined in the [American] field manuals as the land and sea areas to be invaded or defended, including areas necessary for administrative activities incident to the military operations (chart 12). In accordance with the experience of World War I, it was usually conceived of as a large land mass over which continuous operations would take place and was divided into two chief areas-the combat zone, or the area of active fighting, and the communications zone, or area required for administration of the theater. As the armies advanced, both these zones and the areas into which they were divided would shift forward to new geographic areas of control.[9]

See also

Further reading


  1. ^ "Definition of theatre noun (MILITARY) from Cambridge Dictionary Online: Free English Dictionary and Thesaurus". Retrieved 2011-08-31. 
  2. ^ "Theater (warfare) - definition of Theater (warfare) by the Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia". Retrieved 2011-08-31. 
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Carl Von Clausewitz, On War". Retrieved 2011-08-31. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Theater (warfare) - definition of Theater (warfare) by the Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia". Retrieved 2011-08-31. 
  8. ^ See Военный энциклопедический словарь (ВЭС), Москва (М.), Военное издательство (ВИ), 1984 год (г.), 863 страниц (стр). с иллюстрациями (ил.), 30 листов (ил.), стр. 732;
  9. ^ "Chapter VII: Prewar Army Doctrine for Theater". Retrieved 2011-08-31. 

Images and diagrams

clicking onto image/diagram creates enlargement

Chart 12.- Typical organization of a theater of operations as envisaged by War Department Doctrine, 1940

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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