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PIAS TOWER 11F, 3-19-3
A battle is a combat in warfare between two or more armed forces. A war usually consists of multiple battles. Battles generally are well defined in duration, area, and force commitment. A battle with only limited engagement between the forces and without decisive results is sometimes called a skirmish.
Battle is a loanword from the Old French bataille, first attested in 1297, from Late Latin battualia, meaning "exercise of soldiers and gladiators in fighting and fencing", from Late Latin (taken from Germanic) battuere "beat", from which the English word battery is also derived via Middle English batri.
In general a battle during the 20th century was, and continues to be, defined by the combat between opposing forces representing major components of total forces committed to a military campaign, used to achieve specific military objectives. Where the duration of the battle is longer than a week, it is often for reasons of staff operational planning called an operation. Battles can be planned, encountered, or forced by one force on the other when the latter is unable to withdraw from combat.
Until the 19th century the majority of battles were of short duration, many lasting a part of a day. (The Battle of Preston (1648), the Battle of Nations (1813) and the Battle of Gettysburg (1863) were exceptional in lasting three days.) This was mainly due to the difficulty of supplying armies in the field, or conducting night operations. The means of prolonging a battle was typically by employment of siege warfare. Improvements in transportation and the sudden evolving of trench warfare, with its siege-like nature during World War I in the 20th century, lengthened the duration of battles to days and weeks. This created the requirement for unit rotation to prevent combat fatigue, with troops preferably not remaining in a combat area of operations for more than a month. Trench warfare had become largely obsolete in conflicts between advanced armies by the start of the Second World War.
Battles are, on the whole, made up of a multitude of individual combats, skirmishes and small engagements within the context of which the combatants will usually only experience a small part of the events of the battle's entirety. To the infantryman, there may be little to distinguish between combat as part of a minor raid or as a major offensive, nor is it likely that he anticipates the future course of the battle; few of the British infantry who went over the top on the first day on the Somme, July 1, 1916, would have anticipated that they would be fighting the same battle in five months' time. Conversely, some of the Allied infantry who had just dealt a crushing defeat to the French at the Battle of Waterloo fully expected to have to fight again the next day (at the Battle of Wavre).
Battlespace is a unified strategy to integrate and combine armed forces for the military theatre of operations, including air, information, land, sea and space. It includes the environment, factors and conditions that must be understood to successfully apply combat power, protect the force, or complete the mission. This includes enemy and friendly armed forces; facilities; weather; terrain; and the electromagnetic spectrum within the operational areas and areas of interest.
Weapons and armour can be a decisive factor. On many occasions armies have achieved victories largely owing to the employment of more advanced weapons than those of their opponents. An extreme example was in the Battle of Omdurman, in which a large army of Sudanese Mahdists armed in a traditional manner were destroyed by an Anglo-Egyptian force equipped with Maxim machine guns.
Battles can also be determined by terrain. Capturing high ground, for example, has been the central strategy in innumerable battles. An army that holds the high ground forces the enemy to climb, and thus wear themselves down. Areas of dense vegetation, such as jungles and forest, act as force-multipliers, of benefit to inferior armies. Arguably, terrain is of less importance in modern warfare, due to the advent of aircraft, though terrain is still vital for camouflage, especially for guerrilla warfare.
Battles can be fought on land, at sea and, in the modern age, in the air. Naval battles have occurred since before the 5th century BC. Air battles have been far less common, due to their late conception, the most prominent being the Battle of Britain in 1940. However, since the Second World War land or sea battles have come to rely on air support. Indeed, during the Battle of Midway, five aircraft carriers were sunk without either fleet coming into direct contact.
A decisive battle is one of particular importance; often by bringing hostilities to an end, such as the Battle of Hastings or the Battle of Hattin, or as a turning point in the fortunes of the belligerents, such as the Battle of Stalingrad. A decisive battle can have political as well as military impact, changing the balance of power or boundaries between countries. The concept of the decisive battle became popular with the publication in 1851 of Edward Creasy's The Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World. British military historians J.F.C. Fuller (The Decisive Battles of the Western World) and B.H. Liddell Hart (Decisive Wars of History), among many others, have written books in the style of Creasy's work.
By World War II, the use of the smaller divisions, platoons and companies became much more important as precise operations became vital. Instead of the locked trench warfare of World War I, during World War II, a dynamic network of battles developed where small groups encountered other platoons. As a result, elite squads became much more recognized and distinguishable.
One significant difference of modern naval battles as opposed to earlier forms of combat is the use of marines, which introduced amphibious warfare. Today, a marine is actually an infantry regiment that sometimes fights solely on land and is no longer tied to the navy. A good example of an old naval battle is the Battle of Salamis.
Another invention in the late Middle Ages was the use of Greek fire by the Byzantines, which was used to set enemy fleets on fire. Empty demolition ships utilized the tactic to crash into opposing ships and set it afire with an explosion. After the invention of cannons, naval warfare became useful as support units for land warfare.
Aircraft began becoming much more prominent in the Spanish Civil War and especially World War II. Aircraft design began specializing, primarily into two types: bombers, which carried explosive payloads to bomb land targets or ships; and fighter-interceptors, which were used to either intercept incoming aircraft or to escort and protect bombers (engagements between fighter aircraft were known as dog fights). Some of the more notable aerial battles in this period include the Battle of Britain and the Battle of Midway.