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a special form of military action whose aim is to isolate an enemy objective and disrupt all forms of communications an enemy has with the outside. Individual countries, their armed forces, large groups of forces in theaters of war, points of strategic and operational significance with military garrisons, islands, straits, bays, naval bases, ports, heavily fortified areas, and cities can be the objectives of military blockades. A military blockade prevents or reduces to a minimum the approach of reinforcements, delivery of military equipment, the means of logistical support, and the evacuation of valuables. It helps create conditions under which the enemy can be routed rapidly or forced to surrender.
Many instances of military blockades are known in history. Sometimes they were broad in scope, such as the Continental Blockade that Napoleon implemented against England in the early 19th century, Germany’s naval blockade of Great Britain, and the blockade of Germany by its enemies during World War I (1914–18).
Depending on the forces and means employed, a military blockade may be a land, air, naval, or mixed blockade—that is, land and air, air and sea, or land, air, and sea. In World War II military blockades were, as a rule, mixed. In terms of the missions to be accomplished and of the scope of action, a military blockade may be strategic, operational, or tactical. A land blockade is carried out by means of ground troops in cooperation with air force and antiaircraft troops (for example, the blockade of fascist German troops by Soviet forces near Stalingrad in 1942–43, in Budapest in 1944, and in Vienna and Breslau in 1945). A striking example of a mixed military blockade (land, air, and sea) that did not achieve its aim is the blockade of Leningrad by fascist German troops in 1941–43; despite extraordinary difficulties, Soviet troops held out and then broke through, inflicting a great defeat on the enemy. As a rule, an air blockade is in part a land and sea blockade; it is called an air blockade if the decisive role belongs to the air force. An air blockade is carried out by means of the air force and antiaircraft defense troops. Its aim is to cut or reduce to a minimum the blockaded objective’s external communications by air, and it accomplishes this goal by destroying the enemy’s planes, both in the air and on the airfields where they take off or land. A naval blockade is carried out through actions by the fleet—that is, by surface ships, submarines, and aircraft from aircraft carriers and bases; by the planting of mines in the vicinity of ports, naval bases, and on sea (oceanic) lines of communication; and by the destruction of all the enemy’s ships on the seas and at bases and of its aircraft in the air and at airfields. A naval blockade may be close, or tight, when the blockaded party leaves its base and unavoidably makes combat contact with the blockading forces; it is distant, or broad, when the enemy in a certain zone makes crossings and conducts combat action without making combat contact with the blockade forces.