Why do armies fight so hard to capture cities that are completely destroyed by shelling, fires, bombing etc? What's the purpose?

  • 3
    That's pretty broad, do you have any specific examples that you are particularly interested? General reasons can include symbolic/religious/cultural significance, supply lines and resources, strategic significance and staging areas.
    – user17382
    May 10 '16 at 5:05
  • 2
    Do you have any examples of a completely destroyed city that was captured? Even Dresden (one of the most badly damaged cities of WWII) was not completely destroyed.
    – user13123
    May 10 '16 at 5:34
  • 5
    Leaving a collection of enemy forces in a bypassed city simply invites attacks from the rear...
    – user13123
    May 10 '16 at 5:36
  • Land sounds like a good incentive. The resources of the place, say the city might have abundant natural resources. It just adds to their economy.
    – Nareneesa
    May 10 '16 at 10:00
  • @Thomo made a comment almost worth an answer.
    – MakorDal
    May 10 '16 at 10:33

Can have many different reasons,I will list up here some but since your question is not specfic, I also cannot answer you specifically, but anyway I will provide some generic examples so you can better understand:

  • The ruins might contain one or more persons or equipments you might want to destroy in order to win the war (e.g. the commander of your enemy hiding in a city even though it is already in ruins)
  • The place of the ruins might be strategically important because of geography (e.g. important sea coast)
  • The place of the ruins might be strategically important because of assets (e.g. important ressources like oil)
  • The place of the ruins might be strategically important because of infrastructure (e.g. located on the only street to another important places)
  • The place of the ruins might contain people and weapons who are willing and capable to disturb you and attack you from behind when you ignore them (thats why as an army you do not go just around castles, you have to conquer it or the castle will eventually conquer you)
  • The place of the ruins might have a significant propaganda importance (e.g. you cannot afford to lose Mekka to a non-islamic country without weakening the morale of muslims)
  • Your enemy might actively send reinforcements to these ruins in order to keep you fighting there on purpose (e.g. in order to prepare a strike on another point of interest which is now not-so-heavy guarded since you have all your troops fighting in these ruins)
  • It is better to pick an already devastated battle ground over a unharmed city full of resources and people, if you plan towards using these resources and peoples after the war and they do not have to be destroyed in order to achieve that (after all, your goal is usually (1) to stop the resistance of the enemys soldiers, not to destroy cities or civilians)

TL:DR - Battles are not about conquering cities. They are about conquering power.

(1) except you actively plan to harm civilians and destroy cities even though they offer no resistance

  • Good answer, it would be better however if you were to add one real life example for each case. e.g. 1. Berlin, 2. Sevastopol, 3. No idea 4. Stalingrad, 5. Iwo Jima/Okinawa 6. Moscow/Mecca/Rome/Constantinople
    – NSNoob
    May 10 '16 at 10:50
  • @NSNoob An important recent example is Stalingrad in WWII. One German goal at Stalingrad was to cut an important transportation rout, Volga river. Besides that taking or defending Stalingrad has huge propaganda value for both sides.
    – Alex
    May 10 '16 at 13:22
  • @Alex Yup I noted that in my comment on main question body.
    – NSNoob
    May 10 '16 at 13:24
  • @NSNoob: yes, you did, I did not notice: the system does not show all comments, one has to click on "more comments" :-)
    – Alex
    May 10 '16 at 13:29
  • +1 for geography. Cities tend not to grow (and especially not large cities) in areas that aren't around something important.
    – Comintern
    May 10 '16 at 23:49

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