There's a paper that claims in relation to the Nuremberg trials:

The American‑run tribunal hearing the case affirmed the legal “propriety of attempting to reduce [a place controlled by the enemy to] starvation,” holding that “the cutting off of every source of sustenance from without” in such a context was fully compatible with existing international law. It was a tactic the Allies had used themselves.

There's citation for the last fact, but not easily accessible to me right now. So, what are some examples where the Allies used starvation as a tactic in WW2?

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    Certainly a number of Japanese-held islands in the Pacific were bypassed in the island hopping campaign. It was not considered to be worthwhile to assault the islands rather than let them be.
    – Jon Custer
    Mar 21 at 12:56
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    @JonCuster - That of course wasn't as much a starvation tactic as it was a matter of conservation of their own military forces. Sort of the naval equivalent of an armored breakthrough, cutting supplies to the enemy forces bypassed. Its possible starvation ensued, but that depended on the local resources available on the island (one thing tropical places can be great at is growing food). The US didn't much care either way.
    – T.E.D.
    Mar 21 at 13:47
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    @T.E.D. - well, yes, but leaving the garrisons to 'wither on the vine' could be equated by some authors to using starvation as a tactic. With supply lines cut, starvation certainly did play out for many (most?) such isolated garrisons. Of course, they could have surrendered in theory - practice as you know was quite different for the Japanese.
    – Jon Custer
    Mar 21 at 13:49
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    @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica - at least in the Pacific, there were co-located populations on the islands. Of course, they suffered under Japanese occupation, and invasions of the islands would not have helped them out much either. But claiming intentional starvation would be hard to justify.
    – Jon Custer
    Mar 21 at 21:32
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    I know you said "Allies" but let's not forget an entire Axis campaign (Atlantic) devoted to cutting supply, including food, to Britain. Mar 22 at 8:52

2 Answers 2


If by 'starvation' you mean not physical death from hunger, but rather 'the cutting off of every source of sustenance from without,' as you are citing, then the entire strategy and politics of World War II from the side of the Allies included it as one of the main components. The Axis powers not only had to be militarily defeated, but also economically starved. This was achieved through both the military defeat by all the Allies and the economic blockade, primarily by the English and Americans.

As for lesser, local operations based on starving, the greatest and the most famous of them was the Battle of Stalingrad , more precisely, the 4th and 6th stages of the battle. I mean the following stages:

  • Axis attack (dynamic)
  • Standing at the shore and in the city (static)
  • Soviet Army surrounding the Paulus's army and several lesser troops (German, Italian, Croatian) (dynamic)
  • A period of starving out the Axis forces, the aerial bridge attempt, Mannstein's and Paulus's attempts to open the surrounding (static/dynamic)
  • Division of the surrounded troop in two. (static/dynamic)
  • Final starving out (static)
  • the surrender

If you are interested in the strategies, politics, propaganda, and tactics for isolation and suppression of attempts to save the surrounded troops, pay attention to the 4th stage. The 6th one was already trivial, for Hitler could not really help at that stage.

The description of the battle in the wiki article is very abundant. I hope, it will be enough.

AFAIK, the latter strategic surroundings (there were many of them in years 43-45) did not go on for so long, and starvation was not so important part in them.

If we recall the black humour cases of the Japan troops or even persons that were isolated and lost in jungles and surrendered in late forties, fifties, and even in sixties, it is obvious, that starvation as the only instrument does not work. That "beating down" component is imminent.

Every time after 1942 when the USSR started an attack or waited for an attack, a special partisan starving operation began. Partisans, ordered by the head staff, started to sabotage the railways. As the railways were the only powerful and used mean of logistics (roads were too bad, and rivers were not used), the Axis troops had great problems getting munition, spare parts, fresh manpower, etc, every time they needed it the most.

  • @justCal Allies: USSR, USA, GB, Canada, Australia, New Zealand. Axis: Germany, Japan, Italy, Romania, Croatia, Hungary, Slovakia. Allies put Axis to starvation. Both in the whole war and at Stalingrad. Where do you see the contradiction with the question? Maybe, I made a mistake or caused a misunderstanding because of my English?
    – Gangnus
    Mar 23 at 0:54

If you look at American side, not considering the overall blockade of the Axis powers, there have been several starvation of military forces, which included fighting elements as well as supporting ones: This was the case particularly against Japanese forces isolated in several locations:

  • Islands in the Solomons
  • Northern coast of New Guinea
  • Rabaul
  • And for the Commonwealth side, Burma
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    These by-passed garrisons and outposts were not so much blockaded as simply left behind and on their own, sometimes even in the face of continued air attack from nearby allied holdings. The closer the Allies came to the Japanese center of gravity the less likely there would be any succor from their own forces.
    – R Leonard
    Mar 24 at 19:43
  • @RLeonard They were blockaded by naval and air forces. If not, if the Allies had just landed elsewhere without controlling the naval movements in the zones they had bypassed, the Japanese could have reinforced those garrisons Apr 5 at 19:45
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    Blockade is a very specific term which means stationing ships off shore to prevent any enemy vessels from entering a specific port or coast. As the Japanese Navy was slowly but surely destroyed and farther and farther from these places, there were no ships, nor even aircraft, to reach these by-passed garrisons. They were not blockaded, but simply left to wither, to die on their own. Strategy, tactics, doctrine, procedures, and, yes, blockade, and I am sure are others, have very specific meanings and are sometimes bandied without regard to those meanings.
    – R Leonard
    Apr 6 at 1:15
  • Ok sorry I did not understand your comment at first. I change the word in the post I am not sure of how the Americans prevented the Japanese garrisons from being resupplied or for themselves trying things. But since they were often bombed, I guess that yes they were often surrounded by ships close to their coasts and ready to intercept ships. In that sense, they were blockaded Apr 6 at 19:23

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