Potential military applications of geology became apparent in Europe by the late eighteenth century, notably to Napoleon Bonaparte. In the United Kingdom, nineteenth-century practice was commonly to teach elementary geology to army officer cadets, and in twentieth-century conflicts to deploy a single uniformed geologist as a staff officer within each major regional headquarters, initially leaving terrain analysis to geographers. In Germany, considerably greater use was made of uniformed geologists serving as teams within all theaters of military operation in both world wars, generating a wealth of data now published or accessible in national archives.
In the United States, a few military geologists were appointed to serve in uniform in France during World War I, but during World War II, a far greater number were civilians, based within a Military Geology Unit of the U.S. Geological Survey at Washington, D.C. Despite different organizational backgrounds, and irrespective of nationality, military geologists have addressed similar geoscience problems.
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Military Geosciences in the Twenty-First Century
Military geosciences are concerned with using the broad scope of the earth sciences for military purposes. These purposes range from direct support for military operations to a broad spectrum of non-combat military activities and military land management applications. Historically, the focus has been on geology and geography, but other earth science disciplines such as geophysics, remote sensing, and geocomputation have become increasingly important as a consequence of technological progress made during the final decades of the twentieth century. The eighteen chapters in this volume address the critical aspects of the role of geosciences in military undertakings by focusing on historical perspectives, geoscience for military operations, and military environmental stewardship.