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The first recorded use of terrain analysis was in 1813 during the Napoleonic Wars, and in most major military operations since that time, geologic counsel and assessment have played important roles. Intelligent use of the terrain of the battlefield, movement of supplies and personnel, and the procurement of adequate supplies of water and of construction materials all have relied on an understanding and application of geologic principles.

During the 19th century, as the value of geologic insight came to be recognized, books on military geology appeared as did basic courses in geology at military academies in the United States and abroad. Beginning in World War I, vital geologic data were placed on increasingly sophisticated specialized terrain maps and used both tactically and strategically. Successful military mining beneath enemy fortifications in World War I required an understanding of subsurface geology, including hydrogeology. And in the 1940s and 1950s, geologic principles were applied on an unprecedented scale to the construction of massive underground installations. Moreover, in the 1950s, these principles, applied in a massive research effort, resulted in the ability to distinguish the release of energy by an underground nuclear test from that produced by a natural seismic event.

As weapons and defenses against them continue to evolve, geoscience and geoscientists will play an increasingly important role in military planning and operations in diverse and challenging environments worldwide.

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