military government, rule of enemy territory under military occupation. It is distinguished from martial law, which is the temporary rule by domestic armed forces over disturbed areas. The practices of military government were standardized before World War I, notably at the Hague Conferences (1899, 1907) and form a part of the laws of war (see war, laws of).
During and after World War II, vast territories came under military government. During the war, Germany administered occupied countries through a hierarchy of Kommandaturen [military government headquarters], but this normal army administration was often duplicated by civilian economic agencies and Gestapo personnel. In France, Norway, Greece, and Serbia, local puppet governments were authorized to operate under German control; Belgium and NE France were under purely military government; in Eastern Europe, authority was concentrated in 1941 in the ministry for eastern occupied territories. German military government often violated the rules laid down by the Hague Conventions.
Allied Military Government (AMG) began to function in Sicily and in Italy in 1943; it sought to utilize local civilian authorities to the widest possible extent. When operating in Allied territory, such as France, AMG became Civil Affairs and was limited to combat areas. After the termination of military operations, Germany and Austria were divided (1945) into four occupation zones and military government was reorganized. At first it was subject in general policy to the authority of the U.S.-Soviet-British-French Allied Control Councils in Berlin and Vienna. In time, the growing dissension between the Western powers and the USSR led to the breakdown of the quadripartite system in Germany and in Berlin. The British, French, and American zones were soon amalgamated for most purposes and ultimately became the state of West Germany; in opposition to them stood the Soviet zone, which later became the East German state.
In Austria and Vienna disharmony was less evident, and military control ended in 1955 with the signing of a peace treaty between Austria and the four Allied occupying powers. In Japan, military government became a solely American responsibility, though subject to suggestions of an 11-power Allied council. It was ended by the signing of the peace treaty with Japan (1951).
In response to the experiences of World War II, a new convention covering military occupation was signed in Geneva in 1949. In recent years, the most prominent military occupation of a region has been that by Israeli forces of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
See E. Fraenkel, Military Occupation and the Rule of Law (1944); C. J. Friedrich, ed., American Experiences in Military Government in World War II (1948); D. A. Graber, Development of the Law of Military Occupation, 1863–1914 (1948, repr. 1969); C. Clapman et al., ed., The Political Dilemmas of Military Regimes (1985).