Terror Bombing in the Second World War

Alex J. Bellamy

in Massacres and Morality

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780199288427
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191745430 | DOI:
Terror Bombing in the Second World War

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This chapter examines the bombing of German and Japanese cities during the Second World War. Between 300,000–600,000 German civilians and over 200,000 Japanese civilians were killed by allied bombing during the Second World War, most as a result of raids intentionally targeted against civilians themselves. The campaigns culminated with the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The path followed by the RAF and US Army Air Corps (USAAF) in the European and Pacific theatres respectively followed a similar trajectory. At the beginning of the war, both committed themselves to precision raids against military targets. But a combination of bombing inaccuracy, poor weather, high casualty rates, and strategic preferences persuaded the RAF (over Germany) and USAAF (over Japan) to adopt area bombing aimed at ‘dehousing’ workers and demoralising enemy populations, thereby disrupting industrial production. Interestingly, however, although the British and American governments were clearly intent on targeting civilians, they refused to admit that this was their purpose and devised elaborate arguments to claim that they were not targeting civilians. This revealed the growing influence of civilian immunity but also its limits, setting a pattern that was repeated during the Cold War.

Keywords: Second World War; aerial bombing; Germany; Japan; atomic bomb; civilian immunity

Chapter.  13984 words. 

Subjects: International Relations

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