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Read an excerpt of this book! Add to Wishlist. USD 5. Sign in to Purchase Instantly. Explore Now. Buy As Gift. The ancient timber structures burned well, and the raid destroyed most of the city's centre. A few days later, Rostock suffered the same fate. An Avro Lancaster over Hamburg. At this stage of the air war, the most effective and disruptive examples of area bombing were the "thousand-bomber raids".

Bomber Command was able by organization and drafting in as many aircraft as possible to assemble very large forces which could then attack a single area, overwhelming the defences. The aircraft would be staggered so that they would arrive over the target in succession: the new technique of the " bomber stream ". On 30 May , between and hours, in Operation Millennium 1, bombers dropped over 2, tons of high explosive and incendiaries on the medieval town of Cologne, and the resulting fires burned it from end to end.

The damage inflicted was extensive. The fires could be seen miles away at an altitude of 20, feet. Some 3, houses were destroyed, and 10, were damaged. Only civilians and 85 soldiers were killed, but thousands evacuated the city. Bomber Command lost 40 bombers. Two further thousand-bomber raids were conducted over Essen and Bremen, but neither so utterly shook both sides as the scale of the destruction at Cologne and Hamburg. The most extreme examples of which were caused by Operation Gomorrah , the attack on Hamburg , 45, dead , attack on Kassel 10, dead , the attack on Darmstadt 12, dead , the attack on Pforzheim 21, dead , the attack on Swinemuende 23, dead and the attack on Dresden 35, dead.

An elderly lady in front of the bodies of school children in Cologne, Germany, after a bombing raid. The effects of strategic bombing were very poorly understood at the time and grossly overrated. Particularly in the first two years of the campaign, few understood just how little damage was caused and how rapidly the Germans were able to replace lost production—despite the obvious lessons to be learned from the United Kingdom's own survival of the blitz. These problems were dealt with in two ways: first the precision targeting of vital facilities ball-bearing production in particular was abandoned in favour of " area bombing "—This change of policy was agreed by the in and in early a new directive was issued and Air Marshal Arthur Harris commonly known as "Bomber" Harris was appointed to carry out the task—second as the campaign developed, improvements in the accuracy of the RAF raids were joined by better crew training, electronic aids, and new tactics such as the creation of a " pathfinder " force to mark targets for the main force, [] which was done over Harris' objections.

Over five months 34, tons of bombs were dropped. Following the raids, steel production fell by , tons, making a shortfall of , tons. Speer acknowledged that the RAF were hitting the right targets, and raids severely disrupted his plans to increase production to meet increasing attritional needs. Between July and March there were no further increases in the output of aircraft. The bombing of Hamburg in also produced impressive results. Tiger tank production, and the manufacture of 88mm guns, the most potent dual-purpose artillery piece in the Wehrmacht was "set back for months". On top of this, some 62 percent of the population was dehoused causing more difficulties.

However, RAF Bomber Command allowed itself to be distracted by Harris' desire for a war winning blow, and attempted the fruitless missions to destroy Berlin and end the war by spring, In October , Harris urged the government to be honest with the public regarding the purpose of the bombing campaign.

To Harris, his complete success at Hamburg confirmed the validity and necessity of his methods, and he urged that:. They are not by-products of attempts to hit factories. It had immediate impacts on shipments of goods, and especially coal deliveries, upon which Germany's economy depended; with no more additional effort, by February , rail transport which competed for coal had seen its shipments cut by more than half, and by March, "except in limited areas, the coal supply had been eliminated.

Operation Chastise , better known as the Dambusters raid, was an attempt to damage German industrial production by crippling its hydro-electric power and transport in the Ruhr area. Operation Hydra of August sought to destroy German work on long-range rockets but only delayed it by a few months. Subsequent efforts were directed against V-weapon launch sites in France. In part because of their heavier armament and armor, they carried smaller bomb loads than British bombers.

With all of this, the USAAF's commanders in Washington, DC , and in Great Britain adopted the strategy of taking on the Luftwaffe head on, in larger and larger air raids by mutually defending bombers, flying over Germany, Austria, and France at high altitudes during the daytime. Also, both the U. Government and its Army Air Forces commanders were reluctant to bomb enemy cities and towns indiscriminately. They claimed that by using the B and the Norden bombsight , the USAAF should be able to carry out " precision bombing " on locations vital to the German war machine: factories, naval bases, shipyards, railroad yards, railroad junctions, power plants, steel mills, airfields, etc.

The text of the Casablanca directive read: "Your primary object will be the progressive destruction and dislocation of the German military, industrial, and economic system and the undermining of the morale of the German people to a point where their capacity for armed resistance is fatally weakened. In the late , the 'Pointblank' attacks manifested themselves in the infamous Schweinfurt raids first and second. Formations of unescorted bombers were no match for German fighters, which inflicted a deadly toll.

In despair, the Eighth halted air operations over Germany until a long-range fighter could be found in ; it proved to be the P Mustang , which had the range to fly to Berlin and back.

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USAAF leaders firmly held to the claim of "precision bombing" of military targets for much of the war, and dismissed claims they were simply bombing cities. Within two weeks of the arrival of these first six sets, the Eighth command gave permission for them to area bomb a city using H2X and would continue to authorize, on average, about one such attack a week until the end of the war in Europe.

In reality, the day bombing was "precision bombing" only in the sense that most bombs fell somewhere near a specific designated target such as a railway yard. Conventionally, the air forces designated as "the target area" a circle having a radius of feet around the aiming point of attack. Nevertheless, the sheer tonnage of explosive delivered by day and by night was eventually sufficient to cause widespread damage, and, more importantly from a military point of view, forced Germany to divert resources to counter it.

This was to be the real significance of the Allied strategic bombing campaign—resource allocation. It contained full scale replicas of German residential homes. Firebombing attacks proved quite successful, in a single attack on Hamburg, roughly 50, civilians were killed and practically the entire city destroyed.

With the addition of the Mustang to its strength, the Combined Bomber Offensive was resumed. Planners targeted the Luftwaffe in an operation known as ' Big Week ' 20—25 February and succeeded brilliantly — losses were so heavy German planners were forced into a hasty dispersal of industry and the day fighter arm never fully recovered. When the Combined Bomber Offensive officially ended on 1 April, Allied airmen were well on the way to achieving air superiority over all of Europe.


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  • German-occupied France contained a number of important targets that attracted the attention of the British, and later American bombing. In , RAF Bomber Command launched attacks against German preparations for Operation Sealion , the proposed invasion of England, attacking Channel Ports in France and Belgium and sinking large numbers of barges that had been collected by the Germans for use in the invasion. Before , the Allies bombed targets in France that were part of the German war industry.

    This included raids such as those on the Renault factory in Boulogne-Billancourt in March or the port facilities of Nantes in September which killed 1, civilians. Despite intelligence provided by the French Resistance , many residential areas were hit in error or lack of accuracy. The Free French Air Force , operational since , used to opt for the more risky skimming tactic when operating in national territory, to avoid civilian casualties.

    A later raid, using napalm was carried out before it was freed from Nazi occupation in April. Of the 3, civilians left in the city, died. French civilian casualties due to Allied strategic bombing are estimated at about half of the 67, French civilian dead during Allied operations in —; the other part being mostly killed during tactical bombing in the Normandy campaign. Strategic bombing has been criticized on practical grounds because it does not always work predictably.

    The radical changes it forces on a targeted population can backfire, including the counterproductive result of freeing inessential labourers to fill worker shortages in war industries. Much of the doubt about the effectiveness of the bomber war comes from the oft-stated fact German industrial production increased throughout the war.

    Simply by going to three shifts, production could have been tripled with no change to the infrastructure. However, attacks on the infrastructure were taking place. The attacks on Germany's canals and railroads made transportation of materiel difficult. The attack on oil production, oil refineries, and tank farms was, however, extremely successful and made a very large contribution to the general collapse of Germany in In the event, the bombing of oil facilities became Albert Speer 's main concern; however, this occurred sufficiently late in the war that Germany would soon be defeated in any case.

    Nevertheless, it is fair to say the oil bombing campaign materially shortened the war, thereby saving many lives. German insiders credit the Allied bombing offensive with crippling the German war industry. Speer repeatedly said both during and after the war it caused crucial production problems. The United States Strategic Bombing Survey Europe , says, despite bombing becoming a major effort, between December and June , "The attack on the construction yards and slipways was not heavy enough to be more than troublesome" and the delays in delivery of Type XXIs and XXIIIs up until November "cannot be attributed to the air attack", [] but adds, "The attacks during the late winter and early spring of did close, or all but close, five of the major yards, including the great Blohm and Voss plant at Hamburg".

    Although designed to "break the enemy's will", the opposite often happened. The British did not crumble under the German Blitz and other air raids early in the war. British workers continued to work throughout the war and food and other basic supplies were available throughout. The impact of bombing on German morale was significant according to Professor John Buckley. Around a third of the urban population under threat of bombing had no protection at all. Some of the major cities saw 55—60 percent of dwellings destroyed. Mass evacuations were a partial answer for six million civilians, but this had a severe impact on morale as German families were split up to live in difficult conditions.

    By absenteeism rates of 20—25 percent were not unusual and in post-war analysis 91 percent of civilians stated bombing was the most difficult hardship to endure and was the key factor in the collapse of their own morale. The Luftwaffe was blamed for not warding off the attacks and confidence in the Nazi regime fell by 14 percent.

    Some 75 percent of Germans believed the war was lost in the spring of , owing to the intensity of the bombing. But the bombing offensive did do serious damage to German production levels. German tank and aircraft production, though reached new records in production levels in , was in particular one-third lower than planned.

    Journalist Max Hastings and the authors of the official history of the bomber offensive, Noble Frankland among them, has argued bombing had a limited effect on morale. In the words of the British Bombing Survey Unit BBSU : "The essential premise behind the policy of treating towns as unit targets for area attack, namely that the German economic system was fully extended, was false. The BBSU concluded: "Far from there being any evidence of a cumulative effect on German war production, it is evident that, as the bombing offensive progressed In death a German mother stares at her twins in a pram.

    After the war, the U. Strategic Bombing Survey reviewed the available casualty records in Germany, and concluded that official German statistics of casualties from air attack had been too low. The survey estimated that at a minimum , were killed in German cities due to bombing and estimated a minimum of , wounded.

    The Second World War: Bombers of WWII

    Roughly 7,, German civilians were also rendered homeless. In addition to the minimum figure given in the Strategic bombing survey, the number of people killed by Allied bombing in Germany has been estimated at between , and , Belgrade was heavily bombed by the Luftwaffe on 6 April , when more than 17, people were killed. Over , Allied airmen were lost in the European theatre. Chinese casualties of a mass panic during a June Japanese aerial bombing of Chongqing.

    Within Asia, the majority of strategic bombing was carried out by the Japanese and the US. The British Commonwealth planned that once the war in Europe was complete, a strategic bombing force of up to 1, heavy bombers "Tiger Force" would be sent to the Far East. This was never realised before the end of the Pacific War. Bombing efforts mostly targeted large Chinese cities such as Shanghai, Wuhan, and Chongqing , with around 5, raids from February to August in the later case. The bombing of Nanjing and Canton, which began on 22 and 23 September , called forth widespread protests culminating in a resolution by the Far Eastern Advisory Committee of the League of Nations.

    There were also air raids on Philippines and northern Australia Bombing of Darwin , 19 February The Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service used tactical bombing against enemy airfields and military positions, as at the attack on Pearl Harbor. The United States strategic bombing of Japan took place between and In the last seven months of the campaign, a change to firebombing resulted in great destruction of 67 Japanese cities, as many as , Japanese deaths and some 5 million more made homeless.

    Emperor Hirohito 's viewing of the destroyed areas of Tokyo in March is said to have been the beginning of his personal involvement in the peace process, culminating in Japan's surrender five months later. Tokyo burns during a firebomb attack 26 May The first U. The raids were military pin-pricks, but a significant propaganda victory. Launched prematurely, none of the attacking aircraft reached the designated post mission airfields, either crashing or ditching except for one aircraft, which landed in the Soviet Union , where the crew was interned.

    Two crews were captured by the Japanese. The first raid by Bs on Japan from China was on 15 June The Bs took off from Chengdu, over 1, miles away. This first raid was also not particularly damaging to Japan. Only forty-seven of the sixty-eight bombers that took off hit the target area; four aborted with mechanical problems, four crashed, six jettisoned their bombs because of mechanical difficulties, and others bombed secondary targets or targets of opportunity. Only one B—29 was lost to enemy aircraft. The first raid from the east was on 24 November when 88 aircraft bombed Tokyo.

    This was never a satisfactory arrangement because not only were the Chinese airbases difficult to supply—materiel being sent by air from India over " the Hump "—but the Bs operating from them could only reach Japan if they traded some of their bomb load for extra fuel in tanks in the bomb-bays.

    When Admiral Chester Nimitz 's island-hopping campaign captured islands close enough to Japan to be within the range of Bs, the Twentieth Air Force was assigned to XXI Bomber Command which organized a much more effective bombing campaign of the Japanese home islands. Based in the Marianas Guam and Tinian in particular the Bs were now able to carry their full bomb loads and were supplied by cargo ships and tankers. In July , they were placed under the U. However, it proved to be impossible due to the weather around Japan, "during the best month for bombing in Japan, visual bombing was possible for [just] seven days.

    The worst had only one good day. General LeMay, commander of XXI Bomber Command, instead switched to mass firebombing night attacks from altitudes of around 7, feet 2, m on the major conurbations. Despite limited early success, particularly against Nagoya, LeMay was determined to use such bombing tactics against the vulnerable Japanese cities. Attacks on strategic targets also continued in lower-level daylight raids. The first successful firebombing raid was on Kobe on 3 February , and following its relative success the USAAF continued the tactic.

    Nearly half of the principal factories of the city were damaged, and production was reduced by more than half at one of the port's two shipyards. Much of the armor and defensive weaponry of the bombers was removed to allow increased bomb loads; Japanese air defense in terms of night-fighters and anti-aircraft guns was so feeble it was hardly a risk. Following on that success, as Operation Meetinghouse , Bs raided on the night of 9—10 March, dropping around 1, tons of bombs.

    The destruction and damage was at its worst in the city sections east of the Imperial Palace. It was the most destructive conventional raid, and the deadliest single bombing raid of any kind in terms of lives lost, in all of military aviation history. The city was made primarily of wood and paper, and Japanese firefighting methods were not up to the challenge. The fires burned out of control, boiling canal water and causing entire blocks of buildings to spontaneously combust from the heat.

    The effects of the Tokyo firebombing proved the fears expressed by Admiral Yamamoto in "Japanese cities, being made of wood and paper, would burn very easily. The Army talks big, but if war came and there were large-scale air raids, there's no telling what would happen. LeMay's fleet of nearly bombers destroyed tens of smaller cities and manufacturing centres in the following weeks and months.

    Leaflets were dropped over cities before they were bombed, warning the inhabitants and urging them to escape the city. Though many, even within the Air Force, viewed this as a form of psychological warfare , a significant element in the decision to produce and drop them was the desire to assuage American anxieties about the extent of the destruction created by this new war tactic.

    Warning leaflets were also dropped on cities not in fact targeted, to create uncertainty and absenteeism. A year after the war, the U. Strategic Bombing Survey Pacific War reported they had underestimated the power of strategic bombing combined with naval blockade and previous military defeats to bring Japan to unconditional surrender without invasion. By July , only a fraction of the planned strategic bombing force had been deployed yet there were few targets left worth the effort. In hindsight, it would have been more effective to use land-based and carrier-based air power to strike merchant shipping and begin aerial mining at a much earlier date so as to link up with effective submarine anti-shipping campaign and completely isolate the island nation.

    This would have accelerated the strangulation of Japan and ended the war sooner. The mushroom cloud of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, Japan , , rose some 18 km 11 mi above the hypocentre. Photograph of Sumiteru Taniguchi 's back injuries taken in January by a U. Marine photographer. After six months of intense firebombing of 67 other Japanese cities , the United States under President Harry Truman conducted nuclear attacks on the Empire of Japan. On 6 August , the " Little Boy " enriched uranium nuclear bomb was dropped on the city of Hiroshima , followed on 9 August by the detonation of the " Fat Man " plutonium core nuclear bomb over Nagasaki.

    To date, these are the only uses of nuclear weapons in warfare. Thousands more have been subsequently killed from injuries or the combined effects of flash burns, trauma, and radiation burns, compounded by illness, malnutrition and radiation sickness. Since then more have died from leukemia and solid cancers attributed to exposure to radiation released by the bombs. Furthermore, the experience of bombing led post-war Japan to adopt Three Non-Nuclear Principles , which forbade Japan from nuclear armament.


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    Main article: Rotterdam Blitz. Main articles: Battle of Britain and The Blitz. Main article: Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Retrieved 26 March Retrieved 4 June In Peter Hore. Patrick Blackett: Sailor, Scientist, and Socialist. Facon and Stephen J. Harris p. Lind Cornell University Press. Oxford University Press. Overy, The Air War.

    Royal Air Force — Retrieved 16 April Berghahn Books. Despatch on War Operations: 23rd February to 8th May Obote-Odora, Alex. Rutgers University Press. September 28, Grayling Bloomsbury , p. Fotion, eds. A long way home , University Press of America, p The Holocaust encyclopedia. Yale University Press. The iron furnace: a Holocaust survivor's story , University Press of Kentucky, p Raport pod red. Friedrich Ruge, Dr. Ernst Schraepler, Dr. Herbert Michaelis, Dr. Walther Hubatsch, Der 2. Retrieved 24 May Putnam's Sons, NY, , p. Retrieved 18 April Volume II.

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    No Strategic Targets Left. ISBN The Wizards of Armageddon. New York: Simon and Schuster. Richard P. Chilstrom, School of Advanced Airpower Studies. Mines Away! The Significance of U. Diane Publishing, Radiation Effects Research Foundation. Retrieved 18 September Gosling and Terrence R. Fehner Department of Energy. Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.

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