Bombing of Germany during World War II

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Terror Bombers over Germany;
3 million dead (ca. 500,000 children), up to 10 million wounded and 25 million homeless.

The Bombing of Germany during World War II mainly by the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) was partially strategic and considered by some as legitimate warfare against the enemy, but by the summer of 1943 the "terror from above" was mostly an inhumane war crime, because the bombings had become militarily unnecessary and had degenerated to a deliberate barbaric massacre of non-combatant civilians and the destruction of Europe's architectural heritage.



A large stack of corpses is cremated in Dresden, Germany, after the British-American air attack between February 13 and 15, 1945.
Young Flakhelfer in Berlin during the last days of World War II.

Indiscriminate bombing was internationally outlawed. The Washington Treaty (1922) expressly forbade the use of bombing against civilian populations. Although not ratified by the Geneva Conventions, it was still universally agreed that terror bombing (of civilians) would not be employed. Nonetheless, between 1940 and 1945, sixty-one German cities with a total population of 25 million souls were destroyed or devastated in a bombing campaign that was unquestionably initiated by the British government.[1]

A view taken from Dresden's town hall of the destroyed historical Old Town (German: historische Altstadt) after the allied bombings between February 13 and 15, 1945 – the death of this great city is symbolic for 61 German cities during World War II.

James M. Spaight (1877-1968), CB, CBE, Principal Secretary to the Air Ministry in his book Bombing Vindicated:

"Hitler only undertook the bombing of British civilian targets reluctantly three months after the RAF had commenced bombing German civilian targets. Hitler would have been willing at any time to stop the slaughter. Hitler was genuinely anxious to reach with Britain an agreement confining the action of aircraft to battle zones... Retaliation was certain if we carried the war into Germany... there was a reasonable possibility that our capital and industrial centres would not have been attacked if we had continued to refrain from attacking those of Germany... We began to bomb objectives on the German mainland before the Germans began to bomb objectives on the British mainland... Because we were doubtful about the psychological effect of propagandist distortion of the truth that it was we who started the strategic bombing offensive, we have shrunk from giving our great decision of May 11th, 1940, the publicity it deserves."

A 40-year-old survivor of the Operation Gomorrha gave the following account, which without a doubt contributed to some of the awful smell that the RAF bomber crews took note of high above:

"The stretch of road upon which we now traveled brought ever worsening scenes of horror. I saw many women with their children held in their arms running, burning and then falling and not getting back up. We passed masses of people made up of four or five corpses, each probably a family, visible only as a pile of burned substance no larger than a small child. Many men and women fell over suddenly without having caught fire.... Silently and with the last of their force, women tried to save their children. They carried them pressed close. Many of these children were already dead, without their mothers knowing."

Roy Akehurst, a wireless operator in an RAF bomber crew, was struck by the destruction that he had help caused. His horrific words are symbolic for the feelings of some soldiers after the World War II, but sadly not for all:

"It struck me at the time, the thought of the women and children down there. We seemed to fly for hours over a sheet of fire, a terrific red glow with thin haze over it. I found myself making comments to the crew 'Oh God, those poor people'. It was completely uncalled for. You can't justify it."

In a memorandum sent to Bomber Harris, Winston Churchill noted:

"It seems to me that the moment has come when the question of bombing of German cities simply for the sake of increasing terror, should be reviewed.... I feel the need for more precise concentration upon military objectives..., rather than on mere acts of terror and wanton destruction."

British Secretary of State for Air Sir Archibald Sinclair spoke at the House of Commons, noting that "[t]he past 12 months have been marked by striking changes in the conduct and effectiveness of... the pulverising offensive of Bomber Command.... The monster raids saturating the enemy's active and passive systems of defence is one example. A second example is the success achieved in finding, marking and illuminating targets which has contributed enormously to the recent triumphs of Bomber Command.... Praise the men who are striking these hammer blows at German might... fearless young men flying through storm and cold and darkness higher than Mont Blanc, through the flak, hunted by the night fighters, but coolly and skillfully identifying and bombing these targets." Some Members of Parliament, such as Mr. Montague, representing West Islington, voiced concerns for the "wanton destruction" delivered by the Bomber Command.[2]

See also

Other argued mass killings by the Allies


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  1. , F.J.P Veale, British author and jurist, wrote in his book Advance to Barbarism: "They, the British Air Chiefs....argued that the desired result of reducing German industrial production, would be more readily achieved if the homes of the workers in the factories were destroyed. If the workers were kept busy arranging for the burial of their wives and children, output might reasonably be expected to fall."
  2. After nightfall 27 July 1943, a repeated bombing of Hamburg, Germany by 787 RAF aircraft created a fire storm in which an estimated 42,000 people perished, most of them by carbon monoxide poisoning when all the air was drawn out of their basement shelters. The fire storm, in which the heat and humidity of the summer night was a contributory factor, raged for three hours until there was nothing left to burn.
  3. Allied forces conducted many air raids on Japan during World War II, causing extensive destruction to the country's cities and killing anywhere from 241,000 to 900,000 people. During the first years of the Pacific War, these attacks were limited to the Doolittle Raid in April 1942 and small-scale raids on military positions in the Kuril Islands from mid-1943. Strategic bombing raids on Japan began in June 1944 and continued until the end of the war in August 1945. Allied naval and land-based tactical air units also attacked Japan during 1945.
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