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Terror from the Sky

Terror from the Sky: The Bombing of German Cities in World War II

Edited by Igor Primoratz
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Terror from the Sky
    Book Description:

    In this first interdisciplinary study of this contentious subject, leading experts in politics, history, and philosophy examine the complex aspects of the terror bombing of German cities during World War II. The contributors address the decision to embark on the bombing campaign, the moral issues raised by the bombing, and the main stages of the campaign and its effects on German civilians as well as on Germany's war effort. The book places the bombing campaign within the context of the history of air warfare, presenting the bombing as the first stage of the particular type of state terrorism that led to Hiroshima and Nagasaki and brought about the Cold War era "balance of terror." In doing so, it makes an important contribution to current debates about terrorism. It also analyzes the public debate in Germany about the historical, moral, and political significance of the deliberate killing of up to 600,000 German civilians by the British and American air forces. This pioneering collaboration provides a platform for a wide range of views-some of which are controversial-on a highly topical, painful, and morally challenging subject.

    eISBN: 978-1-84545-844-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)
    Igor Primoratz

    In World War II, the Allies bombed Germany’s cities and towns in an attempt to undermine the morale of its civilian population and force its government to halt the war and accept unconditional surrender. More than sixty years later, the bombing campaign remains one of the most controversial issues of the war. One strand of the debate approaches the subject in purely strategic terms. Some cling to the view of those who planned and carried out the bombing, according to which the campaign made a major contribution to the victory over Germany. Others argue that it was unsuccessful on its...

  4. Part I: The Bombing

    • CHAPTER 1 The Bombing Campaign: the RAF
      (pp. 19-38)
      Stephen A. Garrett

      In June 1938, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain issued the following instructions to British Bomber Command in the event of an outbreak of war with Germany:

      1. It is against international law to bomb civilians as such and to make deliberate attacks on the civilian population.

      2. Targets which are aimed at from the air must be legitimate military objectives and must be capable of identification.

      3. Reasonable care must be taken in attacking those military objectives so that by carelessness a civilian population in the neighbourhood is not bombed.¹

      The Prime Minister reiterated his position on this matter even after war had...

    • CHAPTER 2 The Bombing Campaign: the USAAF
      (pp. 39-59)
      Douglas P. Lackey

      In discussions of the bombing of Germany during World War II, the phrase “Allied bombing” is commonly used. But, in fact, the Allied bombing of Germany had two distinct components, the British and the American.¹ American bombing policy was based on different concepts; American plans exhibited different intentions; the Americans had different planes and different equipment; and they executed different missions against different types of targets. American leaders engaged in different debates about bombing policy; the American people had a different experience of what it is like to be bombed; and, the Americans read differently censored news reports about the...

    • CHAPTER 3 Under the Bombs
      (pp. 60-84)
      Earl R. Beck

      The four months from May through August of 1943 were marked by a series of major setbacks for Germany’s war efforts both at home and on the battlefronts. They began on May 12 and 13 as the German armies in North Africa surrendered to the British. The radio report from the famed and once victorious Africa Corps read: “Munition exhausted. Weapons and war materials destroyed. The German Africa Corps has fought as ordered until it is no longer capable of fighting. The German Africa Corps must be born again! Heia Safari!”¹

      The “desert fox,” Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, had been...

    • CHAPTER 4 Firestorm
      (pp. 85-110)
      Martin Middlebrook

      Few people in Hamburg had been surprised when the sirens sounded for the second major RAF raid. During the past three days and nights, the city had already been struck by one heavy RAF raid and two light Mosquito raids by night and by two US daylight raids. Most of the population now realized that they were caught up in a major attempt by the Allied bomber forces to destroy their beloved city.

      The evacuation of the civilians whose homes had been bombed in the first RAF raid had continued smoothly. Many other people who had not lost their homes...

  5. Part II: The Moral Issues

    • CHAPTER 5 Can the Bombing Be Morally Justified?
      (pp. 113-133)
      Igor Primoratz

      In this chapter, I look into the main ways in which the bombing of German cities and towns in World War II has been, or might be, morally defended. I argue that all these attempts at justification fail. If my argument is correct, the bombing was an unmitigated moral atrocity.¹

      The bombing of Germany’s cities and towns is a moral issue because it was a deliberate attack on the civilian population. It killed some 600,000 civilians and seriously injured another 800,000. Its aim was to undermine German civilians’ morale and terrorize them into pressuring the Nazi government to halt the...

    • CHAPTER 6 Four Types of Mass Murderer: Stalin, Hitler, Churchill, Truman
      (pp. 134-157)
      Douglas P. Lackey

      The provocative description of these four men as “mass murderers” might be taken as an attempt to show that they were all equally evil. But it is not my purpose to show that Truman was morally on a par with Stalin or that Churchill was morally the same as Hitler. In fact, I do not believe such things. Neither is it my purpose to set up scales to determine which of these four is the worst of the murderers. In the case of Hitler and Stalin, this would involve comparing the number of people killed in Hitler’s wars and genocides...

    • CHAPTER 7 Was It Genocidal?
      (pp. 158-178)
      Eric Markusen and David Kopf

      Our basic answer to this question is “yes.” In an early chapter of our studyThe Holocaust and Strategic Bombing, we reviewed the work of Pitirim Sorokin, Gil Elliot, and William Eckhardt, all of whom undertook detailed study of the toll of collective violence during the twentieth century in comparison with prior centuries and concluded that the twentieth century was the worst.

      Why was this century so violent? A combination of ancient psychological capacities, combined with modern bureaucratic and technological developments, helps account for the fact that organized killing has been so common and massive during the past hundred years...

  6. Part III: The Debates

    • CHAPTER 8 The British Debate
      (pp. 181-202)
      Mark Connelly

      The British put more effort into the strategic air campaign than any other nation, and in the process created a controversy that has haunted them down to the present. Exploring the British wartime debate over the bombing campaign reveals the way in which information was shaped and deployed to create ambiguities about the role of Bomber Command, particularly in the middle years of the war. Wishing to chastise Nazi Germany and yet at the same time wanting to appear in the moral ascendancy created tensions and disputes that were debated in both the popular and highbrow media. Encouraged by the...

    • CHAPTER 9 The German Debate
      (pp. 203-222)
      Lothar Kettenacker

      Though the historian cannot escape from the present, it is important for him or her to see things in perspective. When in early 1945 it was all too obvious to the British Cabinet that the Germans had lost the war, Churchill asked the Foreign Office for a paper on their most likely reaction to defeat. This generation of British politicians was, of course, greatly influenced by Germany’s irrational denial of what had happened in 1918. Con O’Neill, the most likely author of the subsequent memorandum submitted to the Cabinet, speculated that the defective gene was not National Socialism, but collectivism...

  7. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 223-224)
  8. Bibliography
    (pp. 225-234)
  9. Index
    (pp. 235-240)