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Allied Area Bombing Revisited (Continued) By: Michael Lopez-Calderon
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, May 26, 2006


The Bombers’ Impact: German and Japanese Civilian Losses

At the outset of hostilities in September 1939, the Nazi Luftwaffe and the various Allied air forces reverted back to pre-First World War idealism: 

“…both Germany and Britain were restrained towards each other in the matter of bombing, which on the British side anyway started immediately: on 3 September itself, within hours of Chamberlain’s declaration of war on Germany, a group of Hampden and Whitely bombers attempted to find and attack a fleet of German warships reportedly at sea near Wilhelmshaven.  They failed but even as they returned … from the hunt, a flight of ten Whitley bombers was setting course for the Ruhr – to drop not bombs but leaflets on the civilian population, inviting them to surrender.”[1] [Emphasis added]

 

The reluctance to bomb Western European civilians ended May 15, 1940 with the Luftwaffe’s bombing of Rotterdam; the Luftwaffe bombed Warsaw in September of 1939, a fact to which few Britons and other Western Europeans paid heed back then because Eastern Europe was perceived to be a distant place geographically and culturally.  RAF-Bomber Command would have bombed Germany sooner had it not been in such a weak position at outset of the Second World War.  By 1942, all major Allied powers and their Axis foes engaged in both area and strategic bombing.  While the RAF, guided by Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshall Sir Charles Portal and Bomber Command’s Air Marshall Sir Arthur Harris, was committed to area bombing, the USAAF was not.  The Americans preferred strategic or precision bombing of German industrial and military targets as the surest path to victory.  However, in the case of Japan, the USAAF departed from pin-point bombing. U.S. bombers used massive area bombing tactics for the last nine months of the Pacific war.  The most destructive attacks were the March 9-10, 1945 firebombing of Tokyo and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945 respectively.[2]  The costs to Germany and Japan were frightful. 

 

In the European Theater of Operations (ETO), Allied air power dropped over 1,360,000 tons[3] of bombs on Germany that left scores of cities in ruins, destroyed or damaged twenty percent of the nation’s housing stock, and killed 305,000 and maimed 780,000 German civilians.[4]  In the Pacific Theater of Operations (PTO), the results were no less sanguinary.  A total of 168,000 tons of bombs were dropped on the Japanese mainland[5], killing 330,000 Japanese civilians, wounding over 476,000[6], and leaving sixty-six major cities with “40 percent of [their built-up areas destroyed].”[7] Area bombing created an estimated seven million refugees in Germany and nearly nine million inside Japan during the war.  Despite this massive devastation, post-war studies conducted in Europe and Japan by the United States Strategic Bombing Survey[8] teams concluded that area bombing failed to weaken civilian support for the enemy regimes.  The USSBS studies influenced later generations of military historians who concluded that area bombing was “a regrettable and relatively unsuccessful aspect of the Allied prosecution of the war.”[9]  There were, however, irrefutable Allied successes derived from area bombing.

 

German Military and Economic Losses[10] Due to Bombing 

 

Putting aside for a moment Professor Grayling’s examination of area bombing in the context of the legal and moral principles derived from just war theory, there can be no doubt that area and strategic bombing inflicted considerable military and economic damage on the Axis Powers.  The Axis had to commit substantial resources to anti-aircraft defense; recovery and reconstruction; relocation of “de-housed” urban dwellers; and concealment and dispersion of vital industrial resources and war-manufacturing factories.  The disruption of Germany’s military transportation network and vital aviation and petroleum industries proved fatal in the end.  One often neglected benefit of both Bomber Command’s and the USAAF’s numerous “1,000-bomber” raids was the initial high attrition rate inflicted by bomber gun crews on the Luftwaffe’s experienced, well-trained fighter-inceptor aircraft pilots.  “Luftwaffe fighter pilots were initially hesitant about attacking B-17s in formation.  No bomber they would confront in the war was so heavily armed,”[11] carrying as many as twelve .50 caliber machineguns. Although German fighter-interceptors[12] eventually overcame the unescorted B-17 Flying Fortress and B-24 Liberator bombers’ gunners, the steady attrition rate coupled with the arrival of longer-range American escort-fighters spelled doom for the Luftwaffe.  As American P-51 Mustangs came into service in greater numbers, their extended fuel range meant American bombers were under the protection of fighter escorts for greater distances and time over German airspace. By early 1944, the results were catastrophic for the Luftwaffe. 

 

McFarland and Newton noted one initially unintended benefit of strategic bombing:  “The major contribution of strategic bombing by June 1944 was its role in bringing about the weakening of the Luftwaffe’s fighter arm, particularly the day fighters, through attrition.”[13]  The USAAF Eighth Air Force bomber gun crews claimed to have shot down 4,176 Luftwaffe fighters from October 2, 1943 to May 30, 1944; the Germans reported smaller figures, ranging from a low of 1,038 to a high of 1,631.[14]  Nonetheless, the loss of that many fighters to just one of several USAAF and RAF Bomber Command bomber fleets partially explains why Germany devoted almost seventy percent of her fighter aircraft to defend against the bomber threat.[15]  The Luftwaffe simply had to replace their huge losses over German airspace.  One particularly costly and brutal bombing campaign named “Big Week” (February 19-26, 1944) cost the Luftwaffe dearly.  Succeeding air campaigns over Germany eventually churned up the German Air Force.  British Historian Max Hastings noted in his excellent revisionist work on D-Day, Overlord, the steady erosion of Luftwaffe fighter-interceptor aircraft and its veteran pilots[16]:

 

“…the coming of the marvelous Mustang P-51 long-range fighter to the skies over Germany inflicted an irreversible defeat upon the Luftwaffe … In January 1944, the Germans lost 1,311 aircraft from all causes.  This figure rose to 2,121 in February and 2,115 in March. … By June [1944], the Germans no longer possessed sufficient pilots and aircraft to mount more than token resistance to the Allied invasion of France.”[17]

 

A good number of those German fighter planes were lost defending cities subjected to area bombing.

 

Big Week also had a devastating impact on German aircraft production on the ground.  The USAAF and RAF Bomber Command carried out respectively, 3,823 and 2,351 sorties dropping a total of “18,291 tons of bombs on eighteen German airframe and two ball-bearing manufacturing centers.”  “American losses were 227 bombers (5.9 percent[18]), British losses 157 bombers (6.7 percent) … U.S. Strategic Air Forces in Europe launched 4,342 fighters, losing 42 (1 percent).  More than 5,000 Allied aircrew either died or became prisoners-of-war”[19] during Big Week.  The Luftwaffe suffered fewer casualties, but had fewer to give.  One hundred Luftwaffe pilots were killed and between 81 and 282 aircraft were lost in the air.  In addition, the Germans saw their Messerschmitt plant at Regensburg utterly destroyed, and heavy damage inflicted on the Stuttgart ball-bearing plant and airframe plants at Augsberg, Furth, and Leipzig.[20]  The Germans were forced to disperse airplane assembly plants, a move that saved their airframe manufacturing capacity but hurt efficiency.  Prior to Big Week, the above mentioned German aircraft plants each built between 200 and 350 planes a month.  After Big Week and the necessary dispersal, none of the plants built more than 150 aircraft a month, and the destroyed Regensburg plant ceased to build any aircraft for the remainder of the war.[21]  America’s massive production of planes and output of trained pilots easily replaced the heavy losses suffered during Big Week while “the Luftwaffe lost over one-third of its authorized strength, including a considerable number of irreplaceable veteran pilots and air commanders.”[22]  Other Allied bomber operations, including Berlin, ARGUMENT and POINTBLANK would take a terrible toll of the Luftwaffe.  By the time of the Normandy Invasion (D-Day, June 6, 1944), the Luftwaffe only had 300 planes based near the Normandy coastline to take on 12,000 Allied aircraft coming from Great Britain.[23] German soldiers joked about this disparity in air power: “[I]f the plane in the sky was silver it was American, if it was blue it was British, if it was invisible it was ours.”[24]  For the Wehrmacht and the Third Reich, Allied air superiority had become no laughing matter by 1944 and early 1945.

 

Allied area and strategic bombing forced Nazi Germany to commit enormous quantities of anti-aircraft guns and ammunition to homeland defense.  A large number of 88mm cannons (some put the figure at 10,000) that otherwise would have been used as anti-tank guns on both the Eastern and Western Fronts, had to guard against Allied bombers.  If Germany had been assured that her cities were off limits to Allied bombers, perhaps as many as 7,000 of the 10,000 88mm cannons committed to anti-aircraft defense would have been deployed by the Wehrmacht as anti-tank weapons, a sobering thought when one realizes the toll such firepower could have inflicted on American, British and Russian tank-crews.  Germany’s defense of her airspace and cities required 900,000 personnel to man the anti-aircraft “flak guns” (Fliegerabwehrkanonen) which numbered 14,250 heavy guns ranging from the superb 88mm to 12.8 cm, 34,750 light to medium guns ranging from 20mm to 3.7 cm, 1,500 barrage balloons, and 6,750 searchlights.[25]  Several tens of thousands of additional personnel were occupied with fire-fighting, digging and rescuing bombing victims, recovering the dead for burial, assisting workers and families “de-housed” by bombs, and clearing the rubble.  Had German cities received a pass from Allied bombing, the above mentioned personnel and resources invariably would have been used for other military purposes.

 

German industrial output was hurt by a combination of increased worker absenteeism due to bombing and the outright destruction of industrial plant and equipment.  A. C. Grayling noted that by 1943, German industrial production declined 9 percent; it fell by 17 percent in 1944.  British estimates were even more reliable since they included larger samples.  The British claim German industrial output fell by 8.2 percent in 1943, 7.2 percent after June 1944, and 9.7 percent during the first four months of 1945 (Germany surrendered May 8, 1945).[26]  The single greatest damage to the German industrial base fell upon her oil industry.  German oil production fell from 316,000 tons a month before May 1944, to 107,000 tons in June 1944, and a pathetic 17,000 tons in September.[27]  Had the Allies committed a greater effort to attacking Germany’s oil production, the Nazi war machine would have grounded to a complete halt by late summer 1944.  But this is hindsight; in the fog of war, confusion nearly always trumps clarity.  Allied commanders were split between three objectives: bombing transportation, bombing cities, and bombing vital industrial targets.  It is true that Air Marshal “Bomber” Harris was singularly-minded, some say obsessed, in proving correct the pre-war theory that area bombing ultimately would bring Germany to her knees.  However, in the desperate days of World War II, Allied leaders were willing to try any remedy short of genocide to bring about Nazi Germany’s defeat.  As defense analyst William Murray and military historian Allan R. Millett wrote in their book, A War To Be Won, in assessing Allied bombing during the Second World War:  “In the end, what is certain is that the Combined Bomber Offensive was essential to the defeat of Nazi Germany.  It was not elegant, it was not humane, but it was effective.”[28]

   

Bombing’s Impact on Axis Morale

 

One of the more tenuous “beneficial” consequences of Allied area bombing was the impact it had on German and Japanese morale.  A. C. Grayling argues that the consensus of the United States Strategic Bombing Survey (USSBS) studies as well as that of later generations of military historians is that area bombing stiffened enemy resistance.  However, much of that claim is based on embittered recollections by German and Japanese bombing survivors; subjected to endless questionnaires by post-war survey teams, perhaps many felt victimized by a new form of bombardment.[29] American historian Richard Overy noted the appreciable increase in absenteeism among both German and Japanese workers:

 

“The impact of bombing was profound.  People became tired, highly strung and disinclined to take risks.  Industrial efficiency was undermined by bombing workers and their housing.  In Japan, absenteeism from work rose to 50 percent in the summer of 1945; in the Ford plant in Cologne, in the Ruhr, absenteeism rose to 25 percent of the workforce for the whole of 1944. … Even those who turned up for work were listless and anxious … [f]or the bombed cities the end of the war spelt relief from a routine of debilitating terror and arbitrary loss.  No one could doubt who walked through the ghost towns [Dead Cities] of Germany and Japan …that bombing shattered civilian lives.”[30]

 

Nazi Minister of Enlightenment and Education, Joseph Goebbels, noted the devastating impact of area bombing on the German cities of Lübeck (1942) and Dortmund (1943), and worried about morale: “The damage is really enormous … It is horrible.  One can well imagine how such a bombardment affects the population.”  “Hell itself seems to have broken loose upon us.”[31]  The Nazi Propaganda Minister organized morale-boosting parades through bombed cities, calling them victory marches and declaring that by decorating the rubble with Nazi flags, the people were celebrating Germany’s victories.  While Germans struggled under the bombs, the circumstances for Japan’s civilians were equally horrendous, if not worse.  After all, most of Japan’s built up areas consisted of structures and dwellings made from wood and paper, thus making them extremely vulnerable to incendiary bombing.  The American General Curtis LeMay changed tactics once he realized that strategic bombing of Japan was failing.  He shifted the focus to area bombing with a heavy emphasis on use of incendiaries.  “We scorched and boiled and baked to death more people in Tokyo that night of March 9-10 [1945] than went up in vapour in Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined,"[32] said LeMay.  It is estimated that some 8,500,000 Japanese civilians[33] were forced to evacuate cities for the countryside in order to escape the fire-bombings.  In an era of “total war” that saw civilians mobilized into mass production and other means of supporting the war effort, the specific targeting of the enemy home-front, including densely-populated urban areas, was consistent with all the prevailing military doctrines in the years prior to and during World War II.  Thus Allied area bombing was yet another in a litany of the necessary horrors of waging total war against the formidable Axis foes.

 

Grayling’s Judgment and the Men That Gave All of Their Tomorrows

 

A. C. Grayling has been unfairly criticized by reviewers who appear not to have read his book carefully.  For example, Max Hastings[34] accused Grayling of writing a polemic that gave short shrift to Axis mendacity.  A reader who complained in the Washington Post’s “Book World” asked if Grayling wrote “a 361-page tome without so much as mentioning Warsaw, Coventry, Rotterdam, London and, even before that, Guernica?”[35]  In fact, Grayling repeatedly emphasized throughout Among the Dead Cities that he is not a moral relativist nor is his work an exercise in moral equivalency.  He does not shy away from the brutalities of Nazi Germany and Imperial-Fascist Japan.  However, Grayling’s flawed assumptions and use of hindsight in his critique of Allied area bombing as a war crime, and his recommendations for our times leave him open to legitimate criticism.  Concerning his flawed assumptions and hindsight:

 

·        He argues that Bomber Command should have “devoted its energies to making [precision bombing] … safer for its bombers” by developing long-range escort fighters and bombing at daylight as the Americans had done.[36]  This overlooks the fact that the RAF was committed to area bombing as a matter of strategic planning.  Grayling assumes that the RAF’s change from daylight precision-bombing to nighttime area bombing was a tactical shift brought about by the horrific losses suffered in the early stage of the war—from 1939-1941, Bomber Command had attrition rates[37] of 20 to 28 percent.  On the contrary, Bomber Command’s Air Marshal Sir Arthur Harris saw an opportunity to move area bombing from the abstract to the actual, and thus seized the moment.  The RAF would engage in area bombing at night, the USAAF would commit to strategic bombing during daylight, exactly as planners for both air forces had advocated years earlier.

·        Grayling would have RAF Bomber Command give the Third Reich’s cities a free pass, and instead concentrate bombing vital industrial targets with precision bombing technology that simply did not exist in 1939-1945.  While the USAAF’s commitment to strategic bombing against Germany was noble, it relied more on wishful thinking than on actual capabilities.[38]  Military historian James H. Kitchens III, a leading expert on World War II aerial bombing, noted the near-impossibility of precision bombing:

 

“B-17s and B-24s …cruised at 180 to 190 miles per hour and were designed to bomb from fifteen thousand to thirty thousand feet.  Unfortunately, from these heights the pickle barrel placement required to hit chosen buildings without collateral damage was utterly impossible, a fact made crystal clear by the USSBS … and countless other sources.  Normal bomb patterns from the heavies extended hundreds of yards from the aiming point and it was quite common for bombs to fall a mile or more away from the target.  On 15 April 1945, for example, the Eighth Air Force’s 467th Bombardment Group achieved that air force’s most accurate bombing of the war.  In striking a coastal artillery battery in France … B-24s … managed to put just 50 percent of their bombs within a 500-foot radius around the guns.  This was accomplished only with long experience, a 15,000-foot drop altitude, near-perfect weather, and no resistance.”[39] (Emphasis added)

 

Likewise, historian William D. Rubinstein noted, with hindsight of course, the American-British failure to knock out the German electrical grid:

 

“As astonishing as it may seem, the Allies failed to destroy that grid … No more than one hundred power stations in Germany provided over 56 per cent of all electricity generated; a further 300 supplied another 25 per cent.  Both the power stations and the lines of the grid were extremely vulnerable, the location of the stations was well known and, most importantly of all, since electricity cannot be stored, the Germans would have had no way of compensating for the losses endured.  Albert Speer later stated that the loss of about 60 per cent of German electricity capacity … would have brought German industry to a standstill … only 0.12 per cent of Allied bombs [were] expended on the German power grid.”[40] 

 

Part of the reason for the failure to destroy the German electrical grid stemmed from the above mentioned inaccuracy of bombing even under the best conditions—Northern Europe typically has cloud cover for two-thirds of the year, a fact that would contribute to inaccurate bombing during World War II.  Add heavy anti-aircraft fire (flak) and German fighter planes, not to the mention frayed nerves and fatigue of the bomber crews, and bombing inaccuracy became inevitable.  Of course, there also was the matter of a prior commitment to area bombing that the iron-willed Air Marshal Harris was intent on carrying through no matter what the costs.

 

·        Grayling’s argument that the Germans would have had to maintain fighter-aircraft and anti-aircraft guns to defend vital industrial and strategic targets overlooks one important fact: the number of anti-aircraft guns needed to defend those targets would not have required the estimated 48,000 to 55,000 that Germany committed to defend vital military targets and her cities.  Surely several thousands of 88mm guns would have been transferred to the front for use as anti-tank guns had the Allies not implemented area bombing.  In addition, thousands of Luftwaffe fighter-aircraft would have been freed up to strafe American and British soldiers on the beaches of Normandy and attack Soviet infantry and armored columns advancing through Poland.

 

On the matter of Grayling’s recommendations for then and now:

 

·        He appears to have forgotten the adage that “the past is a different country,” i.e., perspectives, values, varying senses of time and space differ between people separated by generations.  Grayling condemns Allied area bombing as a war crime and a moral outrage; however, pre-war efforts by the United States and Europe to outlaw area bombing via international protocol collapsed on account of failure to reach a consensus that area bombing constituted a war crime.  He points to the Geneva Protocol 1, Article 52 (1) of 1977 that forbids attacks on civilians and civilian targets.  Michael Burleigh of the Sunday Times notes thus that Grayling “fully enters into the spirit of his own time, with his lawyerly attempt retrospectively to criminalise Bomber Command under laws that only became explicit after the war in the 1977 Additional Protocol to the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention — that is, 32 years later.”[41] (Emphasis added)

·        Grayling reveals his thinly veiled agenda—he is after all, a leading “public intellectual” in Britain—in the concluding chapter, “Judgement.”  He laments current U.S. interpretation of the “International Humanitarian Law (the Geneva 1949 conventions and their two protocols,”[42] the military campaigns in Afghanistan, Iraq and maybe one day against Iran.  Grayling condemns surprise attacks on civilians: “…there comes to seem very little difference in principle between the RAF’s Operation Gomorrah [bombing of Hamburg], or the USAAF’s atom bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the destruction of the World Trade Center,”[43] a problematic comparison he admits comes close to moral equivalency.  Grayling stands by his condemnation of Britain and the U.S., and maintains his faith in institutions like the International Criminal Court (ICC) and Geneva protocols.  One critic noted that the professor of philosophy may wish for “his book … to increase the likelihood that contemporary American (and British) pilots will face that prospect [of being hauled before the ICC] every time one of their precision bombs hits a collateral target.”[44]  The critic’s observation is not farfetched.       

 

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Notes:
 

[1] A. C. Grayling, Among the Dead Cities, pp. 23-24.

[2] The actual death toll of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings may be far less than the over-stated figures—200,000 for Hiroshima and 140,000 for Nagasaki—that are touted by Leftist revisionist historians. 

[3] United States Strategic Bombing Survey: Summary Report (Pacific War), Washington, D. C., July 1, 1946, p. 16. 

[4] A. C. Grayling, Among the Dead Cities, p. 104. 

[5] United States Strategic Bombing Survey: Summary Report (Pacific War), p.16.  This total also includes the tonnage from the two atomic bombings.

[6] A. C. Grayling, Among the Dead Cities, p. 92.  Some put the combined German and Japanese civilian death toll caused mostly by area bombing at 800,000.

[7] John W. Dower, Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II, New York: The New Press, 2000, p. 45.

[8] There were 205 such studies conducted in Germany alone.

[10] I will focus entirely here on Nazi Germany largely because A C. Grayling made the bombing of Germany the primary focus of his book.

[11] McFarland and Newton, To Command the Sky, p. 96.

[12] The Germans used twin-engine, cannon and rocket firing but poorly armored and slow Bf 110s and Messerschmitt Me 210s and 410s to attack unescorted B-17 and B-24 bombers in their box formations.  The box formation allowed several bombers to provide fields of crossfire from their .50 caliber machineguns.  However, German inceptor aircraft overcame the bombers’ defensive firepower by using rockets and cannons that could be fired outside of the machine-gunners’ range.  Using cannon and 90 pound rockets, the Nazi Luftwaffe’s Bf 110s, Me 210s and 410s proved fearsome aircrafts; however, when pursued by American P-51 Mustangs and P-47 Thunderbolts, they were sitting ducks.  The arrival by early 1944 of longer-ranger American fighter escorts, aided by the use of fuel drop-tanks, spelled the death knell of the Luftwaffe.  See McFarland and Newton, To Command the Sky, pp. 56-57.   

[13] Ibid., p. 245.

[14] Ibid., pp. 249-250.  RAF Lancaster bombers flew at night, and thus did not shoot down as many German fighters.

[15] A. C. Grayling, Among the Dead Cities, p. 254. 

[16] “In May alone the Luftwaffe lost 25 percent of its fighter pilots, and in the first five months of 1944 its fighter force had lost 2,262 pilots out of the 2,395 fighter pilots on duty on 1 January.” William Murray and Allan R. Millett, A War To Be Won: Fighting The Second World War, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap Press of Harvard University, 2000, p. 325.

[17] Max Hastings, Overlord: D-Day & The Battle for Normandy, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1984, pp. 42-43.

[18] Losses at or below 6 percent were considered “acceptable.”  Earlier in the war, Allied bomber forces often suffered losses in excess of 11 percent, and in some missions, the numbers exceeded an unconscionable 25 percent.  These numbers were unsustainable over a long period.  The advent of longer-ranger fighter escorts reduced those high numbers by 1944-1945.  It is important to note that German anti-aircraft guns, particularly the superb 88mm, were responsible for half of all American bombers shot down.  See McFarland and Newton, To Command the Sky, p. 54.

[19] McFarland and Newton, To Command the Sky, p. 190.

[20] Ibid., p. 191.

[21] Ibid., p. 191.

[22] Ibid., p. 190.

[23] A. C. Grayling, Among the Dead Cities, pp. 254-255.

[24] Stephen E. Ambrose, D-Day June 6, 1944: The Climatic Battle of World War II, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1994, p. 578.  In the East, the situation was not much better; by 1944, 500 German aircraft confronted 13,000 Soviet.

[25] McFarland and Newton, To Command the Sky, p. 52.  Many of these 900,000 men and women were not of frontline combat quality.  However, if say 700,000 could have been deployed in frontline, fixed defensive positions, armed with anti-tank weapons like the Panzerfaust and Panzerschrek or manning 88mm anti-tank cannons, they most certainly would have prolonged the war and inflicted additional losses on Allied infantry and armored troops.

[26] A. C. Grayling, Among the Dead Cities, p. 100.

[27] Ibid., p. 109.

[28] William Murray and Allan R. Millett, A War To Be Won, p. 335.

[29] Richard Overy, Why the Allies Won, p. 132.  Overy cited studies that revealed as much as 34 percent of Japanese listed area bombing as the top indicator that the war was lost; 36 percent of German interviews cited area bombing as the clearest indication that defeat was inevitable.  Area bombing, more than any other single factor, was the number one morale breaker among Axis civilians.

[30] Ibid., pp. 132-133.

[31] A. C. Grayling, Among the Dead Cities, p. 101.

[32] Ibid., p. 171.

[33] Ibid., p. 93.

[34] Max Hastings, A. C. Grayling: Among the dead cities: Was the allied bombing of civilians in WWII a necessity or a crime?,” The New Zealand Herald, February 24, 2006.

[35] See Letters: Bombing Civilians by George F. Muller, “The Washington Post,” Sunday, April 30, 2006, p. BW 12.  A. C. Grayling provides ample coverage of the Luftwaffe’s area bombings of Rotterdam (33-36, 197-198), Warsaw (35, 149, 198), London (3-4, 17-18, 38, 40-43, 45, 49, 118, 186), Coventry (43-45, 90, 192-193, 198, 331), and other British cities (119, 173, 179, 194).  He also mentions the Nazi Condor Legion’s bombing of Guernica in detail (see 35, 134). 

[36] A. C. Grayling, Among the Dead Cities, pp. 266-267.

[37] The acceptable attrition rate for both the RAF and USAAF was zero to five percent.  Anything over five percent, especially in double digits, was unacceptable.  Losses in the fifteen to eighteen percent ranges were considered extremely heavy, and losses in the twenty to twenty-eight percent ranges were unsustainable and ultimately ruinous.  The RAF bomber fleet at one point early in the war suffered an attrition rate that exceeded that of the British army at the Battle of the Somme in 1916, considered the costliest battle in the annals of British military history.

[38] For example, Grayling praises Allied “precision bombing” of German U-boat pens along the coast of France, but omits the fact that these efforts proved futile.  The submarine pens were powerfully built structures that remain in near perfect condition to this very day.  See Philip Kaplan, Bombers: The Air Crew Experience, especially the photos of the unscathed German U-boat pens at La Pallice, France on pp. 98-99.

[39] Verne W. Newton, Ed., FDR and the Holocaust, New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1996, pp. 195-196.

[40] William D. Rubenstein, The Myth of Rescue: Why the Democracies Could Not Have Saved More Jews from the Nazis, London: Routledge, 1997, p. 171.  Rubenstein however places great faith in Allied precision-bombing capability.  Hitting the German electrical grid, power stations and all, would have been a challenge under optimal conditions.  In all likelihood, Allied bombers would have resorted to saturation bombing techniques that in effect are identical to area bombing, replete with inaccurate bombing and large numbers of civilian deaths.

[41] Michael Burleigh, “In the line of duty,” The Sunday Times, February 5, 2006.

[42] A. C. Grayling, Among the Dead Cities, p. 274.

[43] Ibid., p. 278.

[44] Michael Burleigh, “In the line of duty.”


Michael Lopez-Calderon runs the website Calderon's Call and is also featured on Inherit the Wirbelwind.


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