The bombing (or bombardment area bombing or saturation) is a technique consisting of aerial bombardment hit indiscriminately large areas, often urban enemy territory, with the express purpose of destroying the morale of the population in order to wear out the resistance, the industrial production facilities, lines of communication, infrastructure, logistics centers. It differs, therefore, from the bombing aimed at the direct destruction of military targets.
This practice has largely been worked during the(and is one of the reasons why, in connection therewith, there is often talk of war), in particular by the German Air Force (at the beginning of the war) and then mainly English and American, large teams of bombers (sometimes over a thousand) pouring free-fall bombs on enemy territory, often with a high ratio in incendiary (thermite, napalm, white phosphorous, and the like), hitting targets so very large. Sometimes the bombing was the purpose of destroying or material, sometimes it was explicitly designed as a means to demoralize or punish the civilian population (something, in this case, the aviation terrorism). Often the firebombing was joined by the dropping of bombs or delayed time, with the order to kill firefighters employed in fire fighting. With this mechanism could sometimes produce real firestorms.
If historically the bombing was carried out using fleets made up of numerous aircraft (during the, the British used it several times in the configuration “1000 bomber”), today one heavy bomber or a single missile can achieve the same destructive effect by issuing a large number of smaller bombs and read.
The origin of the doctrine
The first aerial bombardment of which we know was experienced by the Austrians during the siege of Venicein 1849.
In that case spolettate bombs were used with fuse transported by balloon.
In 1911, during the war between Italy and Turkey Italians experienced the first bombing with bombs dropped from aircraft.
It was followed in 1912 by the Bulgarian air raids during the First Balkan .
The bombing operation became usual during the First World , when the possibility of throwing bombs at the greatest possible distance was an essential element of trench warfare.
Although these attacks were initially worn with terrestrial instruments such as heavy artillery and railway guns, it became apparent the advantage of newborn half plane, which solved the problems of poor mobility and difficulties in the supply of superguns ground.
It is during this period that it became clear that future wars would increasingly resolved in the sky and that formed the doctrine of tactical bombing.
At the same time, the military doctrine and policy including that air power could be used to strike the vital centers of enemy logistics, such as industry and transport infrastructure, and even to directly affect the civilian population, which had relatively little affected by the Wars are not fought directly on its territory.
All nations competed to the spread of this doctrine. In the United States, in 1925, General Billy Mitchell driver was convicted by court-martial for insubordination after his harsh criticism and accusations of incompetence against army and navy, especially those that followed the loss of the airship USS Shenandoah (ZR-1). Nevertheless, resigned from the army, Mitchell devoted the rest of his life writing articles and lecturing on the importance of revolutionary technique of aerial bombardment of enemy countries, refusing to find anything illegal or immoral in this strategy and managing a large extent to convince the Navy. His words were so taken that Mitchell was later named one of the most important U.S.bombers, the North American B-25 Mitchell.
These arguments were also supported by the Russian naturalized American Alexander de Seversky, Victory in his book Through Air Power in 1942. The book was so successful that it developed a Walt Disney documentary (in the cartoon part with de Seversky as narrator) of the same title.
InItaly, General Giulio Douhet published a pamphlet in which it was held that the advance of the troops could be facilitated by the confusion that panic would have produced striking civilians in enemy territory. The panic could have been “delivered by air.”
In Germany, similar positions were supported by General Erich Luderndorff in his book Der Krieg Total () in which he claimed that civilians were to be treated as combatants and treated accordingly. Unlike Mitchell, Luderndorff met the accession by the Government and, in particular, the Nazi and former pilot . The Treaty of Versailles provided for the total elimination of the German Air Force. The German authorities got around the ban by asking the industry to produce civilian aircraft can also carry out military tasks and concluded secret agreements with theUSSR to test aircraft and train crews in Soviet territory. The was thus rebuilt in secret and only revealed to the world on 1 March 1935.
Bombing during the Spanish Civil
During the, there was a major transition from biplane to monoplane aircraft in the bombing. From the Republican side there were the first strategic bombing on the city with losses among the civilian population, such as those of Zaragoza, Sevilla and Cordoba in August 1936, and subsequently, July 23, 1937, five aircraft Republicans actually Soviets bombed the city of Cáceres resulting in 31 dead and 64 wounded other objectives were Burgos, Alba de Tormes (Salamanca), Navalcarnero, Segovia, Cantalejo (Segovia), Cáceres, Córdoba, Daroca Calatayud, Miranda de Ebro, Granada with hundreds of victims among the population, and again between April and December1937 inPalma de Mallorca, Granada and Talavera dela Reina.
On the German side, the doctrine of Göring had the enthusiastic backing of, but required a field test. The occasion was seized with the participation ofGermanyin support of in the . A few days after the bombing of Durango, a few days before had been hard-hit aviation legionary Italian with about 200 deaths to the four-thirty in the afternoon of April 26, 1937, twenty-five bombers and of Condor Legion, with the command Wolfram (cousin of the “Red Baron”), escorted by a dozen and Fiat CR32, attacked the Basque town of Guernica and the bridge of Renteria, river Oca. The city was not provided with any protection, while being an important railway junction and home to two factories of weapons and bombs, and at that time only20 kmfrom the front. Action was also attended by three bombers Savoia-Marchetti SM79 commanded by Captain Gori Cartillani, escorted by two fighter squadrons, under the command of and Captain Viola Ricci of ‘Aviation Legionnaire Italian. The city continued to burn for days, and the end result was destroyed more than 70%. The different histories claimed different numbers of victims: 1,650 civilians under the Republicans (as also reported in the New York Times), or even none for the nationalists, who supported the non-existence of the bombing and accused the Republicans have set deliberately by the fire to the city. By independent witnesses as it turns out the bombing caused, instead, about 100 victims. During the remainder of the war, other cities were bombed by the nationalists asMadridOctober 23, 1937 and subsequent days.
On April 28, the New York Times reported the news with an article by George Steer (which is not an eye-witness), which was immediately taken up and translated from L’Humanité. Pablo Picasso renamed one of his paintings on a bullfight, Guernica. The German parliament has submitted a formal apology for the bombing ofGuernica April 24, 1999. The experience of the Spanish Civil War convinced (wrongly)’s superiority of the German Air Force medium bomber, such as theand , (both of which operate only during the day and with a range of about 1,200-2000 km) as a strategic weapon and ground attack aircraft, such as the Stuka, as a tactical weapon. The numbers of aircraft involved in these actions, however, were at most a few tens and relatively small distances from the starting points, and served to find practical evidence to the theories put forward as well as to bring terror among the civilian population.
Bombing of Coventry
Inbombings aimed at targeting civilians began with the German bombing of Warsaw and Rotterdam (which was almost totally destroyed) and followed it up with a question and answer between Germany and England, summarized the events of Coventry. The city, one of the best preserved medieval architecture in Europe, home to several factories of military interest, which had been moved outside of residential areas to reduce the risk to the population.
On 25 June 1940 five German bombs hit the city’s airport for causing 16 deaths. Another raid, August 25, destroyed the film and in October, several raids were killed 176 people. For its part, the ‘November 8, the RAF bombed Monaco, the city where thewas founded.
At about 20:00, in the center raging hundreds of fires and the anti-aircraft is no longer able to oppose any resistance. The sirens sounded the all-clear at 6.15 in the morning, the city was reduced to a pile of smoking rubble. The attack resulted in 1,236 dead and 1,746 wounded.
The devastation was so vast that the terms “coventrieren”, “to Coventrate” and “coventrieren” entered the German, English and Italian as a synonym for “wreak havoc with aerial bombardment.” Two days after, for response, the RAF bombed for the first time Hamburg.
In this period, the Germans experience for the first time the use of terrorist missiles. The V1 flying at subsonic speed, were detected by radar and could easily be intercepted by fighters or anti-aircraft artillery knocked down with bullets filled with proximity fuses.
The V2 instead launched on England had poor accuracy, but a devastating psychological impact: unlike normal air, their supersonic speed prevented the population was alerted.
The doctrine of bombing
The Germans struck several times in London between 1940 and 1941, but, at the end of the
The turning point came when the physicist Frederick Lindemann joined the of . In 1942, Lindemann presented a paper in which they called for a campaign of strategic bombing of German cities in order to not only hit the most important industrial centers but deliberately to destroy the most number of homes to reduce the workforce. The housing of the working-class neighborhoods, with their density, seemed a suitable target the use of incendiary bombs. The Cabinet accepted the proposal and Air Marshal Arthur “ ” Harris was appointed commander-in-chief of Command in February 1941.
Industry was required a massive production effort for the construction of strategic bombers four-and Avro Lancaster, with an autonomy of about 3,000 km, the upper operating altitude to 7,000 me, above all, capable of operating at night.
The first application of the new doctrine, known as carpet bombing, took place May 30, 1942 in Cologne. I got about a thousand bombers a result of lower than expected, due to pointing errors and the lack of coordination, but within a year the system became INCREDIBELY efficient. Target was flying over the city at night by Mosquito fighter-bombers which, due to their speed and flight altitude were practically safe. These, using the radar system, recently invented threw precisely red flares on specific points of the city.
Immediately after, hundreds of bombers, following the signs left, poured from high altitude tons of explosive bombs and incendiary. A single Lancaster was able to carry between 6 and 10 tons of bombs. With this system was struck in successive waves 24, 27 and 29 July 1943, in a mission called Operation Gomorrah, Hamburg, who paid with more than 50,000 dead and more than a million homeless. The same thing happened to touch Kessel October 2, 1943, in Berlin between November 1943 and March 1944, Nuremberg in March 1944 and many other cities. More than half of the city of Cologne was destroyed in this way.
Bombing of Milan
From 1940 to 1945 Milan, an important industrial center of Italy, was the subject of repeated raids by U.S. and British aircraft.
In a first phase until 1943 bombing concentrated on civilian houses, and the following year were targeted factories.
Notorious was the massacre of Gorla on 20 October 1944, when a bomb accidentally centered it an elementary school.
Considerable damage occurred to the cultural heritage. Particularly, during the incursions of the month of August 1943, were damaged the cathedral, the Basilica of Sant Ambrogio, the churches of Santa Maria delle Grazie (the ‘Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci fortunately suffered no damage), Sant Eustorgio, San Satyr, St. Thomas, San Sebastian, San Bernardino and San Carlo. It also suffered damage to the Castello Sforzesco, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, La Scala, the Ca Granda, Palazzo Reale, Palazzo Sormani and many other buildings of historic and artistic interest.
Bombing of Dresden
The climax was reached in February 1945 with the attack, during the ‘Operation Thunderclap, the baroque city of Dresden. On the night of February 13, 796 Lancasters dropped 1,478 tons of bombs with high potential and 1,182 tons of incendiaries. The German Air Force, now on his knees, he was unable to put up any resistance. Three hours later, some 529 Lancaster struck Dresden with 1,800 tons of explosives. At noon on the 14th, the U.S. Air Force Flying Fortresses dropped 771 tons of bombs other, repeated the next day with additional 466 tons.
The city was transformed into a single fire. In the end, of the 28,410 homes that were the center of the city, 24,866 were destroyed and an area of 15 square km obliterated. Dresden, which had about 642,000 inhabitants in 1939, housed in 1945 over 200,000 refugees from other German cities. For this reason, there are conflicting estimates on the number of victims, ranging between 35 000 and 250 000.
Recent research shows that the extent of the victims was actually between 18 000 and 25 000 deaths.
The psychological impact on the survivors was devastating. The American writer Kurt Vonnegut, a prisoner in a field on the outskirts of Dresden during the bombing, told his experience in Slaughterhouse. 5, was one of his most famous books.
Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
On the Pacific, the distance between the possible U.S. air base in Japan and made it impossible any attempt to attack the enemy on the ground. One action, mostly propaganda, was completed April 18, 1942 by a formation of 16 B-25s under the command ofDoolittle took off from the USS Hornet, which hit Tokyo and Yokohama.
The turning point came with went into production in 1944, the B-29 Superfortress, with a range of over 6,000 km. Initially, they were tempted of precision daylight bombing from high altitude of Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka and Kobe. Given the poor results, General Curtis LeMay, commander of XXI Bomber Command stationed at the Mariana Islands, passed to the firebombings. Were used napalm incendiary bombs on the Japanese cities are particularly vulnerable to such attacks due to the use of wood as a building material.
Even in Japan, as is already the case in Hamburg and Dresden there was the phenomenon of the firestorm, Feuersturm. The first city was affected, February 3, 1945, Kobe. Tokyo was hit three times in February 24, March 10 and May 26. More than 41 square miles of the city, built almost entirely of bamboo, burned, estimates suggest around 100 000 victims. After the war, General LeMay says: “I think if we had lost, I would have been treated as a war criminal.”
One of the most controversial acts of the Second World War, however, were the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which caused about 90 000 deaths and explosion, due to the effects of radiation, more than double in the following years. If on the one hand, Japan had spoken of “150 million martyrs” to mean that the Japanese soil would be defended to the death, the justification of President
According to some scholars, domestic policy factors, in particular the justification of the enormous expenses of the , played a decisive role in the decision to use atomic bombs.
Others have speculated as the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki could be rather aimed at obtaining the capitulation of Japan before the agreed Soviet intervention in the Far East and, in any case, to an understanding of Soviet ally the effects of the combination of air power with nuclear weapons. The weapon was then nuclear monopoly in the U.S. and in the meantime were deteriorating relations coll’Alleato Soviet Union.
If the bombing has been effective or not, is 60 years after the end ofstill a matter of heated debate. What is certain is that he was never equaled the expectations of a rapid failure of the counterparty, folded losses and material destruction.
Despite the bombings, both in Japan and in Germany during the 1944-45 industrial production of military conflict, despite the dramatic food crisis, reached incredibly high points, and in addition to the more modern types of weapons. It is evident that the expenditure of resources to build 50,000 heavy bombers and the loss of nearly 100,000 men did not obtain the expected results in this sense.
What is still debated is whether the theory of bombing really came to shorten the war or was convenient insist targeted attacks, carried out by teams selected at low altitude. This was the view of the famous bomber pilot Guy Gibson, author of the mission against the Ruhr, which is used in a way the plane also known in Italy as Goofy, and that were in clear opposition to those the commander of the British commander Bomber Harris. The end result on the German front it is known: the country has not surrendered until the capital was stormed home to home.
Americans in Europe in most cases avoided indiscriminate bombing, even when the British acted so with a remarkable progression from 1942 onwards. In Japan, however the Americans, applied in full to the theories of “terror bombing”, also known as “carpet bombing” or even “de-housing”, which is the theory that motivated the bombing of cities in directing theory mainly to material destruction rather than to ‘killing of civilians.
The front of the Pacific
On the Pacific front instead of the dropping of two atomic bombs certainly got the desired effect. It must be said, however, that Japan was now on his knees and without allies, had no food stocks or oil. It was basically hopeless since the fall of Okinawa.
However it happened, the explanations declared to date by most historians and U.S. military (as well as by the British with Germany) to justify the widespread destruction first “conventional” nuclear then on Japanese territory can not be rationally justified.
The theory that the use of nuclear could have saved many more lives (American) than they put out a political philosopher has outraged American, Mike Walker, who called it in his book just and unjust wars as “grotesque, blasphemous, scary and horrible, “the question referred to criticism from Lifton and Markusen in another work not coincidentally titled The genocidal mentality: Nazi holocaust and the nuclear threat.
Yet, as documented in several TV interviews, many of the survivors of the crews that dropped the “bomb” were convinced that this was the right action to be done to finally put an end to the war. The famous ace Saburo Sakai Japanese Navy said in his autobiography that if the United States had been told not used the atomic bombs, the Japanese would continue to fight house to house until the end.
Paradoxically, it is then also true that the very success of the air campaign has shown that the amphibious landing in Japan is not the only way to bend the Archipelago. The U.S. could consider that in his condition, this country would not have resisted likely that for a few months yet.
It can be considered abnormal rapidity that took the U.S. to use the atomic even on Nagasaki, just three days after Hiroshima. Officially, this was due to the fact that the Japanese authorities did not respond immediately to the injunction request made by the American command. Many historians have advanced the hypothesis that instead, being the second atomic types (plutonium), the interest was to “test it” also on a real target (the very first nuclear weapon detonated at Alamogordo, was effects plutonium) before the Japanese surrendered. What is certain is that at that point there was no longer any reason purely military to have that concern.
Interesting hypothesis formulated in 1947 by a British nuclear physicist and future Nobel laureate in physics PMS Blackett.
The use of atomic weapons was to be regarded rather as the first act of the cold war as the final act of the Second World War.
The bomb, accelerating the capitulation of Japan would have prevented the Soviet attack on Manchuria or, at least, would have limited effects.
In any case, the use of atomic weapons would be a not very veiled warning to the Soviet Union, an ally in the war was turning into opponent in peace (PMS Blackett: “Implications for policy and military Atomic Energy”, turin, Einaudi, 1949).
Other historians argue that, given the terrible conditions in which the Japanese held the prisoners and even civilians in the lands they conquered in continental Asia, both worth shortening in any way the war and liberate all those people who risked death within a short time. This argument may be valid, but the idea of killing hundreds of thousands of civilians in exchange for this benefit returns directly to the definition of Walzer, especially since in Hiroshima there was a prison camp in which they were held also American soldiers, dead in turn in the explosion.
Another issue, certainly less noble, which has to be mentioned, is that of racism and hatred that was present in the U.S. against the “Japs”, as demonstrated by the condition of Japanese immigrants interned during the war in the fields of imprisonment. This sentiment was clearly exasperated by the attack on Pearl Harbor, but already existing and further on the war propaganda.
Public opinion was compacted in an extraordinary way after the treacherous attack, but a critical analysis of how it came, and in particular howwas aware, at least in broad outline was not and apparently is not addressed. The failure of the Japanese capital to present the declaration of war “late” forgave everything. And the American public has always had a tendency to justify the bombing campaign over Japan as final “revenge” for Pearl Harbor, flying among other things, on the fact that there only the Japanese struck a military target. On the other hand, the Japanese soldiers were not only despised by the racial point of view, but also feared for their willingness to fight to the death in any situation.
The massacres of Tarawa, Pelielu, Okinawa and Iwo Jma were to prove it.
In essence, it should be noted that the military art contemplates the taking of a fortress or coup or by siege. Considering that the coup would have been too expensive, then there was only the siege. The fundamental problem is that besiege a fort (more so a whole country!) defended by a garrison determined is often incalculably expensive, not only in terms of human lives, but also in purely economic terms.
Perhaps the American side lacked the willingness to open a dialogue now that Japan was prostrate. E’pur true that what was missing from the Japanese, despite the now clear military defeat, initiatives were credible and not later (the negotiations – and only activated informally with the Soviets, not the Americans – were still at the embryonic stage in late July 1945, two weeks before Hiroshima) designed to treat a yield that takes into account the dramatic reality.
What is certain is that the atomic opened then put the USA, already incomparably superior in industrial and economic and most importantly not devastated by the war in the metropolitan area, on a plane at that time really unattainable to any other power remained in the rubble of the rest of the world.
Use in the modern era
Just five years after the end of World War II there was a new opportunity for strategic bombing.
On 25 June 1950, North Korean forces crossed the demarcation line of the 38th parallel advancing towards the south.
The UN Security Council promptly condemned North Korea as aggressor calling on Member States to provide maximum assistance to South Korea
A yes condemnation and the resulting provisions were made possible by the absence of the Delegate of the USSR that kept this power to exercise the right of veto.
The Soviet Union boycotted the work of the UN in fact complaining that the permanent seat reserved for China in the Security Council was occupied by the representative of the government of Chiang Kai Shek.
Bombing of Hanoi
At the end of the war, even if the news about the effect of bombing spread around the world, the Nuremberg Tribunal saw no need to discuss the topic. The Fourth Geneva Convention, in 1949, established a general obligation to protect the civilian population, but the climate of the Cold War not favored its practical application.
During the Vietnam War, General LeMay said that North Vietnam had to be “brought to the stone age.” The United States, in the course of Operation Linebacker II, unloaded tons of bombs on Hanoi and Haiphong in the so-called Christmas bombing of 1972. The B-52 bombers were used, until the summer of 1973, also hit Cambodia and Laos, despite no war was formally in place.
Nevertheless, on the one hand the declining political and social acceptability of the actions against the civilian population, expressed by intellectuals (Noam Chomsky) and artists (Jane Fonda), and, second, the lack of effectiveness of the instrument in guerrilla wars forced the governments to give up the strategic bombing.
Finally, in 1977, the Additional Protocol I of the Geneva Convention, explicitly banned the bombing of cities, villages and other areas containing concentrations of civilians. The protocol explicitly prohibits the attack by bombardment or any other means which treats as a single military objective a number of clearly distinct military objectives.
Nevertheless, the nuclear powers continue to maintain arsenals of ballistic missiles equipped with H-bombs that can not have another use than that of strategic bombing of civilian populations.
The Gulf War
After the Vietnam War, there have been no massive bombings against civilians. Cost-effectiveness and, last but not least, on humanitarian grounds, pushing countries, led by the United States, to develop precision weapons, able to hit individual goals. Nevertheless, actions outside of wars against military objectives do not explicitly with strategic goals, terrorist or targeted execution is made by various countries.
On 7 June 1981, a flight of F-15 and F-16 Israelis destroyed the nuclear power plant under construction at Osirak in Iraq.
On 14 April 1986, Ronald Reagan ordered air strikes in the operation called El Dorado Canyon against Libyan cities of Tripoli and Benghazi, killing 60 people, including the daughter of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, real target of the attack. The next day, Libya fired two Scud B at the island of Lampedusa, which houses some U.S. military installations. The missiles, with a range of 290 km, fell into the open sea about four kilometers from the island.
The strategic bombing came back in 1991 during Operation Desert Storm to liberate Kuwait from Iraqi occupation. As of January 17, for twelve days, over a thousand missions per day hit Iraq with smart bombs, cluster bombs and cruise missiles. In retaliation, Iraq launched Scud missiles towards some Saudi Arabia and Israel.
The technology of new weapons, based on computers and GPS system, avoided that the generality of civil infrastructure subjected to damage, but, in any case, approximately 2,000 people died.
The Kosovo War
The civilian population is most damaged in 1999, when NATO action against Serbia with the stated aim of protecting the population of Kosovo (Operation Allied Force). In fact, to date, it is not clear whether an intervention of this magnitude would be necessary and has questioned the statement of the then U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright which called “For what purpose have the best army in the world when you can use it?”
In any case, on the grounds that some targets have dual-use (civil and military), were destroyed almost all the bridges over the Danube, factories, power stations and communications infrastructure. Particularly controversial were the attacks on the headquarters of the Socialist Party of Serbia, the TV Tower in the state, and that NATO gives an error, but not fully understood, to ‘Chinese Embassy in Belgrade.
New aspects and consequences of the bombing of civilian targets. Environmental warfare and weapons of mass destruction indirect.
A UN commission visited the main cities in Serbia where there were environmental damage in order to measure the extent Novi Sad, Pancevo Opovo and above, where the contamination was greater in response to targeted attacks on its chemical plants held several times from 4 April until 8 June, when the ceasefire was in sight, and where contamination has reached prompted doctors to advise against pregnancy for at least two years for women in the city in those days. It is clear from surveys and from the testimony of those responsible for the UN mission, representatives of WWF and others as not only this was a mistake, or to interrupt the production process, but to destroy the plants and cause some environmental damage. K. Krusewitz, professor of environmental planning at the University of Berlin, notes that this was a new phase of ecological warfare, comparing them to the largest conducted in Vietnam. Others point out how it has violated the Geneva Convention of 1977, which prohibits “the use of weapons and military strategies targeted result in serious, widespread and lasting damage to the natural environment.” Also shown is several times as a real slaughter has been avoided only thanks to the intervention of some technicians who have poured into the Danube the most dangerous substances that shortly before the tanks where these were placed were affected, producing chemical reactions, such as the release of phosgene, a gas used by the army during the First World War, which would have decimated the population.