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Strategic Bombing Campaigns of WWII (1 Viewer)

morc44u

Senior Member
During the Second World War, the U.S 8th Air Force under the command of General Henry “Hap” Arnold, conduct hundreds of “strategic” bombing missions against the Axis Powers. These “strategic” missions involved the deliberate bombing of cities, factories, and refineries full of civilians. This idea has sparked much debate over the last 50 years. The U.S 8th Air Force argued that precise strategic bombing of strictly industrial targets was necessary in order to halt the German economy. The historian Michael Sherry argues that strategic bombing was purely “a pursuit of destructive ends expressed, sanctioned, and disguised by the organization and application of technological means.” The truth about the matter lies between these two perspectives.

Sherry believes that the Air Force “often waged destruction as a functional end in itself” (Sherry). He presents a good deal of evidence that proves this to be true. For example, he shows how Arnold wanted to have “three or four cities saved intact” in Japan in order “test the [atomic] bomb’s real destructiveness” (Sherry). Arnold also said that “we must not get soft—war must be destructive and to a certain extent inhuman and ruthless.” Army Chief of staff George Marshall declared that it would be a good idea to bomb Munich, “because it would show the people that are being evacuated to Munich that there is no hope” (Sherry).

Sherry then cites many examples of the destructive atrocities committed by the 8th Air Force. The firestorm created after the city of Dresden was attacked with incendiary bombs was large enough to be “visible to bomber crews two hundred miles away” (Sherry). It is estimated that between the death toll was somewhere between 30,000 and 50,000 civilians. Air temperatures within the five square mile conflagration were well over 1000 degrees Farenheit.

The vast majority of the American bombing missions “relied on radar or ‘blind bombing’ techniques” (Sherry). In fact, it was often thought that “radar bombing was better than no bombing” (Sherry).

Sherry certainly makes it sound as though the goal of the 8th Air Force was to terrorize civilians, but the 8th argues differently. They argue that they only “hit the factory where [tanks are] built, the steel plant where the armor is made, or the refinery from which it gets it fuel.” By doing these things, the Air Force believed that the war would come to a quicker end, and the “final score in blood will be much less” (Suggested Reply). According to themselves, the 8th Air Force “held no brief for terror bombing” (Suggested Reply)

This plan to attack only industrial facilities and cripple the German economy worked well. When the war ended, Germany had produced “31 percent fewer aircraft and 42 percent fewer lorries [than planned] as a result of bombing” (Overy). This greatly “eased the path of Allied armies.” Strategic bombing also “forced the Germans to switch very large resources away from equipment for the fighting fronts” (Overy). “20 percent of all ammunition produced, one-third of the output of the optical industry, and between half and two-thirds of the production of radar and signals equipment” (Overy) all went into anti-aircraft defenses. This tied up and estimated “2 million Germans” (Overy). Strategic bombing obviously did hamper the Germany military on the front by disrupting their industry at home.

Neither Sherry nor the 8th Air Force accurately portrayed how strategic bombing was carried out. Technological advances in bombing strategy did inflict massive damage on the German industrial infrastructure, but the bombing was not confined to strictly industrial targets. Hundreds of civilians died for every one factory destroyed.

Works Cited

Stoler, Mark. Major Problems in the History of World War II: Documents and Essays. 1st. Houghton Mifflin, 2003.


Citations refer to the author or title of a specific essay or documnet within this collection
 

Uriah

Senior Member
Your writing is good, no issue there. However, your thesis is loaded. You are slanting against Infrastructure Bombing from the very beginning, but do little show why it is wrong or should be regarded as inhumane. Conversely you refure to acknolwedge the Axis' bombing of civilian populations, or Nazi Germany's very real attempts at outright terrorism.
This is a great start but I think you need at least another 500 words to address the other facets of the issue, as well you should probably use at least another 4 sources. I don't know what grade level this is for, but 5 sources is the general "at least" rule for a research paper.

Can't wait to see what you do with it!
Uriah
 

morc44u

Senior Member
I should probably explain some details regarding the purpose of this essay.

I wrote this piece for my 300-level WWII history class. I was given three documents to read. The first document was a letter written by the mother of an airman flying bombers over Europe. It was adressed to Henry Arnold and asked him if her son had turned into a civilian-killing monster.

In reply she recieved a stock answer, the "suggested reply" to all questions regarding the morality of strategic bombing. This reply defends strategic bombing by saying that destroying factories will end the war quicker, thus saving more people than the bombs actually kill

The final document I had to read was the essay written by Michael Sherry, in which he claims that strategic bombing was purely “a pursuit of destructive ends expressed, sanctioned, and disguised by the organization and application of technological means.”

My task was to compare these two documents, and present an argument for which was the least biased and most accurate. The essay could be no longer than 2 double spaced pages.

Thanks for the advice Uriah. When I expand this piece, I will most definetly use more sources and talk about the Axis perspective, but that was not what the professor wanted to hear about in this assignment.
 
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