Thursday, April 26, 2007

Among the Dead Cities

We scorched and boiled and baked to death more people in Tokyo on that night of march 9-10 than went up in vapour in Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined.

Killing Japanese didn't bother me very much at the time......I suppose if I had lost the war, I would have been tried as a war criminal....every soldier thinks something of the moral aspect of what he is doing. But all war is immoral and if you let bother that you, you're not a good soldier.

Genreral Curis LeMay [page 171 Among the Dead Cities notes ;Curtis LeMay, Mission with LeMay:My story, New York 1965, p. 387] 

The author of "Among the Dead Cities" examines if Allied bombing (otherwise called carpet bombing, saturation bombing, obliteration bombing and mass bombing) is a crime.

Here it is important to note that
Nothing in this book should be taken as any form of revisionist apology for Nazism and its frightful atrocities, or Japanese militarism and its aggression.....A mature perspective on the Second World War should by now enable us to distinguish between these two quite different points.

What is crucial is if it was necessary and proportional.

The author's answer is no, examining the case of Operation Gomorrah as the principal example where the war was by no means securely won.
And he argues if Operation Gomorrah was unnecessary and disproportional, . then the attacks on Dresden, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki, the firebombing of Tokyo and other cities are much more so when the war was effectively over.

As for "collateral damage", it is sometimes argued that
no wrong is committed by the belligerent if the harm he does to innocents is an unavoidable ancillary to military operations----even if such harm can be foreseen

Just as by increasing morphine doses to control the pain of terminal ill patients, thereby shorten the lives of those patient, only the former is intended and since it is good and legitimate goal, the second effect, though foreseen , is not wrong. However,
The principle of double effect is controversial....if someone sought to cure another person's toothache by cutting off his head, the second effect ... is out of proportion to achieving the intended 216

As for the inevitable involvement of civilians with the front line,
if any civilians are involved in working to support the military effort the military efforts of their country, it is because they are specifically the workers and technicians in the industries crucial to the military effort, they and they alone are certain to be a legitimate targets for attack therefore; and they are certain to be a minority of the civilian population of a whole(page 250)

As for the question what the Allies should have done instead.
Bomber Command should have continued its effort at precision bombing and devoted its energies to making this tactic safer for its bomber and more effective.

There are other interesting discussions, but as I understand the book, the above are the essentials of his argument.


How the leader viewed Japan at the time, see the journal of Stimson below.
4 I told him I was busy considering our conduct of the war, against Japan and I told him how I was trying to hold the Air Force down to to precision bombing but that with the Japanese method of scattering its manufacture it was rather difficult to prevent the area bombing. I told him I was anxious about this feature of the war for two reason ;first , I didn't want to have the United States get the reputation in outdoing Hitler in atrocities. Second, I was little fearful we could get ready the air force might have Japan so thoroughly bombed out that a new weapon would not have a fair background to show its strength . He laughed and said he understood.Memorandum of Conference with the President, June 6, 1945, Top Secret
Source: Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library, Henry Lewis Stimson Papers (microfilm at Library of Congress)


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