Aerial bombing of citiesWorld War II.
On April 26, 1937, the German Luftwaffe (Condor Legion) bombed the Spanish city of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War. The Germans were attacking to support the efforts of Francisco Franco to overturn the Spanish Republican government. This act caused world-wide revulsion, but was only a taste of things to come.
During the World War II, the bombing of cities became a normal practice of the German Luftwaffe. It usually had little military purpose and was considered mainly as a psychological warfare, in order to weaken morale of civilians. In the first stage of war, the Germans carried out bombing of Warsaw in Poland (1939) and Rotterdam in the Netherlands (1940). The Luftwaffe later carried out intensive bombing of cities in Britain, including London and Coventry, in a bombing campaign known in Britain as "the Blitz", from September 1940 through to May 1941.
In response, the British started night air raids on Berlin and other cities. In the final stage of the war, the United Kingdom and the United States used fire-bomb attacks on Dresden during February 13-15, 1945, creating a firestorm which together with the bombing itself killed 135,000 citizens. The US bombing of Tokyo killed 83,000 citizens and the nuclear weapon attacks on Hiroshima killed 70,000 citizens and Nagasaki killed 36,000 citizens during World War II.
Some argue that these acts qualify as state terrorism. Others state that there were valid military reasons for the attacks on these particular locations. For example, Nagasaki had major naval shipyard facilities and Hiroshima had bases where tens of thousands of Japanese soldiers were quartered. Some say that there is evidence that the United States attempted to warn the civilian populations of Nagasaki and Hiroshima to evacuate the target areas, but this claim is disputed.
The minutes of the meetings of the Target Committee responsible for proposing locations for the are available. According to these minutes, it was agreed "that psychological factors in the target selection were of great importance." Later, the decision was made
- (2) To neglect location of industrial areas as pin point target, since on these three targets [Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Kyoto] such areas are small, spread on fringes of cities, and quite dispersed.
- (3) to endeavor to place first gadget in center of selected city; that is, not to allow for later 1 or 2 gadgets for complete destruction.
During the Cold War, the threat of nuclear destruction of cities by ICBMs became the main instrument of the balance of terror that kept the United States and Soviet Union from open warfare with one another.
The United States has since bombed cities in other countries on a number of occasions, specifically Tripoli and Baghdad. These attacks have used "precision bombing" using smart bombs and non-nuclear cruise missiles.
See strategic bombing for a more thorough treatment of this subject.