Strategic Bombing During World War II

Strategic bombing during World War II is a term which refers to all aerial bombardment of a strategic nature between 1939 and 1945 involving any nations engaged in World War II. This includes the bombing of military forces, railways, harbors, cities (civilian areas), and industrial areas.

In 1939, Germany invaded Poland and the Luftwaffe (German air force) began providing tactical support to the German Army. The Luftwaffe also began eliminating strategic objectives and bombing cities and civilian population in Poland in an indiscriminate and unrestricted aerial bombardment campaign. France and the United Kingdom declared war on Germany and the UK's Royal Air Force began attacking German warships along the German coast with the North Sea.

As the war continued to expand, bombing by both the Axis and Allied powers increased significantly. Military and industrial installations were targeted, but so were cities and civilian populations. Targeting cities and civilians was viewed as a psychological weapon to break the enemy's will to fight. From 1940–1941, Germany used this weapon in its 'Blitz' against Britain. From 1940 onward, the intensity of the British bombing campaign against Germany became less restrictive, increasingly targeting industrial sites and eventually, civilian areas. By 1943, the United States had significantly reinforced these efforts. The controversial firebombings of Hamburg (1943), Dresden (1945) and other German cities followed. The effect of strategic bombing varied depending on duration and intensity. Both the Luftwaffe and RAF failed to deliver a knockout blow by destroying enemy morale. However, strategic bombing of military targets could significantly reduce enemy industrial capacity and production.

In the Pacific theatre, the Japanese bombed Chongqing repeatedly until 1943. U.S. strategic bombing of the Japanese Empire began in earnest in October 1944. Earlier, small-scale attacks by the U.S. out of China had been hampered by the task of delivering supplies over the Himalaya foothills (known as "The Hump"). Missions out of Saipan escalated into widespread fire-bombing, which culminated in the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the Japanese surrender six days later. In the opinion of inter-war proponents, the surrender of Japan vindicated strategic bombing.

Read more about Strategic Bombing During World War II:  Legal Considerations, Asia

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