Carpet bombing
Carpet bombing is a large aerial bomb
Aerial bomb
An aerial bomb is a type of explosive weapon intended to travel through the air with predictable trajectories, usually designed to be dropped from an aircraft...

ing done in a progressive manner to inflict damage in every part of a selected area of land. The phrase invokes the image of explosions completely covering an area, in the same way that a carpet
A carpet is a textile floor covering consisting of an upper layer of "pile" attached to a backing. The pile is generally either made from wool or a manmade fibre such as polypropylene,nylon or polyester and usually consists of twisted tufts which are often heat-treated to maintain their...

 covers a floor. Carpet bombing is usually achieved by dropping many unguided bombs. In contrast to precision bombing
Precision bombing
Precision bombing is bombing of a small target with extreme accuracy, to limit side-effect damage. An example would be destroying a single building in a built up area causing minimal damage to the surroundings...

, it is not aimed at a small target, such as a bunker, an airfield, or a military unit. One of its uses is the aerial bombing of cities
Aerial bombing of cities
A species of strategic bombing, the aerial bombing of cities began in 1915 during World War I, grew to a vast scale in World War II, and continues to the present day. The development of aerial bombardment marked an increased capacity of armed forces to deliver explosive weapons in populated areas...


Saturation bombing is a term similar in meaning, often used interchangeably. The obliteration bombing is especially intensified with the intention of destroying a city or a large part of the city. The term "area bombing" refers to indiscriminate bombing of an area, and despite having a soft sound, it encompasses also cases of carpet bombing, including obliteration bombing. It was used in that sense especially during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...


Early history

One of the first cases of carpet bombing during the Spanish Civil War
Spanish Civil War
The Spanish Civil WarAlso known as The Crusade among Nationalists, the Fourth Carlist War among Carlists, and The Rebellion or Uprising among Republicans. was a major conflict fought in Spain from 17 July 1936 to 1 April 1939...

 were against the infantry during the Battle of El Mazuco
Battle of El Mazuco
The Battle of El Mazuco was fought between 6 and 22 September 1937, between the Republican and Nationalist armies during the Spanish Civil War as a part of the War in the North campaign. The Republican defence of El Mazuco and the surrounding mountains halted the Nationalist advance into eastern...

in this case the targeted troops were dispersed on rocky slopes and the Condor Legion
Condor Legion
The Condor Legion was a unit composed of volunteers from the German Air Force and from the German Army which served with the Nationalists during the Spanish Civil War of July 1936 to March 1939. The Condor Legion developed methods of terror bombing which were used widely in the Second World War...

 learned that carpet bombing was not very effective in such terrain.

Carpet bombing during World War II

In spite of heavy initial bomber casualties of 1940, the British built up RAF Bomber Command
RAF Bomber Command
RAF Bomber Command controlled the RAF's bomber forces from 1936 to 1968. During World War II the command destroyed a significant proportion of Nazi Germany's industries and many German cities, and in the 1960s stood at the peak of its postwar military power with the V bombers and a supplemental...

 which was capable of delivering many thousands of tons of bombs onto a single target. This was then wielded by Arthur Travers Harris in an effort to break German morale and obtain the surrender which Douhet had predicted 15 years earlier. The United States joined the war and the USAAF greatly enforced the campaign. Many cities, both large and small, were virtually destroyed by Allied bombing. W. G. Sebald
W. G. Sebald
W. G. Maximilian Sebald was a German writer and academic. At the time of his death at the age of 57, he was being cited by many literary critics as one of the greatest living authors and had been tipped as a possible future winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature...

's book, On the Natural History of Destruction, comments on the carpet bombing of German cities and asks why it does not play a larger part in the German national consciousness, and why virtually no German authors have written about the events. Despite the lack of literary coverage, a style of film shot amongst the urban debris and depicting the gritty lives of those who had to rebuild the destroyed cities called the rubble film
Rubble film
Rubble film was the style of choice for those films made directly after World War II dealing with the impact of the ravages of the War on the countries at the center of battle...

, developed in the years after the end of World War II.
Carpet bombing was used as close air support
Close air support
In military tactics, close air support is defined as air action by fixed or rotary winged aircraft against hostile targets that are close to friendly forces, and which requires detailed integration of each air mission with fire and movement of these forces.The determining factor for CAS is...

 (as "flying artillery") for ground operations. Massive bombing concentrated in a narrow and shallow area of the front (a few kilometers by a few hundred metres deep), closely coordinated with advance of friendly troops. The first successful use of the technique was on May 6, 1943, at the end of Tunisia Campaign. Carried out under Sir Arthur Tedder
Arthur Tedder, 1st Baron Tedder
Marshal of the Royal Air Force Arthur William Tedder, 1st Baron Tedder, GCB was a senior British air force commander. During the First World War, he was a pilot and squadron commander in the Royal Flying Corps and he went on to serve as a senior officer in the Royal Air Force during the inter-war...

, it was hailed by press as Tedder's bomb-carpet (or Tedder's carpet). The bombing was concentrated in a four by three mile area preparing the way for the First Army. This tactic was later used in many cases in Normandy Campaign
Operation Overlord
Operation Overlord was the code name for the Battle of Normandy, the operation that launched the invasion of German-occupied western Europe during World War II by Allied forces. The operation commenced on 6 June 1944 with the Normandy landings...

, for example in Battle for Caen
Battle for Caen
The Battle for Caen from June-August 1944 was a battle between Allied and German forces during the Battle of Normandy....


On Pacific, carpet bombing was used extensively against Japanese civilian population centers, such as Tokyo. On March 9 and 10 1945, B-29 Superfortress
B-29 Superfortress
The B-29 Superfortress is a four-engine propeller-driven heavy bomber designed by Boeing that was flown primarily by the United States Air Forces in late-World War II and through the Korean War. The B-29 was one of the largest aircraft to see service during World War II...

es were directed to bomb the most heavily populated civilian sectors of Tokyo. In just 2 days of bombing, over 100,000 of the population had burned to death from a heavy bombardment of incendiary bombs. Another 100,000 were left homeless. These attacks were followed by similar ones against Kobe, Osaka, and Nagoya, as well as other sectors of Tokyo, where over 9,373 tons of incendiary bombs were dropped on civilian and military targets. By the time of the dropping of the atomic bombs, light and medium bombers were being directed to bomb targets of convenience, as most urban areas had been already destroyed. In the 9-month long civilian bombing campaign, over 580,000 Japanese civilians died.

See also

  • Aerial bombardment and international law
    Aerial bombardment and international law
    Air warfare, must comply with laws and customs of war, including international humanitarian law by protecting the victims of the conflict and refraining from attacks on protected persons....

  • Aerial bombing of cities
    Aerial bombing of cities
    A species of strategic bombing, the aerial bombing of cities began in 1915 during World War I, grew to a vast scale in World War II, and continues to the present day. The development of aerial bombardment marked an increased capacity of armed forces to deliver explosive weapons in populated areas...

  • Area bombardment
    Area bombardment
    In military aviation, area bombardment is aerial bombardment targeted indiscriminately at a large area, such as a city block or an entire city.Area bombing is a form of strategic bombing...

  • Churchill's advocacy of chemical strike against German cities
  • Civilian casualties of strategic bombing
    Civilian casualties of strategic bombing
    -See also:* Aerial bombardment and international law* Aerial bombing of cities* Civilian casualties* Roerich Pact* Strategic bombing* Terror bombing* The Blitz...

  • Giulio Douhet
    Giulio Douhet
    General Giulio Douhet was an Italian general and air power theorist. He was a key proponent of strategic bombing in aerial warfare...

    , an early theorist of bombing
  • Roerich Pact
  • Strategic bombing
    Strategic bombing
    Strategic bombing is a military strategy used in a total war with the goal of defeating an enemy nation-state by destroying its economic ability and public will to wage war rather than destroying its land or naval forces...

  • Tactical bombing
    Tactical bombing
    Tactical bombing is the aerial bombing aimed at targets of immediate military value, such as troops, military installations or equipment. This is in contrast to strategic bombing, attacking enemy's cities and factories to debilitate the enemy's capacity to wage war, the enemy's future military...

  • Terror bombing

External links

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