Strategic bombing
Overview
 
Strategic bombing is a military strategy
Military strategy
Military strategy is a set of ideas implemented by military organizations to pursue desired strategic goals. Derived from the Greek strategos, strategy when it appeared in use during the 18th century, was seen in its narrow sense as the "art of the general", 'the art of arrangement' of troops...

 used in a total war
Total war
Total war is a war in which a belligerent engages in the complete mobilization of fully available resources and population.In the mid-19th century, "total war" was identified by scholars as a separate class of warfare...

 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. It is a systematically organized and executed attack from the air which can utilize strategic bomber
Strategic bomber
A strategic bomber is a heavy bomber aircraft designed to drop large amounts of ordnance onto a distant target for the purposes of debilitating an enemy's capacity to wage war. Unlike tactical bombers, which are used in the battle zone to attack troops and military equipment, strategic bombers are...

s, long- or medium-range missile
Missile
Though a missile may be any thrown or launched object, it colloquially almost always refers to a self-propelled guided weapon system.-Etymology:The word missile comes from the Latin verb mittere, meaning "to send"...

s, or nuclear-armed fighter-bomber
Fighter-bomber
A fighter-bomber is a fixed-wing aircraft with an intended primary role of light tactical bombing and also incorporating certain performance characteristics of a fighter aircraft. This term, although still used, has less significance since the introduction of rockets and guided missiles into aerial...

 aircraft to attack targets deemed vital to an enemy's war-making capacity.

One of the aims of war is to demoralise the enemy, so that peace or surrender becomes preferable to continuing the conflict.
Encyclopedia
Strategic bombing is a military strategy
Military strategy
Military strategy is a set of ideas implemented by military organizations to pursue desired strategic goals. Derived from the Greek strategos, strategy when it appeared in use during the 18th century, was seen in its narrow sense as the "art of the general", 'the art of arrangement' of troops...

 used in a total war
Total war
Total war is a war in which a belligerent engages in the complete mobilization of fully available resources and population.In the mid-19th century, "total war" was identified by scholars as a separate class of warfare...

 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. It is a systematically organized and executed attack from the air which can utilize strategic bomber
Strategic bomber
A strategic bomber is a heavy bomber aircraft designed to drop large amounts of ordnance onto a distant target for the purposes of debilitating an enemy's capacity to wage war. Unlike tactical bombers, which are used in the battle zone to attack troops and military equipment, strategic bombers are...

s, long- or medium-range missile
Missile
Though a missile may be any thrown or launched object, it colloquially almost always refers to a self-propelled guided weapon system.-Etymology:The word missile comes from the Latin verb mittere, meaning "to send"...

s, or nuclear-armed fighter-bomber
Fighter-bomber
A fighter-bomber is a fixed-wing aircraft with an intended primary role of light tactical bombing and also incorporating certain performance characteristics of a fighter aircraft. This term, although still used, has less significance since the introduction of rockets and guided missiles into aerial...

 aircraft to attack targets deemed vital to an enemy's war-making capacity.

One of the aims of war is to demoralise the enemy, so that peace or surrender becomes preferable to continuing the conflict. Strategic bombing has been used to this end. The phrase "terror bombing" entered the English lexicon towards the end of World War II and many strategic bombing campaigns and individual raids have been described as terror bombing by commentators and historians although, because the term has pejorative connotations, others have preferred to use other terms such as "will to resist (by which I mean morale)".

The use of air power and strategic bombing was advocated by 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...

, and was publicised by Stanley Baldwin
Stanley Baldwin
Stanley Baldwin, 1st Earl Baldwin of Bewdley, KG, PC was a British Conservative politician, who dominated the government in his country between the two world wars...

's 1932 comment the bomber will always get through
The bomber will always get through
The bomber will always get through was a phrase used by Stanley Baldwin in 1932, in the speech "A Fear for the Future" to the British Parliament...

. Douhet's theories were advocated in America by Billy Mitchell.

Strategic bombing

While the distinction between tactical
Military tactics
Military tactics, the science and art of organizing an army or an air force, are the techniques for using weapons or military units in combination for engaging and defeating an enemy in battle. Changes in philosophy and technology over time have been reflected in changes to military tactics. In...

, operational, and strategic
Strategy
Strategy, a word of military origin, refers to a plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal. In military usage strategy is distinct from tactics, which are concerned with the conduct of an engagement, while strategy is concerned with how different engagements are linked...

 bombing can be blurred, they are distinct methodologies generally used for different purposes. Strategic bombing is a methodology distinct from both tactical bombing and the use of strategic air assets in an operational capacity.

Such a strategy usually involves sustained attacks over a period of time on targets that affect a nation's overall war making capability, such as factories, railroads, oil refineries, and other resources. Less frequently, individual strategic attacks are made against 'point' targets, such as Britain's 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...

 attacks against the Ruhr dams
Operation Chastise
Operation Chastise was an attack on German dams carried out on 16–17 May 1943 by Royal Air Force No. 617 Squadron, subsequently known as the "Dambusters", using a specially developed "bouncing bomb" invented and developed by Barnes Wallis...

 by means of the bouncing bomb
Bouncing bomb
A bouncing bomb is a bomb designed specifically to bounce to a target across water in a calculated manner, in order to avoid obstacles such as torpedo nets, and to allow both the bomb's speed on arrival at the target and the timing of its detonation to be pre-determined...

 designed by Barnes Wallis
Barnes Wallis
Sir Barnes Neville Wallis, CBE FRS, RDI, FRAeS , was an English scientist, engineer and inventor. He is best known for inventing the bouncing bomb used by the RAF in Operation Chastise to attack the dams of the Ruhr Valley during World War II...

 in May 1943.

As strategic bombing aims to undermine an enemy nation-state's ability to wage war, strategic bombers need to be able to reach targets throughout most or all of that nation, and so have tended to be larger, longer-ranged aircraft. Strategic bombers have also been used to support major military ground operations, such as the isolation of Normandy through the bombing of transportation hubs throughout northern France in support of the D-Day
D-Day
D-Day is a term often used in military parlance to denote the day on which a combat attack or operation is to be initiated. "D-Day" often represents a variable, designating the day upon which some significant event will occur or has occurred; see Military designation of days and hours for similar...

 invasion, or the carpet bombing of the Axis front lines west of Saint-Lô in support of Operation Cobra
Operation Cobra
Operation Cobra was the codename for an offensive launched by the First United States Army seven weeks after the D-Day landings, during the Normandy Campaign of World War II...

.

An aerial attack strategy of deliberately bombing and/or strafing civilian targets in order to break the morale of an enemy, make its civilian population panic, bend the enemy's political leadership to the attacker's will, or to "punish" an enemy, while strategic in nature, is more correctly termed terror bombing.

Methods used to deliver ordnance

There are three basic methods used to deliver ordnance
Aircraft ordnance
Aircraft ordnance or ordnance is weapons used by aircraft. The term is often used when describing the weight of air-to-ground weaponry that can be carried by an aircraft or the weight that has been dropped...

 onto targets in a strategic bombing campaign. The first is by gravity-dropping large numbers of iron bombs
Gravity bomb
An unguided bomb, also known as a free-fall bomb, gravity bomb, dumb bomb, or iron bomb, is a conventional aircraft-delivered bomb that does not contain a guidance system and hence, simply follows a ballistic trajectory....

 or "dumb bombs", using strategic bombers. The second is through the use of more precise ordnance, precision-guided munition
Precision-guided munition
A precision-guided munition is a guided munition intended to precisely hit a specific target, and to minimize damage to things other than the target....

s (so-called smart bombs); cruise missile
Cruise missile
A cruise missile is a guided missile that carries an explosive payload and is propelled, usually by a jet engine, towards a land-based or sea-based target. Cruise missiles are designed to deliver a large warhead over long distances with high accuracy...

s fall into this category, though they are not always air-launched. The third method involves the use of nuclear ordnance, either onto a battlefield in a method similar to carpet bombing, or onto a strategic target, as with iron bombs in WW II.

Although the deployment of nuclear weapons from aircraft falls into the category of strategic bombing, and likely represents the ultimate form of both strategic and terror bombing, the term strategic bombing is generally used in reference to the release of non-nuclear air-ground ordnance from strategic aircraft.

Area attack by multiple bombers is based upon detailed calculations of the intended Damage Expectancy or "DE" directed by the Air Tasking Order (ATO) used in a military strategy. To achieve a particular DE, planners select a bomb type based on that particular weapon's damage mechanism - blast/fragmentation or incendiary, for example. Planners then calculate the Single Sortie Probability of Damage (SSPD) and extrapolate from there, adding sorties until the probability of damage meets or exceeds the required DE.

As weapons have grown more precise, the need for mass formations dropping masses of bombs has decreased, and it is now possible for a single bomb to accomplish what in the past took many bombers. In fact, one B-52 can now drop a single bomb from many miles away that can be programmed to strike a target as small as a window or doorway from a chosen direction and at a preselected angle. This can focus the blast in a given direction and can dramatically reduce the risk of collateral damage to other buildings and consequent unintended civilian casualties.

Strategic bombing by multiple modern strategic bombers like the B-52 can be likened to an hour during the Somme bottled into a thirty-second time period. However, some believe this delivery method has been rather ineffective in attacking a nation's warmaking capability, due to the imprecise nature of the attack. Others cite the destruction of enemy infrastructure, resources expended on civil defense and physical protection of sites, and the reallocation of military resources away from the battlefield in order to staff response and air and ground antiaircraft assets as proof of its efficacy. In either case, the unintended mass civilian casualties
Collateral damage
Collateral damage is damage to people or property that is unintended or incidental to the intended outcome. The phrase is prevalently used as an euphemism for civilian casualties of a military action.-Etymology:...

, terror caused, and ethical questions raised draws adverse long-term attention to the morality of strategic bombing.

Carpet bombing
Carpet bombing
Carpet bombing is a large aerial bombing 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 covers a floor. Carpet bombing is usually achieved by dropping many...

, often confused with strategic bombing, is the use of strategic air assets for operational objectives in support of ground forces. Its use during Operation Cobra is the best-known example. Carpet bombing is viewed ambivalently by ground forces, due to the nigh-inevitable friendly casualties caused by bombers dropping their ordnance short of the aiming point, either through error or "bomb creep
Creepback
Creepback is the tendency of bomber aircraft using optical bombsights to release their weapons aimed at target markers before time, leading to a gradual spread backwards along the bombing path of the concentration of bombing...

".

The use of "smart" weapons is preferred by some nations for two reasons. First, it can be less devastating. Due to the greater accuracy (the smaller CEP
Circular error probable
In the military science of ballistics, circular error probable is an intuitive measure of a weapon system's precision...

) of precision guided weapons, there is less risk of civilian casualties. The second reason is the more-focused damage associated with precision weapons. Strategic bombing can destroy an entire block, but miss the vital components of a factory. Precision weapons can attack precise components of designated targets, increasing the likelihood of a successful attack. However, the 'shock' value of precision bombing is less severe than of area bombing. Unless multiple precision weapons are used, an enemy may seek cover or disperse to different parts of the targeted area. Additionally, area bombing can have an initial significant psychological effect, as the bombing of cities early in World War II terrified their citizens.

Enemy morale and terror bombing

One of the aims of war is to demoralise the enemy; facing continual death and destruction may make the prospect of peace or surrender preferable. The proponents of strategic bombing between the world wars, such as General Douhet, expected that direct attacks upon a country's cities by strategic bombers would lead to rapid collapse of civilian morale, so that political pressure to sue for peace would lead to a rapid conclusion. When such attacks were tried in the 1930s—in 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...

 and the Second Sino-Japanese War
Second Sino-Japanese War
The Second Sino-Japanese War was a military conflict fought primarily between the Republic of China and the Empire of Japan. From 1937 to 1941, China fought Japan with some economic help from Germany , the Soviet Union and the United States...

—they were ineffective. Commentators observed the failures and some air forces, such as the Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe is a generic German term for an air force. It is also the official name for two of the four historic German air forces, the Wehrmacht air arm founded in 1935 and disbanded in 1946; and the current Bundeswehr air arm founded in 1956....

, concentrated their efforts upon direct support of the troops.

"Terror bombing" is an emotive term used to describe aerial attacks planned to weaken or break enemy morale. Use of the term to describe aerial attacks implies the attacks are criminal according to the law of war
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....

, or if within the laws of war are nevertheless a moral crime. According to John Algeo in Fifty years among the new words the first recorded usage of "Terror bombing" in a United States publication was in a Readers Digest article dated June 1941, a finding confirmed by the Oxford English Dictionary
Oxford English Dictionary
The Oxford English Dictionary , published by the Oxford University Press, is the self-styled premier dictionary of the English language. Two fully bound print editions of the OED have been published under its current name, in 1928 and 1989. The first edition was published in twelve volumes , and...

.

Aerial attacks described as terror bombing are often long range strategic bombing raids, although attacks which result in the deaths of civilians may also be described as such, or if the attacks involve fighters strafing
Strafing
Strafing is the practice of attacking ground targets from low-flying aircraft using aircraft-mounted automatic weapons. This means, that although ground attack using automatic weapons fire is very often accompanied with bombing or rocket fire, the term "strafing" does not specifically include the...

 they may be labelled "terror attacks."

Development of the term terror bombing

German propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels
Joseph Goebbels
Paul Joseph Goebbels was a German politician and Reich Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945. As one of Adolf Hitler's closest associates and most devout followers, he was known for his zealous oratory and anti-Semitism...

 and other high ranking officials of the Third Reich frequently described attacks made on Germany by the Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

 (RAF) and the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) during their strategic bombing campaign
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...

s as terrorangriffe - terror attacks. Goebbels used several terms including
The Allied governments usually described their 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...

 with other euphemisms such as area bombing (RAF) or 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...

 (USAAF), and for most of World War II the Allied news media did the same. However, at a SHAEF press conference on 16 February 1945, two days after the Bombing of Dresden, British Air Commodore Colin McKay Grierson
Colin McKay Grierson
Air Commodore Colin McKay Grierson CBE RAF, was a senior officer in the Royal Air Force during and after World War II....

 replied to a question by one of the journalists that the primary target of the bombing had been on communications to prevent the Germans from moving military supplies and to stop movement in all directions if possible. He then added in an offhand remark that the raid also helped destroy "what is left of German morale." Howard Cowan, an Associated Press
Associated Press
The Associated Press is an American news agency. The AP is a cooperative owned by its contributing newspapers, radio and television stations in the United States, which both contribute stories to the AP and use material written by its staff journalists...

 war correspondent, filed a story about the Dresden raid. The military press censor at SHAEF made a mistake and allowed the Cowan cable to go out starting with "Allied air bosses have made the long awaited decision to adopt deliberate terror bombing of great German population centres as a ruthless expedient to hasten Hitler's doom." There were followup newspaper editorials on the issue and a longtime opponent of strategic bombing, Richard Stokes
Richard Stokes
Major Sir Richard Rapier Stokes MC was a British Labour politician who served briefly as Lord Privy Seal in 1951....

, MP
Member of Parliament
A Member of Parliament is a representative of the voters to a :parliament. In many countries with bicameral parliaments, the term applies specifically to members of the lower house, as upper houses often have a different title, such as senate, and thus also have different titles for its members,...

, asked questions in the House of Commons on 6 March.

The controversy stirred up by the Cowan news report reached the highest levels of the British Government when on 28 March 1945 the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

, sent a memo by telegram to General Ismay for the British Chiefs of Staff and the Chief of the Air Staff in which he started with the sentence "It seems to me that the moment has come when the question of bombing of German cities simply for the sake of increasing the terror, though under other pretexts, should be reviewed...." Under pressure from the Chiefs of Staff and in response to the views expressed by Chief of the Air Staff
Chief of the Air Staff
The Chief of the Air Staff is the professional head of the Royal Air Force and a member of both the Chiefs of Staff Committee and the Air Force Board. The current Chief of the Air Staff is Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton...

 Sir Charles Portal
Charles Portal, 1st Viscount Portal of Hungerford
Marshal of the Royal Air Force Charles Frederick Algernon Portal, 1st Viscount Portal of Hungerford KG GCB OM DSO & Bar MC was a senior Royal Air Force officer and an advocate of strategic bombing...

, and the head of Bomber Command, Arthur "Bomber" Harris, among others, Churchill withdrew his memo and issued a new one. This was completed on 1 April 1945 and started instead with the usual British euphemism for attacks on cities: "It seems to me that the moment has come when the question of the so called 'area-bombing' of German cities should be reviewed from the point of view of our own interests....".

Many strategic bombing campaigns and individual raids of aerial warfare have been described as "terror bombing" by commentators and historians since the end of World War II, but because the term has pejorative connotations, others have denied that such bombing campaigns and raids are examples of "terror bombing".

World War I

Strategic bombing was used in World War I, though it was not understood in its present form. The first strategic bombing mission of the war was probably the dropping of eight bombs from a German airship over Antwerp on the night of 24-25 August 1914. Within a year or so, specialized aircraft and dedicated bomber
Bomber
A bomber is a military aircraft designed to attack ground and sea targets, by dropping bombs on them, or – in recent years – by launching cruise missiles at them.-Classifications of bombers:...

 squadrons were in service on both sides. These were generally used for tactical bombing; the aim was that of directly harming enemy troops, strongpoints, or equipment, usually within a relatively small distance of the front line. Eventually, attention turned to the possibility of causing indirect harm to the enemy by systematically attacking vital rear-area resources.

The first-ever dirigible aerial bombardment of civilians was on January 19, 1915, when two German Zeppelin
Zeppelin
A Zeppelin is a type of rigid airship pioneered by the German Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin in the early 20th century. It was based on designs he had outlined in 1874 and detailed in 1893. His plans were reviewed by committee in 1894 and patented in the United States on 14 March 1899...

s dropped 24 fifty-kilogram (110 pound) high-explosive bombs and ineffective three-kilogram incendiaries on the Eastern England towns of Great Yarmouth
Great Yarmouth
Great Yarmouth, often known to locals as Yarmouth, is a coastal town in Norfolk, England. It is at the mouth of the River Yare, east of Norwich.It has been a seaside resort since 1760, and is the gateway from the Norfolk Broads to the sea...

, Sheringham
Sheringham
Sheringham is a seaside town in Norfolk, England, west of Cromer.The motto of the town, granted in 1953 to the Sheringham Urban District Council, is Mare Ditat Pinusque Decorat, Latin for "The sea enriches and the pine adorns"....

, King's Lynn
King's Lynn
King's Lynn is a sea port and market town in the ceremonial county of Norfolk in the East of England. It is situated north of London and west of Norwich. The population of the town is 42,800....

, and the surrounding villages. In all, four people were killed and sixteen injured, and monetary damage was estimated at £7,740 (about US$36,000 at the time). German dirigibles also bombed Liepāja
Liepaja
Liepāja ; ), is a republican city in western Latvia, located on the Baltic Sea directly at 21°E. It is the largest city in the Kurzeme Region of Latvia, the third largest city in Latvia after Riga and Daugavpils and an important ice-free port...

 in Latvia on the Eastern Front in January 1915.

In 1915 there were 19 more raids, in which 37 tons of bombs were dropped, killing 181 people and injuring 455. Raids continued in 1916. London was accidentally bombed in May, and in July the Kaiser allowed directed raids against urban centers. There were 23 airship raids in 1916, in which 125 tons of ordnance were dropped, killing 293 people and injuring 691. Gradually British air defenses improved. In 1917 and 1918, there were only 11 Zeppelin raids against England, and the final raid occurred on August 5, 1918, which resulted in the death of KK Peter Strasser
Peter Strasser
Peter Strasser was chief commander of German Imperial Navy Zeppelins during World War I, the main force operating bombing campaigns from 1915 to 1917. He was killed when flying the war's last airship raid over Great Britain....

, commander of the German Naval Airship Department.

By the end of the war, 51 raids had been undertaken, in which 5,806 bombs were dropped, killing 557 people and injuring 1,358. The Zeppelin raids were complemented by the Gotha
Gotha G
|-See also:-References:* The Complete Encyclopedia of Flight 1848-1939 by John Batchelor and Malcolm V. Lowe-External links:*...

 bomber, which was the first heavier-than-air bomber to be used for strategic bombing. It has been argued that the raids were effective far beyond the material damage caused, in diverting and hampering wartime production and in diverting twelve squadrons and over 10,000 men to air defenses.

The French army on June 15, 1915, attacked the German town of Karlsruhe
Karlsruhe
The City of Karlsruhe is a city in the southwest of Germany, in the state of Baden-Württemberg, located near the French-German border.Karlsruhe was founded in 1715 as Karlsruhe Palace, when Germany was a series of principalities and city states...

, killing 29 civilians and wounding 58. Further raids followed until the Armistice in 1918. In a raid in the afternoon of June 22, 1916, the pilots used outdated maps and bombed the location of the abandoned railway station, where a circus
Circus
A circus is commonly a travelling company of performers that may include clowns, acrobats, trained animals, trapeze acts, musicians, hoopers, tightrope walkers, jugglers, unicyclists and other stunt-oriented artists...

 tent was placed, killing 120 persons, most of them children.

In contrast, the British launched their own form of strategic bombing. At the start of the war, there were attacks by bombers of the Royal Navy Air Service (RNAS) against the Zeppelin production lines and their sheds at Cologne and Düsseldorf on September 22 and October 8, 1914. In late 1915, the order was given for attacks on German industrial targets and the 41st Wing was formed from units of the RNAS and Royal Flying Corps
Royal Flying Corps
The Royal Flying Corps was the over-land air arm of the British military during most of the First World War. During the early part of the war, the RFC's responsibilities were centred on support of the British Army, via artillery co-operation and photographic reconnaissance...

. The RNAS took to strategic bombing in a bigger way than the RFC, who were focussed on supporting the infantry actions of the Western Front. At first the RNAS attacked the German submarines in their moorings and then steelworks further in targeting the origin of the submarines themselves.

In early 1918 they operated their "round the clock" bombing raid, with lighter bombs attacking the town of Trier
Trier
Trier, historically called in English Treves is a city in Germany on the banks of the Moselle. It is the oldest city in Germany, founded in or before 16 BC....

 by day and large HP O/400s attacking by night. In April 1918, the Independent Force, an expanded bombing group, was created and by the end of the war had aircraft that could reach Berlin but were never used.

Following the war, the concept of strategic bombing developed. The calculations which were performed on the number of dead to the weight of bombs dropped would have a profound effect on the attitudes of the British authorities and population in the interwar years because as bombers became larger it was fully expected that deaths from aerial bombardment would approach those anticipated in the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

 from the use of nuclear weapons. The fear of aerial attack on such a scale was one of the fundamental driving forces of British appeasement
Appeasement
The term appeasement is commonly understood to refer to a diplomatic policy aimed at avoiding war by making concessions to another power. Historian Paul Kennedy defines it as "the policy of settling international quarrels by admitting and satisfying grievances through rational negotiation and...

 in the 1930s.

Origins of area bombing

The first instances of 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...

 occurred during the First World War with bombing attacks by Zeppelin
Zeppelin
A Zeppelin is a type of rigid airship pioneered by the German Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin in the early 20th century. It was based on designs he had outlined in 1874 and detailed in 1893. His plans were reviewed by committee in 1894 and patented in the United States on 14 March 1899...

s over England. They were ineffective, but generated a wave of hysteria, partially attributed to media. This revealed the tactic's potential as a weapon that was of use for propagandist
Propaganda
Propaganda is a form of communication that is aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position so as to benefit oneself or one's group....

s on both sides. Attacks continued and were also joined by heavier-than-air warplanes. These were relatively minor raids by later standards but had the effect of diverting resources of guns and aircraft to the defense of Great Britain.

During the interwar period (1919–1939) the use of aerial bombing
Aerial bombing
Aerial bombing may refer to:*Short-term air-to-ground attacks known as air raids or air strikes*Longer-term strategic bombing campaigns...

 was developed as part of British colonial policy, with Hugh Trenchard as its leading proponent. In Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

, about 1924, the techniques of so-called "Air Control" were developed – which included target marking and locating, as well as formation flying, by the "Trenchard school" which included Sir Charles Portal, Sir Arthur Harris
Sir Arthur Harris, 1st Baronet
Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Arthur Travers Harris, 1st Baronet GCB OBE AFC , commonly known as "Bomber" Harris by the press, and often within the RAF as "Butcher" Harris, was Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of RAF Bomber Command during the latter half of World War...

, and Sidney Bufton
Sidney Osborne Bufton
Air Vice Marshal Sidney Osborne Bufton CB, DFC was a senior commander in the Royal Air Force during the middle part of the 20th century. He played a major part in establishing the Pathfinder project, over the objections of Arthur Harris.-RAF career:Bufton joined the Royal Air Force in 1927...

.

These early developments of aerial warfare
Aerial warfare
Aerial warfare is the use of military aircraft and other flying machines in warfare, including military airlift of cargo to further the national interests as was demonstrated in the Berlin Airlift...

 led to two distinct branches in the writings of air warfare theorists: tactical air warfare and strategic air warfare. Tactical air warfare was developed as part of a combined-arms attack which would be developed to a significant degree by Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

, and which contributed much to the success of the Wehrmacht
Wehrmacht
The Wehrmacht – from , to defend and , the might/power) were the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the Heer , the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe .-Origin and use of the term:...

 during the first four years (1939–42) of World War II. The German Luftwaffe became a major element of the German blitzkrieg
Blitzkrieg
For other uses of the word, see: Blitzkrieg Blitzkrieg is an anglicized word describing all-motorised force concentration of tanks, infantry, artillery, combat engineers and air power, concentrating overwhelming force at high speed to break through enemy lines, and, once the lines are broken,...

.

Three of the leading theorists of strategic air warfare, namely strategic bombing during this period were the Italian 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...

, the Trenchard school in Great Britain, and General Billy Mitchell in the United States. These theorists thought that aerial bombardment of an enemy's homeland would be an important part of future wars. Not only would such attacks weaken the enemy by destroying important military infrastructure, they would also break the morale of the civilian population, forcing their government to capitulate. Although area bombing theorists acknowledged that measures could be taken to defend against bombers – using fighter planes and antiaircraft artillery - the maxim of the times remained "the bomber will always get through
The bomber will always get through
The bomber will always get through was a phrase used by Stanley Baldwin in 1932, in the speech "A Fear for the Future" to the British Parliament...

". These theorists for strategic bombing argued that it would be necessary to develop a fleet of strategic bomber
Strategic bomber
A strategic bomber is a heavy bomber aircraft designed to drop large amounts of ordnance onto a distant target for the purposes of debilitating an enemy's capacity to wage war. Unlike tactical bombers, which are used in the battle zone to attack troops and military equipment, strategic bombers are...

s during peacetime, both to deter any potential enemy, and also in the case of a war, to be able to deliver devastating attacks on the enemy industries and cities while suffering from relatively few friendly casualties before victory was achieved.

The Imperial Japanese Army
Imperial Japanese Army
-Foundation:During the Meiji Restoration, the military forces loyal to the Emperor were samurai drawn primarily from the loyalist feudal domains of Satsuma and Chōshū...

 used aerial bombardment as a terror weapon in mainland China
Mainland China
Mainland China, the Chinese mainland or simply the mainland, is a geopolitical term that refers to the area under the jurisdiction of the People's Republic of China . According to the Taipei-based Mainland Affairs Council, the term excludes the PRC Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and...

 during the Second Sino-Japanese War
Second Sino-Japanese War
The Second Sino-Japanese War was a military conflict fought primarily between the Republic of China and the Empire of Japan. From 1937 to 1941, China fought Japan with some economic help from Germany , the Soviet Union and the United States...

.

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...

, the bombing of Guernica
Bombing of Guernica
The bombing of Guernica was an aerial attack on the Basque town of Guernica, Spain, causing widespread destruction and civilian deaths, during the Spanish Civil War...

 by German aviators including 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...

, under Franco-Spanish command, resulted in the near destruction of that Spanish town, and casualties estimated to be between 500 and 1500 people. Though this figure was relatively small, aerial bombers and their weaponry were continually improving – already suggesting the devastation what was to come in the near future.

The practice of area bombardment came to prominence during World War II with the use of large numbers of unguided gravity bomb
Gravity bomb
An unguided bomb, also known as a free-fall bomb, gravity bomb, dumb bomb, or iron bomb, is a conventional aircraft-delivered bomb that does not contain a guidance system and hence, simply follows a ballistic trajectory....

s, often with a high proportion of incendiary bombs, to effect indiscriminate bombing of the target region – either to destroy personnel and/or materiel
Materiel
Materiel is a term used in English to refer to the equipment and supplies in military and commercial supply chain management....

, or as a means to demoralize
Morale
Morale, also known as esprit de corps when discussing the morale of a group, is an intangible term used to describe the capacity of people to maintain belief in an institution or a goal, or even in oneself and others...

 the enemy (see terror bombing). The high explosive bombs were often on timers and used to intimidate or kill
firemen putting out the fires caused by the incendiaries. This, in high enough concentration was capable of producing a firestorm
Firestorm
A firestorm is a conflagration which attains such intensity that it creates and sustains its own wind system. It is most commonly a natural phenomenon, created during some of the largest bushfires, forest fires, and wildfires...

 effect.

Initially, this was effected by multiple aircraft, often returning to the target in waves. Nowadays, a large bomber or missile can be used to create the same effect on a small area (an airfield, for example) by releasing a relatively large number of smaller bombs.

Interbellum

In the period between the two world wars, military thinkers from several nations advocated strategic bombing as the logical and obvious way to employ aircraft. Domestic political considerations saw to it that the British worked harder on the concept than most. The British Royal Flying Corps
Royal Flying Corps
The Royal Flying Corps was the over-land air arm of the British military during most of the First World War. During the early part of the war, the RFC's responsibilities were centred on support of the British Army, via artillery co-operation and photographic reconnaissance...

 and Royal Naval Air Service
Royal Naval Air Service
The Royal Naval Air Service or RNAS was the air arm of the Royal Navy until near the end of the First World War, when it merged with the British Army's Royal Flying Corps to form a new service , the Royal Air Force...

 of the Great War had been merged in 1918 to create a separate air force, which spent much of the following two decades fighting for survival in an environment of severe government spending constraints.

Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

 leaders, in particular Air Chief Marshal Hugh Trenchard, believed the key to retaining their independence from the senior services was to lay stress on what they saw as the unique ability of a modern air force to win wars by unaided strategic bombing. As the speed and altitude of bombers increased in proportion to fighter aircraft, the prevailing strategic understanding became "the bomber will always get through". Although anti-aircraft guns and fighter aircraft had proved effective in the Great War, it was accepted there was little warring nations could do to prevent massive civilian casualties from strategic bombing. High civilian morale and retaliation in kind were seen as the only answers. (A later generation would revisit this, as Mutual Assured Destruction
Mutual assured destruction
Mutual Assured Destruction, or mutually assured destruction , is a doctrine of military strategy and national security policy in which a full-scale use of high-yield weapons of mass destruction by two opposing sides would effectively result in the complete, utter and irrevocable annihilation of...

.)

In Europe, the air power prophet General 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...

 asserted the basic principle of strategic bombing was the offensive, and there was no defence against carpet bombing
Carpet bombing
Carpet bombing is a large aerial bombing 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 covers a floor. Carpet bombing is usually achieved by dropping many...

 and poison gas attacks. Douhet's apocalyptic predictions found fertile soil in France, Germany, and the United States, where excerpts from his book The Command of the Air (1921) were published. These visions of cities laid waste by bombing also gripped the popular imagination and found expression in novel
Novel
A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....

s such as Douhet's The War of 19-- (1930) and H.G. Wells's The Shape of Things to Come
The Shape of Things to Come
The Shape of Things to Come is a work of science fiction by H. G. Wells, published in 1933, which speculates on future events from 1933 until the year 2106. The book is dominated by Wells's belief in a world state as the solution to mankind's problems....

(1933) (filmed by Alexander Korda
Alexander Korda
Sir Alexander Korda was a Hungarian-born British producer and film director. He was a leading figure in the British film industry, the founder of London Films and the owner of British Lion Films, a film distributing company.-Life and career:The elder brother of filmmakers Zoltán Korda and Vincent...

 as Things to Come
Things to Come
Things to Come is a British science fiction film produced by Alexander Korda and directed by William Cameron Menzies. The screenplay was written by H. G. Wells and is a loose adaptation of his own 1933 novel The Shape of Things to Come and his 1931 non-fiction work, The Work, Wealth and Happiness...

(1936)).

Douhet's proposals were hugely influential amongst airforce enthusiasts, arguing as they did that the bombing air arm was the most important, powerful and invulnerable part of any military. He envisaged future wars as lasting a matter of a few weeks. While each opposing Army and Navy fought an inglorious holding campaign, the respective Air Forces would dismantle their enemies' country, and if one side did not rapidly surrender, both would be so weak after the first few days that the war would effectively cease. Fighter aircraft would be relegated to spotting patrols, but would be essentially powerless to resist the mighty bombers.

In support of this theory he argued for targeting of the civilian population as much as any military target, since a nation's morale was as important a resource as its weapons. Paradoxically, he suggested that this would actually reduce total casualties, since "The time would soon come when, to put an end to horror and suffering, the people themselves, driven by the instinct of self-preservation, would rise up and demand an end to the war...". As a result of Douhet's proposals airforces allocated greater resources to their bomber squadrons than to their fighters, and the 'dashing young pilots' promoted in propaganda of the time were invariably bomber pilots.

Pre-war planners, on the whole, vastly overestimated the damage bombers could do, and underestimated the resilience of civilian populations. The speed and altitude of modern bombers, and the difficulty of hitting a target while under attack from improved ground fire and fighters which had yet to be built was not appreciated. Jingoistic national pride played a major role: for example, at a time when Germany was still disarmed and France was Britain's only European rival, Trenchard boasted, "the French in a bombing duel would probably squeal before we did". At the time, the expectation was any new war would be brief and very savage. A British Cabinet planning document in 1938 predicted that, if war with Germany broke out, 35% of British homes would be hit by bombs in the first three weeks. (This type of expectation should be kept in mind when considering the conduct of the European leaders who appeased
Appeasement
The term appeasement is commonly understood to refer to a diplomatic policy aimed at avoiding war by making concessions to another power. Historian Paul Kennedy defines it as "the policy of settling international quarrels by admitting and satisfying grievances through rational negotiation and...

 Hitler in the late 1930s.)

Douhet's theories were successfully put into action in Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia is a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the...

 (modern-day Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

) where RAF bombers used conventional bombs, gas bombs, and strafed forces identified as engaging in guerrilla uprisings. Arthur Harris, a young RAF squadron commander (later nicknamed "Bomber"), reported after a mission in 1924, "The Arab and Kurd now know what real bombing means, in casualties and damage. They know that within 45 minutes a full-sized village can be practically wiped out and a third of its inhabitants killed or injured".

In reality, RAF forces took great care when striking at targets. RAF directives stressed:

In these attacks, endeavour should be made to spare the women and children as far as possible, and for this purpose a warning should be given, whenever practicable. It would be wrong even at this stage to think that air power was simply seen as a tool for rapid retribution.


A statement clearly pointed out that the ability of aircraft to inflict punishment could be open to abuse:

Their power to cover great distances at high speed, their instant readiness for action, their independence (within the detachment
radius) of communications, their indifference to obstacles and the unlikelihood of casualties to air personnel combine to encourage
their use offensively more often than the occasion warrants.


In strikes over Yemen
Yemen
The Republic of Yemen , commonly known as Yemen , is a country located in the Middle East, occupying the southwestern to southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north, the Red Sea to the west, and Oman to the east....

 in over a six month period, sixty tons of bombs were dropped in over 1,200 hours of flying. By August 1928, total losses in ground fighting and air attack, on the Yemeni side, were 65 killed or wounded (one RAF pilot was killed and one airman wounded). Between the wars the RAF conducted 26 separate air operations within the Aden Protectorate. The majority were conducted in response to persistent banditry or to restore the Government's authority. Excluding operations against Yemeni forces – which had effectively ceased by 1934 – a total of twelve deaths were attributed to air attacks conducted between 1919 and 1939. Bombing as a military strategy proved to be an effective and efficient way for the British to police their Middle East protectorates in the 1920s. Fewer men were required as compared to ground forces.

World War II

The strategic bombing conducted in World War II was unlike anything the world had seen before. The campaigns conducted in Europe, in China
Bombing of Chongqing
The bombing of Chongqing was part of a terror bombing operation conducted by Imperial Japanese Army Air Service and Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service on the Chinese provisional capital of Chongqing, authorized by the Imperial General Headquarters.A conservative estimate places the...

 and at the end of the war over Japan, could involve thousands of aircraft dropping tens of thousands of tons of munitions over a single city.

Strategic-bombing campaigns were conducted in Europe and Asia. The Germans and Japanese made use of mostly twin-engined bombers with a payload generally less than 5000 pounds, and never produced larger craft to any great extent. By comparison, the British and Americans (who started the war with predominantly similarly-sized bombers) developed their strategic force based upon much larger four-engined bombers for their strategic campaigns. The payload carried by these planes ranged from 4000 lb (1,814.4 kg) for the B-17 Flying Fortress on long-range missions, to 8000 lb (3,628.7 kg) for the B-24 Liberator
B-24 Liberator
The Consolidated B-24 Liberator was an American heavy bomber, designed by Consolidated Aircraft of San Diego, California. It was known within the company as the Model 32, and a small number of early models were sold under the name LB-30, for Land Bomber...

, 14000 lb (6,350.3 kg) for the Avro Lancaster
Avro Lancaster
The Avro Lancaster is a British four-engined Second World War heavy bomber made initially by Avro for the Royal Air Force . It first saw active service in 1942, and together with the Handley Page Halifax it was one of the main heavy bombers of the RAF, the RCAF, and squadrons from other...

, and 20000 lb (9,071.8 kg) 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...

, with some speciality aircraft, such as the 'Special B' Avro Lancaster carrying (22000 lb (9,979 kg)) Grand Slam
Grand Slam bomb
The Grand Slam was a 22,000 lb earthquake bomb used by RAF Bomber Command against strategic targets during the Second World War.Known officially as the Bomb, Medium Capacity, 22,000 lb, it was a scaled up version of the Tallboy bomb and closer to the original size that the bombs' inventor,...

.

During the first year of the war in Europe, strategic bombing was developed through trial and error. The Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe is a generic German term for an air force. It is also the official name for two of the four historic German air forces, the Wehrmacht air arm founded in 1935 and disbanded in 1946; and the current Bundeswehr air arm founded in 1956....

had been attacking both civilian and military targets from the very first day of the war, when Germany invaded Poland on 1 September 1939. A strategic-bombing campaign was launched by the Germans as a precursor to the invasion of England to force the RAF
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

 to engage Luftwaffe and so be destroyed either on the ground or in the air. When that tactic failed, and the RAF won the Battle of Britain
Battle of Britain
The Battle of Britain is the name given to the World War II air campaign waged by the German Air Force against the United Kingdom during the summer and autumn of 1940...

, the Germans launched their night time Blitz
The Blitz
The Blitz was the sustained strategic bombing of Britain by Nazi Germany between 7 September 1940 and 10 May 1941, during the Second World War. The city of London was bombed by the Luftwaffe for 76 consecutive nights and many towns and cities across the country followed...

 hoping to break British morale and cower the British into making peace.

Initially, the Luftwaffe raids took place in daylight, then changed to night bombing attacks when losses became unsustainable. The RAF, initially espousing a precision-bombing doctrine, also switched to night bombing, also due to excessive losses. Before the Rotterdam Blitz
Rotterdam Blitz
The Rotterdam Blitz refers to the aerial bombardment of Rotterdam by the German Air Force on 14 May 1940, during the German invasion of the Netherlands in World War II. The objective was to support the German troops fighting in the city, break Dutch resistance and force the Dutch to surrender...

 on 14 May 1940 the British restricted themselves to tactical bombing west of the Rhine and naval installations. The day after the Rotterdam Blitz a new directive was issued to the RAF to attack targets in the Ruhr
Ruhr Area
The Ruhr, by German-speaking geographers and historians more accurately called Ruhr district or Ruhr region , is an urban area in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. With 4435 km² and a population of some 5.2 million , it is the largest urban agglomeration in Germany...

, including oil plants and other civilian industrial
Industry
Industry refers to the production of an economic good or service within an economy.-Industrial sectors:There are four key industrial economic sectors: the primary sector, largely raw material extraction industries such as mining and farming; the secondary sector, involving refining, construction,...

 targets which aided the German war effort, such as blast furnace
Blast furnace
A blast furnace is a type of metallurgical furnace used for smelting to produce industrial metals, generally iron.In a blast furnace, fuel and ore and flux are continuously supplied through the top of the furnace, while air is blown into the bottom of the chamber, so that the chemical reactions...

s that at night were self-illuminating. The first RAF raid on the interior of Germany took place on the night of 15/16 May 1940. After the Butt Report
Butt Report
The Butt Report was a report prepared during World War II which revealed the widespread failure of bombers to deliver their payloads to the correct target....

 (released in September, 1941) proved the inadequacy of 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...

 training methods and equipment, the RAF adopted an area-attack strategy, by which it hoped to detrimentally affect Germany's war production, her powers of of resistance (by destroying resources and forcing Germany to divert resources from her front lines to defend her air space), and her morale. The RAF dramatically improved its navigation so that on average its bombs hit closer to target.

The United States Army Air Forces
United States Army Air Forces
The United States Army Air Forces was the military aviation arm of the United States of America during and immediately after World War II, and the direct predecessor of the United States Air Force....

 adopted a policy of daylight precision bombing for greater accuracy as, for example, during the Schweinfurt
Schweinfurt
Schweinfurt is a city in the Lower Franconia region of Bavaria in Germany on the right bank of the canalized Main, which is here spanned by several bridges, 27 km northeast of Würzburg.- History :...

 raids. That doctrine, which included the fallacious theory that bombers could adequately defend themselves against air attack with their own armament, entailed much higher American losses until long-range fighter escorts (e.g. the Mustang) became available. Conditions in the European theatre made it very difficult to achieve the accuracy that had been possible using the exceptional and top-secret Norden optical bombsight
Norden bombsight
The Norden bombsight was a tachometric bombsight used by the United States Army Air Forces and the United States Navy during World War II, and the United States Air Force in the Korean and the Vietnam Wars to aid the crew of bomber aircraft in dropping bombs accurately...

 in the clear skies over the desert bombing ranges of Nevada and California. Raids over Europe commonly took place in conditions of very poor visibility, with targets partly or wholly obscured by thick cloud, smokescreens or smoke from fires started by previous raids. As a result, bomb loads were regularly dropped "blind" using dead-reckoning methods little different from thoses used by the RAF night bombers. In addition, only the leading bomber in a formation normally carried the Norden sight, the rest of the formation dropping their bombs only when they saw the lead aircraft's bombload falling away. Since even a very tight bomber formation could cover a vast area, the scatter of bombs was likely to be considerable. Add to these difficulties the disruptive effects of increasingly accurate anti-aircraft fire and head-on attacks by fighter aircraft and the theoretical accuracy of daylight bombing was often hard to achieve.

Strategic bombing was initially a way of taking the war into Europe while Allied ground forces were no closer to fighting Germans there than North Africa. Between them, the Allied air forces claimed to be able to bomb "around the clock". In fact, few targets were ever hit by British and American forces the same day, the strategic isolation of Normandy on D-Day
D-Day
D-Day is a term often used in military parlance to denote the day on which a combat attack or operation is to be initiated. "D-Day" often represents a variable, designating the day upon which some significant event will occur or has occurred; see Military designation of days and hours for similar...

 and the bombing of Dresden
Bombing of Dresden in World War II
The Bombing of Dresden was a military bombing by the British Royal Air Force and the United States Army Air Force and as part of the Allied forces between 13 February and 15 February 1945 in the Second World War...

 in February, 1945 being exceptions rather than the rule. There were generally no coordinated plans for around-the-clock bombing of any target.

In some cases, single missions have been considered to constitute strategic bombing. The British bombing of Peenemünde
Peenemünde
The Peenemünde Army Research Center was founded in 1937 as one of five military proving grounds under the Army Weapons Office ....

 was such an event, as was the bombing of the Ruhr dams. The Peenemünde mission delayed Nazi Germany's V-2
V-2 rocket
The V-2 rocket , technical name Aggregat-4 , was a ballistic missile that was developed at the beginning of the Second World War in Germany, specifically targeted at London and later Antwerp. The liquid-propellant rocket was the world's first long-range combat-ballistic missile and first known...

 program enough it did not become a factor in the outcome of the war.

Strategic bombing in Europe never reached the decisive completeness the American campaign against Japan achieved, helped in part by the fragility of Japanese housing
Housing in Japan
Housing in Japan includes modern and traditional styles. Two patterns of residences are predominant in contemporary Japan: the single-family detached house and the multiple-unit building, either owned by an individual or corporation and rented as apartments to tenants, or owned by occupants...

, which was particularly vulnerable to firebombing
Firebombing
Firebombing is a bombing technique designed to damage a target, generally an urban area, through the use of fire, caused by incendiary devices, rather than from the blast effect of large bombs....

 through the use of incendiary bombs. The destruction of German infrastructure became apparent, but the Allied campaign against Germany only really succeeded when the Allies began targeting oil refineries and transportation in the last year of the war. At the same time, strategic bombing of Germany was used as a morale booster for the Allies in the period before the land war resumed in Western Europe.

If the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service
Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service
The Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service was the air arm of the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War II, the organization was responsible for the operation of naval aircraft and the conduct of aerial warfare in the Pacific War.It was controlled by the Navy Staff of the Imperial Japanese Navy and...

 and the Imperial Japanese Army Air Service
Imperial Japanese Army Air Service
The , was the land-based aviation force of the Imperial Japanese Army. As with the IJA itself, the IJAAF was developed along the lines of Imperial German Army Aviation so its primary mission was to provide tactical close air support for ground troops while maintaining a limited air interdiction...

 frequently used strategic bombing over large Chinese cities such as Shanghai
Battle of Shanghai
The Battle of Shanghai, known in Chinese as Battle of Songhu, was the first of the twenty-two major engagements fought between the National Revolutionary Army of the Republic of China and the Imperial Japanese Army of the Empire of Japan during the Second Sino-Japanese War...

, Guangzhou
Guangzhou
Guangzhou , known historically as Canton or Kwangchow, is the capital and largest city of the Guangdong province in the People's Republic of China. Located in southern China on the Pearl River, about north-northwest of Hong Kong, Guangzhou is a key national transportation hub and trading port...

, Nanjing
Nanjing
' is the capital of Jiangsu province in China and has a prominent place in Chinese history and culture, having been the capital of China on several occasions...

, and Chongqing
Bombing of Chongqing
The bombing of Chongqing was part of a terror bombing operation conducted by Imperial Japanese Army Air Service and Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service on the Chinese provisional capital of Chongqing, authorized by the Imperial General Headquarters.A conservative estimate places the...

, in the Pacific theatre
Pacific War
The Pacific War, also sometimes called the Asia-Pacific War refers broadly to the parts of World War II that took place in the Pacific Ocean, its islands, and in East Asia, then called the Far East...

, organized strategic bombing on a large scale by the Japanese seldom occurred. The Japanese military in most places advanced quickly enough that a strategic bombing campaign was unnecessary, and the Japanese aircraft industry was incapable of producing truly strategic bombers in any event. In those places where it was required, the smaller Japanese bombers (in comparison to British and American types) did not carry a bombload sufficient to inflict the sort of damage regularly occurring at that point in the war in Europe, or later in Japan.

The development of the B-29 gave the United States a bomber with sufficient range to reach the Japanese Home Islands from the safety of American bases in the Pacific or Western China. The capture of the Japanese island of Iwo Jima
Iwo Jima
Iwo Jima, officially , is an island of the Japanese Volcano Islands chain, which lie south of the Ogasawara Islands and together with them form the Ogasawara Archipelago. The island is located south of mainland Tokyo and administered as part of Ogasawara, one of eight villages of Tokyo...

 further enhanced the capabilities that the Americans possessed in their strategic bombing campaign. Conventional bombs and incendiary bombs were used against Japan to devastating effect, with greater indiscriminate loss of life in the firebombing of Tokyo in March 1945 than was caused either by the Dresden mission, or the nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima or Nagasaki.

The final development of strategic bombing in World War II was the use of nuclear ordnance. On August 6 and 9, 1945, the United States conducted nuclear bombing raids on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Both cities were destroyed with enormous loss of life and psychological shock. On August 15 the Emperor announced the surrender of Japan, stating
Gyokuon-hoso
The , lit. "Jewel Voice Broadcast", was the radio broadcast in which Japanese emperor Hirohito read out the , announcing to the Japanese people that the Japanese Government had accepted the Potsdam Declaration demanding the unconditional surrender of the Japanese military at the end of World War II...

:
"Moreover, the enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb, the power of which to do damage is indeed incalculable, taking the toll of many innocent lives. Should We continue to fight, it would not only result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization. Such being the case, how are We to save the millions of Our subjects; or to atone Ourselves before the hallowed spirits of Our Imperial Ancestors? This is the reason why We have ordered the acceptance of the provisions of the Joint Declaration of the Powers."

Cold War

Nuclear weapon
Nuclear weapon
A nuclear weapon is an explosive device that derives its destructive force from nuclear reactions, either fission or a combination of fission and fusion. Both reactions release vast quantities of energy from relatively small amounts of matter. The first fission bomb test released the same amount...

s defined strategic bombing during the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

. The age of the massive strategic bombing campaign had come to an end. It was replaced by more devastating attacks using improved sighting and weapons technology. Strategic bombing by the Great Powers also became politically indefensible. The political fallout resulting from the destruction being broadcast on the evening news ended more than one strategic bombing campaign.

In the Vietnam War, the strategic bombing of North Vietnam in Operation Rolling Thunder
Operation Rolling Thunder
Operation Rolling Thunder was the title of a gradual and sustained US 2nd Air Division , US Navy, and Republic of Vietnam Air Force aerial bombardment campaign conducted against the Democratic Republic of Vietnam from 2 March 1965 until 1 November 1968, during the Vietnam War.The four objectives...

 could have been more extensive, but fear by the Johnson Administration of the entry of China into the war (and misapprehension of the nature and technique of strategic bombing) led to restrictions on the selection of targets, as well as only a gradual escalation of intensity.

The aim of the bombing campaign was to demoralize the North Vietnamese, damage their economy, and reduce their capacity to support the war in the hope that they would negotiate for peace, but it failed to have those effects. The Nixon Administration
Richard Nixon
Richard Milhous Nixon was the 37th President of the United States, serving from 1969 to 1974. The only president to resign the office, Nixon had previously served as a US representative and senator from California and as the 36th Vice President of the United States from 1953 to 1961 under...

 continued this sort of limited strategic bombing during the two Operation Linebacker
Operation Linebacker
Operation Linebacker was the title of a U.S. Seventh Air Force and U.S. Navy Task Force 77 aerial interdiction campaign conducted against the Democratic Republic of Vietnam from 9 May to 23 October 1972, during the Vietnam War....

 campaigns. Images such as that of Kim Phuc Phan Thi (although this incident was the result of 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...

 rather than strategic bombing) disturbed the American public enough to demand a stop to the campaign.

Due to this, and the ineffectiveness of carpet bombing
Carpet bombing
Carpet bombing is a large aerial bombing 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 covers a floor. Carpet bombing is usually achieved by dropping many...

 (partly because of a lack of identifiable targets), new precision weapons were developed. The new weapons allowed more effective and efficient bombing with reduced civilian
Civilian
A civilian under international humanitarian law is a person who is not a member of his or her country's armed forces or other militia. Civilians are distinct from combatants. They are afforded a degree of legal protection from the effects of war and military occupation...

 casualties. High civilian casualties had always been the hallmark
Hallmark
A hallmark is an official mark or series of marks struck on items made of precious metals — platinum, gold, silver and in some nations, palladium...

 of strategic bombing, but later in the Cold War, this began to change.

Strategic bombing was entering a new phase of high-intensity attacks, specifically targeting factories
Factory
A factory or manufacturing plant is an industrial building where laborers manufacture goods or supervise machines processing one product into another. Most modern factories have large warehouses or warehouse-like facilities that contain heavy equipment used for assembly line production...

 taking years and millions of dollars to build.

Post–Cold War

Strategic bombing in the post–Cold War era is defined by American advances in and the use of smart munitions. The developments in guided munitions meant that the Coalition forces in the First Gulf War were able to use them, although the majority – 93% – of bombs dropped in that conflict were still conventional, unguided bombs. More frequently in the Kosovo War
Kosovo War
The term Kosovo War or Kosovo conflict was two sequential, and at times parallel, armed conflicts in Kosovo province, then part of FR Yugoslav Republic of Serbia; from early 1998 to 1999, there was an armed conflict initiated by the ethnic Albanian "Kosovo Liberation Army" , who sought independence...

, and the initial phases of Operation Iraqi Freedom of 2003, strategic bombing campaigns were notable for the heavy use of precision weaponry by those countries that possessed them. Although bombing campaigns were still strategic in their aims, the widespread area bombing tactics of World War II had mostly disappeared. This led to significantly fewer civilian casualties associated with previous bombing campaigns, though it has not brought about a complete end to civilian deaths or collateral property damage.

Additionally, strategic bombing via smart munitions is now possible through the use of aircraft that have been considered traditionally tactical in nature such as the F-16 Fighting Falcon
F-16 Fighting Falcon
The General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon is a multirole jet fighter aircraft originally developed by General Dynamics for the United States Air Force . Designed as an air superiority day fighter, it evolved into a successful all-weather multirole aircraft. Over 4,400 aircraft have been built since...

 or F-15E Strike Eagle
F-15E Strike Eagle
The McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle is an all-weather multirole fighter, derived from the McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle. The F-15E was designed in the 1980s for long-range, high speed interdiction without relying on escort or electronic warfare aircraft. United States Air Force F-15E Strike...

, which had been used during Operation Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom to destroy targets that would have required large formations of strategic bombers during World War II.

Some people refer to such pinpoint destruction of strategic, logistical or communications/command targets as "strategic interdiction" in order to distinguish from the large concentrated use of conventional or nuclear weapons against highly concentrated population centers or industrial targets, which is what "strategic bombing" had traditionally connoted during World War II and the Cold War. That said, such bombing still may have a place, as evidenced during the 2008 South Ossetia war
2008 South Ossetia war
The 2008 South Ossetia War or Russo-Georgian War was an armed conflict in August 2008 between Georgia on one side, and Russia and separatist governments of South Ossetia and Abkhazia on the other....

 when Russian aircraft attacked the shipbuilding center of Poti
Poti
Poti is a port city in Georgia, located on the eastern Black Sea coast in the region of Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti in the west of the country. Built near the site of the ancient Greek colony of Phasis, the city has become a major port city and industrial center since the early 20th century. It is also...

.

Technological advances

With the advent of precision-guided munition
Precision-guided munition
A precision-guided munition is a guided munition intended to precisely hit a specific target, and to minimize damage to things other than the target....

s, many feel that strategic bombing has once again become a viable military strategy. Exactly how precise precision munitions are is still open to question. However, others predict that 21st century warfare will more often be asymmetrical, and therefore viable strategic bombing options may not exist.

A further question is raised when some see the blurring of strategic and tactical targets and missions, particularly when tactical aircraft are frequently used to carry out strikes on targets with significant strategic importance as a result of technological advances in aircraft design and munition guidance and penetration. For example, tactical strike aircraft such as F-16s were frequently used to destroy command and communications bunkers during Operation Iraqi Freedom while large "strategic" bombers such as the B-1
B-1 Lancer
The Rockwell B-1 LancerThe name "Lancer" is only applied to the B-1B version, after the program was revived. is a four-engine variable-sweep wing strategic bomber used by the United States Air Force...

 and B-52 were frequently used to provide sustained close air support at high altitude during Operation Enduring Freedom.

Aerial bombardment and international law

Air warfare, must comply with laws and customs of war, including international humanitarian law
International humanitarian law
International humanitarian law , often referred to as the laws of war, the laws and customs of war or the law of armed conflict, is the legal corpus that comprises "the Geneva Conventions and the Hague Conventions, as well as subsequent treaties, case law, and customary international law." It...

 by protecting the victims of the conflict and refraining from attacks on protected persons.

These restraints on aerial warfare are covered by the general laws of war
Laws of war
The law of war is a body of law concerning acceptable justifications to engage in war and the limits to acceptable wartime conduct...

, because unlike war on land and at sea—which are specifically covered by rules such as the Hague Regulations and Protocol I
Protocol I
Protocol I is a 1977 amendment protocol to the Geneva Conventions relating to the protection of victims of international armed conflicts. It reaffirms the international laws of the original Geneva Conventions of 1949, but adds clarifications and new provisions to accommodate developments in modern...

 additional to the Geneva Conventions
Geneva Conventions
The Geneva Conventions comprise four treaties, and three additional protocols, that establish the standards of international law for the humanitarian treatment of the victims of war...

, which contain pertinent restrictions, prohibitions and guidelines—there are no treaties specific to aerial warfare.

To be legal aerial operations must comply with the principles of humanitarian law: military necessity
Military necessity
Military necessity, along with distinction, and proportionality, are three important principles of international humanitarian law governing the legal use of force in an armed conflict.-Attacks:...

, distinction
Distinction (law)
Distinction is a principle under international humanitarian law governing the legal use of force in an armed conflict, whereby belligerents must distinguish between combatants and civilians...

, and proportionality
Proportionality (law)
Proportionality is a principle in law which covers two distinct concepts. Within municipal law it is used to convey the idea that the punishment of an offender should fit the crime...

: An attack or action must be intended to help in the military defeat of the enemy, it must be an attack on a military objective, and the harm caused to civilians or civilian property must be proportional and not excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.

Strategic bombing events

Among the controversial instances of strategic bombing (and it should be noted that there is still significant controversy over whether all of these events even constitute strategic bombing, as opposed to other forms, such as terror bombing or tactical bombing) are:

  • Strategic bombing of "uncivilized tribes" during the British mandate
    League of Nations mandate
    A League of Nations mandate was a legal status for certain territories transferred from the control of one country to another following World War I, or the legal instruments that contained the internationally agreed-upon terms for administering the territory on behalf of the League...

     of Iraq
    Iraq
    Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

  • 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...

    • The Bombing of Guernica
      Bombing of Guernica
      The bombing of Guernica was an aerial attack on the Basque town of Guernica, Spain, causing widespread destruction and civilian deaths, during the Spanish Civil War...

      : the first aerial bombardment in history in which a civilian population was targeted with the apparent intent of producing civilian casualties.
  • World War II
    • The Japanese bombing of Wuhan
      Battle of Wuhan
      The Battle of Wuhan, popularly known to the Chinese as the Defence of Wuhan, and to the Japanese as the Capture of Wuhan, was a large-scale battle of the Second Sino-Japanese War...

    • The Japanese bombing of Chongqing
      Bombing of Chongqing
      The bombing of Chongqing was part of a terror bombing operation conducted by Imperial Japanese Army Air Service and Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service on the Chinese provisional capital of Chongqing, authorized by the Imperial General Headquarters.A conservative estimate places the...

    • The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor
      Attack on Pearl Harbor
      The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941...

    • The German bombing of Warsaw
      Bombing of Warsaw in World War II
      The Bombing of Warsaw in World War II refers both to the Strategic bombing campaign of Warsaw by the Luftwaffe during the siege of Warsaw in the Invasion of Poland in 1939 and to the German bombing raids during the Warsaw Uprising in 1944....

    • The German bombing of Rotterdam
      Rotterdam Blitz
      The Rotterdam Blitz refers to the aerial bombardment of Rotterdam by the German Air Force on 14 May 1940, during the German invasion of the Netherlands in World War II. The objective was to support the German troops fighting in the city, break Dutch resistance and force the Dutch to surrender...

    • German attacks on the UK during The Blitz
      The Blitz
      The Blitz was the sustained strategic bombing of Britain by Nazi Germany between 7 September 1940 and 10 May 1941, during the Second World War. The city of London was bombed by the Luftwaffe for 76 consecutive nights and many towns and cities across the country followed...

       and afterwards, through the V-1 and V-2 attacks in the last year of the war.
    • The German bombing of Belgrade
      Belgrade
      Belgrade is the capital and largest city of Serbia. It is located at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers, where the Pannonian Plain meets the Balkans. According to official results of Census 2011, the city has a population of 1,639,121. It is one of the 15 largest cities in Europe...

    • The German bombing of Moscow.
    • Allied bombing of Hamburg
      Bombing of Hamburg in World War II
      The Allied bombing of Hamburg during World War II included numerous strategic bombing missions and diversion/nuisance raids. As a large port and industrial center, Hamburg's shipyards, U-boat pens, and the Hamburg-Harburg area oil refineries were attacked throughout the war...

    • Allied bombing of Berlin
    • Allied bombing of Dresden
      Bombing of Dresden in World War II
      The Bombing of Dresden was a military bombing by the British Royal Air Force and the United States Army Air Force and as part of the Allied forces between 13 February and 15 February 1945 in the Second World War...

    • Allied bombing of Milan
      Milan
      Milan is the second-largest city in Italy and the capital city of the region of Lombardy and of the province of Milan. The city proper has a population of about 1.3 million, while its urban area, roughly coinciding with its administrative province and the bordering Province of Monza and Brianza ,...

    • United States bombing of Tokyo
      Bombing of Tokyo in World War II
      The bombing of Tokyo, often referred to as a "firebombing", was conducted by the United States Army Air Forces during the Pacific campaigns of World War II. The U.S. mounted a small-scale raid on Tokyo in April 1942, with large morale effects...

    • United States bombing of Kobe
      Bombing of Kobe in World War II
      On March 17, 1945, 331 American B-29 bombers launched a firebombing attack against the city of Kobe, Japan. Of the city's residents, 8,841 were confirmed to have been killed in the resulting firestorms, which destroyed an area of three square miles and included 21% of Kobe's urban area. At the...

    • United States atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
      Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
      During the final stages of World War II in 1945, the United States conducted two atomic bombings against the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, the first on August 6, 1945, and the second on August 9, 1945. These two events are the only use of nuclear weapons in war to date.For six months...


  • Vietnam War
    Vietnam War
    The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

    • United States bombing of the Ho Chi Minh Trail
      Ho Chi Minh trail
      The Ho Chi Minh trail was a logistical system that ran from the Democratic Republic of Vietnam to the Republic of Vietnam through the neighboring kingdoms of Laos and Cambodia...

    • United States bombing of Hanoi
      Hanoi
      Hanoi , is the capital of Vietnam and the country's second largest city. Its population in 2009 was estimated at 2.6 million for urban districts, 6.5 million for the metropolitan jurisdiction. From 1010 until 1802, it was the most important political centre of Vietnam...

    • United States bombing of Cambodia
      Cambodia
      Cambodia , officially known as the Kingdom of Cambodia, is a country located in the southern portion of the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia...

    • United States bombing of Vietnam's dikes
      Bombing of Vietnam's dikes
      During the Vietnam War, the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff considered and rejected some additions to strategic bombing campaigns that would include targeting a series of dikes and dams along Vietnam's Red River delta...

  • Operation Desert Storm (Liberation of Kuwait
    Kuwait
    The State of Kuwait is a sovereign Arab state situated in the north-east of the Arabian Peninsula in Western Asia. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the south at Khafji, and Iraq to the north at Basra. It lies on the north-western shore of the Persian Gulf. The name Kuwait is derived from the...

     Jan/Feb 1991)
  • Yugoslav Wars
    Yugoslav wars
    The Yugoslav Wars were a series of wars, fought throughout the former Yugoslavia between 1991 and 1995. The wars were complex: characterized by bitter ethnic conflicts among the peoples of the former Yugoslavia, mostly between Serbs on the one side and Croats and Bosniaks on the other; but also...

     (1991–1999)
    • NATO bombing of Republika Srpska
      NATO bombing of Republika Srpska
      The 1995 NATO bombing in Bosnia and Herzegovina was a sustained air campaign conducted by the North-Atlantic Treaty Organization to undermine the military capability of the Army of the Republika Srpska which threatened and attacked UN-designated "safe areas" in Bosnia during the Bosnian war...

       (1995) (Operation Deliberate Force)
    • Kosovo War
      Kosovo War
      The term Kosovo War or Kosovo conflict was two sequential, and at times parallel, armed conflicts in Kosovo province, then part of FR Yugoslav Republic of Serbia; from early 1998 to 1999, there was an armed conflict initiated by the ethnic Albanian "Kosovo Liberation Army" , who sought independence...

       (1999)
      • NATO bombing of industry and other civilian infrastructure in Serbia
        Serbia
        Serbia , officially the Republic of Serbia , is a landlocked country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe, covering the southern part of the Carpathian basin and the central part of the Balkans...

        . Examples include the bombing of the Chinese embassy
        NATO Bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade
        On May 7, 1999, during the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia , five US JDAM bombs hit the People's Republic of China embassy in the Belgrade district of New Belgrade, killing three Chinese reporters and outraging the Chinese public. President Bill Clinton later apologized for the bombing, stating it was...

         in Belgrade
        Belgrade
        Belgrade is the capital and largest city of Serbia. It is located at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers, where the Pannonian Plain meets the Balkans. According to official results of Census 2011, the city has a population of 1,639,121. It is one of the 15 largest cities in Europe...

         (claimed to have been done by mistake) and the deliberate bombing of the main TV
        Television
        Television is a telecommunication medium for transmitting and receiving moving images that can be monochrome or colored, with accompanying sound...

         center in Belgrade
        Belgrade
        Belgrade is the capital and largest city of Serbia. It is located at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers, where the Pannonian Plain meets the Balkans. According to official results of Census 2011, the city has a population of 1,639,121. It is one of the 15 largest cities in Europe...

        .
  • Operation Iraqi Freedom (2003) invasion of Iraq.
    • Precision laser
      Laser
      A laser is a device that emits light through a process of optical amplification based on the stimulated emission of photons. The term "laser" originated as an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation...

       and GPS guided bombs were used extensively, not only to damage and destroy Saddam Hussein
      Saddam Hussein
      Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti was the fifth President of Iraq, serving in this capacity from 16 July 1979 until 9 April 2003...

      's army but also to damage infrastructure such as communications, utilities, and various government buildings. The campaign moved into asymmetric warfare
      Asymmetric warfare
      Asymmetric warfare is war between belligerents whose relative military power differs significantly, or whose strategy or tactics differ significantly....

       once strategic targets no longer existed or were not viable targets.


Pioneers of strategic bombing

  • Henry H. "Hap" Arnold
    Henry H. Arnold
    Henry Harley "Hap" Arnold was an American general officer holding the grades of General of the Army and later General of the Air Force. Arnold was an aviation pioneer, Chief of the Air Corps , Commanding General of the U.S...

    , USAAF
  • 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...

    , Regia Aeronautica
    Regia Aeronautica
    The Italian Royal Air Force was the name of the air force of the Kingdom of Italy. It was established as a service independent of the Royal Italian Army from 1923 until 1946...

     (Italy)
  • Arthur "Bomber" Harris, RAF
    Royal Air Force
    The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

  • Curtis LeMay
    Curtis LeMay
    Curtis Emerson LeMay was a general in the United States Air Force and the vice presidential running mate of American Independent Party candidate George Wallace in 1968....

    , USAAF
  • Billy Mitchell, USAAC
  • Alexander P. de Seversky in Victory Through Air Power
    Victory Through Air Power
    Victory Through Air Power is a 1942 non-fiction book by Alexander P. de Seversky. It was made into a 1943 Walt Disney animated feature film of the same name: Victory Through Air Power.-Theories:...

     (1942 book and 1943 film)
  • Carl Spaatz
    Carl Spaatz
    Carl Andrew "Tooey" Spaatz GBE was an American World War II general and the first Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force. He was of German descent.-Early life:...

    , USAAF
  • Hugh Trenchard, RAF
    Royal Air Force
    The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...


See also

  • Air raid precautions
    Air Raid Precautions
    Air Raid Precautions was an organisation in the United Kingdom set up as an aid in the prelude to the Second World War dedicated to the protection of civilians from the danger of air-raids. It was created in 1924 as a response to the fears about the growing threat from the development of bomber...

  • Air raid shelter
  • Air raid siren
  • 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...

  • Battleplan
    Battleplan
    Battleplan is a military television documentary series examing various military strategies used in modern warfare since World War I. It is shown on the Military Channel in the U.S. and UKTV History...

    (documentary TV series)
  • Bomber Mafia
    Bomber Mafia
    The Bomber Mafia were a close-knit group of American military men who believed that long-range heavy bomber aircraft in large numbers were able to win a war...

  • Carpet bombing
    Carpet bombing
    Carpet bombing is a large aerial bombing 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 covers a floor. Carpet bombing is usually achieved by dropping many...



  • 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...

  • Firebombing
    Firebombing
    Firebombing is a bombing technique designed to damage a target, generally an urban area, through the use of fire, caused by incendiary devices, rather than from the blast effect of large bombs....

  • High-level bombing
  • Roerich Pact
  • Strategic Air Command
    Strategic Air Command
    The Strategic Air Command was both a Major Command of the United States Air Force and a "specified command" of the United States Department of Defense. SAC was the operational establishment in charge of America's land-based strategic bomber aircraft and land-based intercontinental ballistic...

     (USA)
  • Strategic Bombardment in the Kosovo War
  • 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...

  • Warden's Five Rings
    Warden's Five Rings
    Warden's Five Rings represent a theory of military strategic attack, based on five levels of system attributes. They are named in honor of Col. John A...



Further reading

  • Biddle, Tami Davis. Rhetoric and Reality in Air Warfare: The Evolution of British and American Ideas about Strategic Bombing, 1914–1945 (Princeton Studies in International History and Politics) (2004)
  • Boog, Horst, ed. The Conduct of the Air War in the Second World War (1992)
  • Boog, Horst, ed. Germany and the Second World War: Volume VII: The Strategic Air War in Europe and the War in the West and East Asia, 1943–1944/5 (Oxford UP, 2006), 928pp official German history vol 7 excerpt and text search; online edition
  • Clodfelter, Mark. "Aiming to Break Will: America's World War II Bombing of German Morale and its Ramifications", Journal of Strategic Studies, June 2010, Vol. 33 Issue 3, pp 401–435
  • Clodfelter, Mark. Beneficial Bombing: The Progressive Foundations of American Air Power, 1917–1945 (University of Nebraska Press; 2010) 347 pages
  • Craven, Wesley Frank and James Lea Cate. The Army Air Forces in World War II (6 vol 1958), official USAF history
  • Davis, Richard G. "Bombing Strategy Shifts, 1944-45", Air Power History 39 (1989) 33-45
  • Franklin, Noble, and Charles Webster. The Strategic Air Offensive against Germany, 1939–1945 (4 volumes, 1961), official RAF history
  • Futrell, Robert Frank. Ideas, concepts, doctrine: A history of basic thinking in the United States Air Force, 1907–1964 (2 vol 1974)
  • Griffith, Charles. The quest: Haywood Hansell and American strategic bombing in World War II (1999) online edition
  • Hansell, Jr., Haywood S. Air Plan That Defeated Hitler (1980) online version
  • Kennett, Lee B. A History of Strategic Bombing (1982)
  • Koch, H. W. "The Strategic Air Offensive against Germany: the Early Phase, May–September 1940." The Historical Journal, 34 (March 1991) pp 117–41. online at JSTOR
  • Levine, Alan J. The Strategic Bombing of Germany, 1940–1945 (1992) online edition
  • MacIsaac, David. Strategic Bombing in World War Two (1976)
  • Messenger, Charles. "Bomber" Harris and the Strategic Bombing Offensive, 1939–1945 (1984), defends Harris
  • Overy. Richard. "The Means to Victory: Bombs and Bombing" in Overy, Why the Allies Won (1995), pp 101–33
  • Sherry, Michael. The Rise of American Air Power: The Creation of Armageddon (1987), important study 1930s-1960s
  • Smith, Malcolm. "The Allied Air Offensive", Journal of Strategic Studies 13 (Mar 1990) 67-83
  • Spaight. James M. Vindicated" G. Bles, 1944. ASIN: B0007IVW7K (Spaight was Principal Assistant Secretary of the Air Ministry) (U.K)
  • Verrier, Anthony. The Bomber Offensive (1968), British
  • Webster, Charles and Noble Frankland, The Strategic Air Offensive Against Germany, 1939–1945 (HMSO, 1961), 4 vol. Important official British history
  • Werrell, Kenneth P. "The Strategic Bombing of Germany in World War II: Costs and Accomplishments", Journal of American History 73 (1986) 702-713; good place to start. in JSTOR
  • Werrell, Kenneth P. Death From the Heavens: A History of Strategic Bombing (2009)
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