** World War II air war bombing city targets








World War II Bombing Targets: Cities

British cities
Figure 1.--Countries varied in their vulnerability to strategic bombing. Japan was the most vulnetavle, but was protected by the vat diatances of the Pacific Ocean. Germany was vulnerable because of its densly packed cities dominated by large-multi-storied apartment buildings. Ironically, the two most vulnerable countries (Jaoab and Germany) were the countries that began bombing other cities. As Air Marshal Harris pointed out, "The Nazis entered this war under the rather childish delusion that they were going to bomb everybody else and nobody was going to bomb them. At Rotterdam, London, Warsaw, and half a hundred other places, they put that rather naive theory into operation. They sowed the wind and now they are going to reap the whirlwind." The German Blitz on London and other cities was closely followed as it took place. The British developed the first integrated air defense systen, but they had a huge advantage. London and other British cities built out instead of up. Multi-story apartment blocks were realtively rare. In the city, two story terrrace (connected row) houses were standard. Meaning the population density was lower than in Germany. As a result the Luftwaff in the nattle of Brirain expended valuable and hard to replace combat power to destroy British houses. This was a rerrible human cost, but it did not impact Britain's ability to make war. It did affect the strength of the German force that invaded the Soviet Union. Here we see a British suburd in the 1930s. A bomb droped here migh destroy a hime. A bomb dropped on a German aparttment blockes would estroy the homes of dozens of families. bom dropped in the cities would have more binoact in the teracedhomes, but no where near thev imapct of a German city.

Strategic bombing theory from the beginning in World War I involved the targeting of enemy war industries to destroy the country's ability to make war. This inevitably meant bombing enemy cities as this is where industrial manufacturing plants were located. And as the Germans found out in World War I with Zeppelin and Gotha bombers, the technology did not exist to hit just industrial plants and not the surronding residential areas. This did not stop the Germans from contining to bomb London and other cities. Technology advanced by the time of World War II, targeting devices were improved like the Nordon bomb site. But so did anti-aircraft defenses, so World War II bombers were designed to bomb at great alditudes when rendered prcission bombing impossible in combat conditions which would take World War II airforces some time to learn, especially the Americans. The U.S. Army Air Corps developed in strategic bombing doctrine in the clear desert skies of the Southwest againsdt no enemy defenses. The skies over nprthern Europe and Japan would prove very different. There were significant differences between cities rendering different countries more or less susceptable to strategic bombing. American cities were beyond the reach of Axis bombers. Japanese cities were beyond the reach of enememy bombers when the War began (1939), but they were by far the most vulnmeravle. British cities were different than much of Europe. The British built out insterad of up. There were apartmnt building, but fewer than on the continent. The British, both the poor and middle class, lived in single or two story dwelings. There were row houses (teraces) in the city. And free standing homes in the suburbs, often two stories. This meant that population denisty was lower than on the continent. French cities had mnany apartment buildings, but as France surended to the NAZIs wa not significantly involved in the startegic bombing campaign, except for the U-boat ports which were targeted by the British. German cities except for the largely wooden Baltic ports were built in stone and brick. But much of the population lived in multi-story apartments meaning a much higher population density than British cities. Japan was one of the most densly populated country in the world. Certainly the most densly populted of the major beligernt countties. Japanese citiies were not only densly populated, but largely constructed out of wood and paper--essentially kindling for great bonfires. Soviet cities had many large apartmernt blocks. This was the Soviet answer to low-cost hosing for the masses. Cina was heanily bombed by Japan beginning nearly a decade before the outbreak of World War II. The country was, however, nit hughly urbnized not undustrislized. Thus the Jpananese bombing while creating a humanitarian dusasrer in the cities, did not did not significantly impact the Chinese war effort. Most of the important Soviet cities were located in the western Soviet Union which made them vulnerable to Germany's fleet of medium, tactical bombers. And as part of Generralplan Ost, the NAZI objective in the East was to destroy industrial cities and create a vast agricultural colony.

Theory

Strategic bombing theory from the beginning in World War I involved the targeting of enemy war industries to destroy the country's ability to make war. This inevitably meant bombing enemy cities as this is where industrial manufacturing plants were located. And as the Germans found out in World War I with Zeppelin and Gotha bombers, the technology did not exist to hit just industrial plants and not the surronding residential areas. This did not stop the Germans from contining to bomb London and other cities. Technology advanced by the time of World War II, targeting devices were improved like the Nordon bomb site. But so did anti-aircraft defenses, so World War II bombers were designed to bomb at great alditudes when rendered prcission bombing impossible in combat conditions which would take World War II airforces some time to learn, especially the Americans. The U.S. Army Air Corps developed in strategic bombing doctrine in the clear desert skies of the Southwest againsdt no enemy defenses. The skies over nprthern Europe and Japan would prove very different. There were significant differences between cities rendering different countries more or less susceptable to strategic bombing.

Country Vulnerability


America

American cities were beyond the reach of Axis bombers. The German were thinking about it and began talking about the Amerika Bomber. World War I technology just did not permit it. A one way raid on New York was theoretically possible, but never attempted. Given a few more years and a more favorable military situatiin, it cold gave become possible. But during the War, America's two Icean Barriers proved effective. It would be the last War that this ould be the case.

Australia

Australia is not just a continent, it is also a continent. Australia was viulnerable because it was the most urbamized country in the world. That sounds inplausible in that Australia is such a large country. But the population is concentrated along a narrowband along the southeastern. As a result, the Japanese were unable tom launch a a strategic bombing campaign. They established bases off the northern coast, but there bonvbers did not have the aarnge to reach the southeasrern ciat. They did devestate Darwin along the northeastern coast, but not the sourheastern coast where the major cities were located. And then after Pearl Harbo American aircraft arrived in numbers, giving Australia an umportant air defense capability. And American carriuers orevented allacks along thde eastern coast.

Britain

British cities were different than much of Europe. The British built out insterad of up. There were apartmnt building, but fewer than on the continent. The British, both the poor and middle class, tend to live lived in single or two story dwelings. There were row houses (teraces) in the city. And free standing homes in the suburbs, often two stories. This meant that population denisty was lower than on the continent. Given the early successes on the Continent, the German Blitz would have worjed had the British not develooed the world's first integrated air defense system. And this was developed only because the German had conducted the wprld's first stratehic bombing camapoig targeting Lonsdon and other British cities during World War I. Yhe Bitish durung the inter-War era dis not prepare for another war, they did prepare for another German bombing campaign. Britain like Germanyh had a partial natural proection. The cloudy rainly weather which bled to to the vGermans developing raadio directiional beams.--the beginning of the Battle of the Beams. German and British bombers had to ghift to night bombing because loses were so severe during daylight perations. And at night the only targers which could bed located were cities. And even to find cities radio navigariinal beams had to be developed.

China

China was heanily bombed by Japan beginning nearly a decade before the outbreak of World War II. The country was, however, noit hughly urbnized not undustrislized. Thus the Japananese bombing while creating a humanitarian disasrer in the cities, did not did not significantly impact the Chinese war effort. Stratehic bombing is effective only against industrialized, not agricultural countries.

France

The French although deckaring war in Geramny (Seotemnver 1939), refused to allow the British tgo bomn German citikes from French bases, least ghe Germans woulkd bomb their cities. French cities had mnany apartment buildings, but as France surended to the NAZIs wa not significantly involved in the startegic bombing campaign, except for the U-boat ports which were targeted by the British. Much of the bomb damage in France was doine b=y the Allies by attacks on the I-boat pens, trucj manufactring plants, and finallhy attacks asociated wkith the Liberation effort. The French decided to surrender to the Geramns rather than have their cities destroyed. Paris sas declared an open city rather than have it destroyed. The French did not fully understand the malovence of the NAZI invaders. Fortunately for the Feench, theu woukld be resued ny the Amtivans, Broitush, and Cancadians. To this date, it is not fully understood in France the polans the NAZIs has=d in store fir France after they wein the War.

Germany

German cities except for the largely wooden Baltic ports were built in stone and brick. But much of the population lived in multi-story apartments meaning a much higher population density than British cities. And Germany faced two countries with larger aviation countries--America and Britain. And after the Blitz, the British were anxious to turn their avition prowess to work. Air Marshall Harris explained, "The Nazis entered this war under the rather childish delusion that they were going to bomb everybody else and nobody was going to bomb them. At Rotterdam, London, Warsaw, and half a hundred other places, they put that rather naive theory into operation. They sowed the wind and now they are going to reap the whirlwind. Cologne, Lubeck, Rostock—Those are only just the beginning. We cannot send a thousand bombers a time over Germany every time, as yet. But the time will come when we can do so. Let the Nazis take good note of the western horizon. There they will see a cloud as yet no bigger than a man’s hand. But behind that cloud lies the whole massive power of the United States of America. When the storm bursts over Germany, they will look back to the days of Lubeck and Rostock and Cologne as a man caught in the blasts of a hurricane will look back to the gentle zephyrs of last summer. It may take a year. It may take two. But for the Nazis, the writing is on the wall. Let them look out for themselves. The cure is in their own hands. There are a lot of people who say that bombing can never win a war. Well, my answer to that is that it has never been tried yet, and we shall see. Germany, clinging more and more desperately to her widespread conquests and even seeking foolishly for more, will make a most interesting initial experiment. Japan will provide the confirmation. But the time is not yet. There is a great deal of work to be done first, and let us all get down to it."

Italy

Italy was a peninsula, but unlike Soain was not particularly vulnerable to the Riyhal Navy in the more confined waters of the Mediterranean. But its location in southern Europe rather than in the middle of Rurope made igt more vulnerable than Geramny once the Allies seized Nothh Africa. Even before the German surrender in Tunisia (May 1943), the Allies, primary the Ameicans, began buokding airbases in Egypt and Libya taht brought targets in southern Europe such as Polesti and southern IOtaly. Italy had been some aeronautical achievements in the intet-War era. The country did not, however, have the industrail base to conduct a major air war or a creditable air defense. Thnis meant the Allies couild carry out daylight rraids. The clear sunny Mediterranean weather made comditiins ideal for Allied air raids. The primary Allied objectives were the transportation network to cut off German supply lines.

Japan

Japanese cities were beyond the reach of enememy bombers when the War began (1939), but they were by far the most vulnmeravle. The Japanbese assumed that the state of technology at the stsrt of the War woukd not chnge significsntly during tghe War. One of several assessments made by the Japsnese militarists that did nor work out. Japan was one of the most densly populated country in the world. Certainly the most densly populted of the major beligernt countties. Japanese citiies were not only densly populated, but largely constructed out of wood and paper--essentially kindling for great bonfires. Japan did have one natural defense--the Jet Stream. This mean that early American bombing raids were ineffective. The ininitial campaign was to be launched from Chinese airfiekds. This was prevented by the Japanese Ichi-0Go offensive (1944) which seizedvthevaird=fiekds being prepared in central China. This oroved a pyroc victory after the nerivans seizrf=d the mafiana Iskands (June-July 1944). This meant that the B-29 Super Fortress, the Japanese called it the B-San, the cities of Home Islands were now within the range of American bombing. And the logistics were dar simoler than supplyong Chinese airfields. General Curtis LeMay, arguably the most effecyib=ve air commander of the War, revised the tactics and Japanese citites began to burn (March 1945).

Soviet Union

Soviet cities had many large apartmernt blocks. This was the Soviet answer to low-cost hosing for the masses. Most of the important Soviet cities were located in the western Soviet Union which made them vulnerable to Germany's fleet of medium, tactical bombers. And as part of Generralplan Ost, the NAZI objective in the East was to destroy industrial cities and create a vast agricultural colony. Stalin's refusual to take Allied warning of a NAZI invasion seriously resulting in the Luftwaffe's destruction of the massive Red Air Force in the first week of Barbarossa (June 1941). Much of it as destroyed on the ground meaning that the pilots survived. But it meant that Soviet cities had no air defesne for the first year of the War. Most Soviet cities were not badly damaged by German bombing bdecause they fell so quickly during the opening phase of the Barbarossa campaign. The exceptions were Leningrad and Stalingrad. Gradually the Soviets rebuilut the Red Air Force. By the time of the Stalingrad battle the Luftwaffe falttened the city, but them the Red Air Force began to reexert itself and helped to prevent the Luftwaffe air supply effort. The Soviets rebuilt rebult a tactical airforce to support the Red Army drive west. Thus meant that the Germans no longer had the capability to bomb Soviet cities, but the Soviets never paricipated in the stratehic bombing camapaign of Germany in a signuficant manner.






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Created: 10:41 PM 1/27/2021
Last updated: 10:41 PM 1/27/2021