By: Conrad C. Crane
As the might and capabilities of American airpower have grown during the last sixty years, so has the controversy about its use in the intentional and indiscriminate wartime bombardment of civilians.
In Bombs, Cities, and Civilians, Conrad Crane maintains that, for the most part, American airmen in World War II remained committed to precision bombing doctrine. Instead of attacking densely populated urban areas simply to erode civilian morale, Army Air Forces adhered to a policy that emphasized targeting key industrial and military sites. He demonstrates that while the British, Germans, and Japanese routinely conducted indiscriminate aerial bombardment of enemy cities, American airmen consistently stayed with daylight raids against carefully selected targets, especially in Europe. Daytime precision missions were usually far more dangerous than night area attacks, but such Army Air Force tactics increased bombing efficiency and also reduced the risk of civilian casualties.
This is the first book to respond to recent assertions by other historians that due to military necessity, vague policies, or the desire to maximize technology, Army Air Forces bombers in World War II exercised little restraint on attacks against civilians. Even though bombing policy was influenced more by the attitudes of airmen in operations rooms and in combat than by directives from leaders in Washington, Crane contends that air commanders in the field did consistently conform to the guidelines of precision doctrine.
Crane also shows, however, that different leaders, command arrangements, and combat conditions in the Pacific led to bombing policies that were much less discriminating concerning target selection. Focusing on specific operations and key operational commanders, such as Carl Spaatz in Europe and Curtis LeMay in the Pacific, he illustrates how different situations and personalities influenced bombing policies.
Despite deviations from precision bombing doctrine in the Pacific that led to incendiary raids on Japanese cities, Crane contends that the pursuit of accurate bombing remained a primary goal throughout World War II and remains one today. Beginning with the lessons gleaned from World War I, he traces the evolution of American doctrine and technology for conventional bombing through the wars in Korea, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf. In the process, he demonstrates how public opinion, combat conditions, technological innovation, and the search for "Victory through Airpower" have affected bombing operations and military policy.
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