Sunday, 6 August 2017

August 6th 1945

On this day in 1945 the United States Air Force dropped an atomic bomb over the City of Hiroshima in Japan.

The City of Nagasaki suffered the same fate on August 9th.

Estimates of civilian deaths are hard to come by, but a consensus is that between 90,000 and 146,000 perished in Hiroshima, and between 30,000 and 80,000 in Nagasaki.

Tokyo had been taken off the list of prospective targets because that City was largely a forest of rubble following the firebombing on 9/10 March earlier that year - resulting on some 100,000 deaths and 1,000,000 people rendered homeless.

See this for the background to the atomic bombings.  It makes for chilling reading.

Allied carpet bombing and firebombing had been perfected by the wartime chief of the R.A.F's Bomber Command Air Chief Marshall Arthur "Bomber" Harris.  "Bomber"  When he arrived at Bomber Command, he found a directive from the Air Ministry: 'the primary object of your operation should now be focused on the morale of the enemy civilian population and, in particular, of the industrial workers'. But he applied it with a relish.

Churchill's Wartime Cabinet had authorised blanket bombing in 1942.

Under Harris's command Hamburg had been firebombed on in February  1943, with the resultant deaths of 40,000; ( it was on the night of 27 July that most of Operation Gomorrah’s 40,000 victims would die.) The ten-day pounding of Hamburg was, Air Chief Marshal Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris conceded, ‘incomparably more terrible’ than anything thus far visited upon Germany. Ten square miles of the city were obliterated, forcing 900,000 of its inhabitants out of their homes.    Dresden was carpet bombed  on February 13/14 1945, with 25,000 civilian deaths.

"Bomber" Harris was known as "Butcher" Harris by many  R.A.F members because of his apparent callous disregard  for their lives. Bomber Command had the highest casualty rate in the WWII British Military Forces.losing 55,173 of its 125,000 men.

The Americans had resisted carpet/fire bombing in Germany as being militarily unnecessary and wasteful of resources.

This "principled" resistance was laid to rest when it came to carpet/fire bombing of Tokyo.


Prof. Christopher Grayling (a philosopher)  wrote a book about the  fire/carpet bombings of Hamburg, Dresden and Tokyo.

I  read the book, and find Grayling's arguments to be powerfully convincing. But is you want to have your mind stretched, do read two reviews. one from the left (The Guardian) and one from  the right (The Telegraph).


What is clear to me is that the collective punishment of civilian non-combatants for the policies of their governments is always wrong.

The massacres at Lidice make this clear.


Of course the atrocities of the N-zi regime in Germany and in German occupied countries; and of the Japanese Empire in south east Asia were unconscionable.  Of that there should be  be no argument.

My question is "Did the fire/carpet and atomic bombings right those wrongs?"

And given the horrendous and cruel racism of the British Empire; and of the American genocides against Native Americans and African slaves, could the United Kingdom and the United States of America claim the moral high ground without deep and endemic hypocrisy in WWII?


Dresden flattened.

Hiroshima before and after

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