Carpet bombing

As aerial bombardment or Area bombing, the bombing of large areas designated by the tactical air war with a variety of bombs, in which no individual targets but target zones, whether military or civilian, should be taken. Pleas are mainly bombers, especially heavy strategic bombers, attack target are mainly towns and cities. The death of civilians is often considered acceptable or even explicit objective of the attack. Of area bombing is expected, for example, to destroy a vital war industry, to smash massed enemy positions and / or weaken the loyalty of the population of the enemy’s country, on the way to win a war of political upheaval can.


The history of aerial bombing is closely connected with the history of modern air war s, whose origins lie substantially in the First World War. For the first time the newly developed bomber aircraft and military airship s for attacks came in this war besides long-range guns of warships and on land (for example, the Paris gun) to targets in the enemy hinterland to use. It has been used as a weapon of war in addition to attacks on military targets also increasingly hostile attacks to terrorize the civilian population. Among other London was frequent target German bomber and Zeppelin  attacks.

The experience of the First World War and the development of aviation in the period after making it clear that aircraft would play a major tactical and strategic role in future wars. In his book, Air Command of the Italian General Giulio Douhet introduced in 1921, the bombing of civilians and industrial plants as a means of future warfare as inevitable dar. The book aroused in the military circles of all nations large and had a sensation especially in the United States and the United Kingdom significant impact on the future development of air forces and their tactics. In 1928 Trenchard-established doctrine of the British Air Marshal Hugh Trenchard of offensive strategic air war was defined as operational doctrine of the Royal Air Force in future wars against industrial state s. The Japanese War Minister Yukio Ozuki said in the 1920s:

Air strikes on populated areas as a means of counter-insurgency, often with the aim of intimidating hostile civilians and partly using chemical weapons and incendiary n, were in the interwar period, including by the British in Iraq, the French in Syria, the Italians and Spaniards in Africa and the Japanese conducted in China. As the first aerial bombardment in Europe since World War II is the German air attack on Guernica during the Spanish Civil War in 1937, which was tried to justify as a tactical attack to destroy a bridge from the German side.

World War II

The bombing of cities was as a means of warfare at the beginning of the Second World War in the Polish campaign of the German air force on 1 September 1939 used against Wieluń with 87 German dive bomber s. 70 percent of the city were destroyed, Then, on 13 September 1939 against Frampol and then in the Battle of Warsaw in combination with artillery shelling by the army. In the West, the first aerial bombardment was carried out on 11 May 1940 by the British Royal Air Force. This handy one day after the start of the Western campaign there with 35 machines for the first time the city of Mönchengladbach, in the Lower Rhine to. In a heavy bombardment by the German air force bombs on the Dutch city of Rotterdam on 14 May 1940 killed 814 people.

After the Franco-German Armistice of Compiègne put the British military leadership in the absence of other military options on the strategic air war in accordance with the requirements of the Trenchard doctrine. According to this doctrine, the United Kingdom had provided since the mid-1930s, his Air Force long-range bomber with dressings. This allowed the British military leadership, the rapid exercise of this strategic option in the spring of 1940.

However, frequent large-scale attacks by the Royal Air Force came only after the German air raids on the British Isles as part of the Battle of Britain. The German air raids followed an initial three-stage plan of attack. Their goal was the absolute air over large parts of South and South West of England as a precondition for the planned invasion of England (Operation Sea Lion). The first stage of the plan saw attacks on aerodromes and Radarleitstationen (Sector Stations), the second attack on the British air defense centers. The third stage envisaged the direct tactical air support for the planned invasion. Level Three has not been implemented, stage two only partially. In response to a British night raid on Berlin instead began on 7 September 1940, the Air Force with a Tagangriff on the London Blitz as designated in England, until the May 1941 43,000 people were killed, nearly half of them in London. The aim of the attacks was there primarily to terrorize the civilian population, although still too industrial targets such as port facilities were attacked in London’s East End. Among the best known attacks this phase of the air raid on Coventry counts 14 November 1940. Coventry was because of its importance for the British air defense (Rolls-Royce aircraft engine plants) to the destination. In the area of ​​the German Luftwaffe attack killed 568 of 328,000 inhabitants. The heavy German attacks were the lightning in the United Kingdom calls for retribution noisy. They were thus a reason for the strong expansion of area bombing German cities.

Controversial to this day whether accurate bombing the areal destruction of inhabited urban areas could have prevented. The then state of the art led to a certain scattering of bombs in risky Tagangriffen. The initial German air supremacy that forced the RAF to night attacks, making accurate bombing targets individual impossible. Against the background of various scientific studies of research institutions of the British Air Ministry about the accuracy, weapons production, the risk of loss and the “effectiveness” already successful British air raids came it then to the decision of the British military, increasingly incendiary n and aerial mine n over dense urban areas Germany to throw off, to kindle a fire storm. This strategy was adopted on 14 Established in February 1942 by the Chief of Air Staff Charles Portal of the British Area Bombing Directive developed. In the accompanying document of this Directive portal noted that “while it is clear that the targets should be the Siedelungsgebiete and not, for example shipyards and aerospace industries.” The implementation of this strategy was the Chief of RAF Bomber Command, Air Marshal Arthur Harris, too. This was commissioned by Prime Minister Winston Churchill, the chairman of the War Cabinet to lead the moral bombing according to the directive. This should weaken by targeted attacks on the civilian population, particularly the industrial workers, breaking their morale and their will to resist.

The Area Bombing Directive set represents a significant policy change High losses of German civilians were thus not only tacitly accepted, but they were the real target of the bombing. To carry out this strategy in a detailed, sorted by priority target list first all German cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants, later collected all over 15,000 inhabitants. According to this list the British Bomber Command chose his targets. This list also enabled the flexible assignment of alternate destinations if, for example, due to unfavorable weather conditions, the target was not reached. Procedures such as the bomber stream, target marking by Scouts aircraft and precise radio navigation are closely linked to the bombing of the Royal Air Force against Germany. The British air war against Germany fell after different information 420000-570000 civilian victims. The losses of the attacking RAF were very high. Of 125,000 soldiers were deployed 55,000, so 44% during the attacks. In the German air raids on the United Kingdom until 1945 about 60,000 people died.

This form of warfare has been controversial in the UK. The Anglican Bishop George Kennedy Allen Bell, member of the House of Lords, turned repeatedly against the public policy of Churchill and described the area bombing as “barbaric”. The answer was indignant protests from politicians and individuals.

The first attack was carried out by the Area Bombing Directive was the raid on Lübeck 29 März 1942. He was followed by raids on the Ruhr and in May 1942, the first so-called “thousand-bomber raid” in Cologne (Operation Millennium). Hamburg in 1943 goal of restorative most air attacks on Germany during the war in Operation Gomorrah in July and August. These and the bombing of Dresden in February 1945 by the Royal Air Force were perfected carpet bombing with 40 to 60 percent incendiary bomb n Therefore, the required fire storms called very many lives. The largest percentage of people losses British air attack was the raid on Pforzheim on 23 February 1945, which at that time had a population of 65,000. Of these, 20,277 people (31.2%) were killed in a single 22-minute British air raid killed. More particularly heavy attacks where firestorms for extremely high numbers of victims attended, were the air raid on Darmstadt on 12 September 1944 (12.300 deaths) and the air raid on Kassel on 22 Oktober 1943 (10.000 deaths).

Following the decision of the combined bomber offensive of the United States and the United Kingdom at the Casablanca Conference in January 1943 bombed also associations of United States Army Air Forces (8 and later 15 U.S. Air Force) during the day German targets with bombs, designed However, the emphasis on war-related industrial targets and the transport network.

The expected drop in morale occurred either during the Battle of Britain until shortly before the end of the war on the German side. The German military production increased steadily despite bombings since 1942 to 1944.

Also in Asia, it came during the Second World War to carpet bombing, particularly the United States to Japan in the years 1944 to 1945. When two heavy U.S. air raids on Tokyo on 25 February and 9 March 1945 killed more than 100,000 people. In particular, this was the first large-scale use of the newly developed napalm  bombs at. This led to large-scale fires and fire storms in the densely populated Japanese cities with their mostly built in traditional Japanese wooden construction houses.

Subsequent wars

In extensive area bombing, mainly carried out by Boeing B-29 units of the United States Air Force, probably over a million people died in the Korean War from 1950 to 1953 mainly in North Korea killed. The country was almost totally destroyed during the war. During the Vietnam War, the United States destroyed by carpet bombing cities in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam’s south and north, also known as the Ho Chi Minh Trail was bombed, came into use in particular long-range bomber Boeing B-52nd Become known here are particularly Operation Rolling Thunder from 1965 to 1968 and the Operation Linebacker II in December 1972, when the North Vietnamese “bombed back” to the negotiating table should be.

During the Second Gulf War, the United States Air Force was technically well equipped, with higher precision air strikes that could be carried out and carpet bombing of cities were unnecessary.

The war in Afghanistan since 2001, the nearly simultaneous coupling triggered massive, but (due to technical improvements of target acquisition and bombs) precise area bombing with the dropping of CARE Package s global protests, as it was feared it could on the part of the population to confusion between unexploded ordnance and aid packages come.

The village of Tarok Kolache was born on 6 October 2010 completely destroyed by a bombardment.


International Law Review

The bombings treated Hague Regulations dated from 1907, and refers to the air raid explicitly. However, it states in Article 25, “it is forbidden undefended towns, villages, dwellings or buildings, the means by which it is to attack or bombardment, too.”

Even after today valid international humanitarian law are widespread bombing of civilian or civilians unacceptable clearly be classed as war crimes of respective goals, as were regulated by the experiences of World War II area bombing in the Geneva Conventions in 1949 extensively redesigned and limited. Particularly defined in Article 51 of Additional Protocol I (1977) the following acts (among others) as war crimes:

•an attack by bombardment – by whatever methods or means – in the number of clearly separated from each other military objectives in a city, a village or other area in which civilians or civilian objects are similarly concentrated as a single military objective to be treated,

•an attack in which it can be expected that it also causes loss of life among the civilian population, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a number of such sequences together, which have no relation to the concrete and direct military advantage.


•Jörg Friedrich, The Fire. Munich Propylaea, 2002, ISBN 3-549-07165-5.

•idem, Yalu.On the banks of the third world war. Propylaea, Munich 2007, ISBN 978-3-549-07338-4.

•Eckart Grote: Target Brunswick from 1943 to 1945. Air Attacks Brunswick – Documents of destruction. Braunschweig 1994.

•Peter Guttkuhn: 28-29. March 1942: … and Lübeck should die … At: Father Urban leaves. Lubeck, 1982, 33 Jg, pp. 3-6.

•Erich Hampe: The civil air defense in World War II. Documentation and information about the structure and use. London: Bernard and Graefe 1963.

•Rudolf Prescher: The Red Rooster on Brunswick. Air protection and air war events in the City of Brunswick from 1927 to 1945. Brunswick in 1955.

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