Ethics and Airpower in World War II

The British Bombing of German Cities
Garrett, Stephen
Date published: 
December 1996

'A useful and important contribution to the debate about acceptable strategies for the future and to the evaluation of the British effort in WWII.' - F. van Hartesveldt, Choice 'Garrett has produced a well-organised, clearly written, and objectively argued account of the ethical debate over RAF targeting policy.' - Mark R. Jacobson, Orbis 'Professor Garrett's book is a masterpiece....' - Friday Review of Defence Literature 'Highly recommended.' - Library Journal On the night of 27 July 1943 about eight hundred British bombers attacked the German city of Hamburg, creating a fire-storm that destroyed almost four square miles and killed forty thousand people. The raid on Hamburg was part of a British wartime strategy known as area bombing. Over five hundred thousand civilians lost their lives as a result and another million received serious injury. This book analyzes the attitudes which various people and groups in Britain took towards this strategy as it was unfolding. It pays particular attention to the small band of dissenters against such bombing. At the same time the book offers its own moral critique of area bombing, not just on traditional ethical grounds but also in terms of its dubious military rationale. Ethics and Airpower in World War II is the most penetrating attempt yet to understand how apparently humane individuals could condone area bombing, and to show what lessons it carries for us today.