Evolving Strategies: The Allied Bombing Raids on Hamburg and Tokyo in World War II
Tobin, Patrick G.
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Destruction takes many forms. When World War II was over and citizens filtered back to the cities they once called home, they encountered different scenes of devastation. In Germany, there was rubble. Collapsed buildings, exploded structures, and tom-up streets had scarred the physical landscape of historic cities. In Japan, there was nothing. Square miles had been burned to ash. The war and the bombs had leveled everything. There were many who never did return, or, rather, had never been able to leave. Six hundred thousand German and nine hundred thousand Japanese civilians died as a result of the Allied bombing campaigns. But those that did return saw their cities for the first time. But so too did the Allies. The war had not ended the interactions between Allied and Axis, but rather changed the dynamic of these interactions. The Americans began to rebuild the cities they had destroyed. Had victory been possible at a lower cost? The USSBS surveyors took to the field hoping to answer this question. The survey singled out, among others, Hamburg and Tokyo as case studies for the effects of the raids. Similar to this paper, the surveyors recognized that these two sites of ruin needed to be understood. They focused on the physical damage, economic conditions, and civilian morale of these cities-before and after the raids-to determine what impact the bombs had on the outcome of the war. They intended to arrive at a conclusion about the role strategic bombing played in the war. In other words, they examined these cities and their destruction through the lens of Allied victory in World War II. This paper has done something different. It has looked at these raids not as they contributed to Allied victory, but as they were. This has been an attempt to tell a story from many angles. Certainly, it is not ever possible to gain a complete understanding of the Hamburg and Tokyo raids. As should be clear at this point, these raids represented the conflagration of a great number of variables. Technical shortcomings, flawed theories, poor assumptions, good weather, strong personalities, weak defenses, and public pressure created Hamburg and Tokyo. There is no single authoritative thread of"truth" to the raids. Each of the above factors highlight a single dimension of the raids, each has its own truth. It is in the combination of these threads that we can obtain a three-dimensional understanding of the nights 27/28 July 1943 and 9/10 March 1945.