Aerial Bombing Then And Now

In a review of “The Bombing War: Europe 1939-1945” by Richard Overy, Richard Evans writes,

Above all, bombing was staggeringly inaccurate. Bomber fleets had to fly high to avoid anti-aircraft fire from the ground, so even if the weather was clear, they were often unable to locate their targets effectively. On one mission, Robert Kee, a bomber pilot who later became a successful historian, “bombed some incendiaries at what we hoped was Hanover” but mostly dropped his bombs on searchlight concentrations because that was all he could see through the cloud. One report, compiled in September 1941, reported that only 15% of aircraft were bombing within five miles of their target. In the last three months of 1944, it was reckoned that only 5.6% of bombs fell within a mile of the aiming point if there was cloud, despite the use of electronic navigation aids. One raid on a major oil plant saw 87% of the bombs missing their target entirely, and only two actually hitting the buildings.

In 1944, during the controversial bomb attacks on the Italian monastery of Monte Cassino, used by the Germans as a military and communication base, the headquarters of general Oliver Leese, three miles from the abbey, were destroyed, as was the French corps headquarters 12 miles away. It took another three months before the strongpoint was taken. A raid on the V-2 rocket production site in a large park north of The Hague dropped 67 tons of bombs on a residential area on 1 March 1945, largely because the briefing officer had got the map coordinates wrong. Carpet bombing of cities was, in the end, virtually the only way to destroy the economic and military targets they contained.

Nothing new here for anyone who has read a bit about the subject before.   Things have moved on a bit since then and it strikes me as  a bit odd that today it’s the extraordinary accuracy of aerial bombing, both from manned and unmanned vehicles, that seems to be a source of much moral outrage.

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