Day By Day

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

This Day In History

It may be premature but considering the tenor of recent news reports, maybe not. Today is "Panic Day" [not to be confused with International Panic Day which always falls on June 18th]. It is a day to let yourself go and hew to the old advice: "When in trouble, when in doubt; run in circles, scream and shout". At least that's what I plan to do until they stop me.

On this day in 1945 Operation Meetinghouse began as 325 American B-29 planes took to the air. Their destination -- Tokyo. Their payloads, incendiary bombs. This was not the first bombing attack on Japan, but it was the most devastating. Before the night was over more than 1,700 tons of bombs had been dropped, approximately 13 square miles of the city had been destroyed, and approximately 100,000 Japanese civilians had been killed. The immediate devastation was greater than at either Hiroshima or Nagasaki.

Allied strategic bombing campaigns were carried on with devastating effectiveness against both Japan and Germany. They have recently come in for a great deal of criticism. Several scholars and authors, mostly European and British, have likened the civilian casualties resulting from these raids to the victims of the Holocaust. I think it is fair to say that in the last years of the war both sides engaged in actions that had horrific consequences that are difficult to justify. Some have argued that British and American strategic bombing campaigns, and the Soviet ethnic cleansing of Eastern Europe were nothing less than crimes against humanity as horrible as anything the Third Reich did. The best defense against such charges so far has been to assert that, however horrific the means employed, the policies carried out by the allied forces had a justifiable end -- hastening the end of the war -- while no such justification can apply to the Nazi atrocities.

For an overview of the strategic bombing campaigns against Japan and Germany in World War Two go here.

There is an excellent discussion of the moral arguments surrounding the strategic bombing campaign in Niall Ferguson's War of the World.

And a very Happy Birthday to Barbie. On this day in 1959 Mattel introduced her to the world at the American International Toy Fair in New York.

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