Propaganda & Mass Persuasion: Area Bombing Will Win the War

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Area Bombing Will Win the War



In chapter 2 of Paul Fussell's Wartime!, he explores how B-17's and their precision bombing was immediately tailored to the masses as the ultimate weapon that would win the war and prove that American ingenuity and technology would prevail. Amongst it's proposed merits was "the incredibly accurate Norden bomb sight, which hits a 25-foot circle from 20,000 feet." Unfortunately, this was not always the case.

In actuality, high altitude bombers, both Allied and Axis aircraft had been terribly varied in their accuracy. Ironically, media and survivors had more to do with keeping up the idea of the accuracy of the bombers than the pilots and bombardiers themselves. Many stray bombs were labeled direct hits by the victims of the blunders.

While many military officials, as told by Fussell, refused to believe the reports that were contrary to the operational claims, the inaccuracy of bombers and the cold, hard facts were not lost on an important few: Robert Oppenheimer, William "Deak" Parsons, and the Ordnance Division at the Los Alamos Labs.

In an article called The Rules of Civilized Warfare, Sean L. Malloy traces the development of the atomic bomb. From the very beginning, the issue of targeting ability was addressed, if not by Washington then by engineers. While various delivery methods were explored at first, a high altitude bomber at 30,000 feet was eventually decided on. The bomber, a B-29, was allowed 10,000 extra feet in order to give it a chance to escape the air-burst weapon that would be the most powerful ever seen.

The actual target itself was also determined by factors of the high altitudes bombing shortcomings. While a strictly military target would have been ethically advantageous, it was decided that in order to ensure success of the 2 billion dollar (in 1940's dollars!) top secret project, a large target needed to be used: cities that surrounded military interests with the center of the city being the ground zero.

Lastly, Fussell reminds us that even though rationalist praised the accuracy of the bombers, he also states that "man did not control wind direction and force." A testament to this is the fact that the city of Kokura has been sparingly forgotten in history. On August 9, 1945, pilot Charles Sweeney of the B-29 'Bock's Car' proceeded on his bombing run with Kokura as the primary target. By luck of fate, fires in the nearby town of Yawata had lingered across the land and obscured the city, forcing Sweeney and his atomic payload 'Fat Man' to proceed to the secondary target:

Nagasaki.

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