In the latest episodes (February/March 1942) of World War Two, I see that the moment Britain decides to deliberately target civilians in German cities is very close to the moment the British government realizes how little of the bombs hit their designated target. Was bombing civilians (partially) because bombing military targets failed?
There are many historical talks about this subject with many different views on it some are compelling others not so much. A few of the more accepted views were:
- German bombers hit civilian targets the prevailing thought was if the Germans did it we can too.
- Target bombing by 50+ bombers is imprecise at the best of times and it was inevitable that civilian areas would be hit and realistically the bombers were spread out over a wide area as they dropped their bombs so the likelihood of every bomber hitting their target was miniscule at best.
- Targeting factories was not working so the idea was to target not necessarily civilian populations but shopping districts, meat and produce stores, warehouses and places of worship to demoralize civilians.
- Destroy civilian housing so that there would not be an available workforce close to the factories.
While all 4 are some of the more commonly accepted reasons as to why cities were devastated are they the correct reasons or were there other factors at play. This will likely be debated for decades to come yet.
I suspect the problem was more to do with the lack of zoning in European cities of the era. Many civilian houses were next to factories. Considering that there were entire British bombing raids that failed to land an explosive within a mile of their industrial target, issues with targeting were very large, especially at the start of the war, and more so during the night raid era. If a bomb went wild, there was a solid chance that it would hit a residence, or a municipal building. This was an age before smart bombs.
I can see so many reasons why the bombers were cleared to target civilians. I think the biggest reason that comes to mind is that they had been teaching for years that bombing could win the war. They built the bombers so they had to be used. And they were learning as they went that dropping bombs wasn’t as fool proof a way to win.
I think they also thought they were doing more damage than they thought and certainly they claimed more. This was to build morale and imho to justify the huge cost. We built them and if we didn’t use them the other services would get the money and the glory. Cities just gave the biggest bang for the buck.
I wish they had understood economics of bombing better. If so we would have targeted
oil much sooner than we did