TO DESTROY A CITY: Strategic Bombing and Its Human Consequences in World War II

Article excerpt

TO DESTROY A CITY: Strategic Bombing and its Human Consequences in World War II, Herman Knell, Da Capo Press, NY, 2002, 352 pages, $32.50.

Herman Knell, a retired Canadian citizen, was a teenage German boy during World War II. The Allies "area bombed" his hometown of Wurzburg, Germany, during the last weeks of World War II, killing 5,000 civilians and leaving 90,000 homeless.

Knell's personal experiences of losing his family home in one area and his family's business in another gave him a lifelong desire to find out why his particular city was bombed, even though it had no apparent military value and its destruction served only to impede the Allies' post-war recovery efforts. He also wanted to know whether the concept of city bombing has any moral or legal support. The former question is a footnote to history, but multiplied a hundred times or more, it raises serious questions for historians when they evaluate the decisions of war. The latter question has implications to all who conduct war now and in the future.

Knell gives a tight, simplified version of the development of air war strategy by the Allies, from World War I through World War II. …

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