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Among the Dead Cities: The History and Moral Legacy of the WWII Bombing of Civilians in Germany and Japan

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Among the Dead Cities: The History and Moral Legacy of the WWII Bombing of Civilians in Germany and Japan Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

“Was the bombing offensive [against civilians in Germany and Japan] a crime against humanity,” writes A. C. Grayling, “or was it justified by the necessities of war? These questions mark one of the great remaining controversies of the Second World War.” Their resolution, which Grayling accomplishes with great respect and with a sense of urgency, is a vital contribution to the debate about how far governments can go in the name of national security.
A. C. Grayling is a professor of philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London. He is the author of several books, among them Meditations for the Humanist, and biographies of Rene Descartes and William Hazlitt. A fellow of the World Economic Forum and past chairman of the human rights organization, June Fourth, he contributes frequently to the Financial Times and the Economist. He lives in London.
In Among the Dead Cities, the philosopher A. C. Grayling asks the provocative question: How would the Allies have fared if judged by the same standards of the Nuremberg trials? Arguing that the victor nations have never had to consider the morality of their policies during World War II, he offers a reexamination of the Allied bombing campaigns against civilians in Germany and Japan, in light of principles enshrined in the postwar conventions on human rights and the laws of war.
 
Intended to weaken those countries' will to make war, the bombings nonetheless destroyed centuries of culture and killed some 800,000 noncombatants, injuring and traumatizing hundreds of thousands more in scores of other cities. "Was this bombing offensive justified by the necessities of war," Grayling writes, "or was it a crime against humanity? These questions mark one of the great remaining controversies of the Second World War." Their resolution is especially relevant in this time of terrorist threat, as governments debate how far to go in the name of security.
 
Grayling begins by narrating the Royal Air Force's and U.S. Army Force's dangerous missions over Germany and Japan between 1942 and 1945. Through the eyes of survivors, he describes the terrifying experience on the ground as bombs created inferno and devastation. He examines the mind-set and thought process of those who planned the campaigns in the heat and pressure of war, and faced with a ruthless enemy. Grayling chronicles the minority voices that loudly opposed attacks on civilians, exploring in detail whether the bombings ever achieved their goal. Based on the evidence, he makes a meticulous case for, and one against, civilian bombing, and only then offers his own judgment. Acknowledging that they in no way equaled the death and destruction for which Nazi and Japanese aggression was responsible, Grayling nonetheless concludes that the bombing campaigns were morally indefensible, and that accepting that responsibility, even six decades later, is both a historical necessity and a moral imperative.
"Despite the vast and growing library that is accumulating on the subject of World War II, this is a book that cannot be skipped. A. C. Grayling has tackled a subject overlooked until now—the morality of the Allies' bombing of civilians—and written about it with grace."—Mark Kurlansky, author of Salt: A World History and 1968
 
"A philosopher seeks to determine whether Allied area-bombing during World War II was a moral wrong. Lost amid the incomprehensible evil of the Holocaust, says Grayling, is a lesser, though still unforgivable, WWII transgression: the Allied forces' indiscriminate bombing of densely populated urban areas with little military significance, such as Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Examining the physical and psychological effects of the bombings and public perception at the time, analyzing the stated and off-the-record intentions of the politicians and RAF and USAAF officers who ordered the attacks and comparing them to similar events (including 9/11), the author attempts to ascertain whether the bombings constitute a "moral crime" and what should be done if they do. He demonstrates the ineffectiveness and heavy cost of area-bombing in terms of money, materiel and Allied lives lost, not to mention the deaths of German and Japanese civilians and the destruction of untold cultural landmarks and treasures. In contrast, he points to the efficacy of precision bombing, particularly in the USAAF attacks on German oil refineries toward the end of the war . . . Well-argued and persuasive."—Kirkus Reviews
 
"The Allied bombing of Axis cities, which killed hundreds of thousands of civilians and made smoking ruins of Dresden, Tokyo, and Hiroshima, remains one of the great controversies of WWII; this probing study does the issue full justice . . . Grayling scrupulously considers the justifications for area bombing and finds them wanting. Drawing on firsthand accounts by theorists, architects, victims, and opponents of area bombing, Grayling situates a lucid analysis of the historical data within a rigorous philosophical framework."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Synopsis:

"Was the bombing offensive [against civilians in Germany and Japan] a crime against humanity," writes A. C. Grayling, "or was it justified by the necessities of war? These questions mark one of the great remaining controversies of the Second World War." Their resolution, which Grayling accomplishes with great respect and with a sense of urgency, is a vital contribution to the debate about how far governments can go in the name of national security.

Synopsis:

When Nuremberg was scouted in 1945 as a possible site for the Nazi war crime trials, an American damage survey of Germany described it as being among the dead cities of that country, for it was 90% destroyed, its population decimated, its facilities lost. As a place to put Nazis on trial, it symbolized the devastation Nazism brought upon Germany, while providing evidence of the destruction the Allies wrought on the country in the course of the war.

In Among the Dead Cities, the acclaimed philosopher A. C. Grayling asks the provocative question, how would the Allies have fared if judged by the standards of the Nuremberg Trials? Arguing persuasively that the victor nations have never had to consider the morality of their policies during World War II, he offers a powerful, moral re-examination of the Allied bombing campaigns against civilians in Germany and Japan, in the light of principles enshrined in the post-war conventions on human rights and the laws of war.

Intended to weaken those countries' ability and will to make war, the bombings nonetheless destroyed centuries of culture and killed some 800,000 non-combatants, injuring and traumatizing hundreds of thousands more in Hamburg, Dresden, and scores of other German cities, in Tokyo, and finally in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Was this bombing offensive justified by the necessities of war, Grayling writes, or was it a crime against humanity? These questions mark one of the great remaining controversies of the Second World War. Their resolution is especially relevant in this time of terrorist threat, as governments debate how far to go in the name of security.

Grayling begins by narrating the Royal Air Force's and U. S.Army Air Force's dramatic and dangerous missions over Germany and Japan between 1942 and 1945. Through the eyes of survivors, he describes the terrifying experience on the ground as bombs created inferno and devastation among often-unprepared men, women, and children. He examines the mindset and thought-process of those who planned the campaigns in the heat and pressure of war, and faced with a ruthless enemy. Grayling chronicles the voices that, though in the minority, loudly opposed attacks on civilians, exploring in detail whether the bombings ever achieved their goal of denting the will to wage war. Based on the facts and evidence, he makes a meticulous case for, and one against, civilian bombing, and only then offers his own judgment. Acknowledging that they in no way equated to the death and destruction for which Nazi and Japanese aggression was responsible, he nonetheless concludes that the bombing campaigns were morally indefensible, and more, that accepting responsibility, even six decades later, is both a historical necessity and a moral imperative.

Rarely is the victor's history re-examined, and A. C. Grayling does so with deep respect and with a sense of urgency to get a proper understanding for how peoples and states can and should behave in times of conflict. Addressing one of today's key moral issues, Among the Dead Cities is both a dramatic retelling of the World War II saga, and vitally important reading for our time.

About the Author

A. C. Grayling is Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London. He is the author of several books, among them Meditations for the Humanist, and biographies of Rene Descartes and William Hazlitt. A fellow of the World Economic Forum and past chairman of the human rights organization, June Fourth, he contributes frequently to the Financial Times and the Economist. He lives in London.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780802715654
Author:
Grayling, A C
Publisher:
Walker & Company
Author:
Grayling, A. C.
Author:
Grayling, A C C.
Subject:
Military - World War II
Subject:
Modern - 20th Century
Subject:
General History
Subject:
World History-1650 to Present
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade Paper
Publication Date:
20070331
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
32 BandW photographs
Pages:
384
Dimensions:
8.25 x 5.50 in

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Military » World War II » General
History and Social Science » Western Civilization » 20th Century
History and Social Science » World History » 1650 to Present

Among the Dead Cities: The History and Moral Legacy of the WWII Bombing of Civilians in Germany and Japan Used Trade Paper
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Product details 384 pages Walker & Company - English 9780802715654 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by ,
"Was the bombing offensive [against civilians in Germany and Japan] a crime against humanity," writes A. C. Grayling, "or was it justified by the necessities of war? These questions mark one of the great remaining controversies of the Second World War." Their resolution, which Grayling accomplishes with great respect and with a sense of urgency, is a vital contribution to the debate about how far governments can go in the name of national security.
"Synopsis" by , When Nuremberg was scouted in 1945 as a possible site for the Nazi war crime trials, an American damage survey of Germany described it as being among the dead cities of that country, for it was 90% destroyed, its population decimated, its facilities lost. As a place to put Nazis on trial, it symbolized the devastation Nazism brought upon Germany, while providing evidence of the destruction the Allies wrought on the country in the course of the war.

In Among the Dead Cities, the acclaimed philosopher A. C. Grayling asks the provocative question, how would the Allies have fared if judged by the standards of the Nuremberg Trials? Arguing persuasively that the victor nations have never had to consider the morality of their policies during World War II, he offers a powerful, moral re-examination of the Allied bombing campaigns against civilians in Germany and Japan, in the light of principles enshrined in the post-war conventions on human rights and the laws of war.

Intended to weaken those countries' ability and will to make war, the bombings nonetheless destroyed centuries of culture and killed some 800,000 non-combatants, injuring and traumatizing hundreds of thousands more in Hamburg, Dresden, and scores of other German cities, in Tokyo, and finally in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Was this bombing offensive justified by the necessities of war, Grayling writes, or was it a crime against humanity? These questions mark one of the great remaining controversies of the Second World War. Their resolution is especially relevant in this time of terrorist threat, as governments debate how far to go in the name of security.

Grayling begins by narrating the Royal Air Force's and U. S.Army Air Force's dramatic and dangerous missions over Germany and Japan between 1942 and 1945. Through the eyes of survivors, he describes the terrifying experience on the ground as bombs created inferno and devastation among often-unprepared men, women, and children. He examines the mindset and thought-process of those who planned the campaigns in the heat and pressure of war, and faced with a ruthless enemy. Grayling chronicles the voices that, though in the minority, loudly opposed attacks on civilians, exploring in detail whether the bombings ever achieved their goal of denting the will to wage war. Based on the facts and evidence, he makes a meticulous case for, and one against, civilian bombing, and only then offers his own judgment. Acknowledging that they in no way equated to the death and destruction for which Nazi and Japanese aggression was responsible, he nonetheless concludes that the bombing campaigns were morally indefensible, and more, that accepting responsibility, even six decades later, is both a historical necessity and a moral imperative.

Rarely is the victor's history re-examined, and A. C. Grayling does so with deep respect and with a sense of urgency to get a proper understanding for how peoples and states can and should behave in times of conflict. Addressing one of today's key moral issues, Among the Dead Cities is both a dramatic retelling of the World War II saga, and vitally important reading for our time.

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