Bauman ( Collateral Damage: Social Inequalities in a Global Age , 144-5) gives several examples of how the pressure of research and military planning lead to atrocities. One occurred in the German town of Wurzburg in March 1945, “when Nazi Germany was already on its knees and the speedy end of the war was no longer in doubt.” In this setting, the allies “sent out 225 Lancaster bombers and eleven Mosquito fighter plans with orders to discharge 289 tons of explosives and 573 tons of incendiary substances on Wurzburg, a middle-sized town with 107,ooo residents, rich in history and art treasures, and poor in industry. Between 9.20 and 9.37 p.m. about 5,000 inhabitants (of whom 66 per cent were women and 14 per cent children) were killed, while 21,000 dwelling houses were set on fire: only 6,000 residents still found a roof over their heads once the planes had left.”

Why attack a town without strategic importance at this stage of the war. Bauman cites Hermann Knell’s finding that the operation went forward because it was already in motion. Knell wrote, “The bombing progressed as planned without consideration of the changed military situation. The destruction of German cities continued until the end of April. Seemingly once the military machine was moving it could not be stopped. It had a life of its own. There was now all that equipment and soldiers on hand. It must have been that aspect that made [commander Arthur] Harris decide to have Wurzburg attacked.” The city was easily locatable, and distant from allied troops. It was an “easy and riskless target.”

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Articles by Peter J. Leithart

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