Among the Dead Cities : Was the Allied Bombing of Civilians in WWll a Necessity or a Crime?

Written by A. C. Grayling
Review by Ann Oughton


During the course of WWII, the air forces of Britain and the United States carried out a massive offensive against the cities of Germany and Japan, culminating in the destruction of Hamburg, Dresden, Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Grayling poses the question: ‘Was this a crime against humanity? Or was it justified by the necessities of war?’ Area bombing targets the civilian population, the elderly, women and children, whereas targeted strikes against rail networks and military installations would surely be more effective in paralysing the enemy forces. Or, as has been suggested, is everyone, even the most vulnerable, a player when it comes to all-out war? After all, look what the enemy did. But can two wrongs ever make a right?

This is a thought-provoking book on a controversial subject. The arguments are presented in an even-handed way so that ‘history is got right before it distorts into legend.’ It is immensely readable, and the illustrations bring home the awful reality of Operation Gomorrah, Hamburg 1943 and the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but most alarming – the human suffering that continues to affect so many lives today.