Aerial Bombardment of Civilian Populations

August 11, 1938

Report Outline
Menace to Cities of Aerial Bombing
Aerial Bombardment in International Law
Aerial Bombardment in Practice
Legal and Practical Defences Against Air Bombing

Menace to Cities of Aerial Bombing

The conscience of the world has been shocked repeatedly during: the last six years by the killing and maiming of tens of thousands of women and children in aerial bombardments of open cities. The round-the-world flight of Howard Hughes and recent transatlantic flights including the nonstop voyage of a 24-passenger German transport plane from Berlin to New York, have brought home to civilians everywhere the realization that no city is immune from possible aerial attack.

Diplomats of the world have failed almost completely to write any international convention or agreement which might call a halt to the menace of bombs dropped on civilians from airplanes. Since the first convention with respect to aerial bombing expired in 1904, a number of international conferences have discussed the subject, but no new agreement has been ratified, and efforts directed toward the limitation of air armaments have met with no success. Authoritative protests have come recently from many countries, but the existence of war in Spain and China virtually destroys any possibility of international agreement at the present time. All of the major powers are actively engaged in building up their air forces, with special emphasis on bombers, and the technical performance of bombing planes is still being rapidly improved.

Military experts, however, are beginning to question the strategic value of bombing civilians. Repeated air attacks have failed to subdue such cities as Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and Canton. Airplane bombing may have played some part in the capture of Bilbao and Shanghai, but instead of weakening the morale of civilian populations, bomb attacks seem to have strengthened the will to resist in most cases.

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Aug. 11, 1938  Aerial Bombardment of Civilian Populations
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