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      On the Transnational Destruction of Cities: What Japan and the United States Learned from the Bombing of Britain and Germany in the Second World War*

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      Past & Present

      Oxford University Press (OUP)

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          Abstract

          How did it become ‘normal’ to bomb civilians? Focusing on the aerial bombardment of China, Germany, Britain, and Japan in 1937-45, this essay spotlights the role of transnational learning in the construction and destruction of ‘home fronts’. Belligerents vigorously studied each other's strategies to destroy the enemy's cities and ‘morale’, while investigating efforts to defend one's own home front by means of ‘civilian defence’. The inclusion of Japan, as bomber and bombed, contributes to a more global, connected history of the Second World War. Japan's sustained bombardment of Chinese cities not only reflected emerging transnational ideas of strategic bombing and total war, but also imparted new ‘lessons’ to Western air forces. Moreover, the devastating US firebombing of Japanese cities in 1945 challenges widely accepted judgments that bombing was generally ineffective, serving only to stiffen civilian morale. Why Japanese cities were bombed, and how they were bombed, was not an exceptional story, but was intimately connected to what the Allies had learned from bombing European urban areas.

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          Author and article information

          Journal
          Past & Present
          Oxford University Press (OUP)
          0031-2746
          1477-464X
          May 2020
          May 01 2020
          February 19 2020
          May 2020
          May 01 2020
          February 19 2020
          : 247
          : 1
          : 235-271
          Affiliations
          [1 ]Princeton University
          Article
          10.1093/pastj/gtz054
          © 2020

          https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/open_access/funder_policies/chorus/standard_publication_model

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