In his essay “The Air Force Struggled to Maintain a Moral Stance,” written in 1947, Lieutenant Colonel Conrad C. Crane discusses the role and influence of precision bombing doctrine on the bombing of Hiroshima in the Pacific theater. In this essay, the author presents a balanced and truthful position and explains what caused the bombings in World War II’s European and Pacific theaters. The purpose of this essay was to dispel some of the myths surrounding the AAF’s use of traffic bombers, radar-based bombing, precision bombings and bombings targeted at factories, and later – small towns. Understanding the reasons and the procedures for implementing such kinds of bombings is critical since they caused the deaths of many civilians, and there should have been a reason why the American commandment made the respective decisions.
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The author of the essay is Lieutenant Colonel Conrad C. Crane, who participated in WWII and had a practical understanding of European theater. The essay was written in 1947 to explain why did Americans dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and used the ‘terror bombing’ or ‘morale bombing’ in both theaters of war. The intended audience of the essay was highly likely the broader audience, presumably American or European. The author tries to give simple explanations to present the situation to the European front and reveals some basic principles characteristic of the US military commandment.
The author pays special attention to the issues of ethics and morality. He opposes the critic regarding the military operations in terms of general morality to a war participant’s practical view. Lieutenant Colonel Conrad C. Crane cites convincing quotes from high-ranking commanders’ working correspondence who made decisions about interpreting military doctrine. The author also explains some nuances of the working relationship between senior and subordinate representatives of the military command to clarify the situation concerning who made the final decisions about the methods and targets of bombings.
The author’s goal is to present a comprehensive picture of the European theater and AAF war decisions. Lieutenant Colonel Conrad C. Crane tries to objectively explain the arguments that the command used in making decisions about the bombing. Given the unpreparedness of the audience, he reveals some military-technical points. Therefore, the author’s goal is to discuss the painful issue of the US AAF morality vs. amorality, debunking of the related myths, and the detailed description of the precision bombing doctrine.
There are no particular biases in the source, apart from a rather hostile attitude towards the British Royal Air Force that practiced the night bombings. The author regrets that the AAF is associated with the RAF in precision and imprecision bombings, noting that Americans were more ethical towards Germany’s civilians. However, the author perhaps overlooks that the British command could have had the same immediate reasons for such actions as the American. At the very least, it should be borne in mind that Germany did not pose a direct threat to the Americans. Moreover, in the Pacific theater war, which more directly affected America, threatening the lives of its civilian population, the AAF made an even more aggressive decision to drop the atomic bomb to end the war as quickly as possible.
The author’s perspective is that AAF and Washington command mostly adhered to the doctrine of precision bombing, but violated the guidelines of this doctrine, to achieve an immediate result of finishing the war faster, thus saving more lives than the casualties from the “morale bombings.” The author explains why the use of “terror bombings” in the European theater led to an atomic bombing in the Pacific theater. According to the author, the main difference between the two theaters was the Japanese’s more aggressive behavior towards American soldiers, which created the temptation of the total war.
The author also emphasizes that although the high command gave the orders, the command of operations could sabotage the orders and often did this during the bombing of German cities. Therefore, the author considers it an unfortunate coincidence that Japan’s command of operations decided to drop a bomb on Nagasaki. This approach to explaining the bombing subsequently became common among the general public. The author presents convincing and truthful sources on which he bases his arguments and has no other purpose than to show the most objective picture of military operations.
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The related sources have a similar perspective and give more explanations regarding the basic concepts from the article. In particular, Paul Fussell, in “A Defense of the Atomic Bomb and a Dissent” essay, argues his position as a former WWII soldier. He explains that while it is horrible from a general moral point of view, most soldiers were happy when they learned about dropping the bomb on Nagasaki. The bombing meant that the war ended and that they would not die in a fierce infantry battle with the Japanese, which would otherwise have been theirs.
Fussel recalled that if the bomb had not been dropped, Japan had a clear intention to invade America. According to preliminary estimates, this would lead to the death of at least 1 million American civilians. He also noted that before the bombing of Nagasaki, planes had scattered 750,000 leaflets over the city, warning residents of the threat and calling them to leave the city. Ronald Schaffer in “US Strategic Bombing Was Immoral” explains that the command was forced to make decisions based more on practical than moral considerations during the war. However, many commanders disapproved of “terror bombings” for practical reasons, as also mentioned by Conrad C. Crane.