Civilian casualties of strategic bombing

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B-24 "Sandman" on a bomb run over the Astra Romana refinery in Ploieşti, Romania, during Operation Tidal Wave.[1]

Strategic bombing is the use of airpower to destroy industrial and economic infrastructure—such as factories, oil refineries, railroads, or nuclear power plants—rather than just directly targeting military bases, supply depots, or enemy combatants. Strategic bombing may also include the intent to dehouse, demoralize, or inflict civilian casualties, and thus hinders them from supporting the enemy's war effort.[2] The bombing can be utilized by strategic bombers or missiles, and may use general-purpose bombs, guided bombs, incendiary devices, chemical weapons, biological weapons, or nuclear weapons.

This article lists the strategic bombing of cities and towns, and their human death tolls throughout history, starting from before World War II.

Spanish Civil War (July 18, 1936 – April 1, 1939)[edit]

City/Town Country Date Estimated death toll Attacking force Notes
Jaén Spain 1 April 1937 159 German Luftwaffe "Condor Legion" See: Bombing of Jaén.
Guernica Spain 26 April 1937 153 German Luftwaffe "Condor Legion" and the Italian Fascist Aviazione Legionaria Considered to be the first aerial attack that caused widespread destruction of a city in military aviation history.
See: Bombing of Guernica.
Barcelona Spain 16–19 March 1938 1,000–1,300 Italian Fascist Aviazione Legionaria See: Bombing of Barcelona.
Alicante Spain 25 May 1938 275–393 Italian Fascist Aviazione Legionaria See: Bombing of Alicante.
Granollers Spain 31 May 1938 100–224 Italian Fascist Aviazione Legionaria See: Bombing of Granollers.
La Garriga Spain 28–29 January 1939 13 Italian Fascist Aviazione Legionaria See: Bombing of La Garriga.

Second Sino-Japanese War (July 7, 1937 – September 1, 1939, merged into World War II on September 1, 1939)[edit]

City/Town Country Date Estimated death toll Attacking force Notes
Nanking China 25 September 1937 600 Imperial Japanese Army Air Service See: Bombing of Nanking.
Guangzhou China 28 May and 4 June 1938[3][4] 1,400–1,450 Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service Japanese naval bombers attacked Guangzhou, killing 700–750 civilians and wounding 1,350 on 28 May 1938. Seven days later, the city was attacked again, causing an estimated 2,000 casualties (700 deaths). Combined the dates, an estimated 1,400–1,450 Chinese civilians were killed.[3][4]

World War II (September 1, 1939 – September 2, 1945)[edit]

City/Town Country Date Estimated death toll Attacking force Notes
Wieluń Poland 1 September 1939 c. 1,300 Oberkommando der Luftwaffe
See: Bombing of Wieluń.
Warsaw Poland 1–27 September 1939 6,000–7,000[5] Oberkommando der Luftwaffe
See: Bombing of Warsaw in World War II.
Rotterdam Netherlands 14 May 1940 884 Oberkommando der Luftwaffe Firestorm.
See: Rotterdam Blitz.
Berlin Germany June 1940 - April 1945 20,000 to 50,000 Royal Air Force (RAF) Bomber Command, United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) Eighth Air Force, French Air Force. Various. See Bombing of Berlin in World War II
London United Kingdom 7 September 1940 – May 1941 43,000 Oberkommando der Luftwaffe Firestorm.
See: London Blitz.
Chushien China 4 October 1940 21 Imperial Japanese Army Air Service 21 civilians were killed when a Japanese airplane flew over the town of Chushien and released rice and wheat plus rat fleas carrying Y. pestis.[6][7]
Ningbo China 29 October 1940 99 Imperial Japanese Army Air Service 99 civilians were killed when Imperial Japanese Army Air Service bombers struck the city of Ningbo with ceramic bombs full of fleas carrying the bubonic plague.[6][8]
Coventry United Kingdom 14 November 1940 568 Oberkommando der Luftwaffe Firestorm.
See: Coventry Blitz.
Birmingham United Kingdom 19 November 1940 450 Oberkommando der Luftwaffe Firestorm.
See: Birmingham Blitz.
Bristol United Kingdom 24 November 1940 207 Oberkommando der Luftwaffe Firestorm.
See: Bristol Blitz.
Belgrade Kingdom of Yugoslavia 6–8 April 1941 1,500–4,000 Oberkommando der Luftwaffe See: Bombing of Belgrade in World War II.
Chongqing China 5 June 1941 4,000 Imperial Japanese Army Air Service and the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service Conflagration. Within three hours of bombing, 4,000 residents were asphyxiated to death.
See: Bombing of Chongqing.
Leningrad Russia 19 September 1941 1,000 Oberkommando der Luftwaffe See: Siege of Leningrad.
Rangoon Burma 23 and 25 December 1941 1,250–2,000 Imperial Japanese Army Air Service Lack of adequate protection of the city caused extensive damage to houses and mass civilian casualties.
See: Bombing of Rangoon (1941–1942).
Paris France 2–3 March 1942 600 Royal Air Force (RAF) Bomber Command See: Bombing of France during World War II.
Cologne Germany 30–31 May 1942 411 Royal Air Force (RAF) Bomber Command Firestorm.
See: Bombing of Cologne in World War II.
Stalingrad Russia 23 August 1942 955[9] Oberkommando der Luftwaffe Firestorm.
See: Bombing of Stalingrad in World War II.
Mortsel Belgium 5 April 1943 936 United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) Eighth Air Force
Hamburg Germany 24–30 July 1943 42,600[10] Royal Air Force (RAF) Bomber Command and the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) Eighth Air Force Firestorm.[11]
See: Battle of Hamburg.
Kassel Germany 22–23 October 1943 10,000 Royal Air Force (RAF) Bomber Command Firestorm.
See: Bombing of Kassel in World War II.
Augsburg Germany 25–26 February 1944 730 Royal Air Force (RAF) Bomber Command and the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) Eighth Air Force Firestorm.
See: Bombing of Augsburg in World War II.
Caen France 7 July 1944 400 Royal Air Force (RAF) Bomber Command Carried out in support of Operation Charnwood, the attempt by ground forces to capture Caen. The bombing failed, as the main German armor and infantry positions to the north of Caen remained intact. In order to avoid dropping bombs on their own ground forces, the markers were dropped too far forward, pushing the bombed zone well into Caen itself and further away from the German defenses, and thus inflicting heavy French civilian casualties.
Darmstadt Germany 11–12 September 1944 11,500 Royal Air Force (RAF) Bomber Command Firestorm.
See: Bombing of Darmstadt in World War II.
Duisburg Germany 14–15 October 1944 2,500 Royal Air Force (RAF) Bomber Command Firestorm.
See: Bombing of Duisburg in World War II.
Ulm Germany 17 December 1944 707[12] Royal Air Force (RAF) Bomber Command Firestorm.[12]
See: Bombing of Ulm in World War II.
Dresden Germany 13–15 February 1945 22,700–25,000[13] Royal Air Force (RAF) Bomber Command and the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) Eighth Air Force Firestorm.
See: Bombing of Dresden in World War II.
Pforzheim Germany 23 February 1945 17,600 Royal Air Force (RAF) Bomber Command Firestorm.
See: Bombing of Pforzheim in World War II.
The Hague Netherlands 3 March 1945 551 Royal Air Force (RAF) Bomber Command The high rate of civilian casualties resulted due to the wrong coordinates given to RAF pilots, which dropped the bombs on the densely populated neighborhood of Bezuidenhout instead of Haagse Bos, where the Germans had installed V-2 launching facilities that had been used to attack English cities.
See: Bombing of the Bezuidenhout.
Tokyo Japan 9–10 March 1945 88,000–100,000 United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) Twentieth Air Force Conflagration. 279 B-29s dropped about 1,700 short tons (1,500 t) of bombs, destroying 16 square miles (41 km²) of the city.[14][15][16][17][18]
See: Bombing of Tokyo
Osaka Japan 13–14 March 1945 3,987 United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) Twentieth Air Force Firestorm.
See: Bombing of Osaka.
Würzburg Germany 16 March 1945 5,000 Royal Air Force (RAF) Bomber Command Firestorm.
See: Bombing of Würzburg in World War II.
Kobe Japan 16–17 March 1945 8,841[19] United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) Twentieth Air Force Firestorm.[19]
See: Bombing of Kobe in World War II.
Taipei Taiwan 31 May 1945 3,000 United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) Fifth Air Force See: Raid on Taipei.
Aomori Japan 29 July 1945 1,767[20] United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) Twentieth Air Force Firestorm.[20]
See: Bombing of Aomori in World War II
Hiroshima Japan 6 August 1945 50,000–60,000 United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) 393rd Bomb Squadron The first of the only two nuclear weapons used in combat. Uranium-based nuclear weapon: codename Little Boy.
Between 50,000 and 60,000 were killed, including 20,000 Korean slave laborers. Some 70,000 others suffered burns or died by the end of 1945 and in the years afterwards.[21][22][23][24][25] See: Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Nagasaki Japan 9 August 1945 34,850–39,850 United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) 393rd Bomb Squadron The second of the only two nuclear weapons used in combat. Plutonium-based nuclear weapon: codename Fat Man.
Between 34,850 and 39,850 were killed, including 23,200 to 28,200 Japanese industrial workers and 2,000 Korean slave laborers. Some 50,000 others suffered burns or died by the end of 1945 and in the years afterwards.[21][26][27][27][25] See: Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

1991 Gulf War (August 2, 1990 – February 28, 1991)[edit]

City/town Country Date Estimated death toll Attacking force Notes
Baghdad Iraq 14 February 1991 130 Royal Air Force (RAF) A laser-guided missile intended against a bridge in the Al-Fallujah neighborhood missed and hit a residential area, killing up to 130 civilians.[28]

NATO bombing of Yugoslavia (1999)[edit]

Location Date Death toll Attacking force Notes
Varadin Bridge in Novi Sad, Serbia 1 April 1999 1 NATO [29]
Nogovac, Orahovac, Kosovo 2 April 1999 11 NATO [30]:39
Oil refinery in Pančevo, Serbia 4 April 1999 3 NATO Three workers killed by NATO airstrikes.[31] Subsequently, 80,000 tons of oil ignited into flames, and the concentration of carcinogens over Pančevo rose 10,500 times higher than local laws allowed at the time.[32]
Electric heating plant in Belgrade, Serbia 4 April 1999 1 NATO One civilian killed by NATO airstrikes.[33]
Vranje, Serbia 5 April 1999 2 NATO Two civilians killed and 15 injured by NATO airstrikes on a city neighbourhood.[34]
Town of Aleksinac, Serbia 5–6 April 1999 12 NATO On the night of April 5-6, 1999, 12 civilians killed in the mining town of Aleksinac by NATO airstrikes.[35] A total of 35 homes and 125 apartment units were destroyed, with no obvious military target in the vicinity according to the Serbian newspaper Politika.[35]
Train in Leskovac, Serbia 12 April 1999 20–60 NATO See Grdelica train bombing.
Albanian refugee column in Gjakova, Kosovo 14 April 1999 73 NATO See NATO bombing of Albanian refugees near Gjakova.
Serbian refugee camp at Gjakova 21 April 1999 4–5 NATO [36][37]
Radio Television of Serbia headquarters, Belgrade 24 April 1999 16 NATO See NATO bombing of the Radio Television of Serbia headquarters.
Town of Surdulica, Serbia 27 April 1999 16–20 NATO [38][39][40]
Lužane bridge near Podujevo, Kosovo 1 May 1999 23–60 NATO See Lužane bus bombing.
Town of Prizren, Kosovo 1 May 1999 12 NATO 12 civilians killed.[41]

Second Chechen War (1999–2009)[edit]

City/Town Country Date Estimated death toll Attacking force Notes
Elistanzhi Chechnya, Russia October 7, 1999 34 Russian Air Force See: Elistanzhi cluster bomb attack
Grozny Chechnya, Russia October 21, 1999 118 Russia's Strategic Missile Troops The use of Scud ballistic missiles against various civilian and government/military targets. See also: Grozny ballistic missile attack.

Libyan Civil War (2011)[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Duga, James; Stewart, Carroll (2002). Ploesti. Brassey's. ISBN 978-1-57488-510-1. Retrieved 2009-03-26. 
  2. ^ Brauer, Jurgen. Castles, Battles, and Bombs: How Economics Explains Military History. p 199. University Of Chicago Press; Reprint edition (2008) ISBN 0-2260-7164-2.
  3. ^ a b Bombing of Shanghai, Chongqing, and other Cities
  4. ^ a b LIFE, June 20, 1938, Page 9
  5. ^ Corum 2013, p. 174.
  6. ^ a b Biological Weapons
  7. ^ Drisdelle R. Parasites. Tales of Humanity's Most Unwelcome Guests. Univ. of California Publishers, 2010. p. 162f. ISBN 978-0-520-25938-6. 
  8. ^ Daniel Barenblatt, A Plague upon Humanity, 2004, p.32.
  9. ^ Bergström (2007):p.73
  10. ^ Frankland & Webster 1961, pp. 260–261.
  11. ^ Dyson 2006, p. 3.
  12. ^ a b Bombing of Ulm in World War II
  13. ^ Neutzner 2010, p. 17.
  14. ^ U.S. Army Air Forces in World War II: Combat Chronology. March 1945. Archived 2013-06-02 at the Wayback Machine. Air Force Historical Studies Office. Retrieved 3 March 2009.
  15. ^ Freeman Dyson. (1 November 2006), "Part I: A Failure of Intelligence", Technology Review, MIT 
  16. ^ David McNeill. "The night hell fell from the sky". Japan Focus, 10 March 2005 Archived December 5, 2008, at the Wayback Machine..
  17. ^ Rhodes, Richard. The Making of the Atomic Bomb. p 599. Simon & Schuster Paperbacks (1984) ISBN 0-684-81378-5.
  18. ^ Mark Selden. "A Forgotten Holocaust: US Bombing Strategy, the Destruction of Japanese Cities and the American Way of War from the Pacific War to Iraq". Japan Focus, 2 May 2007.
  19. ^ a b 21st Bomber Command Tactical Mission Report 43, April 19th, 1945
  20. ^ a b Wainstock. The Decision to Drop the Atomic Bomb. Page 9
  21. ^ a b Erik Koppe. The Use of Nuclear Weapons and the Protection of the Environment during International Armed Conflict (Studies in International Law). Hart Publishing. pp. 35–45. ISBN 1-8411-3745-6. 
  22. ^ Pape, Robert (1996). Bombing to Win: Airpower and Coercion in War. Cornell University Press. p. 144. ISBN 978-0-8014-8311-0. 
  23. ^ The Manhattan Engineer District (June 29, 1945). "The Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki". Project Gutenberg Ebook. docstoc.com]. p. 3. 
  24. ^ Alan Axelrod (May 6, 2008). The Real History of World War II: A New Look at the Past. Sterling. p. 350. 
  25. ^ a b "Total Casualties: The Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki". Retrieved 19 December 2014. 
  26. ^ Nuke-Rebuke: Writers & Artists Against Nuclear Energy & Weapons (The Contemporary anthology series). The Spirit That Moves Us Press. May 1, 1984. pp. 22–29. 
  27. ^ a b Mary Palevsky, Robert Futrell, and Andrew Kirk. Recollections of Nevada's Nuclear Past UNLV FUSION, 2005, p. 20.
  28. ^ Gulf War
  29. ^ Milan Laketić (March 24, 2015). "Blic: Država nije pomogla deci žrtava NATO bombardovanja" (in Serbian). Retrieved July 15, 2017. 
  30. ^ "NATO Crimes in Serbia (Yugoslavia)". May 1999. Retrieved August 6, 2017. 
  31. ^ "B92: Pomen radnicima rafinerije" (in Serbian). April 4, 2010. Retrieved July 19, 2017. 
  32. ^ "RTS: Posledice NATO bombardovanja u Pančevu" (in Serbian). March 24, 2016. Retrieved July 19, 2017. 
  33. ^ Ljiljana Staletović (November 11, 2001). "Glas javnosti: Brane se malim brojem poginulih" (in Serbian). Retrieved August 6, 2017. 
  34. ^ Dragan Ilić (March 24, 2017). ": Слово Југа: Да се не заборави: 18 година од НАТО бомбардовања" (in Serbian). Retrieved July 15, 2017. 
  35. ^ a b Toma Todorović (April 6, 2008). "Политика: Алексинац не заборавља жртве" (in Serbian Cyrillic). Retrieved June 20, 2017. 
  36. ^ Paul Watson (April 22, 1999). "Los Angeles Times: Refugee Serbs Blame NATO in Camp Bombing". Retrieved July 16, 2017. 
  37. ^ Savo Štrbac (April 2000). "Veritas: Bilten #11" (PDF) (in Serbian). Retrieved July 16, 2017. 
  38. ^ "CNN: Children reported killed when NATO bomb missed target". April 28, 1999. Retrieved July 16, 2017. 
  39. ^ "RTS: Surdulica, deset godina kasnije" (in Serbian). April 27, 2009. Retrieved July 16, 2017. 
  40. ^ Dušan Đorđević (March 24, 2014). "OK Radio: Bombardovanje odnelo šestoro Milića" (in Serbian). Retrieved July 16, 2017. 
  41. ^ Lukáš Houdek (translated into English by Gwendolyn Albert) (June 16, 2011). "Prizren in the shadow of aircraft". Retrieved June 20, 2017. 

References[edit]