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American precision bombing

LAURENCE REES:   To what extent was the American decision to focus on precision bombing in Europe made for military or moral reasons or a combination of both?

CONRAD CRANE: There were a lot of factors that went into the development of American precision bombing doctrine. When it’s being developed in the 1930s there’s a sense that attacks on cities are illegal, and that the American tradition was marksmanship and being accurate, and also the American technology being developed, the B17, was seen to be best utilised in a more precise attack on key elements of an enemy economic system. Overall it was also seen as the most efficient, effective and economical way of using aerial technology to win a war. There was an element of morality involved as well, there were some of the people involved that thought this was also the most moral way to fight, but all these factors kind of work together to produce the American precision bombing doctrine that is taken into World War Two.

LAURENCE REES:   To what extent was the morality driving the technology?

CONRAD CRANE: The people in the 1930s really didn’t envisage a bomb that could take out a whole city, so it’s one of those questions that I’m not sure how they would have dealt with at the time. They’re dealing with the technology they’re familiar with which are 500 and 1,000 lb bombs; they didn’t consider gas, gas bombs or poison gas bombs as moral or legal either so they took those out of their calculus. Really they’re dealing with a high explosive and some incendiary bombs, which have much smaller capacity.