Watch your mouth

“It is impossible to fight any war wholly humanely. In most respects, the Western allies displayed commendable clarity in their conduct of total war against an enemy bereft of civilized sentiment. Aerial assault, however, provided the exception. It was a policy quite at odds with the spirit in which the Americans and British otherwise conducted their war effort. The remoteness of bombing rendered tolerable in the eyes of Western political leaders and military commanders, not to mention their aircrew, actions which would have seemed repugnant and probably unbearable had the Allies confronted the consequences at close quarters. Eisenhower’s soldiers frequently found themselves killing local inhabitants in the course of battles for Germany’s towns and villages. They would have surely revolted at the notion of systematically slaughtering civilians by artillery bombardment or machine-gun fire. This is what the Allied air forces did, nonetheless, protected by the curious moral absolution granted by a separation of some thousands of feet of airspace, together with the pragmatic excuse that it was impossible to hit targets of military relevance with air-dropped missiles without inflicting what is now called ‘collateral damage.’ We should recognize, however, that it is far easier to pass such judgements amid the relative tranquility of the twenty-first century than it seemed in 1945, when Hitler’s nation was still doing its utmost to kill American and British people, together with millions of Nazi captives, by every means within its power. Some Germans today brand the bombing of their cities as a war crime. This seems an incautious choice of words.” – Max Hastings, Armageddon

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