Bombing Civilians

A Twentieth-Century History

The first comprehensive historical analysis of one of the great horrors of modern times, hailed by Frida Berrigan as “a vividly detailed and profoundly troubling history of war fought from the air”

“The powerful moral criticisms raised by these searching essays extend from the bombing of civilians to war itself. This book will quickly become a classic.” —Robert Jay Lifton, author of Death in Life: Survivors of Hiroshima

From the British bombing of Iraq in the early 1920s to more recent conflicts in Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Lebanon, indiscriminate aerial bombing has been a frighteningly common strategy of modern warfare, owing much to the relative safety of the attackers and the complete vulnerability of the victims.

In Bombing Civilians, leading experts Marilyn B. Young and Yuki Tanaka have brought together a group of distinguished scholars from Japan, the United States, and Europe to explore the history of indiscriminate bombing, examining the shift from bombing military targets to bombing civilians. This bold collection examines the fundamental questions of how this theory justifying mass killing originated and why it has been employed as a compelling military strategy for decades, both before and after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

With major new arguments, including Japanese historian Tsuyoshi Hasegawa’s claim that it was the Soviet invasion rather than the atomic bombs that compelled the Japanese to surrender in the Pacific War, Bombing Civilians combines historical and contemporary analysis to make a powerful argument about international law and the morality of war.


“Makes a cogent case for reassessing the effectiveness of air campaigns and how power influences accountability.”
Japan Times

Books by these authors

Iraq and the Lessons of Vietnam
Or, How Not to Learn from the Past

Lloyd C. Gardner, Marilyn B. Young

The New American Empire
A 21st Century Teach-In on U.S. Foreign Policy

Lloyd C. Gardner, Marilyn B. Young

Goodreads Reviews