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WW2 Bomber mug

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11 oz mug

Strategic bombing during World War II between 1939 and 1945 defines any nations' government engaged in World War II undertaking independent air campaigns of a clearly recognisable strategic intent. This includes the sustained bombing of railways, harbors, cities (civilian areas), and industrial areas in enemy territory. The strategy is the air power theory that major victories can best be won by attacking the enemy's industrial and political infrastructure, rather than purely military targets. Strategic bombing is distinct from both close air support of ground forces and "tactical air power" (which is the battle for control of the air space.)

In 1939, Germany invaded Poland and the Luftwaffe (German air force) began providing close air support to the German Army. The Luftwaffe also began eliminating strategic objectives and bombing cities and civilian population in Poland in an indiscriminate and unrestricted aerial bombardment campaign. France and the United Kingdom declared war on Germany and the UK's Royal Air Force began attacking German warships along the German coast with the North Sea.

As the war continued to expand, bombing by both the Axis and Allied powers increased significantly. Military and industrial installations were targeted, but so were cities and civilian populations. Targeting cities and civilians was viewed as a psychological weapon to break the enemy's will to fight. From 1940–1941, Germany used this weapon in its 'Blitz' against Britain. From 1940 onward, the intensity of the British bombing campaign against Germany became less restrictive, increasingly targeting industrial sites and eventually, civilian areas. By 1943, the United States had significantly reinforced these efforts. The controversial firebombings of Hamburg (1943), Dresden (1945) and other German cities followed. The effect of strategic bombing varied depending on duration and intensity. Both the Luftwaffe and RAF failed to deliver a knockout blow by destroying enemy morale. However, strategic bombing of military targets could significantly reduce enemy industrial capacity and production.

In the Pacific theatre, the Japanese bombed Chongqing repeatedly until 1943. U.S. strategic bombing of the Japanese Empire began in earnest in October 1944. Earlier, small-scale attacks by the U.S. out of China had been hampered by the task of delivering supplies over the Himalaya foothills (known as "The Hump"). Missions out of Saipan escalated into widespread firebombing, which culminated in the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the Japanese surrender six days later. In the opinion of inter-war proponents, the surrender of Japan vindicated strategic bombing.

When the war began on 1 September 1939, Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the neutral United States, issued an appeal to the major belligerents (Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Poland) to confine their air raids to military targets, and "under no circumstances undertake bombardment from the air of civilian populations in unfortified cities" The British and French agreed to abide by the request, with the British reply undertaking to "confine bombardment to strictly military objectives upon the understanding that these same rules of warfare will be scrupulously observed by all their opponents". Germany also agreed to abide by Roosevelt's request and explained the bombing of Warsaw as within the agreement because it was supposedly a fortified city—Germany did not have a policy of targeting enemy civilians as part of their doctrine prior to World War II.

The British Government's policy was formulated on 31 August 1939: if Germany initiated unrestricted air action, the RAF "should attack objectives vital to Germany's war effort, and in particular her oil resources". If the Luftwaffe confined attacks to purely military targets, the RAF should "launch an attack on the German fleet at Wilhelmshaven" and "attack warships at sea when found within range". The government communicated to their French allies the intention "not to initiate air action which might involve the risk of civilian casualties"

While it was acknowledged bombing Germany would cause civilian casualties, the British government renounced deliberate bombing of civilian property, outside combat zones, as a military tactic. The British changed their policy on 15 May 1940, one day after the German bombing of Rotterdam, when the RAF was given permission to attack targets in the Ruhr Area, including oil plants and other civilian industrial targets which aided the German war effort, such as blast furnaces that at night were self-illuminating. The first RAF raid on the interior of Germany took place on the night of 15/16 May 1940 while the Battle of France was still continuing.

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