Bombing as communication


United States Strategic Bombing Report, 1945:

In both the RAF and the United States Army Air Forces there were some who believed that air power could deliver the knockout blow against Germany, and force capitulation. This view, however, was not controlling in the overall Allied strategic plan. The dominant element in that plan was invasion of the Continent to occur in the spring of 1944. Plans called for establishing air superiority prior to the date of the invasion and the exploitation of such superiority in weakening the enemy’s will and capacity to resist.

[In Germany,] the night raids were feared far more than daylight raids. The people lost faith in the prospect of victory, in their leaders and in the promises and propaganda to which they were subjected. Most of all, they wanted the war to end. They resorted increasingly to black radio” listening, to circulation of rumor and fact in opposition to the Regime; and there was some increase in active political dissidence in 1944 one German in every thousand was arrested for a political offense. If they had been at liberty to vote themselves out of the war, they would have done so well before the final surrender.

Morale effects are inseparable from physical effects of violence, and perhaps greater. This is mostly boring subject matter and little of it bears repeating, but it’s interesting to see that manipulating the behavior of the German public (and manipulating the beliefs of German high command?) was explicitly laid out as one of the doctrinal goals of the US military. Huge portions of war seem to be posturing and propaganda. Unsustainable shock attacks are mounted to try to persuade an opponent that some kind of dominance is inevitable instead of anecdotal.

Known-to-be-false histories are written in the moment and distributed widely. Air raid alerts cause more loss in production than the air raids themselves:

German steel producers were required by the government to keep records of production losses and their causes. These records show that air raid alerts in 1943 were a more serious cause of the lost production than the actual damage from the raids.

Loss in production from bombing is caused more by severed communication lines and utilities than damage to industrial equipment:

Examination of the steel plants showed that, although the attack damaged some blast furnaces, open hearths and rolling mills, it was primarily effective through damage to utilities (electricity, gas and water) and communications within the plants and to utilities and transport supplying the plants.