The Allied bombing of German cities in World War II was unjustifiable

Thursday 25 October 2012, 10.23pm | Video now online

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History Debate Series

Part of the Intelligence Squared History Debate series

Intelligence Squared is proud to announce its new series of history debates covering some of the most controversial episodes and figures of the 20th century – Pope Pius XII (called “Hitler’s Pope” by those critical of his diplomacy in relation to the Nazis), the Suez crisis, the Cold War (should we have fought it?) and so on. We kick off in October with a debate on the role of Bomber Command in World War II, with three of Britain’s most distinguished WWII historians and one of our best known moral philosophers going head to head.

No one doubts the bravery of the thousands of men who flew and died in Bomber Command. The death rate was an appalling 44%. And yet until the opening of a monument in Green Park this year they have received no official recognition, with many historians claiming that the offensive was immoral and unjustified. How can it be right, they argue, for the Allies to have deliberately targeted German cities causing the death of hundreds of thousands of civilians? Even on a strategic level the offensive failed to bring about the collapse of civilian morale that was its intention.

Others, however, maintain that the attacks made a decisive contribution to the Allied victory. Vast numbers of German soldiers and planes were diverted from the eastern and western fronts, while Allied bombing attacks virtually destroyed the German air force, clearing the way for the invasion of the continent.

Speakers for the motion

A C GraylingA C Grayling

Philosopher and author of Among the Dead Cities: Is the Targeting of Civilians in War Ever Justified?

Richard OveryRichard Overy

Professor of history at Exeter University who has published extensively on World War II and air power in the 20th century

Speakers against the motion

Antony BeevorAntony Beevor

Award-winning historian whose latest book is the No. 1 international bestseller The Second World War

Patrick BishopPatrick Bishop

Former foreign correspondent and one of Britain’s best-regarded military historians. His books include the best-selling Bomber Boys which casts new light on the men who flew in the Strategic Air Campaign


Jeremy O'GradyJeremy O’ Grady

Editor-in-chief of The Week magazine and co-founder of Intelligence Squared


All speakers are subject to change.