On September 1, 1939 – the first day of World War II in Europe – President Franklin D. Roosevelt appealed to the warring nations to:
…under no circumstances undertake the bombardment from the air of civilian populations…
And indeed while the British forces did undertake the bombing of civilian targets, for many years the Americans held on to the idea of bombing only military and industrial centres.
How this changed and ended with the American involvement in the bombing of the civilian population at the centre of Berlin is the theme of this documentary.
Told through newreels of the fighting and devastation, and through eye-witness accounts, the documentary tries to assess the moral decisions that were being faced at every point.
Once the decision had been made, of course, the bombing of Tokyo with conventional weapons, and later the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, so much easier to contemplate.
Tomorrow is the anniversary of the dropping of the first nuclear bomb on Hiroshima. Let us remember all who died on that fateful day and the nightmarish days to come, and also all those displaced by the recent nuclear catastrophe at Fukushima.
This is part of Public Broadcasting Service’s American Experience series, and is directed by Zui Dor-Ner. Be warned that some of the scenes of the casualties of the war are graphic.
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Roosevelt and Churchill
Fires in London
Bomber Planes over Germany
Lines of Dead Bodies
The Devastation of German Cities