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... See full summary »




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Episode credited cast:
Carl Spaatz ...
Himself - General, U.S. Air Force (archive footage)
Tami Davis Biddle ...
Herself - Historian
Conrad Crane ...
Himself - Historian
Max Hastings ...
Himself - Historian (as Sir Max Hastings)
Jörg Friedrich ...
Himself - Historian
Arthur Harris ...
Himself (archive footage) (as Commander Arthur Harris)
Keith Lowe ...
Himself - Writer
Ralph Giordano ...
Harry Crosby ...
Himself - Navigator, 8th Air Force
Bill McCrea ...
Himself - Pilot, Royal Air Force
Donald L. Miller ...
Himself - Author, 'Masters of the Air'
Sam Halpert ...
Himself - Navigator, 8th Air Force
Horst Sinske ...
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
James Doolittle ...
Himself (archive footage)


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. Just six years later, British and American Allied forces had carried out a bombing campaign of unprecedented might over Germany s cities, claiming the lives of nearly half a million civilians. The Bombing of Germany examines the defining moments of the offensive that led the U.S. across a moral divide. Weaving together interviews with WWII pilots and historians, and stunning archival footage of the bombing and its aftermath, this AMERICAN EXPERIENCE film is a haunting reminder of the dilemma imposed by war's civilian casualties. Written by Anonymous

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Release Date:

8 February 2010 (USA)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

16 : 9
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User Reviews

A re-examination of the effectiveness of strategic bombing during WWII.
2 October 2011 | by (Bradenton, Florida) – See all my reviews

I know it shouldn't matter, but not hearing the lovely voices of David McCullough or David Ogden Stiers narrating this episode was a bit of a disappointment for me. I won't reduce my score because of this--just a personal preference, as I am just used to hearing the two narrating most of "The American Experience" episodes.

This film re-examines the notion that strategic bombing led to the Allies winning WWII. Initially, it talks a bit about the morality of deliberately attacking cities heavily populated by civilians, but the main thrust of this film really is on the effectiveness of the bombings. First, it is a fact that German output actually INCREASED as the war progressed (at the same time bombing raids increased). Second, the losses of American bombers was appalling--and may have actually hurt us more than it hurt the Germans in the raids. For example, when German pilots were shot down, they were over home territory and very often were back in the air in hours or days. Whereas, Allied pilots and crews were almost always taken as prisoners of war. In the end, the film concludes that the bulk of the responsibility for the war ending was due to more conventional warfare.

This is NOT the first documentary that I've seen that calls into question the effectiveness of bombing during the war in Europe. While it's not a commonly talked about theme and 'common knowledge' is that the bombing WAS very effective, it is an idea that has some compelling arguments. Note, however, that the film was not anti-American and in the end those critical still acknowledged that winning the war was the most moral act--whatever way it was achieved. It's just the effectiveness and morality of targeting civilians was being discussed. Very interesting, though not among the better episodes of "The American Experience"--mostly because almost all the episodes they produce are exceptional!

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