Dissertations and Theses @ UNI


Thesis (UNI Access Only)


Bombing, Aerial; World War, 1939-1945—Aerial operations;


This thesis argues that the aerial bombings of cities during the Second World War and the resulting civilian casualties were not in violation of existing international laws. Many historians have discussed the immorality of the aerial bombing campaigns of the Second World War, but they have failed to delve into whether the bombing of cities and civilians was legal or illegal based on the existing international laws. The international laws regarding warfare were originally developed in 1907. The failure of the world’s nations to update these laws of warfare in response to improvements in technology and methods of warfare following the First World War proved to be detrimental. As a result of this failure, the innovators of aerial warfare developed doctrines, during the interwar years (1919 to 1939), that placed the cities and civilian populations located far behind the frontlines as ‘legitimate’ targets. When the Second World War began, the belligerents pledged to attack only military targets and avoid bombing undefended civilians. As some of the belligerent nations switched from daylight to nighttime bombing missions, the ability to specifically identify the intended targets resulted in a switch from ‘precision’ bombing to ‘area’ bombing with the associated increase in civilian casualties and the destruction of civilian property. This switch eventually led to the creation of anti-bombing campaigns in the U.S. and Great Britain and the accusations that tactics were in violation of the international laws of warfare.

Year of Submission


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Department of History

First Advisor

Emily Machen, Chair, Thesis Committee

Date Original


Object Description

1 PDF file (iii, 115 pages)



File Format


Available for download on Thursday, May 06, 2021

Off-Campus Download