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Among the Dead Cities: The History and Moral Legacy of the WWII Bombing of Civilians in Germany and Japan Hardcover – March 7, 2006


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Walker & Company; 1 edition (March 7, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802714714
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802714718
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.4 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,323,478 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The Allied bombing of Axis cities, which killed hundreds of thousands of civilians and made smoking ruins of Dresden, Tokyo and Hiroshima, remains one of the great controversies of WWII; this probing study does the issue full justice. Philosophy professor Grayling (The Meaning of Things) focuses on Britain's "area bombing" of entire German cities, a strategy adopted initially because bombers couldn't hit smaller sites and then, as attitudes hardened, continued as a deliberate attack on civilian morale. Grayling scrupulously considers the justifications for area bombing—that it would shorten the conflict by destroying Germany's economy and will to resist, that civilian workers were also combatants or that it was simply the rough justice of war—and finds them wanting. British bombing, he contends, did little damage to the German war effort at an unconscionable price in innocent lives, in contrast to American pinpoint bombing of industrial and military targets, which succeeded in paralyzing the German economy with few civilian casualties. (The Americans, he sadly notes, resorted to area bombing in their devastating air campaign against Japan.) Drawing on firsthand accounts by theorists, architects, victims and opponents of area bombing, Grayling situates a lucid analysis of the historical data within a rigorous philosophical framework. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–Grayling's purpose is not to condone the atrocities carried out by the Axis or to condemn the Allies for carpet bombing cities in Germany and Japan, but to show that, even in a good war, the good guys can do bad things. He examines the decision making, the circumstances, and the contemporary debate over the practice that led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians and the destruction of so many cities. While the author discusses the practical military drawbacks of the tactic, he is most engaged with its moral implications. Black-and-white photos show the effects of the campaign. This is an engaging and readable work, intended to bring readers into contact with the shaded moralities of war.–Ted Westervelt, Library of Congress, Washington, DC
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Customer Reviews

This historical analysis, not the philosophic analysis, is where Grayling fails.
R. Albin
Fortunately, he does not allow the Holocaust to obscure the relevant issues in deciding whether or not the Allied area bombing of cities was a moral crime.
Larry H. Burdoin
That may have been true during the early stages of the war but it is certainly not true now--least of all for Grayling.
Jan Peczkis

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

69 of 79 people found the following review helpful By stephen boyd on November 15, 2006
Format: Hardcover
If you are looking for a book that glorifies the civilian bombing campaigns over Europe ,dont waste your money. If you are looking for another book that is essentially "History written by the victors" dont waste your time. If are expecting a book that will say "Hell yah...we bombed the hell out of them and they deserved it.",you will be sorely disappointed.

And that is apparently what the negative reviwers of this book were looking for. After viewing some of their other reviews it seems they were essentially seeking another book that agreed with their point of view or opinion that we never, ever did anything wrong.

Admittedly, there are some chronological,and technical errors,minor in context, but this was not meant to be a reference book.

As the proud son of a American WW2 veteran ,whos job it was to difuse mines ,shells,and bombs ,i certainly am no bleeding heart anti-american liberal looking to condemn our courageous veterans.

But as in all wars, i find that atrociites start at the top, in the command structure,and there was no difference here. "Bomber Harris" gets the credit/blame for getting this ball rolling.And he is unaploigetic about it.

If you are looking for a book that presents a "relatively" unbiased view ,in courtroom case manner, then you will find it a very interesting read.

The view from both sides of the arguement is looked at, and analyzed, and judged ,aginst the statistical outcome that was achieved.
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Joel R. VINE VOICE on February 5, 2008
Format: Paperback
Growing up in the United States during the height of the Cold War, we learned all about the atrocities of the Nazis and the Japanese. "Among the Dead Cities" is a philosophical analysis of whether the Allied powers were also guilty of war crimes, through their indiscriminant bombings of civilian areas in Germany and Japan.

Aside from detailing the destruction of the cities, Grayling offers countering arguments and also explains the slow escalation of aerial bombardment attacks between Nazi Germany and the United Kingdom. This escalation also carried over to American bombing campaign in Germany, and also into the Pacific. The discussion of the strategic thoughts at the time, are provided not as a means of establishing sympathy, but for readers to develop an understanding of the strategic thoughts at the time.

"It is well that war is so terrible, lest we grow too fond of it." These words spoken by Robert E. Lee during the Battle of Fredericksburg poignantly describe the destruction brought forth by the Allies. This book needs to be read not just by Airmen, but by all who answered the call to the Profession of Arms.
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109 of 137 people found the following review helpful By Me, Myself, and I on March 19, 2006
Format: Hardcover
A.C. Grayling's "Among the Dead Cities" is a valiant, but ultimately flawed attempt to examine the moral ramifications of the Allied bombing of civilians in Germany and Japan during the Second World War. Few authors in the English-speaking world have yet had the courage to examine this issue and this book is both welcome and valuable, particularly in light of the bearing that this moral dilemma poses on subsequent policies undertaken by the victorious nations. Grayling's main philosophical question here is whether or not the bombings were wrong. In the pursuit of his answer, he examines the possible justifications for the bombing of civilians thoroughly and, for the most part, objectively. His training as a philosopher allows him to neatly torpedo the arguments in favor of the bombing of civilians in a concise and articulate manner, though his historical accuracy is occasionally wrong on some of the details. (For example, in a list of conquered territories and client states from which Hitler obtained resources, he lists Silesia, a region which was mainly populated by German-speaking peoples from the 13th century onwards and had been part of Prussia or Austria since the 15th century.) These instances are fortunately few and usually of a technical nature.

Of greater consequence are some of the ways in which he ultimately undermines his own argument. While no book on the European theater of WWII would be complete without mention of the Holocaust, Grayling's constant emphasis on how much worse it was than anything that the Allies had done has the net effect of defusing his own argument.
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25 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Historied on April 4, 2006
Format: Hardcover
A very generative book that makes you think long and hard about the issues and the new perspectives raised. I have read a lot in this area and yet this brought out very many new angles and trains of thought. And it always occurs to me that those who criticize a work like this, which is an invitation to a dialogue, are doomed to fail to learn anything from history. Their minds are closed and that is the real tragedy. I am open to Grayling being wrong, (as I think Grayling is), but I doubt some of his critics are open to his being right.

The real issue with area bombing is that it did not shorten the war AND was immoral indiscriminate killing of civilians. Focus on oil supplies and tactical interdiction/support of the front line fighting would have been both more effective AND involved less killing of civilians. Knowledgeable advocates were arguing this at the time,including the leadership of the US 8th Air Force and heads of the British Army and Navy re the Battle of the Atlantic. This is not hindsight or nit picking but profoundly important for our future.

I think Grayling shows profound respect for those actually carrying out the bombing and the risks they took and casualties they suffered. No one writing today can write from the same situation of danger experienced by the bombers or the bombed, but that is no reason not to use our brains and the best scholarship we can muster. We must moreover debate these issues with the data, and a strong critical intelligence, not broad brush dismissals unpowered by real thought. There are real moral dilemmas here, which Grayling brings out powerfully and without Hollywood simplicities. Both my countries suffered grievously in world wars, but that is no reason we should not be adults looking carefully at our track record and those of our opponents with some distance, but while memories are still alive. Grayling is an adult, challenging and rigorous thinker.
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