by Ken Sehested
Every year on 6 August much of the world remembers the first-ever atomic bombing, of Hiroshima, then of Nagasaki. Few remember, though, that the US firebombed more than 60 other cities (using the recently invented incendiary substance known as napalm), including Tokyo, where the deaths of more than 100,000 (mostly by fire, destroying 16 square miles of the city), rivaling the fatalities caused by the Hiroshima attack.
Despite the Hague Convention of 1907, where European powers agreed to forbid the use of aerial bombardment of civilian populations, the prohibition was rarely observed. Both German and English aircraft killed at least 2,000 civilians during World War I.
The first egregious case of such bombing occurred in 1937 in Guernica, Spain, during the Spanish Civil War. Adolph Hitler supported the fascist Spanish General Francisco Franco. An estimated 1,000 Guernica civilians were killed—an atrocity that inspired the artist Pablo Picasso his famous “Guernica” painting, which still stands as an icon addressing the barbarity of modern warfare. Read more ›