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Monday, February 8 at 9 p.m. – Bombing of Germany, The American Experience

(Rochester, NY) On September 1, 1939 — the first day of World War II in Europe — U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt appealed to the warring nations to “under no circumstances undertake the bombardment from the air of civilian populations.” By the time the Axis was finally defeated six years later, British and American Allied forces had carried out an aerial bombing campaign of unprecedented might over Germany’s cities, claiming the lives of thousands of civilians.

International Emmy Award and Peabody Award-winning producer Zvi Dor-Ner brings viewers Bombing of Germany, The American Experience. It airs Monday, February 8 at 9 p.m. on WXXI-TV (DT 21.1/ cable 1011 and 11).

Weaving interviews with World War II pilots and historians with stunning archival footage of the bombing and its aftermath, the film examines the defining moments of the offensive that led the United States across a moral divide

Before World War II began, Roosevelt, Churchill and even Hitler believed wars were won by destroying the enemy’s fighting forces. Military strategists of the day agreed that civilian populations were irrelevant and therefore to be left alone. But World War II evolved into the first truly total war — one in which whole societies were pitted against each other. As the distinction between combatant and civilian blurred, especially for Nazi Germany, so did the concept of “civilized warfare.”

Like Roosevelt, England’s Prime Minister Winston Churchill had once regarded civilian targets off limits and advocated precision bombing of military targets. But when German bombers attacked London in late August 1940, the Royal Air Force responded in kind against Berlin. “This moves the war into a new phase, into bombing of cities, attacks on civilians,” explains military historian Tami Davis Biddle

“When the Americans joined the war in 1941, they were guided by the strategic imperative to bomb only military and industrial targets,” says writer, producer and director Zvi Dor-Ner. “But over time that boundary eroded completely, not only due to the technological limitations of precision targeting, but for tactical reasons as well.”

Over the course of the next five years, Allied forces would drop more than a million tons of bombs on Germany. Britain’s Royal Air Force raided Germany’s cities at night, having little control over where the attacks would strike. Then, during the day, Americans used precision targeting to drop explosives on strategic military targets. In this joint offensive, the British aimed to destroy the Germans’ will to fight, while the Americans attempted to diminish Germany’s ability to fight. Over time, the strategies began to converge, and the Americans contributed to the destruction of cities and life. Some 500,000 German civilians were killed; another 800,000 were injured.
Pictured: Ruins smolder in central Berlin after an Allied bombing raid.

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