We are delighted to welcome Professor Charles Schencking, who will visit the Asia Research Centre on 25 October. Professor Schencking is a distinguished specialist on modern Japanese history at the University of Hong Kong - brief biography below. His keynote presentation will be followed by presentations by researchers from the Asia Research Centre/History Program at Murdoch. All are welcome to attend.
12.30-12.40pm Opening –Sandra Wilson, Academic Chair, History
12.40-1.40pm Charles Schencking, ‘The “Wanton Destruction” of Japanese Cities: Urban Area Bombing and American War Crimes in the Second World War’
1.40-2.10pm Afternoon Tea
2.10-2.50pm Paul Taucher, ‘Command Responsibility and Summary Executions in Allied War Crimes Trials of Japanese Suspects’
2.50-3.15pm Kirsty Metcalfe, ‘Medical Care for Australian Captives of the Japanese Military’
3.15-3.40pm Sandra Wilson, ‘War Crimes in Japanese Soldiers’ Memoirs’
Charles Schencking is a professor of Japanese history at the University of Hong Kong. He has published widely on the history of natural disasters, urban reconstruction, the Imperial Japanese navy, and on issues related to war, state and society in prewar Japan.
Abstract: “Wanton Destruction” of Japanese Cities: Urban Area Bombing and American War Crimes in WW2
From December 1944 to August 1945, American Army Air Corp bombers incinerated roughly 41% of Japan’s sixty-six largest cities—even before the near total destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Reflecting in 1947 on their successes, the US Strategic Bombing Survey concluded that the “air attack on Japan was directed against the nation as a whole, not only against specific military targets . . . [and that] the American attack against the total target was successful.” Undoubtedly, but what about questions of morality, legality, humanity? Where does America’s urban area bombing of Japan fit within the larger context of war crimes given that Axis officials were charged, convicted, and executed for acts contributing to the “wanton destruction of cities”? In this paper Charles Schencking explores the evolution and efficacy of American urban area bombing conducted against Japan within larger legal and conceptual frameworks ranging from General Gulio Douhet’s 1927 theory of air power to post-war attempts to assess and punish crimes against humanity.