STATISTICS OF DEMOCIDE
Death By American Bombing
And Other Democide *
By R.J. Rummel
The bombing of non-combatant populations violated international and humanitarian laws.
----American protest to Japan about its bombing of China in 1938
The American Government and the American people have for some time pursued a policy of wholeheartedly condemning the unprovoked bombing and machine-gunning of civilian populations from the air .
----American President Roosevelt on the Soviet bombing of Helsinki in 1939
In domestic democide, such as lynchings, the American government was probably indirectly responsible for around 2,000 killed since 1900. But in foreign wars, the American military may have killed hundreds of thousands of foreigners in cold blood, virtually all civilians, and the greater majority of these by bombing.
Table 13.1 presents the democide and associated sources, estimates, and calculations on the United States. I have separated the United States from the other centi-kilo murderers listed in table 14.1 because of the special interest in this country and likely questions about its foreign democide. The first part of Table 13.1 lists the number of Americans killed in wars or foreign military violence during this century (lines 2 to 41), which overall total 633,000 dead. The remainder of the table concerns American democide and domestic conflict.
The first case of massive and extensive democide was during the Philippine War, which the United States fought to takeover the Philippines from a newly independent Filipino government and pro-independence guerrilla forces (lines 47 to 89). With the approval, if not under the command of their officers, American soldiers widely used torture, and often shot their prisoners and surrendering guerrillas. Moreover, as a military strategy American forces laid waste to inhabited areas of guerrilla infested island areas, destroying villages and killing many civilians in the process. Surviving civilians were often driven into camps or controlled villages, where conditions deteriorated such that many died from hunger and disease (e.g., line 61).
Numerous letters from soldiers and other first hand reports during the war attest to the responsibility of the American Army for thousands of deaths. Estimates of the number for particular campaigns, such as on Luzon or the Visayas Islands are difficult to find. Indeed, the Philippine War seems to have dropped into a memory hole (it is rarely even recognized as a colonial or imperial war--American war-deaths in the Philippines are usually classified under the Spanish-American War). The table presents the few mortality figures I could find. If possible I classify and consolidate the estimates of primarily civilian deaths by province, as for Batangas province (lines 55 to 62); and Island, as for Luzon overall (lines 64 to 70). Separately I also give the overall estimates (lines 76 to 80). The consolidation of these (line 81) I then compare to the sum of the province/island totals (lines 81 and 82), and combine them into a final range (line 83) in the usual manner.
Next I list the only two large, democide related, estimates I could find (lines 87 and 88--scattered throughout the literature, often in the letters home of American soldiers, there are accounts of the murder of several to a few dozen Filipinos). The problem, then, is to estimate a reasonable overall democide, given the range of total deaths already determined above. Based on several works on the war1 and taking account of General Bell's claim that on Luzon alone one-sixth of the population was killed, or about 600,000 Filipinos,2 I assume that 10 to 50 percent of Filipino deaths were due to American democide, with 25 percent as the most prudent guess. Calculating these percentages in the table (line 89), I get a democide range of 25,000 to 487,000 (showing the huge uncertainty involved), with a central estimate of 128,000 murdered
To keep their people in line and to punish collaborators, Filipinos also committed democide, particularly the pro-independence guerrillas. This was, however, at a comparatively low level. I give an estimated range in the table (line 92) that seems consistent with the sources.
At the same time the United States was involved in the sack of Peking. Following the defeat of the Boxer rebels and Chinese Imperial Army eight foreign military contingents sacked Peking and the far countryside. Homes and shops were looted, women raped and murdered, and unarmed civilians generally killed. Elsewhere I have calculated the overall Chinese toll (shown on line 96), from which I guess that of the eight contingents American soldiers were less (1/16th), as much (1/8th), or more (1/4th) involved. The resulting range of 125 to 6,250 murders appears sufficient to well include the actual American democide, given the sources;3 this may have been about 625 innocent Chinese.
The United States committed its greatest democide during the Second World War. This was in the indiscriminate area bombing of German and Japanese cities, including Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Not all American strategic bombing was of this type. Early in the war the American Air Force concentrated on precision bombing of both Germany and Japan. But as the war progressed British pressure and American bomber losses in such bombing persuaded the Americans to join the British in broadly targeting the center of urban areas. Regarding Japan, the apparent lack of success of precision bombing led to the assumption of command over the bombing by General Curtis Lemay, who was disposed to massive area bombing of Japanese cities. The bloody aftermath of this inhuman and barbarous form of warfare I lay out in the table (lines 100 to 226).
I first give and consolidate many of the available mortality estimates for the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings (lines 101 to 113, 116 to 127); and for the conventional blast/fire bombing of Tokyo and Yokohama (lines 130 to 137) and other Japanese urban areas (line 140).
I also show and consolidate estimates of the overall toll from this bombing (lines 142 to 145). This consolidated range for the total killed can now be compared to the sum (line 146) of those killed in Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Tokyo/Yokohama, and other urban bombing. Both lows and mid-values (lines 145 and 146) are relatively close. To get the final range, as usual I take the lowest low and highest high and average the two mid-values (line 147). This is not yet the democide toll, for there was, as mentioned, also nondemocidal precision bombing which surely contributed to the toll. Given, however, the sheer weight and deadliness of area bombing, precision bombing must have accounted for a small number, perhaps no more than a range of 5 to 15 percent of the total, with 10 percent a most reasonable proportion. Taking this into account , I then calculate (line 148) that through indiscriminate urban bombing the American Air Force probably murdered4 337,000 Japanese during the war .
Similarly determining the democide associated with bombing German cities is more complicated, especially because of the far more extensive precision bombing and the extended urban bombing of the Royal Air Force. The toll of American and British bombing is given in the table, subdivided illustratively into that of Berlin (lines 152-154) and Hamburg (lines 157 to 162); and, the most infamous, of Dresden (lines 165 to 180). The table then lists and consolidates estimates of the overall bombing toll for Germany (lines 183 to 192), which amounts to a range of 300,000 to 600,000 killed (line 193).
The problem now is to determine how many of these deaths were due to urban area bombing by the United States. Probably the tons of bombs dropped on urban areas provides the best index. In the table I give estimates of this for Britain (lines 196 to 199), for the United States and Britain combined (lines 201 to 204), for the United States (lines 206 to 207); and for comparison, that dropped by each in precision bombing on the most important targets--oil/chemical plants and refineries (lines 209 and 210). Using these statistics I calculate the area bombing tonnage for Britain (line 212) and the United States (line 213). From the proportion of British to American tonnage I then estimate the British and American democide (lines 215 and 216) from the overall urban bombing toll (line 193). Most probably, then, the American Air Force in Europe murdered at least 16,000 German civilians, probably 32,000 overall, from indiscriminate bombing.
Similar bombing was also carried out against Rumania and Hungary. Virtually no estimates are available in the sources of those killed, but to at least show that these raids were not inconsequential in civilian lives, the table gives one estimate for a series of raids in April 1944 on Bucharest (line 219). Based on the sources, I give a likely range of estimated deaths for urban bombing of these two countries (line 220), and then estimate the relative British and American democide of Rumanians and Hungarians in proportion to that for their bombing of Germany (lines 221 and 222).
Summing the American bombing democide of Japanese, Germans, Rumanians, and Hungarians gives an overall, most likely, toll of 372,000 lives (line 226). To avoid any misunderstanding, I reiterate that this is the probable toll from the indiscriminate bombing of civilians, and not from precision bombing of military-industrial targets.
This is not the only American democide during the war. After an intensive study of American documents and interviews with survivors and perpetrators, the Canadian writer and former publisher James Bacque concluded that just before and after the end of the war German POWs and civilians in American detention camps in Europe died from hunger, exposure, and disease causing conditions as bad as the worse of gulag, and for which General Eisenhower was directly responsible. Bacque's figures are stunning: "undoubtedly . . . over 800,000, almost certainly over 900,000, and quite likely over a million died."5
Basque's statistics, arguments, and documentation were subjected to careful and detailed study by a conference of historians (including Germans) organized by Stephen Ambrose, the director of the Eisenhower Center at the University of New Orleans. Papers from the conference have been published6 and show that Basque misread, misinterpreted, or ignored the relevant documents and that his mortality statistics are simply impossible. However, the papers do show that some of the camps, particularly the transit camps that became known as the Rheinwiesenlager,7 were initially lethal, with thousands of German POWs dying, and that these deaths were the responsibility of the American government. While the final toll of the American transit camps was far from that alleged by Bacque, it still could have reached 56,000 dead (lines 232 and 233). Detailed statistical studies by the German Maschke Commission set up to determine the fate of German POWs arrived at a figure of 4,537 dead for the most deadly Rheinwiesenlager camps (line 229). Other estimates in this range are also available (lines 228, 230 to 231). As a result of all this, I ignore Bacque's estimates and consolidate the others as shown (line 237)
In total, then, during World War II the United States likely murdered from 246,000 to 978,000 non-Americans, most likely 378,000 of them (line 239).8
American forces also clearly committed democide during the Vietnam War. These have been discussed in the Chapters on Vietnam and Cambodia and here I simply reproduce (lines 242 and 242a) and sum (line 243) the final democide range, along with an estimate for American bombing in Laos (line 242b).
To turn now to domestic democide, the clearest cases of this are lynchings or Ku Klux Clan murders of Blacks in which local officials were involved or toward which state or federal government officials turned a blind eye. Sometimes the executions of alleged criminals by vigilante groups was similarly supported or encouraged. In the table I have given estimates of lynchings and other such murders (line 246 to 253). Since none cover this century, I have extrapolated the estimates for which this could be done (lines 255 to 258) to the years 1900 to 1987 and then consolidated them (line 259).
Now, not all the 4,000 to some 8,000 that I calculate as killed was democide. Some was in communal or interracial violence, some involved the enforcement of private law and order. The sources are not detailed or comprehensive enough to judge how much of the killing was done with some sort of state or federal government involvement or benevolence. Some of the sources (such as Richard Maxwell Brown's useful historical studies on vigilantism and lynching)9 do suggest that probably most, and even perhaps all but a small number, of such killing was without state or federal government help or compliance (although local governments in the shape of a sheriff or judge may have participated). Accordingly, I assume that 25, 35, and 50 percent of those killed will give an approximate measure of the democide that occurred (line 260), which is around 1,000 to 4,000 Americans murdered, probably about 2,000 in total.
Other forms of nondemocidal violence has occurred and the table classifies and lists its estimated dead (lines 263 to 317). My purpose in presenting these is to display the variety of American domestic violence and its magnitude, and to get some overall measure of the extent of non-democidal violent deaths to compare to domestic democide. I also give the estimates of overall dead in collective or intergroup violence (lines 320 to 323), each of which, if possible, I extrapolate to cover the years since 1900 (lines 325 to 327). Below these (line 328) I also sum the various consolidations of the estimates. Note that this sum is much higher than the estimates of overall dead in the sources, even in comparison to my extrapolation from what many consider the most violent 1960s (line 326). But given the detailed and comprehensive basis of this sum (e.g., lines 246 to 258), I am inclined to accept it as is. That is, probable some 6,000 Americans were killed in domestic intergroup or collective violence in this century. Even if added to its domestic democide (line 260), which would give an overall total near 12,000 Americans probably killed since 1900, this hardly makes the United States the "most violent country in the world," as some journalists and academics contend.
Putting together all the subtotals (lines 333 to 350), in this century the United States probably murdered about 583,000 people (line 350), conceivable even as many as 1,641,000 all told. Virtually all of these were foreigners killed during foreign wars. Domestically, throughout this century the American Federal or state governments were responsible for the murder of about 1 out of every 1,111,000 Americans per year.
* From the pre-publisher edited manuscript of Chapter 13 in R.J. Rummel, Statistics of Democide, 1997. For full reference to Statistics of Democide, the list of its contents, figures, and tables, and the text of its preface, click book.
1. Particularly useful were Francisco (1987), Gates (1973), Linn (1989), Miller (1982), Storey and Lichauco (1926), and Ochosa (1989).
2. For separate accounts of this statement, see Storey and Lichauco (1926, p. 121), Francisco (1987), and Schirmer (1972, p. 231)).
3. Such as O'Connor (1973, pp. 293, 299-300), Esherick (1987, p. 310), and Martin (1968, pp. 147-48).
4. On the use of "murder" in this context, which may be uncomfortable to many American readers, keep in mind that democide is defined as murder by government and includes the currently and internationally defined war-crime of indiscriminate urban bombing. On such bombing as a war crime in the Geneva conventions, see Bothe, Partsch, and Solf (1982).
5. Bacque (1989, p. 2).
6. Bischof and Ambrose (1992). For a summary of the conference results, see Ambrose (1991). Ambrose's summary provoked many letters from former camp guards, prison officers, German survivors, and others, who wrote to verify or deny Bacque's allegations. See, for example, The New York Times Book Review (April 14, 1991).
7. Overmans (1992, p. 148)
8. The results for Great Britain are listed in Table 14.1E, beginning with line 2309.
9. Brown (1969a, 1969b, 1975).
For citations see the Statistics of Democide REFERENCES