The phrase carpet bombing refers to the use of large numbers of unguided gravity bombs, often with a high proportion of incendiary device|incendiary bombs, to attempt the complete destruction of a target region, either to destroy personnel and materiel, or as a means of morale|demoralizing the enemy (see terror bombing). The phrase probably is intended to invoke the image of bombs completely covering an area, in the same way that a carpet covers a floor.
Initially, carpet bombing was effected by multiple aircraft, often returning to the target in waves. Nowadays, a large bomber or missile can be used to create the same effect on a small area (an airfield, for example) by releasing a relatively large number of smaller bombs. Some artillery systems, such as the US Army's MLRS, can also be used to bomb regions in a similar manner. The strategy was used during World War II, mainly by the United Kingdom|British and the United States to try to weaken German morale and destroy cities which contained war industries.
Carpet bombing was also used extensively in Japanese civilian population centers, such as Tokyo.
The term also applies to a modern nuclear weapons doctrine that prefers targeting an area with several lower-yield warheas, usually Intercontinental ballistic missile|ICBM-launched Multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle|MIRVs, rather than using an individual multi-megaton nuclear weapon to achieve the desired mass destruction more efficiently. However, carpet bombing has largely fallen away to precision bombing in recent years.
- Area bombardment
- The origins of bombing theory with Giulio Douhet
- First use of carpet bombing on a civilian target: Bombing of Guernica, April 1937
- First use of carpet bombing on a military target: Battle of El Mazuco, Asturias, September 1937
- strategic bombing|Strategic bombing
- Carpet bombing in the Vietnam War
- The use of B52s to bomb the Iraqi Republican Guard in the Gulf War (1990–1991)