chapter  9
Air-raid Protection and Town Planning
Pages 10

It is a sad sign of the times that many things that are meant to promote the well-being of society are currently being used for the destruction of people and communities. This applies to town planning, too, which is apparently accorded an important place

in the military organization of certain countries. The geographical position of our own country compels us to consider whether the measures that people are taking elsewhere must be applied to us too. Posing this question and, especially, constructing a practical policy based on the answer, is vital because this country, and especially its southern provinces, is still showing a substantial growth of population, so that the built-up area increases yearly by a significant extent through the extension of towns and villages. The regulation of this expansion is a job for town planning. It has become evident that the existing cities stand almost powerless against attacks from the air, and that they present a vulnerable target owing to the dense accumulation of houses and factories. Our mental life is influenced by this unfortunate situation. On inspecting a new

house, we do not ask in the first place whether the interior layout is practical and pleasant … but whether the house has subterranean bomb shelters beneath it, and whether there are sufficient escape routes. Even as we build, we are taking measures against destruction. This applies not only to houses but to the entire spatial system of the country. No road is laid down, no bridge is built, without as much care being spent during the design stage to preparing for its destruction as for its construction. We can thus picture the state of mind of the head of the Town Planning department

of one of our large cities, who, when asked what measures he had taken against air raids in his extensions, replied, ‘none. If mankind has reached this point, then we deserve to be destroyed.’ Although this spontaneous reaction is understandable, it is of no use as a foundation for practical work. The situation is as follows. In total war, the air force has a dual task: 1. to take part in

the actual acts of war; and 2. to destroy people and things that are not directly involved in the conflict. There is no difference in importance between these two tasks. The purely military task consists of, among other things, artillery fire, direct military action against the enemy on land and water and in the air, and destroying military objectives. Equally important is the annihilation, or at least the paralysis, of the ‘home front’; that is the civilian population which is not directly involved in armed conflict. In a modern war, this destruction – viewed from a military standpoint – is not a pointless crime committed by lunatics but a proper constituent of warfare. Civilians do not exist in wartime; everyone is ‘under arms’ in his own way. The purpose of attacking ‘civil objects’ with flying machines is to nullify the resistance of the enemy’s economic and

industrial to panic but not least, to the saying that this summary of military objectives fills a reasonable person with horror. But is there any use in closing one’s eyes and mind to the facts? Can we raise such a level of defence that it makes the business of the attacker impossible? If this were achievable, the military might of the truly peaceful nations would serve the keeping of peace rather than of war, and we are therefore obliged to pay attention to this admittedly terrifying subject when preparing for the extension of human settlements and the establishment of new ones. Everywhere people are taking measures to reduce, and if possible nullify, the effectiveness

of air raids on cities. The way this takes place is not always in concord with the burden of responsibility

borne by those who are responsible for air-raid protection. It must, for example, be considered impermissible to create an impression that urban blackout measures offer any safety whatsoever. The utility of a blackout is rated extremely low by those who ought to know best, namely the aviators. There are experienced pilots who aver that a blackout, however intensive it may be, is incapable of making a human settlement unfindable or even of hindering highly detailed route finding with regard to specific urban areas. Members of the public are intuitively aware of these facts, with the consequence that the value of government measures so far taken in this area is denied … and, what is worse, doubts also arise over the utility of other air-raid protection measures. Nothing is more abominable than this situation, and a radical change in the treatment of this matter is an urgent necessity! If we draw up the balance of the measures recommended by experts, we come to the

conclusion that the best defence against air raids for city dwellers is evacuation; that is the spreading of the population over a wider area. Unfortunately, however, the tactics of modern warfare rely on the principle of the surprise attack. This applies to warfare on land, but equally to warfare in the air. In Spain, the inaudible air raid is being used. And despite the defenders of the Spanish cities having years of experience, air raids claim countless casualties time and again. Military defences, such as defence by aircraft and by artillery, are proving incapable of keeping larger cities suitable as dwelling places for the civilian population.1 The only satisfactory means of defence is thus the decentralization of people and of things. But this can only be useful if it takes place in a timely way. Evacuation after the outbreak of war results in the deaths of countless individuals, and especially of women, children and the elderly. In the tense September days of 1938, we watched the evacuation of the civilian population of Paris, even before the actual mobilization. The necessity of evacuation is created by the structure of our large cities, of which Pierre Patte said, no less than two hundred years ago,

Always, causes that are alien to the happiness of people have played a leading part in the establishment of cities. We need only cast a glance at the entirety to observe that they are merely a mass of houses, distributed without order, and all the merit accorded to the most famous large cities is justified solely by a few moderately well-built districts, a few well-planned streets or a few monuments. It is always clear that everything is offered up to ‘grandeur’, to magnificence, but that no one has made any effort for the welfare of people, to preserve their life and health.