UPD 1/19 - 02.01.2019

War experts

The Mieczysław Pemper Research Prize 2018 recognises the dissertation of the Augsburg historian Sophia Dafinger, which was the first to shed light on the United States Strategic Bombing Survey.

Augsburg / DS / KPP - This historical study makes a significant and critical contribution to the history of violence in modern times, to the ambivalent role of experts in the 20th and 21st centuries and the current dispute concerning the "future of war". This is the reason cited for the awarding of the Mieczysław Pemper Research Award 2018 of the Foundation of the University of Augsburg to the historian Dr. Sophia Dafinger for her dissertation "Examination of society in wartime". 


Sophia Dafinger has compiled this study as part of a research project funded by the Volkswagen Foundation, dealing with the consequences of 20th century aerial bombardment from a social, everyday, cultural and scientific perspective. She herself concentrates in this wider context on the "sociological aerial warfare expertise in the United States from the Second World War to the Vietnam War" - the subtitle of her dissertation. 

Dafinger focuses on “war experts”, a somewhat new professional group, who began to ascertain – initially for the US Air Force – whether the bombing of cities was actually worthwhile and would break down the "wartime morale" of the Germans under the heavy bombardment. These social science "desk warriors" included such prominent figures as one of the leading US economists, John Kenneth Galbraith, or the later architect of the Vietnam War, Paul H. Nitze. They were part of the "white Anglo-Saxon Protestant establishment" that made up a good part of the American elite. In addition, there were Jewish émigrés and intellectuals who had already worked for other American agencies such as the “Office of Strategic Services”. 

Little was known about the precise background to the United States Strategic Bombing Survey (USSBS), its working procedures, its personnel and its output. To the extent that Dafinger brings light into this darkness, she also makes clear what constitutes the strength of a cultural and scientific history of the "Cold War". It opens our eyes very forcefully to the role of science in war, the historicity of scientific knowledge and the immediate and momentous interrelations between politics and science and their specific logics and interests. 

Dr. Sophia Dafinger 
... was for several years a research associate in the Department of Modern and Contemporary History and at the Chair of the History of the European and Transatlantic Cultural Area of the University of Augsburg. Since 2018 she has been working as a post-doctoral employee in the coordinated joint project “Practices of Solidarity” coordinated by Prof. Dr. Dietmar Süß in the Department of Modern and Contemporary History. Her dissertation, supervised by Süß, was partly completed by Dafinger as a doctoral fellow of the German Historical Institute in Washington. 

The Mieczysław Pemper research award 
... of the Augsburg University Foundation was established in 2003. It has been awarded annually since then, is endowed with 2500 euros and addresses outstanding academic work from the humanities and social sciences, especially those that contribute to the understanding of the catastrophes of the 20th century and their roots. 

The winner of the Mieczysław Pemper Research Award 2018: With her dissertation, contemporary historian Dr. Sophia Dafinger has shed light on the darkness of the United States Strategic Bombing Survey for the first time. Foto: privat


Dr. Sophia Dafinger 
Department of Modern and Contemporary History 
University of Augsburg 
86135 Augsburg 
Telephone 0821 / 598-2496