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Arthur 'bomber' Harris, War hero or criminal

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  • Closed Accounts Posts: 20,297 ✭✭✭✭Jawgap


    Cassino, D-Day etc weren't failures of bombing they were failures of doctrine.

    Spaatz, Doolittle et al came up with the idea of "putting the city in the streets" - in other words blasting buildings to deny the enemy cover. The unintended conseuqnce of which was to turn places like Monte Cassino, Caen etc into defensive bastions.

    On the specific point of Harris he decried the use of 'heavies' as a tactical instrument and his view was borne out. The post D-Day bombing missions failed because bomb aimers delayed the release of their ordinance for fear of hitting their own men, meaning - obviously enough - they also missed the enemy.

    In contrast LeMay had no problems with bringing the B29 down to 5000 feet to fire bomb Tokyo.


  • Registered Users Posts: 6,759 ✭✭✭knucklehead6


    You seem to have disregarded Germany's submarine warfare, if I remember rightly one submarine managed to drown something like 15000 yes 15000 people in one day, that obviously is outside your thoughts.

    Just as an aside, but which submarine was this?

    The greatest loss of life in maritime history was onboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, sunk by a soviet submarine in the dying days of World War 2.


  • Registered Users Posts: 520 ✭✭✭dpe


    Jawgap wrote: »

    On the specific point of Harris he decried the use of 'heavies' as a tactical instrument and his view was borne out. The post D-Day bombing missions failed because bomb aimers delayed the release of their ordinance for fear of hitting their own men, meaning - obviously enough - they also missed the enemy.
    .

    Except of course, when they didn't, like the annihilation of Panzer Lehr, which also took out a couple of hundred Americans as well, including a General.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 20,297 ✭✭✭✭Jawgap


    dpe wrote: »
    Except of course, when they didn't, like the annihilation of Panzer Lehr, which also took out a couple of hundred Americans as well, including a General.

    Which kind of proved Harris' point that heavy bombers are an extremely blunt instrument.


  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 6,769 Mod ✭✭✭✭nuac


    Dear Coles, get a life, what do you think of the bombing of Swansea, Coventry, Plymouth and the use of v1 and v2 rockets, the man was brilliant, no doubt you are against the US for hiroshima and nagasaski, did your dad die on the burma railway? mine did, so take a look in the mirror you are only here because brazve men fought for your freedom.
    You are an insult to a generation gone by.


    Sorry to hear of your father's death. The Japanese were inhuman to their prisoners


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  • Registered Users Posts: 3,577 ✭✭✭jonniebgood1



    The greatest loss of life in maritime history was onboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, sunk by a soviet submarine in the dying days of World War 2.

    Indeed. It was part of a tragic series of sinkings, some of the worst losses ever. Of course the ships were loaded with a mixture of refugees and escaping soldiers which made them targets. we had a thread on them http://www.boards.ie/vbulletin/showthread.php?p=72628307


  • Registered Users Posts: 3,577 ✭✭✭jonniebgood1


    dpe wrote: »

    Overall, a bit of an arsehole, but a man of his time, and not a war criminal by the standards of the time.

    Above is a good summary IMO. I would regard Churchills distancing himself from Harris after Dresden as being quite shameful. He had earlier in the war been quite happy to celebrate Harris's success when it suited. Harris did what he had to do to- People may disagree with his justification of bombings that had large numbers of civilian casualties but I would agree with his contention that these raids damaged the German war effort. Many of the civilians were involved in industry that benefited the war which he used as a justification and I see little valid argument against this.


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,020 ✭✭✭Coles


    People may disagree with his justification of bombings that had large numbers of civilian casualties but I would agree with his contention that these raids damaged the German war effort. Many of the civilians were involved in industry that benefited the war which he used as a justification and I see little valid argument against this.
    The vast majority of the citizens in Dresden in February 1945 were women, children and the elderly. No doubt some of these people worked in factories that directly contributed to the war effort, but how far do you want to extend your argument? Is there an acceptable ratio of children that can be killed for every factory worker? I don't think so, and the deliberate targeting of any civilians can be regarded as a war crime. It's interesting to note that only about 100 soldiers were killed during the attack that incinerated that city.

    By any measure, Arthur Harris would be regarded as a war criminal if he committed his crimes today, so why judge him sympathetically? It's not as if he can be punished for his crimes, but by defending his actions we are making them acceptable in current and future conflicts.


  • Registered Users Posts: 579 ✭✭✭Kilkenny14


    Just on the culpability of Arthur Harris for the British air offensive,, One air general who was held responsible for bombing was General Alexander Lohr, who was in command of Luftflotte 4 when they bombed Belgrade during the German invasion of Yugoslavia in 1941.

    He and 6 others were put on trial for the crime in Yugoslavia in 1948, found guilty and executed. The article below goes into the detail of the bombing and the trial.

    http://www.serbianna.com/columns/savich/081.shtml


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 13,030 ✭✭✭✭Chuck Stone


    Some U.S. pilots were not convinced by this rationale: they could plainly see that the target was essentially civilian and a few bombardiers deliberately released their bombs prematurely in open country outside Dresden.

    runestones.blogspot.ie

    Heartening to see a little humaneness amidst all that savagery.


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  • Registered Users Posts: 5,500 ✭✭✭tac foley


    Heartening to see a little humaneness amidst all that savagery.

    Much of that 'humaneness' flew out of the window when the western death camps were over-run by the Allies.

    tac


  • Registered Users Posts: 3,577 ✭✭✭jonniebgood1


    Coles wrote: »
    The vast majority of the citizens in Dresden in February 1945 were women, children and the elderly. No doubt some of these people worked in factories that directly contributed to the war effort, but how far do you want to extend your argument?

    That is the dilemma. This was one of the most brutal wars that there has been so to my mind the damage inflicted is in the main justifiable. Where the line is drawn is difficult to say. For example the bombing of Hamburg in 1943 was during a time when the wars outcome was still in question so any contribution to the war effort may be deemed justifiable. The Dresden bombing is not as easy to justify. This much is clear but my opinion would be that given the preceding 6 years of warfare that it was unfair of Churchill to try and distance himself from it.
    Coles wrote: »
    By any measure, Arthur Harris would be regarded as a war criminal if he committed his crimes today, so why judge him sympathetically? It's not as if he can be punished for his crimes, but by defending his actions we are making them acceptable in current and future conflicts.

    Different times, different weapon capabilities, different morals in war. WWII was a war between similar strength (until Pearl Harbour) forces wheras now when a battle beteen the US/ UK and Iraq begins there is little doubt who will win- the point being it is easier to moralise when we know the outcome and indeed capabilities of an army.


  • Registered Users Posts: 5,301 ✭✭✭Snickers Man


    Many of the generals commanding bomber forces knew they were behaving in a criminal fashion.

    Curtis LeMay who was in charge of America's bombing offensive against Japan late in the war was quoted as saying that if America lost the war he would have been indicted for war crimes.

    Incidentally, the American attitude to bombing Japan differed markedly from their policy towards Germany. Against their fellow white Anglo Saxons, the indisputably racist Americans were loth to deploy terror bombing tactics such as the British used. They insisted on daylight "precision" raids on discretely identified targets like factories and military targets.

    Against the yellow men of Japan, they had no qualms about incinerating as many as possible and under Le May's command devastating firebombing raids were launched against Tokyo and other Japanese cities.

    Harris also mentions in his memoirs that he would frequently tell his staff always to salute a lamp post every time they walked past one because "if we lose this war, we'll all be hanging from one"

    He knew what the consequences of his actions would have been.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 13,030 ✭✭✭✭Chuck Stone


    tac foley wrote: »
    Much of that 'humaneness' flew out of the window when the western death camps were over-run by the Allies.

    What?


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