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Dresden, Area Bombing, German Militarism And 70 Years Of Peace

  • #2
    Registered Users Posts: 521 DavidRamsay99


    This weekend 70 years ago the south eastern German city of Dresden was firebombed by the British RAF and the American USAAF killing an estimated 25,000 people. The cynical Nazis added an extra zero to the death toll, a propaganda trick that still fools many people to this very day.

    Dresden was crowded with refugees fleeing from East Prussia which was at the time was being overrun by the Soviet Army while the city was also a transport hub for Wehrmacht troops and war material heading to the front. There were a number of important war industries in the area especially lens making which was vital for a range of purposes.

    While the Allies claimed they could land their bombs in a pickle barrel the reality was that to have any hope of hitting an industrial area of a city the entire city would have to be carpet bombed by wave after wave of bombers to have any hope of success.

    Eventually the commander of Bomber Command Sir Arthur "Bomber" Harris and his American counterpart Carl Andrew Spaatz in charge of the American 8th Air Force decided that the full fury of air attacks should be directed at relentlessly leveling every major urban area in the Third Reich to target industrial workers who were the backbone of the German armaments industry and to make millions of Germans homeless to bring about societal collapse and break the national morale of the German people.

    In Christmas 1944 the "defeated" Germans had launched their last major offensive in the West sending the US Army reeling until the Battle of Bulge was ended in late January costing the Americans tens of thousands of dead and wounded. Bypassed French ports remained in Germans until the end of the war and the fighting dragged on in the Italian mountains to the south while Scandinavia remained in Nazi hands. Meanwhile he Red Army had punched through Poland liberating the death camp at Auschwitz and captured Warsaw and were rolling toward the Oder and ultimately Berlin. City after city fell with horrendous losses with division after division of the Red Army being decimated by a fanatical Nazi resistance who often fought to the last round of ammo and the last inch of ground.

    The high hopes of the Allies the previous summer and autumn after D-Day and the fall of Paris were dashed by the failure of the plot to kill Hitler in July and the catastrophic failure of the Market Garden operation which could have brought about a crossing of the Rhine and collapse of the Germans in the West. No full scale crossing of the Rhine would occur until March 1945 when luck and fluke led to American troops captured the bridge at Remagen intact.

    In February war weary Americans and the almost bankrupt British bewildered by continued hopeless Nazi resistance were desperate to finish the war in Europe and the Pacific while Stalin knew the Russian people could only accept appalling losses on the battlefield for so long before his leadership would be in jeopardy. The continued mass deaths of civilians and continued suffering of those imprisoned by the Nazis especially slave laborers, POWs and those surviving Jews who were being marched into the heart of the Reich by the retreating SS morally cried out for a swift end to the war.

    Many believed that if carpet bombing of German cities, knowing that innocent German civilians would perish by the thousand, could hastened the collapse of the Third Reich then so be it to bring an end to the brutal slog on the ground. "Bomber" Harris infamously declared that the Germans had "sown the wind and have reaped the whirlwind."

    Dresden which had long been out of range of Allied bombers in the early years of the war and had not suffered the horrors suffered by Hamburg and Berlin and other metropolises, was a beautiful city famed for its grand baroque architecture as well as its lovingly preserved medieval wooden buildings and its high culture including porcelain. The inept local Nazis in charge of the city unlike the authorities in Berlin where vast concrete bunkers saved thousands made pitiful preparations for air attack. Top Nazi officials could retreat under feet of reinforced concrete while ordinary residents made do with cellars and basements.

    On the nights of 13-15 February the Allied planes unloaded enormous quantities of high explosives bombs and incendiaries. The explosive bombs leveled many buildings but more importantly blew up out windows of neighboring structures so that when the more numerous incendiaries caused countless individual fires to break out. The perfect conditions were present for a firestorm. As blazes burned out of control whole streets and entire city blocks became intense infernos consuming oxygen and causing hurricane force winds. Thousands of victims, mostly the elderly, mothers and children suffocated in the basements and cellars while people fleeing through the streets were literally roasted alive and incinerated as the flames overtook them. Some survivors were later dug out of cavities in the rubble. Many people were lifted off their feet and sucked into burning buildings. Others were caught in the melting road surface were turned into human torches and died where their contorted carbonized remains were later found. Survivors took to the river Elbe in their desperation to escape and many drowned.

    When the fires died down the majority of the city was a smoking pile of rubble. Landmarks like the Dresden Frauenkirche and the Church of the Holy Trinity and the Zwinger Palace and the ancient center of the city were erased from the map but were rebuilt later when Dresden became part of Soviet controlled Eastern Europe. The expertise of the SS in incinerating bodies of Jews was utilized by Nazi officials to dispose of mounds of dead bodies. Grids of railway sleepers and vast quantities of fuel stacked with layers of the dead created Dantesque funeral pyres.

    In subsequent decades the desperation of the last months of World War 2 was forgotten or overlooked by an increasingly pacifist post colonial Europe. Bomber Harris and Bomber Command became scapegoats for the "excesses" of the Allies toward the German people. The new Germany had to be rapidly rebuilt and many former Nazis who had committed atrocious crimes as well as millions of Germans who were directly or indirectly involved in the conquest of the European continent were rehabilitated.

    The long tradition of Prussian militarism since the 18th century and the Nazi aggression of the 1930s and 1940s was literally burned away by the hellish bombardment of German cities which reduced an arrogantly imperialist people to the status of hobos by May 1945. Chastened by their punishment and their collective guilt for the Holocaust and the deaths of tens of millions of their victims, the German people were reborn as a highly pacifist race with progressive ideals eager to prove to the world they would never be mass murderers again. After the fall of the Berlin Wall survivors of Dresden who may have been ardent Nazis before and during the war taught their children and grandchildren to embrace liberal western tolerant values of multiculturalism which is today the ideology of the modern unified Germany.

    As a result the sacrifices of 50,000 dead Allied bomber crewmen had been cruelly forgotten and denigrated. At a terrible price these young men braved flak and German Luftwaffe fighters to pound German cities, the only means to attack the Reich in the early years of the war when the German front lines were deep in Russia and later when the Germans stubbornly resisted from behind the Rhine in the West even though the war was surely lost. Bomber veterans did not receive the glory bestowed on their naval and army counterparts and it was not until 2012 until a memorial to Bomber Command crews was unveiled in London by the Queen.

    The ultimate responsibility for the horrors of Dresden were Hitler and his Nazi henchmen and the German people themselves who supported him forcing the Allies to do what would have been unthinkable a few short years before. Revolting as area bombing was it cannot be disputed by any reasonable person that the horrors unleashed by the Nazis necessitated the purgatory of Dresden and other cities which resulted in an unprecedented and prosperous peace in Europe for the past 70 years.


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Comments

  • #2


    ......


    While the Allies claimed they could land their bombs in a pickle barrel the reality was that to have any hope of hitting an industrial area of a city the entire city would have to be carpet bombed by wave after wave of bombers to have any hope of success.
    .....

    The Allies never claimed that. The RAF in the wake of the Butt Report moved towards area bombing and the USAF under their AWPD/1 plan of attack opted for precision bombing - only the RAF used aiming points, whereas the USAF "bombed on the leader" and used pattern bombing which was just area bombing by a different name.

    Carl Norden, the developer of the bombsight that bore his name, made the claim about being able to put a bomb in a pickle barrel - and the company shows involved a plane dropping a wooden bomb into a pickle barrel.


  • #2


    Jawgap wrote: »
    The Allies never claimed that. The RAF in the wake of the Butt Report moved towards area bombing and the USAF under their AWPD/1 plan of attack opted for precision bombing - only the RAF used aiming points, whereas the USAF "bombed on the leader" and used pattern bombing which was just area bombing by a different name.

    Carl Norden, the developer of the bombsight that bore his name, made the claim about being able to put a bomb in a pickle barrel - and the company shows involved a plane dropping a wooden bomb into a pickle barrel.

    So you both agree with me and disagree with me at the same time? :)

    Anyways here is a magnificent German movie made about the bombing of Dresden.



  • #2


    So you both agree with me and disagree with me at the same time? :)

    Anyways here is a magnificent German movie made about the bombing of Dresden.


    No, just pointing out a gross technical inaccuracy in your narrative.

    Btw - I can also recommend a couple of decent books that discuss the Strategic Bombing Campaign from the German perspective.....

    "To Destroy a City" by Hermann Knell

    And

    "The Fire" by Jorg Friedrich

    Would be 2.

    Richard Overy's book "The Bombing War" is not a bad discussion of it.


  • #2


    Jawgap wrote: »
    No, just pointing out a gross technical inaccuracy in your narrative.

    Btw - I can also recommend a couple of decent books that discuss the Strategic Bombing Campaign from the German perspective.....

    "To Destroy a City" by Hermann Knell

    And

    "The Fire" by Jorg Friedrich

    Would be 2.

    Richard Overy's book "The Bombing War" is not a bad discussion of it.

    At the time the war had to be ended to save millions of lives if the war were to continue to 1946 or 1947.

    There were no good options left. As disgusting and revolting men like Bomber Harris seem today we owe the likes of him an unfathomable debt.

    Orwell was right. "People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf."

    Terrifying but true nonetheless.


  • #2


    At the time the war had to be ended to save millions of lives if the war were to continue to 1946 or 1947.

    There were no good options left. As disgusting and revolting men like Bomber Harris seem today we owe the likes of him an unfathomable debt.

    Orwell was right. "People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf."

    Terrifying but true nonetheless.

    A controversial character to be sure, but it's unusual, in my experience, for an unequivocal opinion to be expressed in respect of him and his command.

    Also it's unlikely the War would have dragged into '46 - Germany was pretty much prostrate before the Western Allies and the USSR by the time Dresden was bombed.


  • #2


    MOD: Moved to The Politics of War from Politics forum. Moved LOCKED so that mods may review it for appropriateness.


  • #2


    Personally I'd be much more inclined to the view point in books like Hastings over Grayling when it came to the effectiveness of Bombing. Also one could pay credit to the aircrew on there forays with the low odds of returning. However, it was pointed out at the time both by some allied military and religious leaders that designing raids that were designed to target civilian targets was a wrong. The purported aim of crushing the German moral, to bring about a 1918 style revolution did not occur and in many cases the arms industry kept going up till the last year of the way with the same level of operation effectiveness in the Nazi thugocracy. But a great deal of the civilian deaths were available by the over-kill that occurred in the final phases of the war and could not be justified by military necessity or arguments of saving lives in the long run.


  • #2


    Manach wrote: »
    Personally I'd be much more inclined to the view point in books like Hastings over Grayling when it came to the effectiveness of Bombing. Also one could pay credit to the aircrew on there forays with the low odds of returning. However, it was pointed out at the time both by some allied military and religious leaders that designing raids that were designed to target civilian targets was a wrong. The purported aim of crushing the German moral, to bring about a 1918 style revolution did not occur and in many cases the arms industry kept going up till the last year of the way with the same level of operation effectiveness in the Nazi thugocracy. But a great deal of the civilian deaths were available by the over-kill that occurred in the final phases of the war and could not be justified by military necessity or arguments of saving lives in the long run.

    We only know in hindsight in particular from interrogations of Albert Speer and his officials just how ingeniously effective the Germans were at dispersing armaments production to smaller and more spread out operations hidden in innocuous facilities and making synthetic fuels to make up for the loss of the Romanian oil fields and so forth.

    In regard to a 1918 style revolution - there were numerous plots to kill Hitler and Von Stauffenberg in 1944 came literally within a table leg of killing him. The bombing of Berlin forced Hitler to retreat into his bunker and from there he conducted the shambolic last months of his crumbling Reich. Hitler was obsessed with Wagner and the Ring Cycle operas which end in a Götterdämmerung inferno. He wanted Germany to commit suicide and then he would commit suicide and he did precisely that.

    The Allied bombing aimed to spur the German leadership to get rid of Hitler and a rational member of his inner circle would emerge to sue for peace. None of the Allied leaders actually believed the the Nazis really would fight until the Red Army were literally yards from Hitler's bunker.

    It wasn't clear until the end of the war just how total was the Nazi death cult.

    Ultimately the Germans collectively decided to follow Hitler down into hell.
    The reason German sprang back worse than ever after defeat in 1918 is because the Allies had not occupied Germany totally and dismantled the Prussian military state. They didn't make the same mistake in 1945. The Red Army laid waste to East Prussia driving out the Germans from what would become Western Poland while American and British bombers leveled their cities.

    They had to make sure Germany could not spring back once again. Area bombing was crucial in order to copper fasten their utter humiliation and allow for Germany to be reborn and remodeled. Some Allied planners had contemplated turning Germany into a medieval style agrarian state by stripping it of all its industry before that idea was dropped when the Soviets held on to East Germany.


  • #2


    Again the poster DavidRamsay99 makes some valid points. However, my understanding from reading various German memoirs of the period, civil or otherwise, that the various declarations from the Western Allies on the need for an unconditional surrender did more to stiffen German spirit than the Bombing raids. While such demands might have kept the Soviets on board, it crippled the non-diehard classes (as per Von Stauffenberg) within the German regime who feared that such would leave them at the mercy (which given the conduct on the Eastern front would be non-existence) of the Soviets. So instead of allowing some sort of respite in bombing or terms for a political resolution, as you said - Gotterdammerung. This was suffered by the civilians in spite of the common practice of the laws of war. That those had been trampled underfoot by the Germans did not mean that they were invalid.


  • #2


    Manach wrote: »
    Again the poster DavidRamsay99 makes some valid points. However, my understanding from reading various German memoirs of the period, civil or otherwise, that the various declarations from the Western Allies on the need for an unconditional surrender did more to stiffen German spirit than the Bombing raids. While such demands might have kept the Soviets on board, it crippled the non-diehard classes (as per Von Stauffenberg) within the German regime who feared that such would leave them at the mercy (which given the conduct on the Eastern front would be non-existence) of the Soviets. So instead of allowing some sort of respite in bombing or terms for a political resolution, as you said - Gotterdammerung. This was suffered by the civilians in spite of the common practice of the laws of war. That those had been trampled underfoot by the Germans did not mean that they were invalid.

    True but by 1945 the Allies had had enough of playing by the rules.
    Appeasing Hitler in the 1930s had only ended in WW2 and the crimes of the Nazis meant that the Reich had to go up in flames just like the Nazi audience at the end of Inglorious Bastards. The end of the war became a revenge and Germany had it coming. It was too far gone for anything else.


  • #2


    I think using the optics industry as an excuse is not very convincing, I do not think that in February 1945 that optics were the resource critical to the German war effort. I imagine that a similar amount of resources might have been used in a way more useful to the ending of the war with 10% of the casualties.


  • #2


    I think using the optics industry as an excuse is not very convincing, I do not think that in February 1945 that optics were the resource critical to the German war effort. I imagine that a similar amount of resources might have been used in a way more useful to the ending of the war with 10% of the casualties.

    Try using artillery or firing tank guns without optical instruments.


  • #2


    This weekend 70 years ago the south eastern German city of Dresden was firebombed by the British RAF and the American USAAF killing an estimated 25,000 people.


    In Christmas 1944 the "defeated" Germans had launched their last major offensive in the West ....the Battle of Bulge .....costing the Americans tens of thousands of dead and wounded. Bypassed French ports remained in Germans until the end of the war and the fighting dragged on in the Italian mountains to the south ....horrendous losses .....a fanatical Nazi resistance ...fought to the last round of ammo and the last inch of ground.

    In February war weary Americans and the almost bankrupt British .....were desperate to finish the war in Europe and the Pacific

    Many believed that if carpet bombing of German cities, knowing that innocent German civilians would perish by the thousand, could hastened the collapse of the Third Reich then so be it to bring an end to the brutal slog on the ground. "Bomber" Harris infamously declared that the Germans had "sown the wind and have reaped the whirlwind."

    Dresden ....had long been out of range of Allied bombers in the early years of the war and had not suffered the horrors suffered by Hamburg and Berlin ....The inept local Nazis in charge of the city unlike the authorities in Berlin where vast concrete bunkers saved thousands made pitiful preparations for air attack.

    On the nights of 13-15 February the Allied planes unloaded enormous quantities of high explosives bombs and incendiaries.

    In subsequent decades the desperation of the last months of World War 2 was forgotten or overlooked by an increasingly pacifist post colonial Europe. Bomber Harris and Bomber Command became scapegoats for the "excesses" of the Allies toward the German people.

    As a result the sacrifices of 50,000 dead Allied bomber crewmen had been cruelly forgotten and denigrated. At a terrible price these young men braved flak and German Luftwaffe fighters to pound German cities, the only means to attack the Reich in the early years of the war

    The ultimate responsibility for the horrors of Dresden were Hitler and his Nazi henchmen and the German people themselves who supported him forcing the Allies to do what would have been unthinkable a few short years before.


    This is a repulsive militarist rant posted by somebody looking for the comfort blanket of justification to explain away what was in essence a punitive massacre of largely defenceless civilians at the end of a major conflict.

    The Dresden raid deserves to be mentioned alongside other horrific episodes in history back to the beginning of recorded time. It was a vengeful inexorable mass killing of enemy civilians (and some combatants too, let's be fair) along the lines of what the Greeks did in Troy, the Romans in Carthage, the forces of the Catholic Emperor in Magdeburg, Cromwell in Drogheda, the US Cavalry at Wounded Knee, or Israel's Christian allies in Sabra/Chatila in Lebanon.

    We've vanquished a formidable enemy: now make them pay.

    Your eulogy makes it sound as if it was only after the reverses at Arnhem and the Battle of the Bulge that the Allied High Command decided, reluctuantly, that in the interests of bringing the war to a speedy conclusion it had to demonstrate its destructive capabilities to the German civilians just to let them know what was achievable.

    This is nonsense.

    The Allies, in particular the British, had been trying for years to verify military theories developed during the inter-war years that targeted bombing of large cities would so confuse and devastate the war-making infrastructure of the enemy that it would cease to function very quickly and wars could be won with much fewer "boots on the ground".

    That might have worked in cases where there was a huge military miss match, if you were up against a poorly equipped primitive people with a weak military; when you were up against a determined and well equipped enemy it didn't work so well.

    The history of Bomber Command is well known and widely documented. Early in the war it was made to realise very quickly that any sort of bombing attack behind enemy lines by day was suicidal; and bombing attacks by night were inaccurate in the extreme. It was impossible to attack war industry production by night: your only hope was to concentrate one's attack on an entire city and hope to kill or at least "de house" as many of the civilian population as possible.

    Arthur Harris didn't decide on the policy. It was handed down to him by his political masters including the odious Lord Cherwell (who had he said the things he did on behalf of the Germans rather than the Allies would have seen him swing from a rope as a criminal against humanity at the end of the war) and Churchill, but he was fully in sympathy with the policy and bitterly resented any attempts to deviate from it.

    Dresden was not the first nor the most destructive bombing raid of the war. Nearly two years previously Hamburg had been devastated by a similar prolonged attack lasting several consecutive nights in which everything from tactics, to weather conditions to the element of surprise went in favour of the Allies. There they achieved similar destruction helped by the instigation of a "firestorm" which devastated the residential areas of the city.

    But that was a fluke.

    It was more common for the Allied planes to suffer enormous casualties thanks to the skill and heroism of the German defenders. In particular in March 1944, when everything went right for the defenders, a bombing raid on Nuremberg caused such devastating casualties to the bomber force that they were forced to concede they could not win by bombing alone.

    The doctrine of "shock and awe", the sudden deliberate and terrible destruction of as many civilians as possible to shorten a war and save lives in the long run is a familiar one. If it works, it's protagonists hold it up as a humane policy; if it fails, they are denounced as war criminals, terrorists, nihilists, criminals against humanity.

    It was the argument put forward by the Allies for Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was also the argument put forward by the Germans in Belgium in 1914. The more we shoot now, the quicker we put down civilian unrest, the shorter will be the war and the more lives will be saved. It doesn't wash. At the centenary commemorations of the outbreak of WWI last year, the Germans apologised for them.

    But it's only dip****s who fancy themselves as representatives of democracy's "strong right arm" who carry on today justifying the vengeful massacres of German civilians late in the war when the only purpose they served was vengeance and bloodlust.

    Those who participated in Bomber Command were callous, deliberate, killers of civilians, men women and children, German, French, Dutch, Polish, Hungarian, Czech etc etc

    They were acting under orders but were willing participants in a common purpose. I see no need to lionise them.

    War is hell. Leave it at that.


  • #2


    Difficult to know where to begin with this but I'll try!

    By late 1944 / early 1945 the objective was not destruction for destruction's sake but to categorically demonstrate to the Germans they were defeated - there would be no latter day version of the 'stab-in-the-back' narrative that had defined much of post-WW1 Germany's worldview.

    The British and Americans had diametrically opposed theories on strategic bombing - the Brits saw it as a political weapon wherein city bombing would lead a population to compel its leaders to sue for peace, whereas the Americans, driven by the ACTS theories and AWPD/1 plan saw it as an economic instrument, where the industrial production that made war possible would be destroyed or dislocated from the war effort.

    At that point in the war Bomber Command were achieving greater accuracy bombing at night that the Americans were bombing by day because of innovations such as H2S, the introduction of master bombers and night-time photo recce. Plus Bomber Command bombed on the aiming point, whereas the USAAF strategic bombers bombed on the leader and pattern bombed.

    Hamburg was not a fluke, it came about through careful research.

    You're correct in saying the Allies realised that bombing alone could not win the War but this fact was privately conceded by early 1943.

    There was no concept of 'shock and awe' in WW2 - in fact you've mis-described it. Shock and awe is mid-1990s concept and it's essence is rapid dominance - meaning precise, calculated destruction rather than wide scale destruction and casualties are the defining features. Effectively, strikes are used to 'decapitate' a leadership and eliminate critical elements of a system - leaving the enemy shocked at the sudden destruction / dislocation of their system and awed by the fact that the attacked even knew where, what and when to strike.

    Hiroshima and Nagasaki were less about compelling the Japanese to surrender (the decision was largely conceded by the time the first bomb was dropped) - it was about demonstrating to the USSR the power of the atomic weapon. The firebombing / napalming of Tokyo and a long list of Japanese cities contributed more to the Japanese decision to surrender than the dropping of the atomic bombs.

    Incidentally, the Tokyo raid (Operation MEETINGHOUSE) took place 70 years ago this weekend - it was, by any measure, the most destructive bombing attack of the war.


  • #2


    Jawgap wrote: »
    Difficult to know where to begin with this but I'll try!

    By late 1944 / early 1945 the objective was not destruction for destruction's sake but to categorically demonstrate to the Germans they were defeated - there would be no latter day version of the 'stab-in-the-back' narrative that had defined much of post-WW1 Germany's worldview.

    That's at least an arguable point of view but it's not what the OP said. He made it sound like it was a policy forced on the Allies because of their supposed weakness in the wake of reverses at Arnhem and the Bulge. And also as a consequence of the determined German defence of their homeland, on which the Allies were now encroaching from all sides.

    Jawgap wrote: »
    The British and Americans had diametrically opposed theories on strategic bombing - the Brits saw it as a political weapon wherein city bombing would lead a population to compel its leaders to sue for peace, whereas the Americans, driven by the ACTS theories and AWPD/1 plan saw it as an economic instrument, where the industrial production that made war possible would be destroyed or dislocated from the war effort.

    In Europe maybe. As you pointed out yourself, the American bombing against Japan was enormously and deliberately destructive and indiscriminate. What were the reasons for this? I think racism was a huge part of it.

    America at the time was an even more racist country than it is now. The majority of states had, at the time, racist laws that were morally, legally and effectively equivalent to Germany's notorious Nuremberg Laws. All that was different was the intended target: Germany's laws focussed on Jews, America's on "people of colour", usually African Americans but also "Malays" and "Hindus" in some cases. And of course, anybody of perceived Japanese origin was imprisoned without trial for the duration of the war.

    Even the American military was segregated on racial lines during WWII. Even the arch hagiographer of the American military Stephen Ambrose was struck by the fact that, as he put it, "The world's greatest democracy fought the world's greatest racist with a segregated army."
    Jawgap wrote: »
    At that point in the war Bomber Command were achieving greater accuracy bombing at night that the Americans were bombing by day because of innovations such as H2S, the introduction of master bombers and night-time photo recce. Plus Bomber Command bombed on the aiming point, whereas the USAAF strategic bombers bombed on the leader and pattern bombed.

    "Greater accuracy" meant that more than one in ten bombers were unloading within five miles of the intended target. H2S was a primitive and not very accurate radio navigation aid that was very easily blocked by German counter measures.

    It is true that accuracy improved slightly throughout the war but all the "Master Bombers" achieved was marking the centre of a city with flares. (Which could also be disrupted by Germans lighting bonfires out in the country) The main bomber stream just unloaded over the general target, and of course there was always "creep back" with crews understandably dumping their bombs as soon as they felt they could so they could turn around and try to get the hell out of there. Precision bombing it wasn't.
    Jawgap wrote: »
    Hamburg was not a fluke, it came about through careful research.

    The effects achieved at Hamburg were a fluke.

    Everything went right for the Allies. They confused the German defences by using Window for the first time (a jamming device that each side had developed and each was too scared to use in case the other side would find out how it worked) the weather conditions were just right and the German tactics, which were in the process of being revamped, were out of date. They caught them at the right time but were totally unable to achieve similar results against another big city target until the end of the war when German defences were largely destroyed.

    Jawgap wrote: »

    Hiroshima and Nagasaki were less about compelling the Japanese to surrender (the decision was largely conceded by the time the first bomb was dropped) - it was about demonstrating to the USSR the power of the atomic weapon.

    We're going to wipe out tens of thousands of people to "send a message" to our own allies! That's all right then.


  • #2


    The firebombing of Japanese cities was in large part driven by the fact that Japanese manufacturing had been dispersed among residential areas. Racism perhaps played a part but it was not a key driver.

    Napalm was used in Europe but it was put to more widespread use in Japan because the bulk of explosive and bomb casing production was earmarked for Europe and napalm was one thing they could make on site as the raw ingredients were in ready supply fairly close to the front.

    The figure of "one in ten bombers were unloading within five miles of the intended target" was published in the Butt Report from 1941. By 1944 Bomber Command's CEP (circular error of probability) exceeded that of 8th Air Force's but it suited Harris to push the idea that Bomber Command's accuracy was mediocre as it allowed him to argue against diverting bombers from cities to attack transport and other 'panacea' targets.

    Hamburg (Operation GOMORRAH) was initiated when the weather was right - Hamburg was selected based on research carried out at Dugway in the US and by Zuckerman in the UK. The one thing this research did prove was that places like Hamburg could be burned, but Berlin could not. The British also learned from their own experience of being bombed - in effect the Luftwaffe 'trained' them because they could see, from the perspective of the bombed, what worked and what didn't.

    I'm not sure why you call H2S a "not very accurate radio navigation aid" - it was not a radio navigation aid - in fact one of the drivers for its development was the fact that radio navigation aids didn't work beyond about 300 nm. It was a ground scanning radar and yes, it's emissions could be traced and tracked by the Germans - but I'm not sure it could be blocked. German efforts focused on detection and guiding nightfighters to the source of the emissions.

    Interesting that something so 'primitive and not very accurate' was still in use in 1982 when the Vulcans struck Port Stanley?

    Finally, don't take my word for Hiroshima and Nagasaki - have a look at the US National Security Archive where the minutes of the Targeting Committee and other associated documents are posted.....
    On May 14 and 15, Stimson had several conversations involving S-1 (the atomic bomb); during a talk with Assistant Secretary of War John J. McCloy, he estimated that possession of the bomb gave Washington a tremendous advantage—"held all the cards," a "royal straight flush"-- in dealing with Moscow on post-war problems: "They can’t get along without our help and industries and we have coming into action a weapon which will be unique." The next day a discussion of divergences with Moscow over the Far East made Stimson wonder whether the atomic bomb would be ready when Truman met with Stalin in July. If it was, he believed that the bomb would be the "master card" in U.S. diplomacy.

    Plus the MAGIC decrypts show that by about early July the Japanese were ready to surrender.


  • #2


    Jawgap wrote: »

    I'm not sure why you call H2S a "not very accurate radio navigation aid" - it was not a radio navigation aid - in fact one of the drivers for its development was the fact that radio navigation aids didn't work beyond about 300 nm. It was a ground scanning radar and yes, it's emissions could be traced and tracked by the Germans - but I'm not sure it could be blocked.

    My mistake. I was confusing it with Gee. :o

    Nonetheless, H2S was indeed a primitive ground tracking radar and was really only any use at identifying targets with very distinctive geographical features like lakes and large rivers. Hamburg indeed had such distinctive features but all H2S enabled a navigator to do was confirm, to some degree, that the target over which he was flying was indeed the intended city. It could do little to get him there in the first place.

    It was certainly a long way removed from modern terrain-following radar. If you are suggesting that what the Vulcans used to bomb Port Stanley was indeed a 1940s vintage radar set then maybe it was because it didn't take too much to identify a few lumps of rock from the vast expanse of the South Atlantic. Any sort of land mass would be a "distinctive geographical feature" in that region.

    No the German's couldn't block H2S but apparently its signal was so strong that they could detect when the sets were turned on even if the planes were still on the ground awaiting take off in England.

    But the main point as to whether the mass destruction of civilians was deliberate policy or just an unfortunate "collateral" to the targeted destruction of military/industrial infrastructure is moot. It WAS the intention of Bomber Command to destroy cities and kill or make destitute as many civilians as possible. Harris made no bones about. And he knew he and his men were war criminals. In his own memoirs he says that he frequently told his subordinates "Every time you pass a lamp post you should salute it, because if we lose the war you'll be hanging from one."

    Quite.


  • #2


    My mistake. I was confusing it with Gee. :o

    Nonetheless, H2S was indeed a primitive ground tracking radar and was really only any use at identifying targets with very distinctive geographical features like lakes and large rivers. Hamburg indeed had such distinctive features but all H2S enabled a navigator to do was confirm, to some degree, that the target over which he was flying was indeed the intended city. It could do little to get him there in the first place.

    It was certainly a long way removed from modern terrain-following radar. If you are suggesting that what the Vulcans used to bomb Port Stanley was indeed a 1940s vintage radar set then maybe it was because it didn't take too much to identify a few lumps of rock from the vast expanse of the South Atlantic. Any sort of land mass would be a "distinctive geographical feature" in that region.

    No the German's couldn't block H2S but apparently its signal was so strong that they could detect when the sets were turned on even if the planes were still on the ground awaiting take off in England.

    But the main point as to whether the mass destruction of civilians was deliberate policy or just an unfortunate "collateral" to the targeted destruction of military/industrial infrastructure is moot. It WAS the intention of Bomber Command to destroy cities and kill or make destitute as many civilians as possible. Harris made no bones about. And he knew he and his men were war criminals. In his own memoirs he says that he frequently told his subordinates "Every time you pass a lamp post you should salute it, because if we lose the war you'll be hanging from one."

    Quite.

    Well, the target for the a Black Buck raids was the runway at Stanley and using H2S they managed to put a stick of bombs across it and crater it - taking the runway out of commission for fast jet ops and demonstrating to Argentina they had the capacity to 'reach out and touch' the mainland, if they so chose - which led to more aircraft being held for the defence of Argentina.

    I'm not denying the Allies targeted civilians, but this was absolute war and unconditional surrender for better or worse was the goal.

    Harris was and is a contentious and controversial figure, but he was there to do a job and was no better and no worse than other 'bomber barons' like LeMay (who firebombed Tokyo), Doolittle (who freely admitted using his B-17s as fighter bait), Quesada (who wanted to use his fighter bombers to strafe and bomb up defended German towns) and even Peirse and Portal whose screwed up ideas cost so many crews their lives.


  • #2


    Don't forget German bombing planners. They kicked off with Guernica and Wolfram Von Richtofen described in detail how he planned it. High and low attacks, HE and incendiaries, multiple passes from different directions, deliberate strafing by fighters...The Italians and Japanese also had form for prewar bombing of civilians....They also had no problem conducting deliberate area bombing on Warsaw and Rotterdam, which were well in advance of anything the Allies did and they continued it in the east against Russian cities and towns, so much so that razing a village, town or city was regarded as the norm by the Luftwaffe and the ground forces. Lidice and Ouradour were certainly not unique and Warsaw was reduced to rubble in 1944. The Russians reduced Budapest to mere bricks as they turfed out the Germans in 1945, so much so that parts of the city were still unrepaired when the Hungarians revolted in 1956. In effect, all sides were guilty of deliberate destruction of cities and towns, some of it as a military imperative but some of it as punishment for failing to surrender early enough.


  • #2


    always found this picture haunting
    k054c5.jpg


  • #2


    My mistake. I was confusing it with Gee. :o

    Nonetheless, H2S was indeed a primitive ground tracking radar and was really only any use at identifying targets with very distinctive geographical features like lakes and large rivers. Hamburg indeed had such distinctive features but all H2S enabled a navigator to do was confirm, to some degree, that the target over which he was flying was indeed the intended city. It could do little to get him there in the first place.

    It was certainly a long way removed from modern terrain-following radar. If you are suggesting that what the Vulcans used to bomb Port Stanley was indeed a 1940s vintage radar set then maybe it was because it didn't take too much to identify a few lumps of rock from the vast expanse of the South Atlantic. Any sort of land mass would be a "distinctive geographical feature" in that region.

    No the German's couldn't block H2S but apparently its signal was so strong that they could detect when the sets were turned on even if the planes were still on the ground awaiting take off in England.

    But the main point as to whether the mass destruction of civilians was deliberate policy or just an unfortunate "collateral" to the targeted destruction of military/industrial infrastructure is moot. It WAS the intention of Bomber Command to destroy cities and kill or make destitute as many civilians as possible. Harris made no bones about. And he knew he and his men were war criminals. In his own memoirs he says that he frequently told his subordinates "Every time you pass a lamp post you should salute it, because if we lose the war you'll be hanging from one."

    Quite.


    The resources required to sustain the bomber offensive must have been enormous. You would expect some in the military and certainly in government to expect definite results for this huge expenditure.
    Since it was the desire of Harris and the Air Ministry and, presumably, some in government to push Germany out of the war by aerial bombardment alone, why was there no change of strategy when it didn't work?


  • #2


    Just speculating on why (if indeed the case) bombing resources were not diverted elsewhere. Based on reading awhile back "Bomber Command", many careers in the RAF were linked to this strategy. Hence any diminution of that would have had to overcome entrenched interests. However if anything the Nazi establishment (Speer's memoirs) seemed a lot worse when it came to this institutionalisation. The other reason might have been vengeance. That the loses in the Blitz meant payback in the UK's eyes was owed, and the bombing was the easiest means to do so.


  • #2


    The Germans had to be utterly defeated.
    There was no point in just rolling into their cities and towns, occupying them for a few years and then leaving again only for them to regroup under a new militarist regime.
    Prussian-ism and Nazism had to be torched.
    The Germans had to be utterly degraded and shown that this was brought about because of their wars of aggression.
    The area bombing achieved that and for the past 70 years the Germans have behaved themselves.
    The reason we have peace in Europe today is because the great grand parents and grandparents and parents of young Germans tell them of the horrors of area bombing.


  • #2


    The Germans had to be utterly defeated. There was no point in just rolling into their cities and towns, occupying them for a few years and then leaving again only for them to regroup under a new militarist regime. Prussian-ism and Nazism had to be torched. The Germans had to be utterly degraded and shown that this was brought about because of their wars of aggression. The area bombing achieved that and for the past 70 years the Germans have behaved themselves. The reason we have peace in Europe today is because the great grand parents and grandparents and parents of young Germans tell them of the horrors of area bombing.


    You forget that the way the allies ended world war 1 caused world war 2 Germans were made repay for the war and accept responsibility for it when in reality it was a series of agreements between European powers that caused the war, Germany was left pushed into a corner after the war and because of this turned to extremism in the form of the nazi party.


  • #2


    fergus1001 wrote: »
    You forget that the way the allies ended world war 1 caused world war 2 Germans were made repay for the war and accept responsibility for it when in reality it was a series of agreements between European powers that caused the war, Germany was left pushed into a corner after the war and because of this turned to extremism in the form of the nazi party.
    Well, as I understand it Austro-Hungary wanted to punish Serbia because of Sarajevo, the Germans would, finally, back the Austrians, the Russians would side with Serbia and the French with the Russians. At the time I'm not sure if the British knew what they'd be doing! If they did, they weren't saying.
    The German armies thrust into Belgium and France started the war.


  • #2


    indioblack wrote:
    Well, as I understand it Austro-Hungary wanted to punish Serbia because of Sarajevo, the Germans would, finally, back the Austrians, the Russians would side with Serbia and the French with the Russians. At the time I'm not sure if the British knew what they'd be doing! If they did, they weren't saying. The German armies thrust into Belgium and France started the war.

    England France and Germany had an agreement so they were all dragged in by the heels


  • #2


    Agreeing with indioblack on WWI.
    From reading Keegan and Stone, the final impetus for dragging say the UK into the war, Treaty with Belgium's neutral status, was so convulted with legal jargon that the UK could have had easily found a clause not to go to war as they did to go to war. The shear confusion and chaos was described in Tuchman's Guns Of August.


  • #2


    Manach wrote:
    Agreeing with indioblack on WWI. From reading Keegan and Stone, the final impetus for dragging say the UK into the war, Treaty with Belgium's neutral status, was so convulted with legal jargon that the UK could have had easily found a clause not to go to war as they did to go to war. The shear confusion and chaos was described in Tuchman's Guns Of August.


    The English also had a treaty with France since 1904 so the knew it was war for them


  • #2


    Not to mention it almost suited Britain to go to war with allies to defeat Germany rather than perhaps having to deal with an enlarged German navy in the future on their own.


  • #2


    Aenaes wrote: »
    Not to mention it almost suited Britain to go to war with allies to defeat Germany rather than perhaps having to deal with an enlarged German navy in the future on their own.


    Britain would not have been alone in assessing the potential German threat.


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