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Bomber Harris a 'colonial warmonger'

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Bomber Harris a 'colonial warmonger'

Old 16th Jun 2020, 19:51
  #21 (permalink)  
 
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Originally Posted by Asturias56 View Post
Can't see the point of removing statues - - if you have to attach an explanatory notice but where do you stop? Knock down the Roman Wall (clearly imperialist) or the Louvre or..........?

Bomber Harris? Not a great leader - he rarely ever went anywhere near an operational station, blinkered (fought tooth & nail against letting Coastal have any decent aircraft) and bombastic. He also slithered around clear orders at times. Not worthy of the people he sent out to fight
Well, you say that, but it appears that multiple Bomber Command veterans would’ve disagreed with you (Hamish Mahaddie, I think it was, who said that after a speech by Harris, the men of his station would’ve happily stuffed bombs in their pockets and flown over to Germany by flapping their arms vigorously). He also spent a lot of time in HQ because of the PM’s penchant for phoning him at all hours of the day. Churchill skilfully promoted the offensive Harris prosecuted and then dropped Bomber Command like a hot brick - ‘history shall be kind to me. I know, for I shall write it’ - when he realised the devastation the Command he’d so assiduously supported had inflicted.

Also, don’t let the head of the AHB hear you say that he avoided ‘clear orders’. Harris manoeuvred himself around Air Ministry Directives which he thought stupid, but not orders. There is an important difference between the two. Not that Max Hastings or AC Grayling have ever understood this.
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Old 16th Jun 2020, 22:17
  #22 (permalink)  
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My father was in Bomber Command (Night Fighters) he and his colleagues always held Harris in high esteem. They knew that he was made a scape goat but never forgot how he supported them. By all means criticise the carpet bombing of cities (remembering to include the USA in your condemnation) but state that these raids were authorised by the War Cabinet. Politicians make final choices - just as they this year.
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Old 16th Jun 2020, 23:01
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Things are always clearer with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. There is considerable evidence that the strategic bombing campaign was not an efficient use of resources - but few knew or even suspected that during the war.
Revisionist history is just that - applying modern standard to historical events gives a distorted view of what happened and why. Similar revisionist history has been applied to the US dropping the A-bombs on Japan ('Japan wasn't a threat, they were about to surrender anyway, etc.'). Given that my dad was training for the invasion of Japan when the dropped the bombs - he was going to be a platoon leader on the second wave of the initial landings and had been told to expect 80% casualties - I remain unconvinced that we didn't need to drop the bombs. In fact a pretty good argument can be made that dropping the bombs and preventing the need for an invasion of the mainland saved move lives - both Japanese and Americans - than any single act in history.
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Old 17th Jun 2020, 01:21
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Is Harris' statue on Sadiq Khan's hit list then? What will be interesting will be what statues go up in place of say Harris? John Lennon perhaps?

FB
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Old 17th Jun 2020, 03:40
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tdracer,

My father was a POW in Singapore. I agree 100% with what you say about the A bomb probably saving more lives than it took. There is also good reason to believe that it saved the prisoners' lives too. None of these issues are easy to disentangle from modern points of view.
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Old 17th Jun 2020, 03:56
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Originally Posted by Finningley Boy View Post
Is Harris' statue on Sadiq Khan's hit list then? What will be interesting will be what statues go up in place of say Harris? John Lennon perhaps?

FB
Shouldn't be, Butch may have been into Bombing, but Slavery wasn't his thing.
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Old 17th Jun 2020, 04:03
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Amen

Originally Posted by Recc View Post
Interestingly, if you had moved out of the suburbs, and into central london, (or Coventry or Plymouth) those sorts of attitudes became less common (or even a minority view). There was gallup poll in 1941 that looked at public attitudes to 'reprisal' bombings which found that support for them overwhelmingly came from areas that had experienced the fewest air raids. I imagine that the people who had experienced area bombing had a much better idea of who was actually being targeted for 'vengeance' than the wider public.
I signed up for an account just to praise your astute and human observation of what I can only describe as merciful reflection.
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Old 17th Jun 2020, 08:27
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Originally Posted by Traffic_Is_Er_Was View Post
Eventually that tactic won that war though.
Starving Germany through blockade won the war, the Armies could have just sat in their trenches for duration and achieved more or less the same effect. By 1916 Germany was receiving ~5% of what she had been before the war in terms of food and material which was unsustainable.
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Old 17th Jun 2020, 09:33
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Originally Posted by OJ 72 View Post
Asturias56...I suspect that any of Harris' surviving 'Old Lags' would take deep exception to your comment that:

'Bomber Harris? Not a great leader - he rarely ever went anywhere near an operational station...'

As Squadron Historian and Adjutant in the early 90s I had the immense privilege of meeting, talking with (in depth) and, best of all, drinking with dozens of ex-Bomber Command aircrew, groundcrew and their families..and almost to a man and woman they would not hear anything bad said about 'Butch' as he was very affectionately known to them. They would have followed him to hell and back, and to the survivors it must have felt like that at times.

The main problem with 'Bomber', 'Bert', or 'Butch' Harris has been the revisionist view of the strategic bomber offensive that was started as early as Feb/Mar 45 by one Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, who, after Dresden, feared that his legacy could be tarnished by association with Bomber Command and Harris.
OJ – Glad to see your conversations with veterans did not include the misnomer 'Butcher', which I moaned about some years back on this forum after Andrew Marr used it in his British history series.
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Old 17th Jun 2020, 10:13
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I agree that Harris, and the crews of Bomber Command, were left high & dry by Churchill - whose weasel words after Dresden were very shabby indeed.

people forget that for much of the war - certainly until; '44 Bomber Command was the only way to actually strike at Germany in W Europe. 1940-42 there was no option at all, after Dieppe it was clear any ground invasion was going to be a very serious exercise indeed. I'm not convinced by Harris - his Berlin Campaign was badly thought out and kept going long after it was clear it was costing a lot of crews - but to me the crews were the bravest of the RAF - and they were not given anything like the honour they should have had
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Old 17th Jun 2020, 10:39
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Bollocks to the revisionist snowflakes, I raise my glass to Sir Arthur Harris and all who served in Bomber Command.
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Old 17th Jun 2020, 10:46
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Well said Beamer so will I
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Old 17th Jun 2020, 11:17
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Originally Posted by Recc View Post
Interestingly, if you had moved out of the suburbs, and into central london, (or Coventry or Plymouth) those sorts of attitudes became less common (or even a minority view). There was gallup poll in 1941 that looked at public attitudes to 'reprisal' bombings which found that support for them overwhelmingly came from areas that had experienced the fewest air raids. I imagine that the people who had experienced area bombing had a much better idea of who was actually being targeted for 'vengeance' than the wider public.
On the other hand, one of the Bomber Command veterans who had been a 21-yr old Lancaster captain is on record talking of his experience of having his home bombed while he was on ARP duty (too young to volunteer at 17). Word reached him as he started his 8 hour shift, which he completed. When he got home, "My house was just a pile of rubble. The kind lady who lived next door was plastered to the wall like some hideous gelatinous graffiti and my bruised, battered and shocked parents were in a shelter. … I salvaged a pair of Scout shorts and a school prize, and these became my sole possessions. At that moment I swore to become a bomber pilot and make the buggers pay." Which he did!..

Flt Lt 'Steve' Stevens DFC sadly died at Easter, but at least this fine and brave gentleman did not live to see the current nonsense.
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Old 17th Jun 2020, 11:24
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My father told us that, when his civilian parents (his father was in the RFC flying SE5a) were killed in their beds by a V2 in October 1944, it was no trouble at all to go out on operations.

As with all history - it is written by the wiiner. What we need is less editing of the past, less clinging to the past. More of understanding everything, including their social and political attitudes at the time. We have the advantage of that hindsight and should remember it all, good and bad.

We need to look and acknowledge. Judgement is way past. Just think how many more wars there have been since then? Whatever historians and archiologists discover - there have always been civilian casualties. War is what humans do because we are tribal animals and every tribe/state/company/corporation thinks it is better and more deserving than any other.
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Old 17th Jun 2020, 11:37
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Harris as a "colonial warmonger"? He was a product of his time and circumstances. We had a very different way of looking at the world back then.

Some quotes in relation to Harris about his inter-war service .. from Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sir_Ar...,_1st_Baronet)
"He said of his service in India that he first became involved in bombing during the usual annual North West Frontier tribesmen trouble." and later,
"Harris is recorded as having remarked "the only thing the Arab understands is the heavy hand."" and
"He helped devise area bombing in Iraq in 1923."

Colonial: - probably hard to argue he wasn't a "colonialist"
Warmonger: - in his time probably not. Using today's social norms, probably yes.


Thread Drift:
tdracer

I've seen it claimed several times that the A-bombs were a (significant) adjunct to Japan's decision to surrender, but it was the Russian invasion of Manchuria, and threatened invasion of the Japanese islands, that were the icing on the cake of 4 years of allied (primarily US) endeavours against Japan.

For example, in Paul Ham's "Hiroshima Nagasaki" two quotes highlight this:
12 August - Kantaro Suzuki (Japanese Prime Minister) is quoted as saying "If we miss today, the Soviet Union will take not only Manchuria, Korea, Karafuto, but also Hokkaido. This would destroy the foundation of Japan. We must end the war while we can deal with the United States." (page 395)
17 August - Hirohito (in his surrender speech to the Japanese military) said "Now that the Soviet Union has entered the war to continue (fighting) would only result in further useless damage and eventually endanger the very foundation of the empire's existence." (p. 380)

9 August - Hiroshima
11 August - Nagasaki
9 August - Russian launch 'surprise' (and very successful) attacks with forces in excess of 1.5 million soldiers
10-14 August - 1,000 plus B-29 bombing sorties on Japan
10 August and on - numerous raids and shore bombardments by US 3rd fleet (including elements of the BPF)
15 August - Japanese surrender
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Old 17th Jun 2020, 12:33
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Originally Posted by beamer View Post
Bollocks to the revisionist snowflakes, I raise my glass to Sir Arthur Harris and all who served in Bomber Command.
No 'uptick' option so have a + 1
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Old 17th Jun 2020, 12:42
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Originally Posted by Fortissimo View Post
On the other hand, one of the Bomber Command veterans who had been a 21-yr old Lancaster captain is on record talking of his experience of having his home bombed while he was on ARP duty (too young to volunteer at 17). Word reached him as he started his 8 hour shift, which he completed. When he got home, "My house was just a pile of rubble. The kind lady who lived next door was plastered to the wall like some hideous gelatinous graffiti and my bruised, battered and shocked parents were in a shelter. … I salvaged a pair of Scout shorts and a school prize, and these became my sole possessions. At that moment I swore to become a bomber pilot and make the buggers pay." Which he did!..
An understandable reaction, if not a humane or logical one; the kindly neighbours and elderly parents who he in turn 'plastered to the wall' or incinerated in the streets were very unlikely to have had any part in determining Luftwaffe strategy or target selection. I was only pointing out that the opposite reaction was the more common one amongst people who actually experienced that sort of bombing.

Nobody can (or should try to) downplay the bravery and patriotism of the aircrew who volunteered to carry the fight to Germany and the risks that they took to do so. However, the mere demonstration of those qualities says nothing about the morality of the act; those taking the same risks for Hitler could be described in equal terms. It has accurately been said that the most immoral thing that the allies could have done was to have lost the war. There are no easy answers (which is why I don't offer any), but it is legitimate, even in hindsight, to ask whether there should be any moral constraints on how you fight a war in such circumstances and even to ask what personal responsibility was borne by the leaders.
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Old 17th Jun 2020, 13:37
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Bomber Harris a 'colonial warmonger'
Well he was certainly a warmonger. That was, after all, his job!
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Old 17th Jun 2020, 13:48
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beamer; have another +1. We owe them a lot. Per Ardua
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Old 17th Jun 2020, 15:36
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Family member was an air gunner in Bomber Command.

Operational life expectancy at one stage was measured in days, perhaps weeks - but not even months!

Fatalities: almost as many as American losses in Vietnam (which we still hear about ad infinitum)

Morale: sky high, if not higher. Otherwise how would ordinary people who had all volunteered for flying duties put up with the life expectancy figures etc?

What shines out - and confirmed by so many many of the survivors, my family included - was their respect for their commander-in-chief.

Personally, their views - the views of those whose lives were on the line, and who lost so many of their colleagues - are what count.
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