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Bomber Harris a 'colonial warmonger'

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Bomber Harris a 'colonial warmonger'

Old 25th Jun 2020, 00:17
  #161 (permalink)  
 
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I believe the following statement sums it up in a nutshell whether you are speaking of the bomber offensive or the atomic bombs:
I have to say we cannot look at the so-called grimmer aspects of it because there is no morality in warfare, so I do not dwell on the moral issue.
Colonel (later General) Paul Tibbets - interview 1989
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Old 25th Jun 2020, 00:26
  #162 (permalink)  
 
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Originally Posted by A737flyer View Post
There was a considerable difference between the Aims of the german high command and the British. The Germans sought to terrorize the population while the British and American aim was the destruction of Germany's war-making capability. Stop reading revisionist history.
Not to mention the Germans targeted Civilians in Stalingrad for months, years if required in their bombing campaign. Hitler’s stated aim was to kill as many civilians as possible over as many months as possible. Bomber command do a single raid on Dresden and all the bleeding hearts cry over the loss of german civilians. Unbelievable.
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Old 25th Jun 2020, 07:48
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Having just finished John Nichol's Lancaster book - incredibly very moving last few chapters I must add - I received a copy of the second volume of Volker Ullrich's recent, masterly biography of Hitler from my daughter for Fathers' Day. The second chapter of 'Hitler: Downfall 1939 - 45' is entitled 'Poland 1939 - 40: Prelude to a War of Annihilation', and in the last sentence of this chapter Ullrich neatly sums up the war aims of Hitler, his paladins and, axiomatically, those of the faithful 'ordinary' people of Germany...whom it must be remembered were not all card carrying members of the NSDAP:

'...Poland was a laboratory for experiments that were already casting a dark shadow on the future and presaged the behaviour of the Wehrmacht in the coming war of annihilation against the Soviet Union,'

This then encapsulates the difference between Nazi Germany and the UK ,of whom we have recognised Harris as one of the pre-eminent war leaders.

For Germany this was a war of annihilation, for the UK (and other European Allies) this was a war of national survival. All means necessary to defeat the scourge of Nazi domination had to be used...no matter how distasteful these means may seem, viewed through the prism of time, to a few 'enlightened' (sic) individuals in our modern era
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Old 26th Jun 2020, 14:50
  #164 (permalink)  
 
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Originally Posted by Chugalug2 View Post
EV, it's not lost on me. Harris certainly believed in what he was doing, how else could he go on sending his crews out night after night not doing so? What alternative was there? The bombing accuracy was of the order of miles, though techniques and technical advances tightened it up gradually. Practically speaking though, night bombing meant area bombing which meant bombing cities. So Harris made a virtue of a necessity and made the blood curdling statements as quoted, even invoking the old testament to that effect. He was Bomber Command's Commander in Chief and had to put fire into the bellies of his old lags night after night despite their losses, because night after night they were laying waste to Germany's cities and killing the inhabitants in their tens of thousands. What was he supposed to say, "I deeply regret that so many civilians are dying as a result of our bombing but we will go on bombing anyway"?

That is the dilemma of war, the technology determines how it is fought. Invent the machine gun and accurate artillery, and you get the carnage of the Western Front. Invent the 4-engined bomber and you get cities reduced to rubble. That had to be countered by Germany, resulting in massive demands on man-power and munitions that were badly needed on the Eastern Front. Speer (if you believe that persuasive individual) thought the night bombing more damaging than the day, and that both combined to create a second front. Are you saying that all that should have been abandoned to avoid civilian deaths? To do what exactly? The idea was to win the war before Germany did. Some would say it was a close enough run thing as it was. Without Bomber Command my money would be on the latter outcome. The fact that Harris said that bombing alone could do it was sheer hyperbole. Did he really believe that? I've no idea, but anyway what difference did it make other than to ensure that you had an utterly determined man at the helm?

War is terrible and the only certain way to conduct it is with every means at hand, in order to achieve victory all the sooner. This seems to be lost on some here.
Thanks for your posts to this thread and to many over the years here on PPRuNe.

I think it is to Harris's credit that he asked his superiors to be crystal clear on what was being done and why it was being done. As they say the first casualty of war is the truth, and he was trying to avoid such a casualty. It seems his superiors pulled their punches to a significant degree. Consistently telling it like it was would make sure there was a social acceptance and shared responsibility of the policy, and would avoid a lot of second guessing like we now have.

I can't say I'd endorse or oppose the policy if I was there at the time. I have the benefit of lots of information stitched together after the fact. In general I try to stick to first hand references such as the RV Jones book I mentioned above. I did want to point out the ineffectiveness of strategic bombing was understood at the time yet met resistance from some in government for what seem to be political reasons.

I think the argument of keeping resources tied up in AA battalions is a strong one, yet you don't need to drop incendiaries on civilian areas to do that. What I've read of Speer he says the biggest issue for the Allies was they were not consistent. They'd knock down dams and then move on to other targets without maximizing the disruption they'd caused, the dams would be repaired in a few weeks. They'd do oil one raid, bearings the next, transportation a third, never focusing on one item enough to shut it down. Allied leaders probably didn't understand all this in real time, but probably should have understood that bombing didn't undermine morale, it strengthens resolve. 1944 was the peak of aircraft production, which says a lot.
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Old 26th Jun 2020, 17:55
  #165 (permalink)  
 
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EV, thank you for your kind words. PPRuNe is a wonderful means for we aviators to exchange views. Those views will often be different but it is in those exchanges that we can all learn something new. I know I do.

Churchill spoke of truth of course, "In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies". I don't know if Harris truly wanted his superiors to state that UK policy was to kill civilians or if he was merely taunting them to come off the fence. Harris's policy was to kill civilians, destroy their homes, and flatten their cities in order to disrupt Germany's War Economy. No doubt it would have been disrupted far more if ball bearing factories, oil refineries, critical railway infrastructure, etc, had been attacked until destroyed but unless they were conveniently in the middle of a city the chances are that by night the surrounding countryside would have taken most of the pounding, as well as the bomber stream itself. These targets were heavily protected and the resulting loss rate would have become unsustainable given the need for repetitive attacks. So why did Harris go on trying to destroy Berlin instead of spreading the effort around other cities more? I don't know, but suspect he became a victim of his own rhetoric.

It wasn't just Luftwaffe artillery that was denied to the Eastern Front, but day and night fighters, and millions of men. Wiki quotes Speer of production of 35% fewer tanks, 31% fewer aircraft, and 42% fewer lorries than planned. These are massive deficiencies to the front line. Production may have risen, but clearly not by enough due to the bombing. Could it have been done better? Of course! But war is the art of the possible. In the early forties that meant finding and attacking cities by night aided more and more by improving technology, and by developing long range fighter escorts for day the bombers. The latter meant air superiority by day was lost by the Luftwaffe in 1944. The two campaigns, day and night, were complementary but different which led to the often different targets.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defence_of_the_Reich

I think that the modern revulsion of a civilian population being targeted is just that, given the accuracy and reliability of smart munitions. My mother, wary of remaining in Clacton given the enemy habit of jettisoning their bombs there before coasting out, moved herself and her extremely young son to Bournemouth instead. The enemy duly followed her for its tip and run raids along the south coast! Survival was a matter of luck rather than national policy. We were lucky, others weren't. The old certainties of deaths being restricted to the battlefield began to be tested in WWI, seen to be obsolete in WWII, and would have been entirely overturned if the Cold War had become WWIII. We should all count our blessings and work hard to avoid war by acquiring those big sticks. It is they that will protect us from war and not words, whether soft or strident.
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Old 26th Jun 2020, 22:07
  #166 (permalink)  
 
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I have read many books to do with area bombing regarding ww2 and many documentaries .
if You look at the link Chugalug put on ( defense of the reich ) just look at the map , mostly blue for the axis powers .
As awful as war is , just like a street fight , We needed to use all means possible to win the war .

The alternative would not have been good .

kind regards

Paul
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Old 27th Jun 2020, 08:05
  #167 (permalink)  
 
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just look at the map , mostly blue for the axis powers
Looks just like the European Union.
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Old 27th Jun 2020, 11:17
  #168 (permalink)  
 
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The fact that Harris said that bombing alone could do it was sheer hyperbole. Did he really believe that? I've no idea, but anyway what difference did it make other than to ensure that you had an utterly determined man at the helm?
If Admiral Cunningham (ABC, viewed by some as the greatest Allied commander in the 2nd World War) is to be believed, he did. ABC recorded in his diary after the final conference and presentation to the King, Churchill and all the Chiefs of Staff of the OVERLORD Plan (D-Day landings), on May 15th 1944: "Bomber Harris explained what a nuisance this Overlord operation was, and how it interfered with the right way to defeat the Germans, i.e. by bombing." [See Cunningham - the greatest admiral since Nelson, by John Winton]
"Colonial warmonger"? dunno. Pig headed and stupid? looks like it. And his persistent denial to Coastal Command of the resources it needed contributed to huge loss of life and materiel in the Battle of the Atlantic. Not a hero.
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Old 27th Jun 2020, 14:20
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IB, what is it about the RAF and its leaders that so enrages the RN? You don't have to talk up Admiral Cunningham. He was obviously a very great leader. One only has to look at the wiki map on the Defence of the Reich link above to see the daunting challenge he faced in the Med, and yet the tremendous victories achieved; Taranto, Matapan, and most vital of all Mers el Kebir. The latter was an example of how war requires tough mindedness. The same qualities were required at Crete where his ships were mauled but stuck to the task of withdrawing the Army. So I don't quibble for one moment of your assessment of 'ABC'. A pity then that you feel it so necessary not only to criticise Harris but to infer that he was pig headed and stupid and possibly a colonial warmonger after all. Why? Because he wouldn't divert his heavies to the Battle of the Atlantic? It wasn't his call but the Air Staff's.

Some Lancasters were indeed briefly switched to Coastal but they were the best bomb carriers Harris had and were soon back to bombing Berlin. The ideal maritime aircraft was the long range Liberator, but Coastal was in competition with the USAAF for them, not with Bomber Command. As to losses, Bomber Command's were eyewatering too but you win wars by aggressive action not by avoiding casualties. Harris was keenly aware that easing up on the Strategic Bombing of Germany allowed the enemy breathing space to reorganise and get more men and material to the Russian Front. It was his job to prevent them doing that, so of course he resisted switching to pre D-Day tactical interdiction. The big picture meant he was wrong and switch he did, rather showing that he wasn't quite the all powerful War Lord as so often portrayed.

Finally, hero? What's that got to do with the price of fish? Commanders at his level must be leaders, it is those they lead that are the heroes. Or perhaps you mean popular? That wasn't Harris, it wasn't really Bomber Command. They both had a gruesome task to do and were both betrayed by the politicians and rival commanders when they had completed it. A comment on them or the politicians and rival commanders?
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Old 27th Jun 2020, 17:43
  #170 (permalink)  
 
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Hi Chug

IB, what is it about the RAF and its leaders that so enrages the RN?
Moving Australia! I joined the Navy hoping to fly as my father had, in the same entry as the "bearded one", of whom the less said, probably the better, but unlike whom I fell foul of the sudden reduction in the need for aviators, thanks to the RAF cheating in their presentation to an innocent, and ill-informed, Denis Healy, which led to the cancellation of the carrier programme.

You don't have to talk up Admiral Cunningham.
I'm glad we agree on that, but ...

... and yet the tremendous victories achieved; ... and most vital of all Mers el Kebir. The latter was an example of how war requires tough mindedness
Actually Mers-el-Kebir was not Cunningham, but Somerville and a disaster. The French Navy has never forgiven us. Cunningham, at the other end of the Med, by incredible diplomacy and bluff, persuaded the French admiral to surrender - exactly the opposite of the gung-ho aggressiveness that you seem to admire in Harris.

Because he wouldn't divert his heavies to the Battle of the Atlantic? It wasn't his call but the Air Staff's.
Almost certainly true but don't tell me that his voice in Churchill's ear didn't have a strong effect on the aircraft production and deplyment priorities

Finally, hero? What's that got to do with the price of fish? Commanders at his level must be leaders, it is those they lead that are the heroes.
Both. For many years England's greatest hero was Nelson, in whose company (but not league) I'd class many RAF commanders, Dowding and Park for example (but not Tedder). But of course, and this is where the whole argument gets very tricky, amongst that list of heroes, I'd include every single one of those men who each night climbed into their bombers knowing their chances of safe return were ... what? less than 10%, anyway
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Old 27th Jun 2020, 18:01
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Ah yes the oft touted myth, so beloved of a certain generation of Fish-Heads, that the RAF moved Australia.
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Old 27th Jun 2020, 19:26
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IB, I really shouldn't have asked, should I? Let us leave Australia in the same pending tray as Lord Louis, TSR2, and Buccaneer, and at least agree that whatever else can be levelled at Bomber Harris none of that particular unpleasantness can. Meanwhile some bedtime reading :-

https://www.rafmuseum.org.uk/documen...-Hindsight.pdf

Apologies for getting Alexandria and Mers-el-Kebir confused. So easily done. The fact remains though that both denied Hitler the French Fleet which was absolutely vital. The French may never have forgiven us, but nothing new there. Their man of course could never be described as pig headed, could he?

I'm not sure that I've ever considered Dowding or Park as heroes but simply the right men in the right place at the right time. I know the Royal Navy thinks differently about Nelson and I do acknowledge that he was our salvation.

The odds against surviving a tour in BC were bad enough, but some went on for two or more. That takes a very special kind of courage that I can only stand in awe of.

Oh, yes, Harris. So your final gripe is that he may have lobbied WC on behalf of BC? You may well say that but I couldn't possibly comment!
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Old 27th Jun 2020, 19:37
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Originally Posted by ExAscoteer2 View Post
Ah yes the oft touted myth, so beloved of a certain generation of Fish-Heads, that the RAF moved Australia.
The Royal Navy had plenty of chances in crying Foul via the Chief of Staff's Committee had the RAF actually done so and that would be minuted and held in the National Archives (Files DEFE 4/195/9 or DEFE 6/95C/7 would be a good bet). Had the RAF actually done such a thing, it would most likely be in FIle AIR 19/997. Of course if you really need to extend the range of a TSR 2 or F-111K outside of the area's it can cover without AAR, deploy a Tanker!!!


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Old 27th Jun 2020, 21:03
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Originally Posted by idle bystander View Post
Moving Australia! I joined the Navy hoping to fly as my father had, in the same entry as the "bearded one", of whom the less said, probably the better, but unlike whom I fell foul of the sudden reduction in the need for aviators, thanks to the RAF cheating in their presentation to an innocent, and ill-informed, Denis Healy, which led to the cancellation of the carrier programme.
That would be the former Major Denis Healy MBE (Military Division) RE who was in Combined Operations in the Med between 1942 and 1945. He actually admits with hindsight that canning the Carriers was a bad idea, but at the time the country couldn't afford to have a viable force (more than one). This is worth a read.

https://www.rafmuseum.org.uk/documen...or-Defence.pdf

As a further point, the basis of the RAF moving an island on a map story is covered here. Let's just say it wasn't Australia, and it was the incompetence of an Wing Commander, more than a conspiracy within the upper reaches of the Air Staff.

https://www.rafmuseum.org.uk/documen...cy-1962-65.pdf

Last edited by MAINJAFAD; 27th Jun 2020 at 22:27.
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Old 27th Jun 2020, 21:59
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Harris was a butcher who knew what he was doing in laying waste to German cities, broad brushing it and white washing it doesn't make it better. He was required to do this by Govt and if it wasn't him it would have been someone else. Pretending that there was a "moral" aspect to war if laughable, there wasn't, it was kill more of them than they kill of you.

In today's climate he gets judged but he didn't live in todays climate. He is dead and likely already received his judgement.

Today a person with an artistic flair who rebuilt his country, massively improved public infrastructure and made trains run on time and created thousands of jobs would be lauded by some as a hero.

Additionally an ex cleric student who turned against religion, rebuilt his country while removing the paratical capitalists such that everybody was equal would also be lauded with statues in his honour and Liberal universities would be citing how the world should follow them.

Of course when you mention character one is Adolf Hitler and two is Josef Stalin it may change some viewpoints but others would just claim they were misunderstood.
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Old 28th Jun 2020, 06:44
  #176 (permalink)  
 
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A couple of Royal Air Force Historical Society Journal articles re Harris.

https://www.rafmuseum.org.uk/documen...ber_harris.pdf

https://www.rafmuseum.org.uk/documen...-Offensive.pdf
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Old 28th Jun 2020, 08:47
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"an innocent, and ill-informed, Denis Healy" - ye gods!!! Did you ever MEET the man...................... he was a real bruiser, and very well informed - even if you didn't like his conclusions..
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Old 28th Jun 2020, 09:25
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Originally Posted by MAINJAFAD View Post
That would be the former Major Denis Healy MBE (Military Division) RE who was in Combined Operations in the Med between 1942 and 1945. He actually admits with hindsight that canning the Carriers was a bad idea, but at the time the country couldn't afford to have a viable force (more than one). This is worth a read.

https://www.rafmuseum.org.uk/documen...or-Defence.pdf

As a further point, the basis of the RAF moving an island on a map story is covered here. Let's just say it wasn't Australia, and it was the incompetence of an Wing Commander, more than a conspiracy within the upper reaches of the Air Staff.

https://www.rafmuseum.org.uk/documen...cy-1962-65.pdf
"I shall not attempt to draw extended lessons from this trio ofprojects; but in the round, I suggest, they brought home to us that theUK simply could no longer afford to develop and pay for the ideal.Each of the three aimed for too much. We had to settle for thepracticable and affordable good, rather than the theoretical best; and Isuppose that was a necessary lesson."

Interesting summary from Sir Michael Quinlan which highlights that while Services wanted everything there was simply nothing there to pay for it.
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Old 28th Jun 2020, 10:11
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Originally Posted by idle bystander View Post
If Admiral Cunningham (ABC, viewed by some as the greatest Allied commander in the 2nd World War) is to be believed, he did. ABC recorded in his diary after the final conference and presentation to the King, Churchill and all the Chiefs of Staff of the OVERLORD Plan (D-Day landings), on May 15th 1944: "Bomber Harris explained what a nuisance this Overlord operation was, and how it interfered with the right way to defeat the Germans, i.e. by bombing." [See [i]Cunningham - the greatest admiral since Nelson, by John Winton]
"Colonial warmonger"? dunno. Pig headed and stupid? looks like it. And his persistent denial to Coastal Command of the resources it needed contributed to huge loss of life and materiel in the Battle of the Atlantic. Not a hero.
General Spaatz, Commander US Strategic Air Forces in Europe, opposed giving control of the 8th Air Force to Gen Eisenhower for Overlord and away from the bombing of strategic targets in Germany.
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Old 30th Jun 2020, 21:37
  #180 (permalink)  
 
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Originally Posted by racedo View Post
Harris was a butcher who knew what he was doing in laying waste to German cities, broad brushing it and white washing it doesn't make it better. He was required to do this by Govt and if it wasn't him it would have been someone else. Pretending that there was a "moral" aspect to war if laughable, there wasn't, it was kill more of them than they kill of you.

In today's climate he gets judged but he didn't live in todays climate. He is dead and likely already received his judgement.

Today a person with an artistic flair who rebuilt his country, massively improved public infrastructure and made trains run on time and created thousands of jobs would be lauded by some as a hero.

Additionally an ex cleric student who turned against religion, rebuilt his country while removing the paratical capitalists such that everybody was equal would also be lauded with statues in his honour and Liberal universities would be citing how the world should follow them.

Of course when you mention character one is Adolf Hitler and two is Josef Stalin it may change some viewpoints but others would just claim they were misunderstood.
Comparing Bomber Harris in an argument about historical revisionism to Hitler and Stalin is pretty distasteful. It still doesn’t change the fact that area bombing was the right thing to do, and it worked.
ISTR a Harris quote: “They called us criminals, but what would they have said of us had we lost?”
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