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Sir Arthur Harris-Chief of Bomber Command-War Criminal?

Discussion in 'Sacred Cows and Dead Horses' started by pauledward, Feb 22, 2010.

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  1. Hop

    Hop Member

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    The British Bombing Survey Unit report says the Lancaster took 9.5 man months of work per 1,000 lbs of bombs dropped. The Mosquito took 16 man months, the Halifax 27, the Wellington 27.5 and the Stirling 38.
     
  2. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    Although we are now many miles off-topic :)o) those are interesting figures. Poor old Stirling.......
     
  3. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Especially since most of the wood, from what I've read, came from the Pacific Northwest. Sitka spruce I believe, it grows mostly in Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon (and possibly Idaho and Alberta).
     
  4. ANZAC

    ANZAC Member

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    Don't think they compared efestos.

    The Germans dropped just over 60,000 tons on the UK over the length of the war, the Allied bomber offensive dropped over 2.7 million tons on Germany & occupied Europe, as Harris said ''nothing has been tried on a scale like this before''......

    I think it was plausible to think that the tonnage that the bomber offensive was gearing up for would have a good chance of breaking the will or the economy or both of Germany or at the very least it was a was a way [the only way] to bring the war to the Nazi heartland, and in '43 bomber command nearly lived up to Harris's expectations In attacking the Ruhr and destroying Hamburg. Speer warned Hitler that if bomber command achieved similar efforts on 5 or 6 other cities, German morale would entirely collapse, & in the end that, plus the targeting of the vital areas of oil & transport, would have defeated Germany, even if the Wehrmacht had held the line against the Soviets & Overlord had failed.

    Speer again.........

    ''The real importance of the air war was that it opened a second front long before the invasion of Europe. That front was the skies over Germany...The unpredictability of the attacks made the front gigantic...Defence against air attacks required the production of thousands of anti aircraft guns, the stockpiling of tremendous quantities of ammunition all over the country, and holding in readiness hundreds of thousands of soldiers...As far as I can judge from the accounts I have read, this was the greatest lost battle on the German side.''

    Galbraith was on the board of the Strategic bombing survey that concluded....

    ''Allied air power was decisive in the war in Western Europe. Hindsight inevitably suggests that it might have been employed differently or better in some respects. Nevertheless, it was decisive. In the air, its victory was complete. It helped turn the tide overwhelmingly in favor of Allied ground forces.

    The German experience suggests that even a first class military power -- rugged and resilient as Germany was -- cannot live long under full-scale and free exploitation of air weapons over the heart of its territory. By the beginning of 1945, before the invasion of the homeland itself, Germany was reaching a state of helplessness. Her armament production was falling irretrievably, orderliness in effort was disappearing, and total disruption and disintegration were well along. Her armies were still in the field. But with the impending collapse of the supporting economy, the indications are convincing that they would have had to cease fighting -- any effective fighting -- within a few months. Germany was mortally wounded.''

    If you could virtually take down an enemy like Nazi Germany for $54 billion, plus 150,000 casualties, I think the sacrifice of those airmen was not in vain.

    By August 19 1944 when 65 B-17s with 125 P-51s escorts bombed 2 Ploesti area oil refineries for the 4th consecutive day, the Fifteenth Air Force alone had dropped 12,804 tons of explosives on Ploesti targets reducing oil production by about 80% by the time the Red Army captured it on August 30.

    Some Raids on ploesti...........
    USAAF Chronology • Ploesti References

    And on oil, shows how desperate the situation was for the Reich................
    Oil Campaign chronology of World War II - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


    On "'May 12 ['44] the technological war was decided with the attack upon fuel plants ... a new era in the air war began. It meant the end of German armaments production" (Speer).

    "In my view the fuel, Buna rubber, and nitrogen plants represent a particularly sensitive point for the conduct of the war, since vital materials for armaments are being manufactured in a small number of plants… The enemy has struck us at one of our weakest points. If they persist at it this time, we will soon no longer have any fuel production worth mentioning" (Hitler).
     
  5. efestos

    efestos Member

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    I agree with you (always IMHO :D) that the bombing campaing was decisive to gain the air superiority over the western Europe Skies. In fact I've post it in this thread before.

    About Poliesti, the Allies attacks stoped the Poliesti production, just one week before te soviets arrived. (I write it by rote, I´ve read it so many years ago, my apologies if I'm wrong).

    It's true, The bombing campain was the only way to bring the war to the Nazi's Motherland. But a good part of this effort basically overan houses.

    Just take a look at the U boat net: British ASW RADARs
    ASV Mk.III , after the METOX.

    The ASV MK III increased dramaticallt the efficiency of the Allied efforts against the U-boat. Before its intoduction the Nazis were able, first time in the war, to close the Atlantic (for few weeks). After it, the Allies won the Atlantic Battle in the "Schwarz mai".

    Well if the Allies have prioritized the ASW Radar instead of the radar for the Pathfinders that victory would have came sooner.

    This is just an example. An other: What about Torch with and increased landing capabilty? ... more landing crafts, IMHO the bottle neck of the WWII amfibious operations.

    All that brave guys didn´t died in vane. They made their job, but ...

    One question for "the stuff" section. If it's moral to kill the other's one daughter ... could you blame anyone if other one kills your's ?
    Well, I think that is not only immoral but counterproductive. An it's a today's question.
     
  6. ANZAC

    ANZAC Member

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    Problem was BC couldn't hit a barn door....from the inside....an investigation revealed that just one in five aircraft was succeeding in dropping its bombs within five miles of its target. Under those circumstances, the bombing offensive could only be effective if it was directed at targets as big as cities.

    More precise bombing didn't become an option until the introduction of the newly developed navigational equipment like the position finding system 'Gee' & 'Oboe' along with Pathfinders.


    The bombing offensive just started to move from first gear in '43, by July '44, 5,250 bombers, five times as many aircraft as in '43 were now capable of delivering a staggering 20,000 tons of bombs in a single lift.

    Between Nov '44 and Jan '45 the allies delivered 102,796 tons against transportation targets alone, mainly railway marshalling yards yards.
    By Nov. the Ruhr was effectively sealed off from the rest of the Reich.

    Between June and October '44 the allies rained on Germany no less then half a million tons of bombs, [compared to the Luftwaffe's 60,000 plus tons on the UK over the whole of the war]
    Over the next six months they dropped a further 545,000 tons.
    By then the irreparable damage had been done, but it showed what the bomber offensive could do, & would continue to do & it was devastating to say the least, as the Strategic bombing survey said ... even a country as resilient as Germany couldn't withstand that sort of bombing for long.




    Personally I think the weapon system that could have dramatically shortened the war was right under the Allies noses & after being upgraded with Merlin engines at the suggestion of British test pilot Ronald Harker, eventually became a war winner in the P-51 Mustang.

    Wonder how sooner it could have been in bomber escort service but for initial general disinterest?

    General Walther Wever Chief of Staff of the Luftwaffe, was a supporter of the Strategic bomber and recognised its importance as early as 1934.

    Wever outlined five key points to air strategy:

    1. To destroy the enemy air force by bombing its bases and aircraft factories, and defeating enemy air forces attacking German targets.
    2. To prevent the movement of large enemy ground forces to the decisive areas by destroying railways and roads, particularly bridges and tunnels, which are indispensable for the movement and supply of forces
    3.To support the operations of the army formations, independent of railways, i.e, armoured forces and motorised forces, by impeding the enemy advance and participating directly in ground operations.
    4. To support naval operations by attacking naval bases, protecting Germany's naval bases and participating directly in naval battles
    5. To paralyze the enemy armed forces by stopping production in the armaments factories.

    However after his death, other strategists, like Ernst Udet favoured smaller aircraft as they did not expend as much material and manpower.

    What may have happened if he wasn't killed in an accident in '36?

    Not sure what you mean, can you expand a little?
     
  7. efestos

    efestos Member

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    Terribly sorry, english is not my native language.

    It was about a post in this same thread:

    Harris learned in Coventry that the main objetive in this phase of the war (the five miles error you write) should be not the panacea targets but the houses and the lives of the workers and their famlies.

    The Ambourg bombardement proved that. So Harris sended his bombers to kill the workers and their families to win the war.

    My question is about morality (I guess moral is about combat morale). If you send your soldiers to kill the children of your enemy , not collateral damage... could you blame him for the same action?
     
  8. ANZAC

    ANZAC Member

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    It's OK, your English is fine, just wasn't sure about your last comment.

    The moral or criminal aspect of bombing civilians opens a can of worms, but as brndirt1 said on post 9, no one [including Goering] was charged with or convicted of the "war crime of bombing civilians" in WW2, probably since the allies answered in kind.

    As wiki says it was Professor Frederick Lindemann [later becoming Lord Cherwell], appointed the British government's leading scientific adviser with a seat in the Cabinet by his friend, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, in 1942 presented a seminal paper to Cabinet advocating the area bombing of German cities in a strategic bombing campaign. It was accepted by Cabinet and Harris was directed to carry out the task. It became an important part of the total war waged against Germany.

    Lord Cherwell's dehousing paper put forward the theory of attacking major industrial centres in order to deliberately destroy as many homes and houses as possible. Working class housing areas were to be targeted because they had a higher density and firestorms were more likely. This would displace the German workforce and disrupt and reduce their ability to work. Calculations showed Bomber Command would be able to destroy the majority of German houses located in cities quite quickly. The plan was highly controversial even before it started, but the Cabinet thought bombing was the only option available to directly attack Germany and the Soviets were demanding that the Western Allies do something to relieve the pressure on the Eastern Front.

    Harris agreed & always believed that with the right amount of bombers, that massive and sustained area bombing alone would force Germany to surrender & he stuck to that to the very end.
     
  9. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Actually because as practiced it didn't violate the rules of warfare at the time. IE it was not criminal.
     
  10. ANZAC

    ANZAC Member

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    You'd think something like the Hague Convention, which addresses the codes of wartime conduct & as Article 25 states...the attack or bombardment of towns, villages, habitations or buildings which are not defended is prohibited...would cover area bombing, but obviously there were no treaties specific to aerial warfare, so no 'legal' come back for the bomber boys.
     
  11. Hop

    Hop Member

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    You could argue the Hague conventions on land and naval bombardment should have been applied to aerial bombardment as well. However, the Hague conventions only banned bombardment of undefended towns. Towns in Germany were not undefended.
     
  12. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    That has always been the argument (undefended/defended), and I agree with it completely. The Germans couldn't afford to NOT defend them just in case the Brits decided to ignore the "rules". After all they were doing so themselves it seems, and most likely didn't expect their opponents to be any different.

    Bombing defended cities was within the laws as written, ratified, and applied at the time.
     
  13. ANZAC

    ANZAC Member

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    Yeah, I guess that was always going to be the easy out for the Area bombing of any town or village, that it was 'defended.'
    But I think it may be drawing a long bow to say that all cities & small towns that were bombed were defended,[especially in the last months of the war,] when Germany's defenses were all but absent, especially towns having little or nothing to do with the war effort and with no military significance. [the Allied culmination of the offensive occurred in the raids in March 1945 when they dropped the highest monthly weight of ordinance in the entire war of over 100,000 tons.]

    Raids like that could often have no conceivable impact, even in accelerating the end of the fighting.

    For example, Ellingen, a small town with 1,500 inhabitants in Bavaria, was bombed by the 8th Air Force in February 1945. An interview with the lead navigator reveals that Ellingen was selected as a "target of opportunity" simply because it had a road running through it. A few weeks later, British Bomber Command attacked Wurzburg, a medium-sized town with next to no industry of military importance. In only 20 minutes, incendiary bombs destroyed 82 per cent of the town, an even greater proportion than in Dresden, & there were many others like that in the same boat in the end.

    A timelife programme unearthed documents which help to explain why such an unimportant place as Wurzburg was bombed. The documents provide a fascinating insight into the target selection process. They show that once Germany's industrial centres were virtually all destroyed, Bomber Command Intelligence began to select towns initially, not for their military value, but because they were easy for the bombers to find and destroy. A briefing note by an American Air Force general shows that raids on rural places such as Ellingen also had the political purpose to deter the Germans from ever starting another war.

    It notes that a few days after the Wurzburg raid, Winston Churchill drafted a memorandum for the chiefs of staff. The moment has come when the question of bombing of German cities simply for the sake of increasing the terror, though under other pretexts, should be reviewed. Otherwise we shall come into control of an utterly ruined land.

    Air Vice Marshal Sir Arthur Harris, chief of Bomber Command, was furious, especially since Churchill had backed the bombing campaign from the start.

    Timewatch : History Documentary


    Personally I think the strategic bombing offensive helped shorten the war & probably saved more lives then were lost, but was often just bombing rubble by March/April.
     
  14. efestos

    efestos Member

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    ¿How many engineers were assigned to the develop of the STIRLING-HALIFAX-MANCHESTER , at this same time? In the other side , While Von Braun had more than 100 high qualified engineers for the V2, Junkers Chief said some thing like: Who assigned the development of this new turbine engine? I don't have any one free.

    I read somewhere that the production of synthetic oil would have stopped suddenly if they had bombed a couple of plants producing chemical additives required for gasoline... The factory (yes, singular) of batteries for submarines wasn't bombed until the Atlanthic Battle had been won.

    In contrast, the German "Moskito" died before going into production when the bombing destroyed the plant that produced the glue necessary for their manufacture.

    I guess Harris and the others (Lee May?) were obsessed with the idea to damage Germany more than with the idea of destroy the Nazi´s military power. IMHO. It would had been worthwile if the 90% of the bombs failed all target if the remaining 10% had destroyed thouse plants.

    Criminal negligence?
     
  15. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    It isn't just undefended though. If it has war industries it's fair game. If it has logistics nodes I think it may still be fair game. And then there's the defended part. Got any AA guns in or near it? If so it's defended. Got any troops in it? Defended again. Oh and is there a fighter field in range ... you guessed it defended. And it even if you move all the guns, troops, and fighters out unless you make it clear to the other side you've done so (essentially declare it an "open city") they can still legitimately hit it. Now I'm not sure how many German villages were hit intentionally but it would be hard to find a city of any size that wasn't both defended in several ways as well as connected to the war effort.
     
  16. ANZAC

    ANZAC Member

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    But they did destroy the vital plants that fueled the Wehrmacht efestos.

    That's why if [by some miracle] the Wehrmacht was able to hold the line against the Red Army, & Overlord failed, they would be almost impotent as a fighting force within a month or two of the actual surrender.

    In May 1944 the German produced 156,000 tons of aviation gasoline and the allied forces dropped 21,000 tons of bombs on German and Rumanian oil installations. In August the tonnage of bombs dropped had risen to 26,300 and the amount of gasoline produced had dropped to 17,000 tons. By January 1945 aviation gasoline production had fallen to 11,000 tons.
    Moreover the production of gasoline for road vehicles had dropped from 134,000 tons in March 1944 to 39,000 tons in March 1945. The production of diesel oil had fallen from 100,000 tons in March 1944 to 39,000 tons in March 1945.

    It's probably that the full effects of the collapse had not reached the enemy's front lines when they were overrun by Allied forces that takes away the full impact of the bombing campaign.

    Plus only a relatively small proportion, less than 10%, of the total tonnage of bombs delivered by Bomber Command during the war were dropped prior to 1943.

    About 50% of the total tonnage of all bombs dropped took place during the last 9 months of the war and in looking at the damage to Germany afterwards this should be taken in to account.


    Only 669 RAF and 303 USAAF( in the UK/ETO) heavy bombers were on squadron strength on 4th March 1943 at the beginning of the Combined Strategic Bombing Offensive. By the 5th April 1945 the number of RAF heavy bombers had increased to 1848, comprising 475 Halifaxes and 1373 Lancasters. In March 1945 the number of 8th & 9th USAAF( in the UK/ETO) heavy bombers "on hand" had increased to 3332, comprising 2291 B17 and 1041 B24 aircraft. A fivefold increase in the bombing force available against Germany within two years.

    In other words the bombing offensive only got into top gear during the last two years of the war.


    The lead navigator revealed that the village of Ellingen was selected as a "target of opportunity" simply because it had a road running through it, nothing to do with war industries, AA, troops, or fighter fields.

    But 'if' that road makes the village a legitimate target for bombing, then yep, no town or village in Germany is off limits, although a briefing note by an American Air Force general shows that raids on rural places such as Ellingen also had the political purpose to deter the Germans from ever starting another war.

    Don't go along with it, but maybe that's just me.
     
  17. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    I'm not sure a road going through a village is enough to make it a legitimate target. A crossroads or a bridge might. Since it was it was probably in range of German fighters it would not qualify as "undefended". It would be interesting to know what they were told to look for and more particular avoid when selecting "targets of opertunity". I remember my uncle telling me about him being responsible for a little air field getting really plastered as a "target of opertunity" once. They got the word that their primary and secondary targets were all obscured by weather. At that point it's find a target of opertunity or just jettison the bombs and go home. In his case they hadn't seen much fighter activity from the field but it apparently had some pretty good AA gunners and they got directed over it on a frequent basis. So when the question was raised he thought it would make a good target. He plotted a course and headed for it. Not long after that the pilot asked him if he was sure where he was headed. He replied something like "Yes, why?". The pilot replied "Because the whole 8th Air Force is following us." They were at the back of the bomber stream so when they turned around they were at the front. Apparently everyone pretty much had their targets obscured so when one squadron statied they had a target everyone else followed. The point being of course that there can be a big difference from planned targets and targets of opertunity.
     
  18. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    Another thing to consider here is that by early 1944, due to the allied "round the clock" bombing efforts of large assembly plants; many sub-components were farmed out and dispersed to thousands of small "mom and pop" firms in even tiny villages.

    As an example small items like tail-planes for 109s, 110s, and 190s were made in cabinet shops scattered all around Germany, in consequence many "factories" really consisted of these types of firms doing war work as sub-contractors building their single component, and shipping it off for assembly in new underground final assembly plants, safe from bombing.
     
  19. ickysdad

    ickysdad Member

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    A poster earlier stated that the BC was more accurate then the USAAF in bombing Germany. As I understand it,as it was stated on another forum, the USAAF area bombed precision targets while the RAF precision bombed area targets. To me the RAF was bound to be more accurate when it's target was a city,i.e. an area type target whilst the USAAF targeted individual factrories or industrial complexes ,i.e. a target requiring precision targeting.
     
  20. ANZAC

    ANZAC Member

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    Yeah you'd think hitting a city would be a little easier then taking out individual targets like factories or refineries, especially since the USAAF had the closely guarded secret 'wonder weapon' the Norden bomb sight.It was often claimed that the bombsight could drop bombs into pickle barrels,but as wiki says in practice the Norden never managed to produce accuracies remotely like those of which it was theoretically capable & in Europe the Norden likewise demonstrated a poor real-world accuracy.

    Under perfect conditions only 50 percent of American bombs fell within a quarter of a mile of the target, and American flyers estimated that as many as 90 percent of bombs could miss their targets.Under perfect conditions only 50 percent of American bombs fell within a quarter of a mile of the target, and American flyers estimated that as many as 90 percent of bombs could miss their targets according to Geoffery Perrett.

    Over Europe the cloud cover was a common explanation, although performance did not
    improve even in favorable conditions. Accuracy did improve with the introduction of the "master bomber" concept, under which only a single aircraft would actually use the Norden while the rest simply dropped on their command. This suggests that much of the problem is attributable to the bombardier.

    Nevertheless many veteran B-17 and B-24 bombardiers swore by the Norden.

    The RAF's abilities to attack precision targets also greatly improved,& by mid 1944 it was mounting huge bombing raids in daylight too,& 617 squadron and their precision bombing of tunnels & V1 and V2 launch sites with 'Tall boy’' 12,000 lb,and 'Grand Slam' 22,000 lb earthquake bombs to within 150 yards using the SABS MkllA site from 20,000 feet proved to be the ideal sight for this purpose. In company with 9 squadron using the 'Tall boys' and 'Grand Slams’' the battleship 'Tirpitz' was sunk in 9 minutes of commencement of attack.

    Saw a doco recently of some WW2 bomber veterans & current air force personal take up a B-17 & using the Norden, got some very good results, although they had perfect conditions & bombed from 3,000 feet.
     
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