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Is Condemnation of Dresden Bombing Justified?It

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Lon, May 16, 2021.

  1. Brutal Truth

    Brutal Truth Active Member

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    The legitimacy of the atomic bombings is another controversial topic I'm a bit wary to address. They were justifiable if they did indeed induce the Japanese to surrender in August, as they apparently did. Some critics however say that Japan was on the verge of surrendering anyway, and that the Americans should have explored diplomatic options before launching the bombs. Some even say one of the reasons for their use was to send a "message" to the Soviets. Honestly I don't have enough knowledge to give a definite opinion. However the decision to use of the atomic bombs cannot be compared to that of bombing Dresden. It was reasonable that the use of these super weapons of unparalleled power and nature would have forced Japan to surrender. And, whether the Japanese would have surrendered even without them or not, their use sealed the issue.

    Obliterating Dresden instead could not be expected to force the Germans to quit, and it didn't. Yes, Dresden had industries and important rail yards, the point is if at that stage of the war an area bombing of that size was justified. The article on Wikipedia reports both arguments for and against: Bombing of Dresden in World War II - Wikipedia While Wikipedia should be taken with a grain of salt, it provides references to their quotes and I don't believe they are made up.

    Some of the arguments against are:

    In the raid, major industrial areas in the suburbs, which stretched for miles, were not targeted.[8] According to historian Donald Miller, "the economic disruption would have been far greater had Bomber Command targeted the suburban areas where most of Dresden's manufacturing might was concentrated".[45]

    Primary sources disagree as to whether the aiming point was the marshalling yards near the centre of the city or the centre of the built-up urban area.
    It must be noticed that the bombers failed to hit the marshalling yards in the Friedrichstadt district and the USAAF in March made two additional raids against the marshalling yard (and a minor one in April against industrial areas)

    More objections: It is also stated that the important Autobahn bridge to the west of the city was not targeted or attacked, and that no railway stations were on the British target maps, nor any bridges, such as the railway bridge spanning the Elbe River.

    [144According to historian Sönke Neitzel, "it is difficult to find any evidence in German documents that the destruction of Dresden had any consequences worth mentioning on the Eastern Front. The industrial plants of Dresden played no significant role in German industry at this stage in the war".[147] Wing Commander H. R. Allen said, "The final phase of Bomber Command's operations was far and away the worst. Traditional British chivalry and the use of minimum force in war was to become a mockery and the outrages perpetrated by the bombers will be remembered a thousand years hence".[148]

    On the other side a report by the U.S. Air Force Historical Division states that:
    1. The raid had legitimate military ends, brought about by exigent military circumstances.
    2. Military units and anti-aircraft defences were sufficiently close that it was not valid to consider the city "undefended."
    3. The raid did not use extraordinary means but was comparable to other raids used against comparable targets.
    4. The raid was carried out through the normal chain of command, pursuant to directives and agreements then in force.
    5. The raid achieved the military objective, without excessive loss of civilian life. (Honestly I find this point a bit of a stretch to say the least)
    The inquiry required by General Marshall established that the Soviets, under allied agreements for the United States and the United Kingdom to provide air support for the Soviet offensive toward Berlin, had requested area bombing of Dresden to prevent a counterattack through Dresden, or the use of Dresden as a regrouping point following a German strategic retreat.[137]
     
  2. DarkLord

    DarkLord Active Member

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    Dresden by today's standards would be a war crime. The entire POINT of the study of history is to learn from it. So for me it's far more healthy to recognize and acknowledge that it was a war crime, and lean from the mistake. I don't see any need to justify it, and I find such things a bit repulsive and highly counter-productive. I'm also not saying had I been in charge that I would have done better...again, that's not the point; it's healthier to learn the lesson than spend the rest of eternity trying to justify a war crime.

    In the end the negatives far outweighed any of the successes of the operation. Simply put the juice wasn't worth the squeeze. That's the lesson...

    And while armchair historians argue, the important part is... The US Air Force has learned from that mistake, and has developed far better weapons and tactics so that leveling an entire city with firebombs isn't even in the book anymore (not counting nukes, but that's a very different discussion). They have learned that civilian casualties massively works against your both politically and strategically. And of course, every pound of ordnance that hits anything other than your intended target is wasted money, and effort.
     
  3. DarkLord

    DarkLord Active Member

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    Here's the hole in that narrative.

    If their target was rail infrastructure, why then did they choose incendiary bombs? You don't take out railways with incendiary bombs...Those are for burning buildings, not destroying rail infrastructure. Also, if that's the claim, then they missed their target by a couple of zip codes.

    Now I'm not saying Dresden wasn't a legit target, it sure the hell was. What I'm saying is, lighting 50,000 people on fire isn't the best way to destroy infrastructure.
     
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  4. von Poop

    von Poop Waspish

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    I'm not.
    I'm absolutely fine with it.
    Mydans_G_Ic2-e1571416001428.jpg large_000000.jpg 443A38FA00000578-0-image-a-71_1505296880998.jpg japanese-prison-camp-survivor.jpg Screenshot 2021-05-25 022749.jpg
    And let's not start this 'verge of surrendering' stuff.
    (Apologies. Conditioned reflex.)

    Dresden has become a touchstone for introducing 'doubts'.
    Stirred up by Irving in a pretty questionable review. Constantly prodded to carry water for the stance that there's some sort of consistent overarching equivalence between Allied & Axis behaviour.
    Call it the language of the playground all you like, but there's a continuing legitimacy to 'They started it'.

    "Reap the whirlwind."

    bomber-harris-newspaper-article_444.jpg
     
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  5. firstf1abn

    firstf1abn Member

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    More like, the entire purpose is to facilitate moral preening by those who understand neither the past nor the present.
     
  6. DarkLord

    DarkLord Active Member

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    Yeah, that too.
     
  7. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    "They" did not. The bomb loads for the two 14 February strikes by Eighth AF totaled 487.7 tons of HE, mostly 500-lb GP, and 295.3 tons of incendiaries, mostly 500-lb IB. The strike on 15 February was 465.6 tons of HE, while the larger strike on 2 March (no one ever mentions it or the other strikes on Dresden) was 940.3 tons of HE, 140.5 tons of IB, and 18.3 tons of fragmentation bombs.

    Sorry, but no. a mix of HE and IB was standard doctrine for attacks on marshaling yards, which this was, as well as other heavy industrial targets. HE damaged buildings and heavy machinery. IB set fire to the damaged buildings, further damaging the machinery inside. The same mix was used on Chemnitz's (367.2/244.8 tons) and Magdeburg's (519/228) M/Y, which were also struck, but more heavily, on 14 February.

    Only 68 of the bombers attacking on 14 February were able to drop visually, 554 others on 14 February and the 211 on 15 February dropped with H2X. Another 124 on 14 February dropped on alternate targets and targets of opportunity due to poor visibility/failure of H2X. That was simply the historical reality.

    If you're interested in learning from history you may want to re-examine your claim.
     
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  8. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    The simple truth is that Sir Arthur Harris had decided to destroy all the German cities. End of transmission.
     
    Last edited: May 26, 2021
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  9. R Leonard

    R Leonard Member

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    Not to mention that IBs are a little hard on railroad ties and you'd be amazed at the effect of heat on the rails themselves.
     
  10. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Dresden was not a war crime then. Which USAF Generals were tried for war crimes when North Korean cities were bombed? What USAF generals were tried for war crimes when North Vietnamese cities were bombed?

    The problem is, that often, the wrong lessons are learned.

    Actually, it is far less healthy for me. What would be far more healthy would be for all to recognize that if you start a war, bad things will happen to you. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

    The juice was not worth the squeeze only because the immediate benefits were felt only by the Soviets, as they were the ones that requested the bombing. As to the "squeeze", there were 17 bombers lost in the attacks, so. The "squeeze" was hardly much at all.

    This is the learning the wrong lesson that I mentioned earlier.

    The USAF moved from firebombing to atomic weapons and thermonuclear weapons. The only reason you are not counting nukes is because it defeats your argument. Dead is dead is it not?

    As to "smart bombs"...You obviously have not learned from history. The US began development of smart weaponry in early 1942, and first employed them in combat in 1944. Dresden occurred in early 1945. Thus, the USAF learned the lesson you erronously attribute to Dresden much earlier to Dresden. Of course, it would take several decades for the technology to mature to where it became combat effective, but it began in 1942.
    Again, learning the wrong lesson, as we have not fought another major war like WW2. Although, we have fought many brush wars. Those we fought against lacked the infrastructure to make strategic bombing viable.
     
  11. CAC

    CAC Ace of Spades

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    This is all in your opinion Takao...as usual...there are holes in what you say, over generalise or don't get the heart of the question. I wish you would put IMO after most of what you say, because that's what it is...not fact, opinion. Unlike you, I don't have the time or inclination to point out all of this section by section...but don't mistake people's silence for agreement.
     
  12. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    You forgot to add "IMO"...

    So the US did not begin developing smart/guided weapons in 1942, but only after the bombing of Dresden?

    So the USAF was not almost entirely focused on and around SAC throughout the 50s, 60s & early 70's?

    What major "hot" war has the US fought, since WW2, against a relatively developed country where strategic bombing would be a viable option?

    If there are holes, please school me.

    Don't tell me you do not have the time or inclination to discuss this, as you obviously had the time and inclination to post and call me on the carpet...
     
  13. CAC

    CAC Ace of Spades

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    Again you miss the point of the post. I was talking in general, not specifically about this post. Anyone can google information and then sound knowledgable...like they knew it all along. In life, it's not what one does it's how one does it...Your discussion technique is combatative and dismissive as though you are the oracle and all others silly or mislead juniors. It gets so tiresome.

    All this is of course...my opinion.
     
  14. Brutal Truth

    Brutal Truth Active Member

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    "Reap the whirlwind" is an understandable emotional reaction, especially when one looks at pictures of starving prisoners in Japanese and Nazi camps, or of cities bombed by Axis planes. However you cannot seriously believe that all Japanese and German citizens, including small kids, were responsible for what their countries did unless you don't support the concept of collective guilt. This being a moral concept, not a factual topic, it depends on our opinion and beliefs. I personally disagree with this concept, unless it is intended in a legal sense, for instance that a state should pay for the damage inflicted on a country it invaded unjustly (assuming we agree about the "unjustly" part). One problem with collective guilt is that it has been, and it is still used to justify the behavior of totalitarian regimes (including the Third Reich), extremists and fanatics of all sorts. The punishment, persecution or destruction of a nation/ethnic group/race/social class or religious community because their members are all considered collectively responsible of whatever grievance, real or imaginary, the accusers claim.

    I agree that a country fighting for its survival, or for the survival of its allies, has the right to use all the force necessary to win. However if the same results can be achieved without (or more realistically with less) indiscriminate killing of civilians I believe that is the moral thing to do. Now, it may even be that in the specific case of Dresden the February area bombing was necessary (even if I have serious doubts based on my admittedly imperfect knowledge of that event), however I'm now talking about general principles, not specific cases. If you don't agree, well, we can only "agree to disagree", as I'm often fond of saying.
     
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  15. DarkLord

    DarkLord Active Member

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    Someone really likes to argue...I'm pretty comfortable with what I said regardless of someone disagreeing with me. I guess I'm just one of the dumb ones who draw the wrong conclusions.
     
  16. von Poop

    von Poop Waspish

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    I think one of the real questions to ask in these terminal ethical/historical/military arguments is: What would you have done?

    On Japan, if anyone can come up with a more efficient way to release those men I used pictures of than that applied; then I'd be fascinated to hear it.
    Brutal militaristic death cults that started every conflict they were involved in don't respond well to negotiation, and didn't deserve the benefit of the doubt they may have hoped for.
    'Saving face'. Nah... That's their worldview, and they'd thrown away any right to have it respected by their own choices & actions.

    Germany: Hitler achieved power by democratic means.
    Democratic rights come with responsibilities, and let's not pretend 'the man in the street' didn't know what they were voting for with Adolf and the mechanisms that allowed his rise to power.
    Who began the war? Who first used bombing technology that was incapable of distinguishing between Civilian & military targets as part of that war? How was an attacked country supposed to respond to such raids? '
    The "same results" without killing civilians simply couldn't be achieved with what was available at the time (Despite some rather silly 'cracker barrel' allusions.)

    I take you as a serious and sensible bloke, BT.
    It's weird to recommend anything by Irving these days, but I do actually suggest reading his 'Destruction of Dresden' (you can find it online for nothing), while being fully cognisant of his 'context', and then carefully looking at every rebuttal, appraisal & assessment you can find.
    You then start to appreciate where this interminable Internet argument about Dresden comes from. How 'created' it is. And how one rather dubious viewpoint can distort historiography for a very long time.
    I wouldn't accuse anyone here of knowingly pushing an apologist argument by focussing on Dresden (well... not everyone...), but really do believe there's a persistent undertone of successful propaganda regarding what happened there. An undertone that maybe not enough are fully prepared to accept/investigate.

    I mostly think Rich's details etc, underline that it was 'Just another raid'.
     
  17. CAC

    CAC Ace of Spades

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    Interesting stats...

    Top ten bombed cities of WW2

    10. OSAKA (MARCH-AUGUST 1945) – 10,000 deaths

    9. KASSEL (FEBRUARY 1942-MARCH 1945) – 10,000 deaths


    8. DARMSTADT (SEPTEMBER 1943-FEBRUARY 1944) – 12,300 deaths

    7. PFORZHEIM (APRIL 1944-MARCH 1945) – 21,200 deaths

    6. SWINOUJSCIE (MARCH 12, 1945) – 5,000 to 23,000 deaths

    5. LONDON (SEPTEMBER 1940-MAY 1941) – 20,000 deaths

    4. BERLIN (1940-1945) – 20,000 to 50,000 deaths

    3. DRESDEN (OCTOBER 1944-APRIL 1945) – 25,000 deaths

    2. HAMBURG (SEPTEMBER 1939-APRIL 1945) – 42,600 deaths

    1. TOKYO (NOVEMBER 1944-AUGUST 1945) – over 100,000 deaths

    It would be difficult to argue revenge from the US in regards to Germany...Yet they bombed the place without mercy.





     
  18. Brutal Truth

    Brutal Truth Active Member

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    Yes, in Germany Hitler was voted to power. But don't forget that even in the 1933 elections, which were "monitored" by Nazi organizations (i.e. likely rigged) over 56% of Germans didn't vote for Hitler. 30% voted for Social Democrats and Communists, which means they were opponents of the NSDAP. And certainly WW2 kids and teens didn't vote for Hitler either. Some German teens fought in the war, true, but they were legitimate targets as combatants.
    In Japan during the 30s the Army took control of politics. Politicians who opposed the Army imperialistic policy were threatened and even murdered. At one point even Admiral Yamamoto was at risk of being murdered for opposing the Army. I guess "the man in the street" didn't have much voice in all this.

    About Dresden, I looked for Irving's book online but I couldn't find it. I'll try in the library. It would be interesting to see how Dresden bombing compares with the other raids in late '44 and in '45. I was looking for a list of missions with number of sorties by the Bomber Command and the USAAF but I couldn't find it. The biggest bombing raids were on Essen and Dortmund in March, but those were key industrial cities in the Ruhr.
     
  19. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    Sir Harris:

    Harris urged the government to be honest with the public regarding the purpose of the bombing campaign:

    Sir Arthur Harris, 1st Baronet - Wikipedia

    " The aim of the Combined Bomber Offensive ... should be unambiguously stated [as] the destruction of German cities, the killing of German workers, and the disruption of civilised life throughout Germany ... the destruction of houses, public utilities, transport and lives, the creation of a refugee problem on an unprecedented scale, and the breakdown of morale both at home and at the battle fronts by fear of extended and intensified bombing, are accepted and intended aims of our bombing policy. They are not by-products of attempts to hit factories."

    ---------------

    I guess there are no questions about what the Bomber Command mission was going to be.....
     
  20. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    Okay, I guess telling you how they compared wasn't good enough? Or was giving you the data that too "argumentative" for you? :rolleyes:

    8th Air Force Operations Home

    BTW, Irving's book is revisionist trash, which repeats the Nazi propaganda complete with using Goebbels doctored version of the casualty reports from the city. o_O
     

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