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Misconceptions about Dresden

Discussion in 'Air War in Western Europe 1939 - 1945' started by Heartland, Feb 25, 2003.

  1. Heartland

    Heartland Member

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    Misconception 1
    One of the more common misconceptions about the fateful mission to Dresden, is that the RAF and USAAF bombed the city in some sort of spiteful vengeful fury, using a flimsy excuse of transport targets as cover.

    However, if one takes a closer look at this, the facts seem to be somewhat different from such post-war interpretations. At the time of the mission, Dresden was the sixth largest producer of arms and materiel for the war effort in Germany, with 127 products marked as originating in the city according to the Oberkommando der Heeres origin code system (Liste der Fertigungskennzeichen für Waffen, Munition und Gerät, Heereswaffenamt Berlin 1944). Many industries that had previously produced civilan goods had been integrated into the war economy and shifted production to such supplies and equipment. Some examples of the companies located in the city are Zeiss-Ikon (employing some 16,000 people), Seidel & Nauman, Siemens, Sachsenwerke and the Radio-Mende, as well as numerous smaller high-tech indutries. Military production taking place in the city were, among others, Zeiss-Ikon optical equipment (sights and field glasses), the Siemens glass factory, as well as industries producing Junkers aircraft engines, cockpits for Messerchmitt fighters, radar components, electronic components, delayed-reaction anti-aircraft artillery fuses, guidance systems, turbines, communications equipment and gas masks.

    Misconception 2
    The industries were located outside the city.

    In fact, many industries, especially the small high-tech firms, were located in the city, with the important Friedrichstadt industrial area located next to the RAF target aiming point for the first raid.
     
  2. Mahross

    Mahross Ace

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    Part of the misconception stems from the role of churchill after the bombing of dresden. he distanced himself from harris and announced this as a terror raid. the first time it had been mentioned to the public. he then decided to scale back the bombing campaign due to public opinion. it is true that dresden, while not only being an important industrial city was also and important centre for the road and rail network east to west. this was the main reason to attack - to stop the germans from redeploying their retreating troops.
     
  3. TA152

    TA152 Ace

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    I think some of the bombing was overkill on the part of the allies since they bombed it several days and nights straight and also it was said to be a very historic town and mostly wooden buildings causing a fire storm.
    Also I read that it was a token show for the Russians that the US and the UK were helping them out in their drive to the west.
    I am not saying Dresden did not deserve to get bombed to the ground, but it is such a historic waste at the end of the war, for a town that was mostly untouched by the bombing up to that point.
     
  4. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    Unfortunately I don´t agree that there were any misconceptions: The bombing strategy was to bomb Germany to Kingdom come and nothing less. City by city.

    If the Foreign press had not reacted there would be no second talks over the Dresden bombing.

    I would like to see it like this in an article:

    1.If increasingly extreme British and US countermeasures exceeded the bounds of customary laws of war, it should not be forgotten that World War II was hardly a customary conflict.

    2.The choice of means would have been less troubling in the post-war analysis had British political and military elites ceased area bombing as soon as their superior power permitted.

    http://www.winstonchurchill.org/brharm.htm


    It is significant that only a few weeks after the raid on Dresden, on 28 March 1945, Churchill tried to dissociate himself from the destruction and drafted the previously cited memorandum in which he denounced the bombing of cities as "mere acts of terror and wanton destruction". The Prime Minister had actively supported the bombing campaign all along and it was he who was ultimately responsible for the raid on Dresden. But with VE Day in sight, the moral standards of peacetime had become affordable again. In war, morality is a luxury - and some rules of engagement can prove impractical.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/war/wwtwo/area_bombing_05.shtml

    [ 25. February 2003, 06:49 AM: Message edited by: Kai-Petri ]
     
  5. Heartland

    Heartland Member

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    Well, there's no doubt about that. But the misconceptions I wrote about were of the factual kind, such as "there was no military production in Dresden". Which are all too common.

    Moral issues are another thing of course, as is if it was neccessary at the late stage of the war...
     
  6. Mahross

    Mahross Ace

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    The moral issues are important but they must be considered in context of what the allies were fighting against. imagine if the allies had not pursued the combined bomber offensive. it wouldn't have effected german production and resources in the way it did. also imagine the germans winning, that would have been morally wrong to allow a regime that was bent on the erradiction of a people. spaatz, eaker and harris were pursuing a viable campaign in the best way they knew how too. these were people who had been brought up on the theories of douet and mitchell and had a firm belief that strategic bombing could win wars.
     
  7. AndyW

    AndyW Member

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    I always thought that the bombing of Dresden was part of Operation THUNDERCLAP who was specifically aiming german "morale" by terror attacks on housing areas and the people, not industrial production or infrastructure?

    Am I wrong?


    Cheers,
     
  8. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    Andy :

    you are quite correct as Thunderclap was a week long of intense "destroy civilian population centers" both by the RAF and US. My German relatives in Central Germany can attest to the ridiculous strafing of civilians while on the roadways leading to and from their villages. Anything that moved by two wheels and two feet was hit.

    E
     
  9. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

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    Have to say, before joining this group recently, I was fully supportive of the Allied bombing campaign against Germany in ww2.

    I was aware of the 2 sides of the arguments on the morality of the bombings, and I must say my thoughts on this just do not concentrate on Allied bombing but for German bombing of urban population areas too..

    We can say there is need to bomb the production areas of the enemy which can be tidied away by stating they were in the urban areas themselves and so we have collatarel damage, but on a grand scale.

    I only recently dug out my copy of Bomber command diaries and related it to the stories I was told while serving in Germany told my by relatives of those that had endured the Allied blitz. Fair game I thought at the time, wars war, and they after all were the enemy.

    But on looking at some of the missions around areas I had been based at such as Munchen Gladbach and the accuracy and the actual damage done to any war materials I had second thoughts on its legitimacy.

    I know of the bombing against urban areas planned to attack the moral of the enemy, and this was plainly wrong, based on the same for us, did Londoners and Scousers from Liverpool call for surrender or peace because they too were blitzed?

    But I always put that to one side because of the war materials we were obviously destroying.

    Plus the German war machine having to direct an amount of time money manpower and materials to defending the homeland from allied bombers.

    Im in a quandry now, Im no peacenik, not a tree hugger liberal by any means.
    I look at missions such as the Dams missions by 617 sqn, a mission I believe carried out with great skill and deserving of recognition to the crews involved. A military target and one that could not be ignored.

    I was going to respond in another thread a few weeks ago to Andy with regard to strategic bombing because I disagreed with his views.
    But on reading once again on the tactics and strategies involved by above all Bomber Harris, I dont think I need to argue with Andy because I feel myself now agreeing with him and his statements in various other threads, and its not something I do easily.

    So to Andy at least I say thanks for giving me an opposite view and making me look from another angle.

    Did strategic bombing of Germany achieve anything?
     
    Martin Bull likes this.
  10. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    Letter from Air Marshal Sir Norman Bottomley to Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris, 27th January, 1945 :

    Sir,

    I am directed to refer to a telephone conversation of 26th January, 1945 between the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief and the Deputy Chief of the Air Staff in which the subject of the attack of the industrial areas of Berlin, Chemnitz, Dresden and Leipzig was discussed, in particular reference to the critical situation which confronts the enemy in the Eastern battle zone.

    ..The opinion of the Chief of the Air Staff is that it would not be right to attempt attacks on Berlin on the 'Thunderclap' scale in the near future. He considers that it is very doubtful whether such an attack even if done on the heaviest scale with consequent heavy losses would be decisive. He agrees, however, that subject to the overriding claims of oil and other approved target systems within the current directive, we should use available effort in one big attack on Berlin and related attacks on Dresden, Leipzig, Chemnitz or any other cities where a severe blitz will not only cause confusion in the evacuation from the East but will also hamper the movement of troops from the West.

    I am therefore to request that subject to the qualifications stated above, and as soon as moon and weather conditions allow, you will undertake such attacks with the particular object of exploiting the confused conditions which are likely to exist in the abovementioned cities during the successful Russian advance.

    ( Signed ) N. H. Bottomley.

    ( from 'The Strategic Air Offensive Against Germany , 1939-45 ' Vol. iv )
     
  11. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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  12. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

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    Good response Martin, I never thought this was an easy subject to annalyse, the thread you created back then proves that and will take some reading.

    Just had a quick look.

    I am still of the view that bombing military targets is an essential part of warfare.

    What we then class as a military target is always going to be subjective in that case, and collateral damage is always going to be a point to consider, with the targetting, accuracy or inacuracy more like and planning in ww2 as regards urban area bombing then planners have to decide on whether the success rate measured against own casualty rate and resupply and enemy civilian casualties is going to be worth the effort.

    I am of the opinion and have stated elsewhere that the allied blitz on Germany diverted much military means and manpower in defending against it and so must have helped the allied war effort.

    Your last post in particular is worth noting also on the aid the bombing could give to our allies.

    The American raids on Rumanian oil fields etc are solid military targets in my view. The dams of the Rhur too.

    I cannot though support any longer the idea of bombing urban areas as a strategic objective of bringing the enemy to its knees.

    I obviously still have a lot to personally wrestle with here.
     
  13. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    It's enormously difficult to grapple with - whole books are available on the subject.

    Couple of things to remember - context/hindsight ( as always ). It's easy for us looking back.

    The 'bombing enthusiasts' at the time sincerely believed that one devastating blow could bring a country to its' knees. As Speer said, six more like Hamburg.... but of course, Bomber Command was never strong enough to do this.

    The argument that 'the Blitz should have taught the British that civilian morale doesn't break under bombing' is contentious - morale did show signs of cracking in the East End ( certainly 'hushed up' at the time ). And the Luftwaffe bombing strength as relatively weak.

    And, perhaps cruellest of all, to the argument that 'one decisive blow' wouldn't have worked, the answer can be made of the atomic bomb. The ultimate area and anti-civilian weapon.
     
  14. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    I think we can attest that the Dresden raid was controversial as can be ! Besides the link to the other thread on what-if, there was a lengthy conversation when these forums first started, and I also gave a link to the luftwaffe-archiv.de as quite a few German chaps were wrestling with the figures of dead and the impact it gave on moral as well as military support.
    The question maybe to everyone is : was the Luftwaffe a viable force and could it naturally defend it's homeland in February of 45 onward ? The answer is of course no. It was thrashed both day and night, and with the evening raid mid February the SN-2 FuG 220 radar sets were almost thrown out the windows. Indeed chaff played a major role and the feint attacks elsewhere drove the German nf's to other areas of the Reich.
    RAF recon and also US high altitude recon missions showed perfectly well the immense amount of Germanic refugees streaming into Dresden and areas west from the Soviets. What perfect targets they were......and just to bomb a Meissen porcelain factory. Sorry but the internal factories such as Zeiss had been moved in January an earlier and what was left were remnants of important military and field works.

    E
     
  15. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    Actually it worked alot against the allied, I think. It gave Goebbels an important propaganda tool. And the German soldiers as they saw their families and cities bombed were more anxious to get to the front where they could "pay back". And people were more willing to work and make planes, tanks etc because the bombings massacres united them.

    :(
     
  16. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    I can tell you from several day fighter vet interviews that what you mentioned is correct for 1943......till war's end.
    By the way Kai, I never received the info on JG 302 in Finland.....is this still available.

    E
     
  17. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    Ooops..sorry, Erich!

    Well, I´ll send it PM straight away. And by the way, in a book from the 1960´s on the Helsinki bombings the German pilots dropped 2 Russian Bombers on the 2nd night of bombing and four on the 3rd ( and last ) night of bombing.
     
  18. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    I still reckon that if there had been no bombing at all there would have been a lot more German tanks and planes, not mention V-weapons, U-Boats, E-Boats, etc....
     
  19. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    Thanks Kai ! mucho appreciated. yes martin, we all know what would of happened to all the heavy flak around the cities......off to the Ost front for anti-tank duties most probably. As it is without fuels and necessary components an army cannot travel neither eat. Yes definately it made a big difference on the German industry and the populace. As Göring once said " if heavy bombers fly over Berlin you can call me Hermann"......or otherwise translated.....you can call me a big fat Turd !

    E
     
  20. AndyW

    AndyW Member

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    However, I think there is also much hypocrisy around here: It's impossible for me to blame the Luftwaffe for zapping refugee columns or firebombing cities and _not_ blaming the RAF/USAF for doing exactely the same...in a bigger style.

    A fried German baby in 1944 is as innocent as a frazzeld Russian baby in 1941 or a chocked english baby in 1940. Hitler, Goering, Wever and the other "bomb-them-all"-zealots were wrong while Churchill, Tedder, Harris, Spaatz etc. were right doin' exactely the same?

    One needs to have a very limited, single-eyed standpoint to apply to those high level of double standards.

    Again, (this wasn't a rethorical question) was Dresden part of Operation THUNDERCLAP? As much as I know, it was.

    Cheers,
     

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