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Misconceptions about Dresden

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

  1. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    Sorry guys, trying to catch up.

    So much arrant nonsense has been posted under this thread it's difficult to catch up.

    I won't even deign to argue about the differences betwen the British Empire and Nazi Germany. There were some, but we'll let it ride....

    As for quoting ' the Valour And The Horror ' - that's almost as rich as using David Irving as a source. There's just too much ludicrous rubbish there to refute but I fell I ought to have a go otherwise this forum is perpetuating garbage ; -

    eg : 'Harris tried to reduce bomber's armament'. A lie - he pushed for an increase to .50 calibre and was refused by the Ministry of Aircraft Production ( this is widely documented ).
    'Only 11% of shot-down Lancaster crews survived'. 3,349 Lancasters went down on ops. The figure is not realistic and insults the many captains who remained at their controls to allow their crews to escape.

    Finally - bombs delivered per aircraft lost ; Halifax : 51 tons. Lancaster 132 tons. ( Source : Holmes, ' Lancaster : The Definitive Record ' ).

    And so on.

    [ 26. February 2003, 12:44 PM: Message edited by: Martin Bull ]
     
  2. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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  3. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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  4. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    Erich,

    When not being sacrificed on the altar of Harris' bloodlust ( whoops ! sorry... ;) ) Lancasters did indeed fly 'gardening' sorties.

    Jack Currie in his book 'Lancaster Target' describes a couple of such sorties ; usually given to new crews or crews who had experienced some particularly hazardous missions.

    'Gardening' was hugely unpopular ; many aircraft ( and some experienced crews ) just 'vanished' over the North Sea on these sorties with little chance of survival in the water if shot down.
     
  5. Military History Network

    Military History Network Registered Member

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    With regard to von Braun, Dornberger, and Peenemunde:

    Some of the basic dates, operations, and organization can be clarified at
    http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAbraun.htm
    and
    http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/GERdornberger.htm

    Martin Bull suggests,
    "maybe they were hoping to fly to the moon or use their rockets as giant fireworks in victory parades."

    Ignoring the latter conjecture, extra-terrestrial flight certinly was in their minds. Hermann Oberth published back in the '20s his analysis to show that flight beyond our gravitational field was possible. Von Braun published an overview technical analysis of the step beyond that in his "Mars Project" (1953); I have somewhere a signed copy.
     
  6. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    Quote from AndyW : ' Are We Beasts... Christopher C Harmon '

    Thanks for quoting this, as Harmon courted controversy by defending the strategic bombing campaign as a 'tragic necessity' in the well-argued monograph to which you refer. Harmon's thesis in 'Are We Beasts..' is that the answer was no - they were leaders of an alliance desperately attempting to protect their world from a 'bestial hegemony'.

    Harmon's words, not mine.
     
  7. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    We could and probably shall argue this forever.

    It would be nice if WWII were a courtly, eighteenth-century affair fought with duelling pistols under Clausewitzian ideals...

    But it wasn't. The tone was set very early on ( I think the Athenia was the third day of war ? And even WWI had the 'baby-killers of Scarborough' ).

    [ 26. February 2003, 02:17 PM: Message edited by: Martin Bull ]
     
  8. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    of course you are quite correct Martin, and the attacking reasons from both sides will never quite be fully explained.

    Thank you for the Lanc info on the gardening ops. Have quite a few German nf ops against the low flyers from I./NJG 3 defending those narrow waterways......there is a book being written by Danish Author Carsten Peterson on this very interesting subject....12 minutes till midnight.

    E
     
  9. TA152

    TA152 Ace

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    Martin Bull, I am ashamed of you !! I always thought your posts were really good up until you put, "twice as many Lancasters were build as Halifaxs" WRONG BIG TIME.. Halifax 6,176 built. Lancaster 6,944 built. Source. John WR Taylor, Combat Aircraft of the World plus many others that had slightly different figures, ( plus or minus 100 aircraft.) The Halifax dropped 255,000 short tons of bombs in 75,532 sorties from 1941-1945. The Lancaster dropped 608,612 tons in 156,000 sorties. The Sterling and Halifax were also used to drop incinderaries and mines,tow gliders and drop agents and supply agents.

    I feel like Crazy D here :eek:
     
  10. AndyW

    AndyW Member

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    You're welcome. I referred to Harmon to support my point that Churchil and others (see above) _had_ moral doubts about the British bombing campaign. Doubts the German leadership hadn't from the second year of the war.

    BTW, it would be helpful for further discussion if you'd specify the "arrant nonsense" you seem to identify here on this thread (not that I'm saying that there isn't any on this thread) and refute / correct it.

    Cheers,
     
  11. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    Apologies, Ta152 - you're quite right !

    And here we go with different sorties - 'The Bomber Command Handbook' gives 82,773 Halifax sorties as against 156,308 Lancaster....I'll bow out at this stage and ask someone else why, with almost the same number built, the Halifax flew almost half as many sorties ?.. :confused:

    AndyW - I'm really sorry, my computer must be malfunctioning. I honestly though that the rest of my posting identified the use of a suspect source ( V& H, already discussed on these forums ) and further commented on rather contentious claims about Harris reducing aircraft armament when he strove to do the opposite, 11% Lancaster survival rates.. and so on - obviously only the first line is legible and I just don't have time to repeat it now...

    Maybe some other time.

    Oh, and I guess there were a number of things the German leadership had 'no moral doubts' about during WWII. One reason the Allied leadership had to overcome their doubts to ensure the defeat of that leadership.

    Cheers !

    [ 27. February 2003, 12:35 PM: Message edited by: Martin Bull ]
     
  12. AndyW

    AndyW Member

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    No, that's fine for me to know that one very quotation from the V&H-link and some technical stuff about Halifax/Lancs survival rates is "so much arrant nonsense" on this thread. I was in the believe that you could identify more.

    I'll bet you! After all they were identified to be the "bad" guys which seems to make the other side automatically "good", regardless of her actual conduct. Too bad that labels like "good" and "bad" are rather exchangeable terms, but why bother? It's always a good feeling to be convinced that "The good/just side is always mine." If we wouldn't all think that way, politicians wouldn't be able to sent out Accountants to kill Bus Drivers.

    Oh, and I, too, guess this again was the reason why the german leadership had to overcome their doubts to ensure that revenge is taken. An escalating, but rather useless (in the meaning of winning the war a.s.a.p.) tit-for-tat-game on the back of civilians, cities and airmen.

    Cheers,

    [ 27. February 2003, 02:28 PM: Message edited by: AndyW ]
     
  13. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    Just some interesting pieces of info:

    DESPATCH ON WAR OPERATIONS 23 FEBRUARY 1942 TO 8TH MAY 1945

    BY AIR CHIEF MARSHAL SIR ARTHUR T.HARRIS

    Frank Cass
    Published 8 November 1995


    http://www.tgarden.demon.co.uk/writings/articles/older/artharris.html

    For this is a reproduction of the official classified personal report of his time as Commander-in-Chief of Bomber Command, which Harris wrote in October 1945.

    the report includes such gems as "The Air Ministry, however, insisted on the formation of a separate Pathfinding Force as a separate Group -yet another occasion when a Commander in the field was over-ruled at the dictation of junior staff officers in the Air Ministry."

    The Air Staff prepared a memorandum which "amplifies some and corrects certain others of the statements made in the text" and attached the two documents together. Reading both pieces, they show a yawning gulf between operational commander and air staff. Harris has written a self-satisfied glowing testimonial to the achievements of his Command. He arranges his statistics to show how effectiveness improved during his time. When there are problems, he attributes blame and shows how well he coped. The Air Staff memorandum is unsigned, in the passive voice, and is dated March 1948. With the benefit of considerable hindsight, the air staff can show how prescient they were, and how their advice was invariably well justified. Both sections are in that sense self-serving.

    an excellent modern commentary by Sebastian Cox, the editor of this air power series, is included. He identifies each of the areas of dispute and explains the issues. The first, and perhaps most crucial, question was whether Harris was right in his premise that his primary task was the destruction of Germany's morale and industrial cities. The air staff memorandum makes it clear that their intention was to move to precision bombing as soon as the capability permitted. Harris does not seem to have had much faith in the new precision bombing techniques. It is not clear whether Harris had been personally involved in giving the code name "Crackers" to the experiments with the new Gee navigation system, but there were those in Whitehall who felt it was symptomatic of the Bomber Command attitude.

    Harris uses city acreage destroyed as his performance criterion. One of his charts shows bombing accuracy improving by a factor of two between April and June of 1943, yet the weight of bombing effort on cities also climbs. For those looking for his thoughts on the bombing of Dresden, he provides one paragraph with the technical details of the attack, and the claim that the effect on the whole German nation was great. In his summary of the results of the bombing, he does not place Dresden in his most successful category. With 59% of the built-up area destroyed, it just fails to make his top category of 23 German cities with more than 60% destruction.

    one further commentary in the book. It is a German view from the military historian Horst Boog. He rightly raises the question as to why Harris was left in command if his views were so divergent from those of his masters in Whitehall. In a fairly sympathetic piece, he points out that Bomber Command was also expending considerable effort attacking selective targets. Nevertheless, Harris's own report makes it abundantly clear that he remained an advocate of the area bombing of cities as the path to victory, even when precision bombing techniques became available.
     
  14. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    Pieces of info:

    http://www.wlu.ca/~wwwmsds/hi247bombers.htm

    If a 4% rate is sustained only 13 men out of every 100 aircrew will survive 50 missions.

    • The Casablanca Conference and Bomber Command
    "Your primary object will be the progressive destruction and dislocation of the German military, industrial and economic system and the undermining of the morale of the German people to the point where their capacity for armed resistance is fatally weakened."


    Bomber Command's success must be measured by the intensity and perhaps the success of the German defences.

    80% of 88 mm guns (!!)

    750,000 men committed to air defence

    1 million to civil defence and repair

    "Once concept of total war is accepted, the only criteria that can be applied with any realism is whether more death and destruction was caused then the objective necessitated."

    --------

    In November of 1940 Harris took up yet another post, when he was appointed Deputy Chief of the Air Staff, his position as Commander in Chief 5 Group being taken by Air Vice-Marshall Sir Norman Bottomley.It was whilst he was in this post, that he famously stood on the roof of the Air Ministry whilst bombs from German bombers were raining down all around, and fires raged out of control. It is said that he remarked, with reference to the Germans, "They have sown the wind, and so they shall reap the whirlwind."

    On the 23rd of February 1942, Harris assumed the post of Commander-in-Chief, Bomber Command, Royal Air Force.When Harris took up his new position, things were at a low ebb in Bomber Command. In August 1941 the Butt Report has cast serious doubts over Bomber Command's capability to accurately bomb targets. But things could, and as it turned out would, change. As Leonard Chesire later said; "What the Commander-in-Chief at the top does filters down to the men at the front line squadrons. I don't know why but it does. When Bomber Harris arrived, you knew Bomber Command was going to see it through to the end. You felt a push, and we felt at last we were really going to have to pull our socks up and get on with it."

    Harris learned in late September, via a directive from the Air Ministry, that he should concentrate his force's efforts on the systematic destruction of the German synthetic oil industry. Harris was not altogether in agreement with this new policy, preferring to continue his campaign against the German cities, believing that a sustained attack against them would cause the final collapse of Germany without the need for a ground invasion. However, the proponents of the oil targets won the day, and Harris set about sending his force against them, although to be fair, at the same time he managed to give the German cities a reasonable amount of attention also. The offensive against the oil targets soon bought many German tank divisions and aircraft units almost to a halt through lack of fuel, and the damage done to the railway and road networks by Bomber Command effectively stopped fuel from being bought in from other areas.

    In order to appease the Russians, who had made advances against German positions in the east, Bomber Command was asked to conduct raids against three important centres of communication and supply. We would ask you to remember, at this point, those words, "important centres of communication and supply". The three raids were to be grouped together under the name "Operation Thunderclap" (Berlin was also included in Operation Thunderclap, but the attacks on this city were left to the Mosquitoes of the Light Night Striking Force), and had the backing of Churchill - indeed he actively encouraged them and took a direct hand in the planning of them. Churchill later tried to distance himself from these plans, and denials from various Air Ministry departments and senior officers flew around like the flak on a bad night over the Ruhr. The three cities detailed in these plans were Leipzig, Chemnitz, - and Dresden.

    March 1945 produced the "peak" figure of bombs dropped by the Command, with more than in any other month during the war, and indeed at a tonnage of 67,637 was equal to the tonnage dropped in the first two years and ten months of the war (The Bomber Command war Diaries, Middlebrook and Everitt, pub. Midland Counties 1995). However, some of the last operations directed by Harris were not bombing missions, but food drops to Holland as part of Operation Manna, in order to relieve the starvation of many people in that country who had endured terrible conditions at the hands of the Germans.

    Harris was made Marshall of the Royal Air Force, but did not receive the life peerage that so many of the other operational commanders from the war received. He had overseen, during the period of his Command, the expansion of Bomber Command to the potent force that it became, and fielded much criticism from his peers along the way. But perhaps the bitterest pill that Harris had to swallow, was the fact that his airmen, his "old lags", didn't receive their own campaign medal which they so richly deserved. What is not generally known is that just a few days before Harris's appointment to Commander in Chief in February 1942, a new directive had been issued to Bomber Command by the Air Ministry. Its basis was the focusing of Bomber Command's attention on the morale of the enemy civilian population, and in particular the industrial workers. However, this order was repeatedly denied by the Air Ministry when questions were asked in Parliament both during and after the war. And against this background, the brave men of Bomber Command, and their finest leader, have all been denied, for over fifty years, the recognition which is due to them. Without them, the war in Europe would have had a very different conclusion.

    http://www.hellzapoppin.demon.co.uk/harris1.htm
     
  15. TA152

    TA152 Ace

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    Apologies accepted, but if you do it again, I will come to London and castrate your computer mouse.

    You do raise a good question on the sortie rates between the bombers though. Perhaps different sources define a sortie differently such as different countries define an aircraft kill for aces differently. eg aces with half kills and quarter kills and some counties count air to ground kills and others just air to air kills ect.

    But you are right, the Halifax did have alot of early teething problems but if you count the Manchester as part of the Lancaster, then so did the Lancaster. Both were superior to the German attempt at a heavy bomber, He-177 death trap.
     
  16. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    I have not actually used the words 'good' and 'bad' in this thread, and I do not intend to rise to that particular bait.

    But Boog does indeed have something important to say. I have open in front of me a copy of the Harris Despatch which Kai refers to. Horst Boog's comemntary is intelligent and balanced - it's also nine pages long so too long to quote in full here and that's a pity.

    But here is a very small selection which - I hope - will show the balance.

    'To ask me, a German, to make a contribution to a book on Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Arthur T Harris is indeed a gesture of fairness and openness towards the 'other side'; for which I thank the editor and publisher.

    -----

    If the Holocaust and the bombing of civilians in the so-called area offensive can be compared at all with each other as both having been unethical - there are some similarities, but, of course, the differences in dimension and intention are much larger - then this was a conspicuous difference ; the bombing of cities under German fire required courage, while driving helpless concentration camp inmates into the gas chambers did not.

    -----

    People often concluded that British night bombing was not effective. We know today that this is not true. Certainly, the direct effects of American selective daylight bombing were more decisive...But Bomber Command's night offensive cannot be ignored, though its effects were of a more indirect nature. The area raids were a major cause of the dispersal of industries...This dispersal of industries was to become a precondition of the transportation plan, which brought about the final collapse of Germany.

    -----

    The last months of the war saw the execution of what john Terraine termed a prescription for massacre. There is no word of regret about this in Harris' Despatch.

    -----

    The longer the war lasted, and the more its idealogical nature in some parts of the world, particularly in Eastern Europe and the Pacific, came to bear, the more the three major air forces, sooner or later and for one reason or another, met on the same lowest common denominator : indiscriminate bombing.

    -----

    We must realise that indiscriminate bombing was one of the most serious sins of highly industrialised nations in the 20th century.

    -----

    It has been the war generations of both our countries who have built bridges of reconciliation, mutual understanding and friendly exchange as it was symbolised by the mutual assistance in the reconstruction of the cathedrals of Coventry and Dresden, by the mutual participation in the celebrations of the anniversaries of the bombings of both cities and especially by the visits there of both heads of state. It is this co-operation and mutual understanding which we need to solve European and world problems in the future.'


    I hope that I've selected fairly from this very interesting article which, taken in its' whole, illustrates that there is no easy, simplistic answer - and never will be - to a very complex subject, and that laying the blame upon one individual is too easy an option for later generations.

    This thread in itself has provided an excellent example of escalation and 'tit-for-tat', for which I will 'put my hands up' for my side of it.

    So, say what you like, this is positively my final posting on this thread - you can still purchase the Harris Despatch , the ISBN is 0 7146 4692 X.
     
  17. AndyW

    AndyW Member

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    More than fair.

    But I'll not stop here without strongly disagreeing with Boog on his Holocaust-comparison: The basic difference is NOT the courage it required to drop bombs compared to gassing civilians (this is a differnce, but not an essential one, see f.ex. the relatively low aircrew losses in spring 1945). While it is a fact that both the bombing and gassing required a war take place, the gassing targeted a fraction of the people living in the already occupied or even surrendered area.

    The Allies stopped bombing German towns once it was cleaned off from the nazi reign.

    Have a nice weekend.

    Cheers,
     

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