Bombing Germany

Discussion in 'Aviation Videos' started by wuzak, Aug 21, 2016.

  1. wuzak

    wuzak Well-Known Member

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    A look at the Allied bombing campaign against Gemany, particularly RAF Bomber Command and particularly with respect to area raids against German cities late in the war, such as Dresden and Wurzburg.


    View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=737PPxhTjUU
     
  2. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    Obviously I've seen this before, it has stood the test of time well, and is well worth a watch, despite not being the most balanced piece of documentary film making.
    I think the most revealing passage is in the last few minutes when Churchill reveals himself as the cynical political animal that he was.
    Cheers
    Steve
     
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  3. Gnomey

    Gnomey World Travelling Doctor
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    Interesting video! Agree with stona but still good to watch.
     
  4. Zipper730

    Zipper730 Member

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    It was more honest than most of them on the subject of deliberately bombing population centers. I'm not going to defend or criticize the morality of the attacks because there would be no point in doing so.

    What I will say is that, while it's an uncomfortable topic, the fact is that pretty much all major nations had espoused the mentality that bombing population centers to target the populations living within them as a means of crushing the public will was acceptable.

    I'd also like to point out was that this was actually not something that occurred during the war, it predated it by quite some period of time
    Yup, Churchill tossed Harris under the bus to save himself.
     
  5. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    #5 stona, Aug 23, 2016
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2016
    It addressed the subject, but said nothing new. The February 1942 Directif sent to Bomber Command and including the self explanatory phrases that operations were to be "focussed on the morale of the enemy civil population, and, in particular, of the industrial workers" is hardly a secret. It glossed over the reasons for the change in policy which are surprisingly complicated and maybe wouldn't make dramatic television.

    Accounts of the effects of the bombing will always make for better television. It is very important that we should hear them too. It would be quite wrong to pretend that the awful consequences and suffering of ordinary Germans as a result of the the policies pursued by their government did not happen. One of the Commentators did point out that the Franco-British and Americans had spent a good part of the first half of the twentieth century fighting Germany and they were determined not to do it again. I just feel that the larger context of of the development of the bombing campaign could have been better covered.

    As far as Harris being thrown under a bus, along with his entire Command, I agree entirely. This is Churchill at his best or worst, depending on your point of view. The Directif above was agreed by the War Cabinet of which Churchill, as Prime Minister was the senior member, BEFORE Harris took over as C-in-C Bomber Command. Harris carries the can, or has the can tied around his neck, for the area bombing policy, when in fact all he did was carry out his orders to the best of his very considerable ability. Had he been less competent then more than 90% of bombing photographs would not have been taken within three miles of the aiming point by early 1945, compared with the woeful figures for the early years of the war.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
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  6. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    "..... I'm not going to defend or criticize the morality of the attacks because there would be no point in doing so. "

    I'm not going to defend or criticize the morality of WAR because there would be no point in doing so.
     
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  7. Capt. Vick

    Capt. Vick Well-Known Member

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    It is hard for me not to say, sow the wind and reap the whirlwind. Though I understand innocents will be slaughtered.
     
  8. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    You would not be the only one :)

    "The Nazis entered this war under the rather childish delusion that they were going to bomb everybody else, and nobody was going to bomb them. At Rotterdam, London, Warsaw and half a hundred other places, they put that rather naive theory into operation. They sowed the wind, and now, they are going to reap the whirlwind."
    Harris

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  9. Vratrix

    Vratrix New Member

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    What I don't understand is,why America did send the b29 and bombed Berlin instead?
     
  10. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    The Americans kidded themselves, or at least pretended publicly, that they were precisely bombing selected targets, at least until after the return of control of the strategic bombing forces from Eisenhower's control after Overlord. It wasn't until September 1944 that what became known as 'Strategic Bombing Directive No.1' acknowledged, in referring to 'important industrial areas' that
    'when weather or tactical conditions are unsuitable for operations against specific primary objectives, attacks should be delivered on important industrial areas, using blind bombing techniques as necessary."
    Since any town with an electricity supply, road or rail running through it might be considered important this was an official sanctioning of area bombing by US air forces. They had already been carrying out what were euphemistically described as 'area type raids' since the combined bombing offensive began.
    Simply attacking 'Berlin' still ran contrary to US doctrine and intent, if not practice.

    The B-29 would be no more capable of carrying out precision raids than any other strategic bomber, it suffered exactly the same technical limitations as any other bomber in anything less than perfect conditions. Given US bomber losses and damage suffered in NW Europe it is difficult to see the Americans risking such an expensive weapons system as the B-29 in Europe, when the war was nearly over and the infra structure and support for the other strategic bombing forces was already in theatre.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
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  11. Capt. Vick

    Capt. Vick Well-Known Member

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    You didn't need the range of the B-29 in Europe.
     
  12. Zipper730

    Zipper730 Member

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    True, but it was an important issue.

    Of course, so were these...
    1. Doctrine: Proponents of the use of Independent Air Forces felt that they should be used offensively to bomb population centers as a means of crushing morale. Their motivation was to avoid the massive fatalities encountered in the First World War, and to bring wars to a swifter conclusion. Their convictions were a combination of fanatical (they had an unshakable belief it would work), secretive (they couldn't just tell anybody what they planned to do), and politically motivated (most independent services seek to win the war on their own). These kind of mentalities are very hard to change, and the doctrine becomes almost like a religion, even if a person can be momentarily turned away from it, they have a way of snapping back if things don't work perfectly. Even the Luftwaffe saw the city-busting campaign on Germany as a way for them to "come into their own", despite having a strong emphasis on CAS.
    2. Winston Churchill: Churchill was a proponent of the RAF since 1919 at the very least, and was known for being ruthless in the pursuit of victory (ironically, after the war, he was less vindictive than the United States). It's possible that as early as May, 1940, he wanted to sic the bombers on the German population centers, and by the Battle of Britain, he already was ordering plans to be drawn up for this purpose. In "Bomber Command" by Max Hastings, it was stated that the mass-destruction to be wrought was to Churchill's liking.
    3. United States: Though the USAAF espoused a precision bombing doctrine, it was based around making the maximum use of limited resources during the 1930's, and revolved out of the ship-bombing trials which General Mitchell carried out in the 1920's. There was however, little moral issue to bombing civilians as a goal, and most of the opposition revolved around looking bad from the PR standpoint. That, and the cited goal of destroying industrial objectives was to also destroy morale, and the fact that crushing morale had never been narrowed down to exclude the bulk of the population always made it possible for the idea of city-busting to make a comeback. The increasing size of the bomber force, the inability for bombers to fight their way in and out without fighter-escort and major losses, the lack of suitable escort-fighter (and the stubbornness among bomber-generals to use drop-tanks on escort fighters) until late 1943, as well as the limitations of our bombsights, served to make this all but guaranteed.
    4. Intimidation for the Future: General Cabell (USAAF) generally found the practice to be little more than a baby killing (that was his wording) scheme, and felt that bombing civilians was really more a matter of retaliation and intimidation for the future. While I'm not sure about the retaliation part, but the latter was definitely correct. General Fredrick L. Anderson had said so, and was quoted in the documentary. In context he was talking about Operation Clarion, a low-level bombing and strafing attack on civilians under the pretext of attacking transportation hubs, and said that it was "not expected in itself to shorten the war ... However, it is expected that the fact that Germany was struck all over will be passed on, from father to son, thence to grandson; that a deterrent for the initiation of future wars will definitely result." Many Germans were definitely affected by these attacks and seemed stunned and dazed at the end of the war, and an anti-war sentiment did occur, though the full revelation of Nazi War-Crimes almost certainly played a role, as well as the desire to impose the notion of collective guilt upon the whole of Germany (the mentality was that as long as people could blame others, they would never feel bad about what was done; only if they were forced as a whole society to accept responsibility, could change occur). I cannot say truthfully whether the collective-guilt, denazification, and the revelation of war-atrocities would have done it (maybe, maybe not) without the brutalization that happened. I would like to point out that it did not extinguish the resentment in everybody (most people tend to prefer to put things behind them and fortunately are not terribly vindictive, others however are vindictive to varying degrees and some, as my grandmother said "Hold grudge like Khomeini") for various reasons.
    Correct, and to a point, failing to acknowledge this actually just makes people angry.

    His worst: It shows a lack of moral fiber that is all too often missing in politics. I myself usually operate under the presumption that all politicians (unless proven otherwise) are sociopaths.
     
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  13. wuzak

    wuzak Well-Known Member

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    I did see another documentary recently about the bombing war, specifically the attacks on targets in France and the collateral damage that came from that. I thought it was going to be highly critical of the British and Americans, but it wasn't that bad. I can't find it on YouTube at the moment, and can't recall the title.

    Back to bombing cities and civilians the USAAF had a very active PR department and they cultivated the idea of precision bombing, and may have brushed aside attacks on cities.

    I found it interesting that they mentioned Dresden and Warzburg, both attacked in 1945, But they did not mention the attack on Hamburg in 1943, which was far deadlier than those mentioned. Perhaps because it did not fit with the thesis that RAF Bomber Command was not that effective before mid 1944, or maybe because the lateness in the war of the attacks against Dresden and Warzburg made them less valid targets, or not necessary for the war effort.

    The attack on Dresden I have seen described as a raid that "went horribly right".

    Also of interest to me was that the number of BC attacks on cities in the last 6 months or year (I can't recall which they said) was less than 50%. Which means they were attacking industrial targets more than 50% of the time.
     
  14. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    #14 stona, Aug 24, 2016
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2016
    June '44 to May '45 the percentage of sorties devoted to area bombing by Bomber Command was 39%, well less than 50% and a figure that always surprises people with a more rigid and traditional idea of what Bomber Command was doing in the last year of the war.
    The last operation by heavy bombers of Bomber Command was on 25/26 April 1945 and it targeted, appropriately, an oil refinery at Tolsberg (Norway). Area bombing had been offficially discontinued, except in 'exceptional' military circumstances on 6th April, though the people of Potsdam (14th/15th) and Bremen (22nd) might have wondered exactly what 'exceptional' meant.

    It was Churchill who pushed for the bombing of Germany's eastern cities in early 1945. It was he who asked Sinclair, on 25th January, what plans the RAF had made for 'blasting the Germans in their retreat from Breslau.' Churchill had seen a report from the Joint Intelligence Sub-committee which suggested that the Germans might collapse by mid April ('45) if the Soviet offensives in the East were successful, but might hold out until November if the Germans could consolidate. He was understandably keen to do anything possible to help the Soviets, and it is from this that the assault on Germany's eastern cities, including Dresden, stems.
    Sinclair forwarded Churchill's inquiry to Portal, who replied that oil, jet assembly plants and submarines should have top priority but agreed that the Allies should use the available effort
    "...in one big attack on Berlin and 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 hamper movement of troops from the West."
    At least Portal was attempting justification by some valid military objective. Churchill was not satisfied by this reply, and made this clear, writing the following morning.
    "I did not ask you last night about plans for harrying the German retreat from Breslau. On the contrary, I asked whether Berlin and no doubt other large cities in East Germany, should not now be considered attractive targets. I am glad that this is under 'examination'. Pray report to me tomorrow what is going to be done."
    It was Bottomley (Portal was leaving for the Mediterranean) who informed Harris of Churchill's desires, issuing an effective order to Harris before consulting the Americans (Spaatz) or the Combined Chief's of Staff.
    "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 above mentioned cities during the successful Russian advance."
    He notified Churchill that the attacks could occur as soon as the moon permitted, after the night of 3/4 February.
    Churchill was the instigator of, and was responsible for, the attacks on the cities in eastern Germany, including Dresden.Harris, once again, was just doing what he was told, to the best of his and his Command's now considerable ability. It makes Churchill's volte-face noted in the documentary even more cynical and reprehensible than it might otherwise seem. Unfortunately, television documentaries have limited time and have to retain an audience not necessarily interested in the detail of historical operations but more likely to be captivated by the accounts of aircrew and victims.
    Cheers
    Steve
     
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  15. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    I'd just say that the American Norden, the British Mk XIV and particularly SABS bomb sights were all accurate sights, assuming the operators were well enough trained to programme and use them correctly. They were capable of producing remarkably accurate results in ideal conditions of clear visibility, no opposition and no obscuring of the target caused by smoke screens (often underestimated) and dust/smoke from the bombing itself.

    The biggest problem for the British was seeing in the dark. The biggest problem for the Americans was seeing through cloud.

    Around the time in question, the last three months of 1944, the 8th AF did 50% of its bombing on H2X through 9-10/10 cloud. In its own recommendations, following analysis of the results for this period, it wrote

    "Consideration should be given to using H2X under 10/10 cloud solely on large area targets [a euphemism meaning cities] and, if possible, increasing our total effort under partial cloud and visual conditions at the expense of our 10/10 effort."

    In fact only 14% of bombing was carried out visually in 'good to fair visibility.' Whatever else the Americans could do, they could not control the weather in NW Europe :)

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  16. Zipper730

    Zipper730 Member

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    #16 Zipper730, Aug 25, 2016
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2016
    The RAF seemed to go to lengths to avoid civilian deaths in France most of the time. The USAAF might have been deadlier to the French.

    Makes sense, the raid on Munster occurred in October 1943.

    In terms of death, Hamburg was worse. In terms of surface area destroyed, Dresden was more effective. In terms of percentage destroyed, I have no idea but Wurzburg suffered badly.

    What made Dresden and Wurzburg so tragic was that the war was almost over and it seemed more difficult to justify.
     
  17. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    In terms of percentage of population killed Pforzheim was the worst, yet most people have never heard of it.

    Bomber Command measured the success or failure of an area raid by the acreage of city destroyed.

    Harris was, as is well known, a firm advocate of area bombing and had to be more or less compelled to undertake the more precise tasks demanded of him in the run up to Overlord and thereafter, though he did undertake them and with some success. Nobody ever asks why?
    Harris had good reason to doubt the ability of his Command to make precision attacks, as demanded by the Oil and Transport Plans. He had figures for bomb lifts required for such targets prepared by Bomber Command's own ORS. These figures were different from those prepared by Zuckermann, one of the main proponents of the Oil and Transport Plans and this led to a good deal of bad feeling and friction at the time and long after the war. Dickins and the men of his ORS did not believe that Zuckermann understood or allow for many operational factors, what in Clausewitzian terms we would call 'friction' or the 'fog of war'. This was introduced into Dickin's calculations as the 'operational factor' to which Zuckermann took exception.

    Harris and his ORS argued at the time and long after the war, that Zuckermann never understood that there was a difference between building theoretical models in the laboratory and the application of such models in combat situations.
    The ORS made a detailed report on the first 15 Oboe attacks on the rail yards and their findings did support their original contention rather than Zuckermann's. The average bombing error had been reduced to 480 yards (4 and 6 Groups were best with 250 yards and 260 yards respectively) and this had had an effect on the efficiency of the attacks, but the effectiveness, what had actually been destroyed was not as good as had been hoped for. The report concluded that.

    "The result of applying these new parameters is that the overall requirement is increased by a factor of 1.43. The actual weight of attack dispatched on the 11 targets considered in this report was 1.72 times the requirement, or 1.20 times the revised requirement, and even so 4 of the 11 targets required further attention by tactical daylight forces in respect of priority buildings insufficiently damaged. The reason for this excess over the theoretical requirement is that sometimes the priority buildings will be under hit (and the target will require further attack), and sometimes they will be over hit with a consequent wastage of bombs."

    The most important conclusion is that the bombers could not guarantee specific results for specific raid sizes. That Bomber Command's ORS had a better understanding of operational matters than some of the proponents of the various plans was demonstrated in the debate around the implementation of the Oil Plan.
    In December Portal was trying to compel Harris to implement another of Zuckermann's schemes (Oil Plan). Harris was able to remind Portal that his ORS had correctly predicted the requirement for 9,000 sorties per month to knock out the French railway system. On 12th December Harris wrote to Portal to say that his ORS had just completed a study 'into the feasibility of the Oil Plan' and reminding Portal that his ORS had always provided reliable information, concluding with

    "[the ORS said] it would take three times the effort estimated by the 'expert' , Mr Solly Zuckermann, to knock out the French marshaling yards, and that is precisely what happened."

    Harris resistance to precision attacks was not due to an irrational belief that area attacks and the devastation of German cities would win the war, though he did believe this.

    To destroy a marshaling yard a density of 2,000lbs, 4 x 500lb bombs, per acre was required.
    Using Oboe, the most accurate method of attack, the ORS calculated that for a 50 acre yard 11% of bombs would hit the yard. To obtain one short ton per acre 450 tons would have to be dropped. Because 30% of sorties would abort or bomb with a 'gross error' 500 short tons had to be dispatched. This meant an attack by 110 aircraft, somewhat different to the 11 that Zuckermann's simple arithmetic suggested.

    Using H2S, and many targets were outside Oboe range, the figures are much worse. To be sure of destroying a 50 acre yard required 14,800 short tons of bombs, for a 500 acre yard 19,750 short tons!
    Harris knew that this sort of density, equivalent to 640 tons per square mile, was higher than anything achieved by Bomber Command, even on its most successful raids.

    The report of the BBSU, on which most post war opinion formed is NOT an independent and balanced report. It certainly contains none of the above. As Sebastian Cox has noted of the authorship of the report.

    "... the two leading appointments were Air Commodore Pelly as its Head and Professor Zuckermann as Scientific Adviser. Both had a background in SHAEF, and it is hardly surprising, therefore, that the final report of the BBSU strongly reflected the favourable view held in SHAEF of the importance of transportation as a target system in the strategic bomber offensive, especially since Zuckermann had been so influential in putting transportation top of SHAEF's priorities.
    The remaining opportunities to introduce a truly independent voice into the BBSU's reports were subsequently lost....This needs to be borne firmly in mind when reading the report."

    Food for thought!

    Cheers

    Steve
     
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  18. Frank Stewart

    Frank Stewart New Member

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    The failure to recognize that there are two types of War, moral and immoral is beyond comprehension! A moral war is where you fight to defend and not for gain. An immoral war is an offensive one you start for the purpose of financial, or other gain.
    The two types are not equivalent and never have been. One is recognized as a "Just War" and the other is known as an "Unjust War".
    The first is noble and good and the other is terrible and vain. Most wars have both elements and depending on who wins are either good or bad. WW-I & II were both good and bad as were most of the wars of the last two Millennia or so. Western Civilization has predominantly fought good wars if you count most of the Crusades, "Pax Britannia" and the three world wars!
    So think more and be proud or ashamed of your heritage as required, but own it!
     
  19. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    "....The failure to recognize that there are two types of War, moral and immoral is beyond comprehension! "

    Perhaps that should read "MY (Frank Steward's) comprehension" :)

    Rule 1 of war is: Fight to win .... and THAT dictates that the means justify the ends ... which is beyond the pale of morality.
     
  20. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    The most immoral thing we could have done in WW2 would have been to lose it to the Nazi German regime.

    Steve
     
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