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Thread: Firebombing: Are war crimes decided by the victors?

  1. #181
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    Default Re: Firebombing: Are war crimes decided by the victors?

    Chevan, I am referring to general treatment of people who fell afoul of the people in charge (critics, suspected leftists, political rivals). The South Vietnamese and South Koreans seem like good examples of fairly brutal regimes but there may have also been some in South America that were fairly horrific.

  2. #182
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    Default Re: Firebombing: Are war crimes decided by the victors?

    "This accounts for a large part of why the performance of the British Army in WW2 was so poor, and why units frequently failed to attack after taking far lighter casualties than their fathers had kept attacking after."

    Pdf27.

    I’m quite interested in this thread as it’s one of those where the current attitudes of our society could quite easily clash with those of our forefathers who had to live through those times – and keep our society in existence.

    However, your statement above really grabbed my attention.

    I’ll put this in context, at the minute I’m reading a lot about the Normandy invasion and so far the accounts and literature I have read seem to differ widely from your view. I’ll admit that prior to my reading, the prevalent viewpoint would agree with what you stated, mainly through ‘Hollywood’ (nothing against Joe Public in the US who have to live with that version of history also) and some authors who may have an agenda to boost their sales.

    When you get into the accounts of the action at unit level, this certainly is disproved. I’ve just finished reading a description of the fighting for Hill 112 (Operation Jupiter) where the Wessex Division came up against various SS Panzer and Infantry divisions. The fighting around Maltot seems to be have been particular vicious and often came down to the going in with the bayonet. Note that these were not ersatz German units but Waffen SS and Wehrmacht veterans of the Eastern Front.

    It’s interesting that the author of this book feels he needs to state that he will keep ‘editorial comment' to a minimum and allow the narrative to speak for itself, so possibly he feels that some publications have ignored the achievments and focussed on the negatives.

    Have you any particular examples of where the BA performance in WW2 was so poor – or is it more of a ‘perceived truth’ that you feel that this is the case (as I had prior to my reading)

  3. #183
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    Default Re: Firebombing: Are war crimes decided by the victors?

    Bit tricky as funnily enough I wasn't there, but here goes...

    Demographics - the very men you need for junior leaders (officers and NCOs) were also the very men the RAF was trying to recruit. The Navy was smaller than in WW1, but this was more than compensated for by the expansion of the RAF. This meant that the army was short of men in these slots.
    Guards Armoured/Paras/etc. - the Guards Armoured division in particular was explicitly an attempt to deal with the problem of recruiting mentioned above. Additionally, they were almost used in the "stormtrooper" role the Germans had at the end of WW1. One of the immense achievements of the BEF in WW1 was that any division could do this work - something no other army managed, and the UK didn't manage in WW2.
    Secondary Sources - fairly consistent on this, and I tend to read the more serious books. The Right of the Line by John Terraine, although a book about the RAF, does go into this in some detail (in the section on Army co-operation - his thesis there was essentially that the British Army in Normandy was unwilling to attack without overwhelming air support, largely due to a failure of junior leadership accompanied by an unwillingness to take casualties - with the result being that they took higher casualties than necessary).
    Current British Army doctrine - when I was in the TA, we were always taught to use Mission Command (always tell someone what they are to achieve, not how to do it). At the time I was told this was due to the Germans using such a system in WW2 while the British were more prescriptive. This feeds into the original comment - people were told to "launch an attack" rather than "destroy all enemy in this position and occupy the ground in order to support a further attack by 1 Bn Blankshire Regiment".

    In essence, once committed to the attack and in defence they fought well. The problem was in willingness to attack - which won't show up in reports of actual combat. Casualties were certainly high (IIRC Sidney Jary was the only platoon commander to survive uninjured from Normandy to VE day), but the same could be said about WW1 - when the life expectancy of a platoon commander was six weeks during periods of major combat.
    I have neither the time nor the inclination to differentiate between the incompetent and the merely unfortunate - Curtis E LeMay

  4. #184
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    Default Re: Firebombing: Are war crimes decided by the victors?

    No way is that a war crime of the US fire bombing Japenese cities. These men did what they had to as it saved many American lives and the US did not start the war with a sneak attack killing over 2000 people. Japan asked for it in my opinion. You know the airmen were doing what they were told to do but when the Japenese killed and tortured prisnors of war that was just evil as they did not have to do that. That was not an act of was as that was murder but the fire boming were part of war. Ron

  5. #185
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    Default Re: Firebombing: Are war crimes decided by the victors?

    The victors will always write the history. That will never change. As far as fire bombing and the use of Nuclear Weapons, I would simply tell the Japanese, don't start a war you can't finish. They jumped on the big dog and took a grade A butt whipping for it. You can't simply apply politics of the present on the past. If you had taken a vote of Americans in 1945 and told them you have a bomb that would wipe out the islands of Japan totally should we use it? I expect you would be shocked by the 90% of people that would have voted yes. Maybe even higher. They gave them a chance warned them of it's power the Japanese CHOSE not to surrender. Then Truman gave them a chance to surrender after the first one, still no surrender. The Japanese have no one to blame but themselves.
    Last edited by akgeronimo501; 09-13-2012 at 06:08 PM.

  6. #186
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    Default Re: Firebombing: Are war crimes decided by the victors?

    Interesting sub-thread in this thread regarding the alleged underperformance of the British Army. I don't actually buy the idea of underperformance, simpliciter. A few thoughts, however. First, regarding comparisons with the performance of the WW2 Brits with that of their WW1 fathers - the latter were certainly a highly aggressive bunch. On the Western Front, the Germans were generally unenthusiastic about facing the British (élite units in particular), in view of the latter's enthusiasm for trench raiding, sniping, and conducting low-level bombardment in the form of shrapnel and trench mortering. I recently heard a statistic to the effect that, while some 40-50 German and French generals were killed on the Western Front in WW1, the British total was in excess of 70. Definite indications of aggressiveness - if not necessarily of intelligence.

    The British were, as much as any other power, severely scarred by the experience of WW1. It is, I believe, no accident that the Brits, who invented the tank, came up with the basic strategic and tactical ideas that led to the Blitzkrieg. These ideas - however delusive they may have proved in practice - were aimed at the possibility of achieving victory without having to go through a grinding "war of materiel" like WW1, Western Front style, with the enormous casualties that this entailed. The German panzer enthusiasts who took up these ideas may have had a more positive view - was it Guderian who said, "where the tanks go, Victory follows" ? However, avoiding the "Storm of Steel" scenario, in which huge numbers of soldiers were ground into Eternity for, in many cases, little gain must certainly have been a motive for the interwar Reichswehr in developing its own advanced theories of mobile warfare. If this sort of thinking might, in the British Army, have resulted in a certain reticence as regards launching overly-energetic, less-than-promising attacks, this is perhaps less than surprising, especially in the absence of a coherent alternative offensive theory (or, at least, accepted offensive theory) among higher British commanders.

    There is an overall pattern in British military history, going back at least to the Napoleonic Wars, that suggests a preference for pragmatic approaches to attack and defence. Wellington could be a very aggressive general. However, a hallmark of his style was the concealment of his infantry by using natural topography until opportunity justified their exposure. Mind you, when I refer to "British Military History", I should perhaps refer primarily to the British Army. The Royal Navy had a tradition of extreme aggressiveness, going back to the reign of Queen Anne, at least. The ideal Royal Navy commander was not the prudent, pragmatic admiral (like Admiral Byng - hanged for cowardice for saving his fleet by avoiding engagement with a superior French force in the 18th century). Rather, the ideal was something like Vice-Admiral Benbow (eponymous of the "Admiral Benbow Inn" in Stephenson's "Treasure Island"). Benbow was cruising with his small flotilla in the Caribbean in the early 18th century, when he encountered a superior French fleet. Did Benbow exercise prudence, and withdraw ? No - he immediately attacked, initiating a 3-day battle in which the British were victorious. Half way through this battle, one of Benbow's lower legs was carried away by a French cannon ball. His reaction was to have his wound bound, his hammock slung on the deck, and to continue in command from that station until victory was won. A few days later, he died of blood poisoning - but he had done his duty as a Royal Navy officer. Little wonder that they conquered much of the world. The RAF, clearly, came to share something of this spirit. But then, with air warfare, there was always that sense that, as with war on the sea, effective engagement in such actions implied acceptance that there was usually little possibility of retreat. It would be "Death or Glory" - and those willing to accept this fully (as in the Royal Navy and, to an extent, the RAF) had at least that much advantage over any enemy falling short on such acceptance. If the Army, on land, were sometimes less inclined to fight "at the yardarm" in any and all circumstances, well, that might be understood as signifying understandable (and indeed dutiful) prudence. Just some thoughts ... Best regards, JR.
    Last edited by JR*; 09-14-2012 at 10:27 AM.

  7. #187
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    Default Re: Firebombing: Are war crimes decided by the victors?

    Yes! Both Germany and Japan would've been pulled up for that act after losing the war. Reverse roles and I do believe Germany and Japan would've acted in the same manner. Its disturbing how men think when they feel so powerful.

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