View Poll Results: Bomber Harris?

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  • War Hero

    20 24.39%
  • A Bastard but OUR Bastard.

    26 31.71%
  • War Criminal

    14 17.07%
  • A pragmatic wartime leader

    22 26.83%
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Thread: Bomber Harris, Criminal or Hero?

  1. #331
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    Default Re: Bomber Harris, Criminal or Hero?

    freinds lets get back to the plot.... bomber harris not the finates of the geneva convention ?

  2. #332
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    Default Re: Bomber Harris, Criminal or Hero?

    I wavered a bit towards "bastard but our bastard", but came down in favour of "pragmatic wartime leader". As General W.T. Sherman put it, "War is Hell", and few on the Allied side would have questioned his methods on moral grounds at the time. Mind you, I do believe that his faith in the ability of conventional strategic bombing alone to be a decisive, war-winning technique was questionable; but then, WW2 was the first war in which strategic bombing was actually possible, and people were still feeling their way with it a bit. Best regards, JR.

  3. #333
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    Default Re: Bomber Harris, Criminal or Hero?

    Kill civilian in order to destroy the willing to fight a war is terrorism for me.
    So I vote for a war criminal.
    Pauci sed semper immites!

  4. #334
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    Default Re: Bomber Harris, Criminal or Hero?

    Quote Originally Posted by burp View Post
    Kill civilian in order to destroy the willing to fight a war is terrorism for me.
    I don't think there are too many, if any, examples of [given that this thread is primarily about Bomber Harris] intentional British bombing of purely civilian targets in Europe. The only one I can think of is a low level raid on a French or Belgian prison to release prisoners of the Germans.

    The problem with high altitude aerial bombing in WWII, for all sides, was that it was largely inaccurate for various human and technical reasons. Those problems were amplified by flying onto heavily defended targets. Major British bombing in Europe was made even less accurate by concentrating on night raids. Not that daylight raids by the Americans were huge successes, either. That's not to say that British and Allied raids on Europe (and American raids on Japan) weren't highly destructive, because they were, but their success in hitting their targets was fairly low as a percentage of bombs dropped.

    As for killing civilians to destroy the will to fight, the purpose in all air forces was not to kill civilians per se or even at all, but to destroy the capacity to make war by destroying enemy forces, enemy weapons and enemy weapon production capacity and to impose burdens on the target nation which diverted its resources from war purposes, whether by absorbing hospital and related medical resources and thus denying them to the armed forces; or impeding electronic and physical communications; or clogging transport routes with refugees to impede military traffic; and so on. Whether that was successful and proportionate to the attacking nation's effort is a different question, but it made sense at the time.

    Looking at another target of Allied bombing, being Japan, what is generally ignored in outrage about the pre-atomic bombing and firebombing of Japan in the last year of the war is that it is simplistic to say that civilians alone were targeted. Japan then, and even now although to a much lesser extent, had a highly diversified industrial supply network with manufacturing of components starting in large numbers of tiny home factories which fed up the line to increasingly larger factories.

    The diversified industrial production in Japan illustrates the problem in trying to draw a clearly articulated line between military and civilian targets, but those making the decisions are forced ultimately to draw an arbitrary line beyond which there are no targets. At the lowest level, was strafing a farmer and his horse ploughing his field a war crime upon an innocent civilian (and an undoubtedly innocent horse) or a legitimate step to deny the enemy the production of food for troops, or munitions workers, or other civilians contributing to the war effort, which might come from that field and ploughing?

    But does it matter in the end when aerial bombs are often woefully inaccurate, to the extent that the Orwellian term 'collateral damage' was, depending upon one's source, coined a quarter (Vietnam) to half a century (GW1) after WWII by the masters of aerial bombing, the Americans, to excuse hitting the wrong targets?
    ..
    A rational army would run away.
    Montesquieu

  5. #335
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    Default Re: Bomber Harris, Criminal or Hero?

    IIRC until some time in 1945 the RAF had a lower average miss distance bombing by night than the USAAF "precision" bombing by day. This would largely have been down to the RAF having more sophisticated electronic aids and a better pathfinder force, thus reducing the fraction that went very, very off-target. A small number of RAF squadrons were capable of highly accurate bombing (mainly those like 617 who were principally dropping Tallboys on very hard targets), most of the rest were distinctly poorer.

    It's also worth noting that one of the first Luftwaffe raids of the war hit the wrong country - their own. Navigation was a massive problem and only really solved towards the end of the war with the routine use of electronic aids.
    I have neither the time nor the inclination to differentiate between the incompetent and the merely unfortunate - Curtis E LeMay

  6. #336
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    Default Re: Bomber Harris, Criminal or Hero?

    Area Bombing Directive of make the civilians areas (not the industrial one) as primary object of RAF bombing. Firestorms are used to annihilate historical centre of ancient city and their habitants, not to destroy the industrial outskirts.
    I'm not agree that inefficient navigation equipment cannot be more accurate: it's true at the start of war, in 1940, but with the spread of pathfinder and radar in 1943 they can assure even nightly accuracy, at least to be sure that they are aiming to the centre of the city, not to the outskirts.
    Pauci sed semper immites!

  7. #337
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    Default Re: Bomber Harris, Criminal or Hero?

    Quote Originally Posted by burp View Post
    Area Bombing Directive of make the civilians areas (not the industrial one) as primary object of RAF bombing. Firestorms are used to annihilate historical centre of ancient city and their habitants, not to destroy the industrial outskirts.
    Sadly it isn't that simple - in many cases much of the industrial production was spread out through city centres, and in others housing was clustered tightly around factories. Furthermore, the UK experience from being on the receiving end (London, Coventry, etc.) was that factories were pretty difficult to destroy, but that the infrastructure that supports them (water, electricity, workers, transport, etc.) was much more vulnerable, and most easily disrupted by burning down the town centre.

    Quote Originally Posted by burp View Post
    I'm not agree that inefficient navigation equipment cannot be more accurate: it's true at the start of war, in 1940, but with the spread of pathfinder and radar in 1943 they can assure even nightly accuracy, at least to be sure that they are aiming to the centre of the city, not to the outskirts.
    Ummm... sort of. A lot depended on the weather and on if there were any features around the city that identified it clearly. Hamburg, for instance, has some very clear water features pointing right at the centre of the city that show up on radar - that's one of the major reasons it was hit with the first 1,000 bomber raid (and another good reason to hit the city centre - it is the easiest to identify). Berlin on the other hand was a notoriously difficult radar target and right up to the end of the war raids frequently missed their targeted areas. It was only really in 1945 with the destruction of the German night-fighter defences and really widespread use of electronic aids like Gee and Oboe that Bomber Command could routinely manage destructive raids like Dresden or Wesel. The USAAF had a similar learning curve, and for all their rhetoric about precision bombing they were quite happy to use area bombing when the weather was too bad for anything else.
    I have neither the time nor the inclination to differentiate between the incompetent and the merely unfortunate - Curtis E LeMay

  8. #338
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    Default Re: Bomber Harris, Criminal or Hero?

    I'm not questioning that Gee (his initial accuracy is 8 kilometers) and Oboe accuracy is far from nowadays GPS accuracy, i'm saying that Harris imposes as primary objective the civilian workers, not the industrial complex. Even if Gee is accurate as GPS, RAF will aim for the center of city, because they simply don't care where the industry are o not are.
    Pauci sed semper immites!

  9. #339
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    Default Re: Bomber Harris, Criminal or Hero?

    Quote Originally Posted by burp View Post
    I'm not questioning that Gee (his initial accuracy is 8 kilometers) and Oboe accuracy is far from nowadays GPS accuracy, i'm saying that Harris imposes as primary objective the civilian workers, not the industrial complex. Even if Gee is accurate as GPS, RAF will aim for the center of city, because they simply don't care where the industry are o not are.
    There may be an element of the Nuremberg defence ('I was only following orders') in this, but Harris didn't choose the civilian workers as targets. That came from Professor Lindemann's, Churchill's scientific adviser, recommendations in what is commonly called the 'Dehousing paper' early in 1942, around the time Harris was appointed to run Bomber Command. Lindemann recommended 'dehousing' German workers and civilians to harm the German war effort and civilian morale. Harris was merely implementing British Government policy. He was the servant, not the architect, of that policy.
    ..
    A rational army would run away.
    Montesquieu

  10. #340
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    Default Re: Bomber Harris, Criminal or Hero?

    Quote Originally Posted by burp View Post
    I'm not agree that inefficient navigation equipment cannot be more accurate: it's true at the start of war, in 1940, but with the spread of pathfinder and radar in 1943 they can assure even nightly accuracy, at least to be sure that they are aiming to the centre of the city, not to the outskirts.
    Over the past fifty or so years I've read a fair number of personal accounts of bombing missions over Germany.

    The crews weren't supermen.

    The navigators weren't supermen. They still relied upon star sights and landmarks to fix their positions, after allowing for wind drift and other fairly incalculable variables on very long flights with no stars and no landmarks visible for part or all of the way.

    Radio navigation equipment didn't always work properly.

    Bomb runs onto targets were interfered with by cloud and flak.

    Target markings were confused by errors in identification and, where Pathfinders were used, similar errors on their part.

    The poor degree of accuracy in eliminating purely military targets in WWII wasn't much better half a century later in Gulf War I with non-guided bombs where area or carpet bombing was again employed, but with vastly greater bomb loads. http://deoxy.org/wc/wc-myth.htm
    ..
    A rational army would run away.
    Montesquieu

  11. #341
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    Default Re: Bomber Harris, Criminal or Hero?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rising Sun* View Post
    The poor degree of accuracy in eliminating purely military targets in WWII wasn't much better half a century later in Gulf War I with non-guided bombs where area or carpet bombing was again employed, but with vastly greater bomb loads. http://deoxy.org/wc/wc-myth.htm
    Given how many myths/downright untruths are in that article, I'd be **VERY** cautious about using it as a reference for anything...
    I have neither the time nor the inclination to differentiate between the incompetent and the merely unfortunate - Curtis E LeMay

  12. #342
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    Default Re: Bomber Harris, Criminal or Hero?

    Page 521 gives some information about the accuracy's of bombing in GW1 with Guided and un-guided munitions, it also explains that something can be described as a hit but could actually be a fair distance away (10-30ft) and that many accurate bombs dropped in perfect conditions has a CEP (Circular Error Probable) of 200-400ft.

    So even weapons in the much touted smart weapon war, dropped in perfect conditions were no where near as accurate as they claimed.

    Chapter Seven: Offensive Air Power, Strategic Bombing and Preparation for the Ground Offensive
    'Amazon' Bridge
    Construction dates: 12/13 May 1944 (Operation Diadem)
    Details: 80 ft Class 30 Bailey bridge built over Rapido river under constant fire.
    The bridge was built as part of the Allies break-out of the Gustav Line.
    Work started at 5.45pm (12 May) and completed at 5.30am (13 May).
    The human cost was high; 15 sappers were killed and 57 (including 3 officers) wounded.
    Constructed by: 7th, 59th, 225th Field Companies (4th Division)

  13. #343
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    Default Re: Bomber Harris, Criminal or Hero?

    Great paper.

    Thanks for providing the link.
    ..
    A rational army would run away.
    Montesquieu

  14. #344
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    Default Re: Bomber Harris, Criminal or Hero?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rising Sun* View Post
    Great paper.

    Thanks for providing the link.
    I have read the whole paper when I was trying to do research into the BDA I was helping with in Kosovo in 1999 (another farcical example of the accuracy or not of air dropped munitions and intelligence). I eventually downloaded and stitched all the chapters together.

    It can seem a little overwhelming at times but I found it interesting, I had another paper I was sent stating the average target hit (within 10m) of the smart weapons was as low as 25% (not even mentioning the Patriots) during GW1
    'Amazon' Bridge
    Construction dates: 12/13 May 1944 (Operation Diadem)
    Details: 80 ft Class 30 Bailey bridge built over Rapido river under constant fire.
    The bridge was built as part of the Allies break-out of the Gustav Line.
    Work started at 5.45pm (12 May) and completed at 5.30am (13 May).
    The human cost was high; 15 sappers were killed and 57 (including 3 officers) wounded.
    Constructed by: 7th, 59th, 225th Field Companies (4th Division)

  15. #345
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    Default Re: Bomber Harris, Criminal or Hero?

    I vote - "Criminal, but our criminal..."

    "I decide who is a Jew and who is an Aryan "- Hermann Goering

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