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75 Year Anniversary of the Bombing of Dresden, justified or not?

weltweit

Well-Known Member

On 13 February 1945, British aircraft launched an attack on the eastern German city of Dresden. In the days that followed, they and their US allies would drop nearly 4,000 tons of bombs in the assault.

The ensuing firestorm killed 25,000 people, ravaging the city centre, sucking the oxygen from the air and suffocating people trying to escape the flames.
The bombing of Dresden was controversial at the time the city was firebombed which caused a fireball which killed tens of thousands and destroyed the centre of the city.

Should it have been done?
 

elbows

WoeTimer
Well the subject of the deliberate terrorisation of civilian populations during war is one that has tended to invite gross hypocrisy, double-standards, and all manner of denials. Firestorms of world war 2 at least can be said not to escape scrutiny, whether they were caused by traditional means, or especially ferocious innovations in the field of incendiary devices, or nuclear means.

I believe my paternal grandfather was up in the sky there, in a mosquito, witnessing the destruction. I believe he was horrified. He didnt say that much about it, though towards the end of his life he was a bit more open about the related moral dilemmas that started to pop up in the latter years of the war, including American use of napalm, which obviously became much more notorious in later conflicts. If I recall correctly, much of this moral unease was easier to express within British ranks when focussed on the actions of someone else instead of ourselves, hence the focus on unpalatable things the Americans were doing.

Dresden is a very useful example to talk about in terms of deliberate civilian terror, because we have a draft letter of Churchills own words, which tend to prevent the usual endless humbug denials and claims from successfully muddying these particular waters.



Although it is worth noting that a subsequent draft of the letter kept rather far away from the earlier comments about terror carried out under other pretexts.

 
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weltweit

Well-Known Member
Interesting that Churchill seems to be so delicate with his military, I suppose Bomber Harris was the eventual target of the thoughts. Nevertheless Churchill is not giving orders?
 

SpookyFrank

Self-cleaning oven, the whole bit.
Interesting that Churchill seems to be so delicate with his military, I suppose Bomber Harris was the eventual target of the thoughts. Nevertheless Churchill is not giving orders?
The earlier bombing of Hamburg had shown the devastation firestorms could create, and I think at the time one ranking Nazi said that half a dozen more such attacks would basically be game over for Germany. It's unlikely the allies could say in their defence that they didn't intend to cause such destruction in Dresden in light of that. The bombings were carried out in such a way as to create the maximum amount of firewood before incendiaries were used.

A stated aim of the attack, which Churchill was well aware of, was to inhibit the evacuation of German civillians from areas in the path of the advancing Soviet armies. That doesn't sound like a legitimate military objective to me.
 

weltweit

Well-Known Member
..
A stated aim of the attack, which Churchill was well aware of, was to inhibit the evacuation of German civillians from areas in the path of the advancing Soviet armies. That doesn't sound like a legitimate military objective to me.
I hadn't heard of that aim, seems complex if it was a reason .. but the letters above seem to suggest pretty devious thinking.

And is it any better than the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Just because 800 bombers were used in Dresden and only one in the two events in Japan, does not make Dresden any more acceptable.
 

SpookyFrank

Self-cleaning oven, the whole bit.
I hadn't heard of that aim, seems complex if it was a reason .. but the letters above seem to suggest pretty devious thinking.

And is it any better than the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Just because 800 bombers were used in Dresden and only one in the two events in Japan, does not make Dresden any more acceptable.
Airmen participating in the bombing were issued a memo that mentioned the increased population density in the city due to the influx of refugees.

Another stated aim was to make a point to the Soviet Union, which I believe Churchill was at the time still planning to invade as soon as the Nazis were neutralised. So a definite parallel with Hiroshima there.
 

weltweit

Well-Known Member
fucking hell man.
Yes, you are probably right.

But I have had long discussions with people active in WWII who feel Hiroshima and Nagasaki were justified, they were uncomfortable with Dresden though, it was a long time ago I had these conversations.
 

editor

hiraethified
It's all horrific and should never have happened but war is all about dreadful, evil atrocities, often inflicted on civilians. I could certainly understand why someone living in Coventry might not have been too upset by what happened at Dresden.

I would have rather the politicians who took us into war doing the fucking fighting themselves, but that never happens.

In 14 November 1940 the Luftwaffe launched its most devastating bombing raid of the Second World War so far. The target was Coventry, a manufacturing city in the heart of England with a beautiful medieval centre. The result was a shocking collapse of social order that caused thousands to flee and challenged notions of Britain's "Blitz spirit".

As dawn broke over a ruined city, a horrific scene of destruction greeted the survivors. Homes and factories were flattened and many buildings were consumed by flames so intense, the city's sandstone brickwork glowed red.

The air stank of burning flesh, and bodies, some mutilated beyond recognition, lay in the streets.

 

CNT36

Not carbon nano tubes
Daniel Ellsbergs book The Doomsday Machine about how precision bombing like the attacks on military objectives advocated by Churchill above that were both difficult and ineffective. There was at the beginning a moral disgust at the idea of the bombing of civilian targets. As precision bombing failed there was a move by bomber command to the use of large raids with the express aim of creating a firestorm. German buildings made this difficult even with the air superiority enjoyed towards the end of the war. They'd repeatedly tried but rarely succeeded Hamburg and Dresden being the best known. It was a different story in Japan where most cities were devastated.

The moral objections to Dresden were immediate as illustrated by even Churchill having some quickly withdrawn qualms. It is not simply some do gooders looking back as I often hear.
 
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elbows

WoeTimer
I could certainly understand why someone living in Coventry might not have been too upset by what happened at Dresden.
And I could certainly understand why someone from Coventry might have had additional reasons to be very upset by what happened at Dresden.

Thats not to say you are wrong at all, but rather that I'm sure both of these sentiments were to be found in abundance there.
 

CNT36

Not carbon nano tubes
I hadn't heard of that aim, seems complex if it was a reason .. but the letters above seem to suggest pretty devious thinking.

And is it any better than the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Just because 800 bombers were used in Dresden and only one in the two events in Japan, does not make Dresden any more acceptable.
I've read that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were deliberately spared the destruction brought elsewhere in Japan so there would be cities left to drop the A-bombs on. Elsewhere I've read that the destruction was as devastating as elsewhere in Japan and more of the same so maybe not the primary reason for the surrender. The military still thought it could continue to fight an effective defensive war as it had despite the bombings and that the Soviet Union may be able to play a role in negotiations. Some have suggested once the Soviets entered the war against the Japanese this changed and prompted the surrender.
 

Artaxerxes

Well-Known Member
Churchill egged his bomber force on before Dresden to ever greater heights of destruction so he's certainly to blame partly even if he covered his arse after Dresden. Precision attacks were also pie in the sky bollocks at this point, it could just about be done but certainly not in numbers and doing so to things like train yards is bloody hard because they are very hard to actually destroy or make non-functional (despite what Southern Rail has done this last few years).

Harris himself was a dull stolid unimaginative man and he was relentless in following his bombing doctrine, he was banaly evil in some ways. But I'll say this for him he had the courage and the guts to look after the men he commanded and do his best to support them. The casualties that were inflicted on Bomber Command are comparable to those in the trenches, it was a horrible war.

Justified, partly it was war and it had evolved into a total war at arms length, in hindsight against the Nazi's, certainly justified but it would have been better to bomb the ever loving shit out of Hitler himself but it couldn't be done.
 

littlebabyjesus

one of Maxwell's demons
It was a war crime. But committed by the victors, so it wasn't a war crime...

Or to put it another way, if this wasn't a war crime then there is really no such thing as a war crime.
 

planetgeli

There's no future in England's dreaming
I've read that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were deliberately spared the destruction brought elsewhere in Japan so there would be cities left to drop the A-bombs on.
Dunno where you read this but it’s rubbish. Nagasaki had been bombed five times in the preceding 12 months. For this reason it was not a favoured target because the damage would be difficult to assess. However, bad weather saved the original target, Kokura, and so Nagasaki took the bomb.
 

peterkro

Greasin' on American Express card.
Tokyo 9th March 1945.Single worst air raid of the Second World War generally agreed death count over 100.000 and no none of those near end of war bombings were justified but the start of posturing for the Cold War.
 

CNT36

Not carbon nano tubes

ffsear

Well-Known Member
Posted on an #avgeek thread earlier today... Written by a Lancaster flight engineer who was over Dresden that evening...

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SpookyFrank

Self-cleaning oven, the whole bit.
But I have had long discussions with people active in WWII who feel Hiroshima and Nagasaki were justified, they were uncomfortable with Dresden though, it was a long time ago I had these conversations.
Were those people aware that the Japanese had agreed surrender terms before the bombs were dropped?
 

littlebabyjesus

one of Maxwell's demons
Posted on an #avgeek thread earlier today... Written by a Lancaster flight engineer who was over Dresden that evening...

View attachment 198429

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As a flight engineer, how would he know that it was a routine operation? Sorry, I don't necessarily doubt the veracity or indeed the sincerity of the account, but he is not going to know the real aims of the operation or how it was planned.

And alluding to Vonnegut at the end is, well, fuck that. it is also mightily :hmm:
 

ffsear

Well-Known Member
As a flight engineer, how would he know that it was a routine operation? Sorry, I don't necessarily doubt the veracity or indeed the sincerity of the account, but he is not going to know the real aims of the operation or how it was planned.

And alluding to Vonnegut at the end is, well, fuck that. it is also mightily :hmm:
Not sure if you're confused. The flight engineer sat next to the pilot on operations.
 

SpookyFrank

Self-cleaning oven, the whole bit.
No, and neither am I, certainly total surrender without terms was achieved after the bombings.
The major sticking point in the negotiations for Japan's surrender prior to the atomic bombings was the fate of the emperor. The septics wanted him stripped of his title, and though the Japanese were already resigned to the fact that surrender was inevitable, they would not accept these terms. After the bombings and the Soviet invasion of Manchuria, Japan surrendered with a guarantee from the US secretary of state that the emperor would retain his title, ie on terms they had already accepted in principle prior to the Hiroshima and Nagasaki attacks.

This really isn't controversial stuff. It's widely understood that the atomic bombings were primarily a warning to Stalin, and were in no way necessary to secure Japan's surrender. If one final kick in the teeth was genuinely necessary, the Soviet invasion alone would have done the trick.
 

littlebabyjesus

one of Maxwell's demons
No, and neither am I, certainly total surrender without terms was achieved after the bombings.
Something of a racist lie has been propagated about Japan in order to justify the brutality - that they were fanatics (just look at the kamikaze pilots!) who would never surrender, who would blow themselves up rather than surrender. It was never true, and Japan had been seeking a way to surrender with terms for some time at the time of the A-bombs.

It's a form of dehumanising of the enemy, which always happens with wars, even down to 'the argies' in the Falklands. Read accounts of surviving kamikaze pilots, for instance, and you'll get a very different story, one of very young men, boys really, scared stiff, steeling themselves the best they could for the day they were called on, and desperately hoping that it would not happen. Regular humans, in other words.
 
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