ALLIED BOMBING OF GERMAN CITIES IN WW2, WAS IT WORTH THE MORAL FAILURE?
As I was watching a well done doc on 1940 I heard Winston in his Voice for democracies, version against German air terror in 1940. I kept thinking:" Man why did not you stay on course?" It reminded me of this article in Armchair general and my itch to answer to it.
This article is biased in several ways and true in many others. Biased because by being so general that the answer cannot be but yes, of course allied air power was decisive just as allied infantry was or navy or capacity to give hot meals to the soldiers. By putting all aspects of air power into the same basket it does little credit to the very controversial aspects of air war Europe. The main and most important issue is the mass bombing of German cities.
1) Main point morally impossible to justify: the slaughter of civilians, in full knowledge, for no palatable strategic results but some form of "reaped what they sawed" revenge, unworthy of the reasons for this fight.
2) Purely military use: soundness, options and waste of manpower and industrial power.
THE MORAL ISSUE
Don't tell me this was war and this has nothing to do with it, collateral damages et all. This war was first of all a war about and for ideas, democracies against Nazis. That is why so many fought, those who thought about it at least. Refer to those movie theater programs: "why we fight"and policy statements by Roosevelt, Churchill and the creation of the United Nations, the universal human rights etc.
They had already said these things:
"PROTECTION OF CIVILIAN POPULATIONS AGAINST BOMBING FROM THE AIR IN CASE OF WAR
Unanimous resolution of the League of Nations Assembly, September 30, 1938.
Considering that on numerous occasions public opinion has expressed through the most authoritative channels its horror of the bombing of civilian populations;
Considering that this practice, for which there is no military necessity and which, as experience shows, only causes needless suffering, is condemned under the recognised principles of international law;
Considering further that, though this principle ought to be respected by all States and does not require further reaffirmation, it urgently needs to be made the subject of regulations specially adapted to air warfare and taking account of the lessons of experience;
Considering that the solution of this problem, which is of concern to all States, whether Members of the League of Nations or not, calls for technical investigation and thorough consideration;
Considering that the Bureau of the Conference for the Reduction and Limitation of Armaments is to meet in the near future and that it is for the Bureau to consider practical means of undertaking the necessary work under conditions most likely to lead to as general an agreement as possible:
I. Recognizes the following principles as a necessary basis for any subsequent regulations:
1) The intentional bombing of civilian populations is illegal;
2) Objectives aimed at from the air must be legitimate military objectives and must be identifiable;
3) Any attack on legitimate military objectives must be carried out in such a way that civilian populations in the neighbourhood are not bombed through negligence;
II. Also takes the opportunity to reaffirm that the use of chemical or bacterial methods in the conduct of war is contrary to international law, as recalled more particularly in the resolution of the General Commission of the Conference for the Reduction and Limitation of Armaments of July 23rd 1932, and the resolution of the Council of May 14th, 1938."
"Appeal of President Franklin D. Roosevelt on Aerial Bombardment of Civilian Populations, September 1, 1939
The President of the United States to the Governments of France, Germany, Italy, Poland and His Britannic Majesty, September 1, 1939
The ruthless bombing from the air of civilians in unfortified centers of population during the course of the hostilities which have raged in various quarters of the earth during the past few years, which has resulted in the maiming and in the death of thousands of defenseless men, women, and children, has sickened the hearts of every civilized man and woman, and has profoundly shocked the conscience of humanity.
If resort is had to this form of inhuman barbarism during the period of the tragic conflagration with which the world is now confronted, hundreds of thousands of innocent human beings who have no responsibility for, and who are not even remotely participating in, the hostilities which have now broken out, will lose their lives. I am therefore addressing this urgent appeal to every government which may be engaged in hostilities publicly to affirm its determination that its armed forces shall in no event, and under no circumstances, undertake the bombardment from the air of civilian populations or of unfortified cities, upon the understanding that these same rules of warfare will be scrupulously observed by all of their opponents. I request an immediate reply."
Then in 1940 the Germans bombed Rotterdam, Warsaw, later Coventry, London. Yes Hitler could and would have done worse, he was limited…by his war machine. Get in your mind Picasso's Guernica. Retaliations? To me, this kind of policy was against the war aims. Acting like those, barbarians you mean to fight (and this is valid today too) is debasing yourself to their level.
Please don't bring me the relative statistics of death. Yes overall the allies did inflict, less pain than the others did, and yes they did fight for the right reasons. But there is only one ball game of senseless horror and dancing in it even with another tune is still in the same room. Don't give medals of horror, having less than the other side is then so much better.
Did they, please act as said? No.
Now read that: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bombing_of_Hamburg_in_World_War_II interesting tactics! (when you read firefighters, just add ambulances to have the right picture).
Between 300000 and 600000 German civilians were killed (add occupied countries to it); maybe those were the lucky ones; think about the hundred thousands of maimed, in their mind and limbs, for life. Let us not fight about statistics: a great humanist, Mussolini had something like this about statistics: kill one, it is murder, kill ten this is a massacre, seven thousands is statistics.
Be imaginative, think of a 4 year's old little girl with dimples and blonde hair in a pony tail, with a huge smile and… Now face half burned, one leg less and what 70 more years to live, live?
Yes war is horrible, yes casualties are not avoidable, yes this unlucky girl could have been caught in a village held by the remnants of a SS company in February 1945 (3 months to go!) under a US army artillery barrage. Tough luck. What about the systematic killing of 80000 German children by terror bombing? Maybe some of them were Hitlerjungend like Gunter Grass had to be. To be cynical for half of them, well, it could have been unavoidable as the instruments of war, these bombers were so inaccurate. Yes the allies had to bomb German infrastructure, industry etc. and then yes, civilians would get killed. Yes the allies did inflict damage, far less than they thought, yes they had too.
Think that the greatest slaughter began when the war was close to an end, there was no doubt about the issue, whatever remnants of German power that was, did not matter that much.
On 14 February, 1942, Directive No. 22 was issued to Bomber Command. Bombing was to be "focused on the morale of the enemy civil population and in particular of the industrial workers." Translate: kill civilians in great enough numbers that fear of death by bombs will overcome fear of death from "defeatism" by the SS. Why? Because they knew their attacks on the industry was not doing it.
Dresden, (air raid by UK & US: 13-14 Feb. 1945): 35 000 to 50000 dead
Berlin, (air raid by US: 3 Feb. 1945): 25 000.
Think about Clauzewitz , as this war as politics (democracy, freedom, human rights?) by other means. Any dead that is useless, any large amount of dead that have no military means in war is a war crime. Sometimes the limits are blurred sometimes not.
3) Ok, was it worth it? Was it sound tactics?
If you read the (often partial, dimmed) analysis after the war and what few internal reports from the top brass during the war: the answer is NO!
Why? Because on a purely cynical, practical, military, strategic analysis, the results have to be balanced with the means used for them, the alternate use that could have been.
Airmen losses 160000 (US+UK) or equivalent of almost half total US war death? For what?
Allied personnel needed for that: 1.3 millions!!!!! Dozens of thousands of planes, and mostly 4 engine big ones, those that needed the most material to build.
How many tactical planes they could have instead, together with let's say a dozen more armoured divisions. Imagine ten more armoured divisions around Caen in 44, at Bastogne?
Read (on the net for free please do it) ^ Crook, Paul (2003.). "Chapter 10 "The case against Area Bombing"". in Peter Hore. Patrick Blackett: Sailor, Scientist, and Socialist. Routledge. p. 176.
(Ok I know many of you will freak out because in the title it says "socialists" but even these cannot always be wrong especially when not really talking about economy, even with that kind of author's name…remember the US cavalry in 1876, then it will help.) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strategic_Bombing_Survey_Europe
Instead of senseless, costly raids in Germany in 1942 many more long range bombers could have been transferred to Coastal Command. Only by late 42 did they do it against the will of the bomber leaders.
By 43 these had already won the battle of the Atlantic. They could have done it six months earlier, saving thousands of merchant mariners. When I say that, think, we talk about a few dozen planes!
Carpet bombing: Cobra? Why not several others? And Italy and bases? And…. German training areas, deployment zones in France to force utter dispersal and great use of fuel for training. What about the Liri valley and elsewhere. Why the Luftwaffe systematic attack of RAF bases was a sound tactic in 1940 and the Allied air power not be the same in 43-44?
Mining the long Hamburg's exit to the sea and keeping doing it, attacking those flimsy minesweepers, would have rendered the port, the Uboot pens etc. just as useless or even more. The intense air interdiction (the most efficient use of air power in WW2) of post Normandy landings might have been sustained with say a couple thousand more long range fighter bombers instead of a thousand B24. I like the B24 (a nice plane btw), Liberator? When bombing civilians it sound a bit like a Catholic priest in South America in the 16th century liberating Indians from their sins.
Only by 1943 did the German industry go to full war production (crazy Adolf did not war to alienate the workers by forcing them to work on 3 shifts! You know the socialist part of national socialist…) in 44 despite the allied effort they produced more of everything than before.Ok if you read about it, with an open mind you'll see.
On a half lighter side, think of all the cultural places that were destroyed, as I am a wargamer too, I would have liked the info on 1815 Hanoverian flags and 1866-70 Saxon flags that was lost in fire raids. (wargamers/historian article hey?)
I will honour Patton and the dead and survivors of Bedford VA, for example but not so Bomber Harris, Carl Spaatz or the 1943 version of Churchill.
DON’T TELL ME ABOUT THE END OF THE WORLD
We, miniature gamers all know that the end of the world exists, commonly otherwise known as the table edge.
This most unfortunate feature even calls for special rules, brings in players gamey behaviour. Everyone is aware this straight daunting line can trap units, others vanish by being forced to jump in that void, and at times it acts as a saving deep fog allowing escapes. The trouble is, the fog stops at the table edge.
In many ways for battles, prior to the last century, when they were fought on a limited sized sort of field our tables are Ok as long as one has the needed space fitting with the fight, or more often the fight fitting in the space.
This is actually problem #1
When say after the middle of the 19th century as these fields became huge, or certainly with WW1 and 2, there is no more rectangular battlefield but a huge continual even possibly fluid battle over hundreds or thousands of men and hundreds of km of front. Ok skirmish or nearly so engagements can still be raids, patrols, or the like that are fought in a sort of void on a limited space be it between the lines, behind etc. or very limited in time fights in closed up areas.
Simply put your average ww2 fight whether it is a company against another (say IABSM ; bolt action Pzer grenadier etc.) or battalions (Command decision, Spearhead…) should be part of a bigger operation.
The sides of this fight you play, unless very special cases, well, are connected to other units. In other words there are no safe sides to your table. I am talking here mostly of the lateral sides, assuming at least a quasi linear sort of field not to complicate one life.
This is actually problem #2
On this sketch Blue is attacking red positions. If you are not using my ideas, well red is pretty screwed up as there are two massively covered approaches for blue on either outer sides of the woods. Yet if you look at historical actual fights, you get plenty of that.
In real life those sectors should be covered at least quite some, by other positions out there. Otherwise we have an isolated box… they would probably have chosen another place.
CREATING AND INSTALLING GZATSK 1813
And no you have never heard of this battle...
4000 figurines; THE huge what if 1812-13 battle; 190000 men for Napoleon vs 160000 for Kutusov. Part of my "what if he waited to reorganize and took care of his rear areas in late August 1812..."
Why this place? In his analysis of 1812 Clauzewitz states that the position behind this town of Gzatsk (today Gagarin in Smolensk oblast) was one of the best they could have taken, chosen by Barclay just before he was removed from overall command. We can understand it was abandoned after works had started as too wide to fight the better manoeuvring French (wargaming hint to those who think all commands in all armies are equals) and the available numbers; understatement also means if victorious it would have been too much of a Barclay victory;)
In my what if the French obviously would be better off than at Borodino but so would the Russians, which means they'd have enough troops, probably. And I believe Carl von....
The main problem: I had to find the proper map. I asked and we found Russian sources on line. I did not go to the central library to ferret into the map room and maybe find period sketches and maps, maybe even the report on installing this battlefield! Though whenever I go again I might look.
Using this site I had a map of the place with everything you want from 1871. Other older maps lacking details would be only checked for the villages and extend of the town, just in case it would have changed significantly. Then it has maps from post WW1 and especially a very detailed topographical map from 1941 . Another site which I forgot to bookmark (!) some nowadays flood map that has heights shown in coloured contrasted clear layouts was quite useful to figure out faster the main heights. It also had the feature of measuring things and having local heights with passing the mouse over. And if I want to use it again, for the third time I will have to search for it. Yes.
Even if I started full of elan, I soon realized that the place was complicated and short of doing a huge job of surveying and detailed special 3D full set of polystyrene tiles which I hardly can store (I have a 3x 4.5m surface tables) the main useful features will have to be enough. I am no Bruce Weigl;). Hours of trial and errors using as a bottom layer the 1871 map (after starting with the 1941- but will say further why) I ended up with a not so nice project (as the stuff was after all taken from the internet low rez) but good enough. The choice of the rectangle that would be the battlefield was also a subject of errors and multiple re doing. Studying the stuff as to how would they set up , and how to attack was very important, for all my space I cannot screw up too much. And actually I did, allowing a bit not enough space for the French, which I realized typically once every single tree and Russian was installed! obviously I did not redo it. But if and when I play that again, ho I'd wish, with 3 other guys! I would do it right. The game will say it it was a real problem other that aesthetical (not able to put down all the French-some off table!).
I was very careful about the orientation, not to use a simple North East South as on the internet maps. The Russian defenses as described by Carl Von would mainly follow the crests along the main river and the map showed it makes sense. The French need enough to deploy, the Russians too plus recoiling without falling into that ridiculous end of the world, and the flanks put where they make more sense, keeping in mind it had to fit in 18km by 11.5.
There was one striking difference between the 1871 map(s) and the 1941 map. In 1941 the woods seemed bigger, and there was a lot of water, what looed like ponds, marshes etc . along the river. I guess having been along The Volga, the Don, the Dniepr and many smaller ones (notable at Maloyaroslavets) one bank would higher than the other, and a more or less wide expense of low ground would flat and able to be flooded in spring on both sides. Villages and cultures be on the starting elevation and up. The soviets in their 1920s mess and their innate socialist belief that even Nature (not just human nature) will bend to their will, probably messed up the 1000 years proven local ways. So the floods that were contained or kept harmless would have destroyed newly forced upon agriculture, the collectivisation and industries nearby made these quite numerous villages caring no more about the land around them (I was surprised at the number of villages on this map as one striking Russian feature is- emptiness- in France and Germany you easily have a village every 2km- hence the range of the Milan ATGM-) in European Russia you can go 20 km without one. Maybe more nowadays than then, surely but still... and had a bad feeling about "shall I not have enough "eastern houses" (prompting Timecast and Kerr and King orders!). They also had a railway and a motorway built in 1941, the soviet way, not necessarily caring about water extraction-a standard feature of Moscow streets with heavy rain;).
While doing the order of battle of the 1812 in 1813, more funny things in, as French guards of 1813, the Russian volunteer cavalry from the nobles, who never had time to be fully raised (I have a full division of them with funny dresses, most accurate) could be put in play. And then I discovered I need more Russian generals, and Prussian batteries...
One of the things that would be of importance, most but not all the eastern bank of the river is higher than the "French" bank, This one often not significant for the game. I decided the higher bank would be 2 levels high, the higher steep (a common feature of Russian rivers) one marked with "crests". some of the highest places were put as hills as featured on the modern height map. Most of the rest of the banks as crests, being level 1;
one inch from the river is level -1 in case. Some level 3 crop up south mostly and I curtailed the woods that otherwise bisect too much the Russian position. Clauzewitz says they were on the rear nicely covering the path of retreat. the bigger forested area maybe modern (even 19th century modern) effect of better agriculture and less cultivated land further from villages. Russian woods normally are high trees with not so much brush underneath, only at the edges. So dark and relatively easy to move in, but still surely not in close order formations.
Now ready to install it!
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