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Well Sid, for my money you have hit upon a key point that is under appreciated today. The modern firebreak between conventional and nuclear weapons was not apparent in 1945. Indeed, I would argue that (in 1945) it did not exist. The atomic bombs of 1945 followed seemlessly from the strategic bombing campaigns of the preceding five years.sid guttridge wrote:I think that the military and most others of the time tended to see the A-bomb as a massive enhancement of their conventional armoury ... rather than as something fundamentally new. ...
We today are aware of the fundamentally different nature of the danger to life posed by nuclear weapons ...
In my opinion, there is no distinction. Which is the point I was trying to make in my article. A great deal of ink has been spilt on the question of why the American leadership "decided" to use the atomic bombs. I would argue that there was no real decision to make - it was already well established policy to smash Japan's cities by strategic bombardment from the air. That being the case, what difference do the technicalities of the bombs' design make?What is the essential distinction between using hundreds of bombers to destroy a city by fire-storm, and using one bomber to destroy a city by atomic blast?
Indeed, the US was prepared to mount such an invasion with little more than token British Commonwealth ground support.
I think you are right that there was no 'firebreak' between nuclear weapons and area bombings of civilian targets in 1945, but I would add that mass bombing of cities was seen in much the same light at least until 1940 as we saw full scale nuclear war during the Cold War, i.e. as decisive in itself.PaulJ wrote:... The modern firebreak between conventional and nuclear weapons was not apparent in 1945.
Perhaps over Europe, but certainly not over Japan - and concentrating solely on the ETO would in turn also remove the nuclear bomb as the next logical step in area bombing.sid guttridge wrote:Hi Vagabond,
A couple of points. There were moral (and legal) constraints left after Rotterdam. For example, Allied area bombing did not continue to the end of the war. It stopped in March 1945.
Yes, Martin Fiebig was executed as a war criminal in 1946. Bombing cities can also have a more narrow tactical application. They usually serve as mobilisation centres, which in turn might explain why the Luftwaffe bombed Warsaw but not for example Paris in the early parts of the war....Furthermore, there always existed the legal device of the "Open City"...The only person condemned to death for bombing civilian areas was apparently the German who led the bombing of Belgrade after it had been declared "open" in April 1941.
True, there were disagreeable parts of the Blitz. There seems to have been a real collective effort to gloss over the adverse effects some bombings on occasion had on civilian morale - all the same, the whole 'Britain can take it' attitude, Churchill and the royal family visiting bombed-out Londoners, even Soviet press visiting and writing favourably about the heroic AA gunners in Hyde Park was clearly a point for the PR people. I think it is fair to say that Britain came out of the Blitz strengthened, a point that should not have gone missed on the RAF bomber barons.The British did not know full well that bombing couldn't break civilian morale, because they had seen how shakey British civilian morale sometimes got during the Blitz. (See Angus Calder's "The Peoples' War").
I think you are wrong here. Their conclusion was that the RAF did not possess the means to hit anything smaller than a city center with any degree of accuracy, cf. the Butt Report. Area bombing was chosen because it was the only option left.Their conclusion was that more and heavier bombing was more likely to be effective.
The Nazis may themselves have been victims of the myth that the German home front collapsed in 1918. I think that is a strong reason why Germany never got a full war economy (and that in turn can explain the growing German production numbers throughout the war), and why eg. German rations remained comparatively lavish. Goebbels expressing fears to his diary that civilian morale might sap does not in itself mean that this was the case.Goebbels, who was in charge of maintaining German morale, was agreed. His diaries have many references to his fears in this direction.
I don't think it is moot when it comes to determining whether Harris was successful in seeing his original strategy through to a successful conclusion.It is a moot point as to whether Allied bombing eventually broke German civilian morale or not.
Well okay. But I can think of other reasons why German morale in the West might have been on the decline during the closing months of the warThere certainly was little popular resistance to the Western Allies in the last months of the war, and none afterwards. In the Saarland the civilian population even tried to stop the German armed forces from fighting for the area.
I do not dispute that the Allied strategic bombing campaign was widely successful in tying down very considerable German resources in men, AA guns and particularly fighter aircraft, but this drain should be put in proportion to the considerable drain on Allied resources that the bombing campaign itself was. Would the RAF have carried on bombing German targets after the Butt Report's disheartening conclusions if their resources had been scarcer?If you read the first posting on this thread you will also see a good number of reasons why Allied strategic bombing should be regarded as widely successful, even though it never lived up to the extravagant hopes of those who thought the war might be won from the air alone.
While it is true that a widespread public desire for revenge created a moral climate at home in which the RAF could operate area bombing, it should also be recalled that it was also public and parliamentary pressure that helped end it weeks before the end of the war...
Yes, but the loss of life luckily fell very short of expectations. Some pre-scient London bureaucrat had so many death certificates printed on the eve of war in 1939 that they were still in use well into the 1970s...sid guttridge wrote:...I don't see that Britain came out of the Blitz strengthened, except in the sense that it had survived it. There was enormous relief that the bombing had been far less damaging than pre-war estimates had predicted but, nevertheless, widespread death and destruction had been caused
OK, but the overall picture of the Blitz's consequences for the civilian populace was one of public perseverance and an ability to keep everyday life going in the face of the enemy. That was also the image of London under the Blitz that made it abroad to the UK's future allies USA and USSR.and morale had sometimes been distinctly shakey in the immediate aftermath of raids - Churchill was booed on one visit to the East End.
Another just as obvious lesson might well have been to admit that pre-war ideas about the total dominance of the bomber were false, and consequently abandon all ideas of bombing enemy cities altogether. I think the revenge motive is key in establishing the reasons why the RAF decided to press on with a bombing campaign that for its early part in fact killed more British aircrews than it killed Germans.The obvious lesson was to make sure that any counter-blitz on Germany would have to be heavier and more sustained if it was to succeed.
It was certainly what the RAF had been advocating prior to the war, though surprisingly little effort had gone into such essentials as navigation, developing heavy bombs for the (very few) bombers to deliver and escorts for bombers.I agree that area bombing was adopted as the only option left (at least until better equipment became available), but in fact this official "adoption" was simply a recognition that, such was the inaccuracy of earlier raids, area bombing was always what the RAF had been conducting at night anyway.
...and that in turn makes it so tricky to establish just which effect the Allied bombing raids had on the German war effort. Production kept growing because there were always fresh resources to tap into.... The Third Reich tried to cushion its civilian population from a repitition in WWII by maintaining as much civilian normality for as long as possible. The cost of this was a fatally late switch to a total war economy.
I think equating increased absenteeism with morale problems caused by the Allied bombing campaign is something of a stretch. In no particular order, absenteeism could also have been caused by a) a workforce that was older on average in 1940 than it was in 1944 due to the fronts taking all the young and strong; b) a workforce with a higher percentage of women (who have more sick days than men); c) disruption and destruction of German infrastructure; d) disruption and destruction of German industry and e) public morale declining due to other factors than the Allied bombing campaign.Goebbels was not fantasising. German civilian morale demonstrably did decline in WWII. See my original post about the much higher absenteeism amongst German workers than amongst forced labourers in 1944.
Yes, but you should also add the very considerable resources that went into turning the RAF strategic command from a small and inefficient force into a massive arm if you want to find out if the strategic bombing campaign was really worthwhile.Harris's aim of winning the war from the air alone clearly did not work in Europe. However, this does not mean that his European operations were a total failure. Enormous damage was inflicted on Germany and enormous human and material resources were diverted to opposing or avoiding the bombing. This undoubtedly facilitated Allied progress elsewhere.
No, not necessarily on the wrong track. But don't you think it is problematic that it is in fact so difficult to establish just to which degree strategic bombing helped the Allies win the war?Furthermore, as Japan WAS knocked out of the war through air power, Harris was not necessarily on the wrong track.
An earlier posting on this thread classified the nuclear bomb as a logical step-up in a strategic bombing campaign - but classifying the A-bomb as a war-winning weapon in its own right squarely equates it with how strategic bombing was viewed pre-war - namely as a weapon so powerful that it would act as a deterrent.It may be argued that he simply lacked the necessary weight of destructive power and that Atom Bomb was his ultimate vindication.
You'll note that I was only addressing the feasability of the strategic bombing campaign, not the wisdom of waging war on Germany altogether.What is your alternative to the strategic bomber offensive? The Royal Navy couldn't attack Germany. The Army was far too small... The alternative would appear to be to give up the war altogether. Is this your proposition?