Allied strategic bombing - An overlooked success?

The Allies 1939-1945, and those fighting against Germany.

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Post by Reb » Sat May 14, 2005 11:26 am

Sid

Lest you think I've mellowed I must say that I have always abhorred the strategic bombing compaign. Terror bombing put us in the same moral place as our enemies.

Someone quoted Speer (beating me to the punch) who noted that had we continued bombing the ball bearing factories Germany would have been finished much earlier. I agree. Without all the concomittant horrors of the Soviet drives into eastern Europe.

If civilians are killed as collateral to attacks on strategic targets that is one thing - to deliberately target civilians is appalling. The RAF won scant glory for itself in that mode of attack and Harris was rightly denied honours after the war. That the Americans joined in despite our own claims to greater accuracy and hence the ability to hit actual targets is a stain on our honour in my personal opinion.

If the moral yardstick we use is simply "is it effective" than we are no better than our enemies. Because that, carried to its obvious conclusion means that simply wiping out whole countries is the most effective method of waging war.

When I think of Hamburg and Dresden I can't help wishing we'd just stayed home...

cheers
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Post by sid guttridge » Mon May 16, 2005 2:38 am

Hi Vagabond,

Across Europe, calculations on the likely impact of the bombing of urban areas were based on the first Italian air raid on Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War. The number of SM79s used could clearly be counted (12 I think) and the number of dead could equally well be counted. By dividing the number of aircraft into the number of dead, people all over Europe arrived at a statistic of deaths per sortie which they extrapolated in order to calculate likely deaths in a major air offensive.

However, their results proved vastly exaggerated for a number of reasons. Firstly, as it was the first raid on Barcelona, nobody was expecting it and so no one took cover in shelters, of which none had been built anyway. Secondly, by chance one bomb struck an ammunition lorry, which produced a massive secondary explosion in a croewded street that produced most of the casualties. No later Italian air raids on Barcelona made a similar impact, but these were not factored in to calculations.

Certainly Britain emerged from the Blitz stronger than it entered it, but this was equally certainly not because of the Blitz, which is the point I thought you were originally making.

Yup. The "Britain Can Take it" campaign was a success at home and abroad, but it was a propaganda exercise that necessarily glossed over the less palatable facts.

Yup. I agree that a combination or revenge and lack of alternative sustained the RAF's strategic bombing campaign during its middle period. However, I don't have a problem with this, because by 1944 material results were justifying it. Had the campaign been abandoned in 1942, when it was patently underachieving, there would have been no dividend in 1944. (For these dividends, see my original post). If every attack in war was called off due to early losses, none would ever be pressed home.

Exactly. It is difficult to be precise about the effects of Allied bombing. The only certainty is that that they were large. (Again, read my original post for more on this and the actually limited scale of Germany's supposed productive miracle in 1944).

What is the difference between "bare necessity" and "a conscious effort..... to give defence of the Reich priority....."? That a high velocity gun cannot be in two places at once is self evident. If it was devoted to air defence of the Reich it could not be engaged in anti-tank work on the Eastern Front.

Have you any evidence for your propositions? Are older workforces really prone to 25% absentee rates? Do women REALLY take 25% more sick days than men? Was the destruction and disruption to German industry and infrastructure almost entirely caused by strategic bombing, the tools for which you would apparently want abandoned as failed in 1942?

I DID write that "enormous resources were devoted to this end" (the strategic bomber offensive). See the last paragraph of my previous post.

Who, pre-war, suggested that strategic bombing was so powerful that it would act as a deterent?

Yup. History does show that conventional, iron bomb, strategic bombing did not win WWII in its own right. And you are right, even its most ardent supporters would agree. Even Harris said "It has never been tried before, and we shall see." On the other hand, neither tanks, nor submarines, nor artillery, nor any other weapon you might care to mention has ever won a war in its own right. However, they all contributed to the defeat of the enemy, as did strategic bombing.

Why assume anything? Let's just stick to what actually happened. Then we're on firmer ground.

The Crete and Malaya issues could have been addressed by different deployments of existing aircraft, without any need to alter the bomber programme. More big, multi-engined aircraft WERE eventually given to Coastal Command. What were they? Four-engined strategic bombers! Again, this was achieved by the juggling of resources without altering the bomber programme. Closing the "air gap" was a by-product of the strategic bombing programme.

That better tactical decisions could have been made in all these cases is undoubtedly true. However, they need not have impinged on the strategic bomber programme.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Post by sid guttridge » Mon May 16, 2005 3:17 am

Hi Reb.

(Below I distinguish between area bombing and strategic bombing, which were not the same animal).

I think every right thinking person abhors the area bombing campaign, but then any right thinking person should abhor killing of any sort. No society can exist in the absence of "Thou shalt not Kill". Yet every society has legal ways of doing it and can accommodate its moral conscience to it. The only truly honest opposition to killing comes from outright pacifists. Everyone else is making moral compromises.

War is not about glory. It is about winning, hopefully within the rules of warfare. Area bombing was not illegal, and, as the old saw goes, "That which is not illegal is legal".

When I think of Warsaw, Rotterdam or Coventry I wish THEY had stayed at home. When I think of Auschwitz and Belsen, I am glad that WE did not.

The area bombing campaign did not "put us in the same moral place as our enemies". They had the "Holocaust" to their names as well, and this was a demonstrably worse deed than area bombing.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Post by Andy H » Mon May 16, 2005 9:24 am

If one abhors Area Bombing then the greater loss of civilian life caused by artilley barrages must be incalcuble, and thus also a stain on our nations flag
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Post by Reb » Mon May 16, 2005 4:05 pm

Sid

I wonder would the holocaust have ocurred without the cover of total war?

The fact that the British themselves backed away from "bomber" harris speaks volumes.

Both Brits and Americans have had some second thoughts about the number of French people we killed as well.

I realize that reality appeared quite different at the time - the Germans were a terrifying bunch and to Britain at one point - bombing them was about the only option they had. There is no such excuse for Dresden which was simply terror bombing. The isolated army bases in the town in no way justifed killing between 40 and 100,000 civilians.

You bring up the holocaust and I dispute that line of reasoning since I don't recall a single bombing raid to disrupt that horror. And I can guess the reason - Hitler's madness was playing into our hands by tying up transportation.

I guess the bottom line is that I don't do realpolitik -to me, after it has gone that far the least we could do is shoot all our diplomats for failing at what is arguably their only job - which is stop war from happening!

cheers
Reb

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Post by Vagabond » Mon May 16, 2005 4:49 pm

Hi Sid,
sid guttridge wrote:Across Europe, calculations on the likely impact of the bombing of urban areas were based on the first Italian air raid on Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War...
The theories behind strategic bombing are certainly older than the Spanish Civil War. Billy Mitchell, Hugh 'Boom' Trenchard (commander of the RAF for many years), Spaight and Douhet began presenting their theories in written form already prior to the end of WWI.

Quick overview of theories of strategic bombing
By dividing the number of aircraft into the number of dead, people all over Europe arrived at a statistic of deaths per sortie which they extrapolated in order to calculate likely deaths in a major air offensive.
A chief conclusion that at least Trenchard drew was that civilian morale was much more fickle than military morale - but Trenchard's conclusions were based on the Gotha raids of late WWI, years before the Spanish Civil War.

More generally pertaining to the subject of drawing lessons from the SCW, different observers appeared to draw the conclusions that fitted their agendas the best - for example, French experts concluded that tanks could not serve as breakthrough weapons in their own right, while German observers concluded that they could.
Certainly Britain emerged from the Blitz stronger than it entered it, but this was equally certainly not because of the Blitz, which is the point I thought you were originally making...
The Blitz was a clear win for Britain. Even if you disregard optimistic RAF claims and occasionally adverse effects on civilian morale caused by Luftwaffe bombings, the dividend was clearly not worth the German investment in lost airplanes and aircrews. RAF Bomber Command could well have made appropriate conclusions on this basis; that they did not is I think equally because that would have eroded the RAF's whole raison d'etre to continue as an independent arm in the inter-war years, and also because of the very real revenge motive prevalent in the wake of the Blitz.
Yup. I agree that a combination or revenge and lack of alternative sustained the RAF's strategic bombing campaign during its middle period. However, I don't have a problem with this, because by 1944 material results were justifying it.
But the material results, to the degree that they can be measured, are simply that German resources were diverted from other fronts and theatres. The strategic situation in 1944 was radically different from the situation in early 1942, and Bomber Command's efforts had little to do with that. For example, the US contribution to the bombing campaign was massive in 1944, and it was clear that Germany could not win on the Eastern Front.
Had the campaign been abandoned in 1942, when it was patently underachieving, there would have been no dividend in 1944. (For these dividends, see my original post). If every attack in war was called off due to early losses, none would ever be pressed home.
I think a basic cost/benefit analysis should be applied before embarking on anything as long-term in perspective as a strategic bombing campaign. Bomber Command produced accurate target plans with clear objectives in the early parts of the war: the oil plan and the transport plan. Both plans worked on the erroneous assumption that Germany was on a full war footing already in 1939, and the Butt Report demonstrated that either aim was completely beyond the means of Bomber Command - so simple inability to achieve the strategic goals put down could have been a reason for calling off the campaign, not 'early losses', even if it had been established that 5% losses (and they were higher in the early part of the war) was what Bomber Command could sustain, lest RAF's bomber fleet would have shrunk to nothing well prior to 1944.
Exactly. It is difficult to be precise about the effects of Allied bombing. The only certainty is that that they were large.
Other certainties are that the strategic bombing campaign failed to fulfill its early aims of denying Germany the ability to wage war by disrupting its oil industry and transport infrastructure in 1941/1942. The aim of a bombing campaign aimed at the enemys cities is to cause internal dissent and eventual revolt against the regime - or at least, that's how Trenchard et al. presented it pre war. That did not happen in Germany, and that's why we're left with only the incidental effects to examine.
(Again, read my original post for more on this and the actually limited scale of Germany's supposed productive miracle in 1944).
I think Germany's 1944 production effort can be explained by the simple fact that Germany did not have a full war economy when war broke out. That meant that Germany's economy could expand irrespective of the strategic bombing campaign.
What is the difference between "bare necessity" and "a conscious effort..... to give defence of the Reich priority....."? That a high velocity gun cannot be in two places at once is self evident. If it was devoted to air defence of the Reich it could not be engaged in anti-tank work on the Eastern Front.
The difference is that said high velocity gun would not have been produced at all if there had been no Allied air campaign. The productive effort might of course have gone into other war material for the Germans, but it could equally well have gone into the comparatively 'spoiled' civilian economy. Maybe Daimler-Benz would have ceased producing civilian cars in 1943, rather than in 1942? Maybe civilian use of rubber would have been banned earlier?

I consider the production numbers you mention in your original posting all fairly intangible as directly caused by the Allied bombing campaign, with the big exception of fighter aircraft. I think the relationship is fairly transparent there, because the Luftwaffe progressively lost air superiority over the fronts, despite ever growing numbers of fighters built. However, I think it is relevant to ask if not the Luftwaffe could have been worn down by other means than a strategic air campaign waged against Germany's cities.
Have you any evidence for your propositions? Are older workforces really prone to 25% absentee rates? Do women REALLY take 25% more sick days than men?...
Well no, but a much higher absentee ratio for 1944 as compared to 1940 does not really prove anything as far as the efficiency of the bombing campaign goes. That's a simple cause/effect discussion, and at any rate increased absenteeism should be put in relation to (growing) production output.
Who, pre-war, suggested that strategic bombing was so powerful that it would act as a deterent?
That lesson could certainly have been drawn from Douhet's and perhaps especially Trenchard's writings. The latter suggested that all other arms could be substituted by air forces alone.
neither tanks, nor submarines, nor artillery, nor any other weapon you might care to mention has ever won a war in its own right.
It can at the very least be argued that the nuclear bomb is an exception here. The thrust of my first posting was that strategic bombing erroneously was viewed in the same light prior to WWII that the nuclear bomb was viewed after it - namely as decisive in its own right.
The Crete and Malaya issues could have been addressed by different deployments of existing aircraft, without any need to alter the bomber programme.
In more general terms less resources for the RAF's strategic bombing campaign would have meant more RAF resources for something else. That is the same logic that you apply to the figures you provided in your original posting on this thread.
More big, multi-engined aircraft WERE eventually given to Coastal Command. What were they? Four-engined strategic bombers!
Also Wellingtons, the only really good bomber available to the RAF in quantity in the early parts of the war. There was a real struggle for resources between Bomber Command and Coastal Command - a struggle in which Harris used the same flawed statistics (number of flight hours divided by number of U-Boats sunk by aircraft) that was behind the oil plan and the transport plan.
Again, this was achieved by the juggling of resources without altering the bomber programme.
Yes, and that meant fewer long range aircraft available to Coastal Command.
Closing the "air gap" was a by-product of the strategic bombing programme.
I don't follow you here. The air gap was closed due to the occupation of Iceland and the US entry into the war, neither of which has any relation to the strategic bombing programme. I would in fact argue that a by-product of said programme was fewer aircraft available to provide air cover for the convoys on the Atlantic.
That better tactical decisions could have been made in all these cases is undoubtedly true. However, they need not have impinged on the strategic bomber programme
Here's an interesting link to a PDF file on air strategy

Best regards,

Jon

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Post by sid guttridge » Tue May 17, 2005 5:59 am

Hi Reb,

The "Holocaust" DID begin without the cover of "Total War". It began earlier, but the mass industrial exterminations by gas were initiated in early 1942, before Britain adopted area bombing as policy and before Goebbels publicly declared "total war". It actually began at the very height of Germany's success, so it cannot be blamed on outside pressures.

Yup. The fact that Bomber Harris was not given awards on a par with his army and naval peers, the fact that no separate Bomber Command medal was awarded despite the highest casualties of any British forces, the fact that questions were raised publicly in Parliament while the war was still on and the fact that area bombing was stopped before the end of the war, all indicate that there was much discomfort about the area bombing campaign in Britain. This is no secret and, I would submit, reflects well on the consciences of the British population and the openess of their political system. Compare this with Germany, for example. Was Goering under rewarded? Hardly! Was there debate, let alone dissent, in the Reichstag about any aspect of Germany's war policy? Not that I have ever heard.

Yup, the British and Americans did regret the killing of French 40,000+ civilians by Allied air raids. But the Free French recognised it as a necessary price if France was to be liberated, and it is their opinion that is most significant. Indeed, they were still requesting Allied carpet bombing on French soil at Royan in the last days of the war.

What isolated army bases in Dresden? There were 19 or 20 of them (See Tessin). Dresden controlled 8-9% of Germany's military manpower. Besides, it had 120+ factories engaged in war work. It was also a vital communications hub immediately behind the front through which 20+ troop trains were running every day in October 1944. (See Taylor's sources). Why do you pretend that Dresden was without military significance when it patently was and we have rehearsed the facts so many times before?

Indeed, why do postulate a range of casualty figures between 40,000 and 100,000? There is absolutely no evidence for this. The actual range is 25,000 (the number of bodies recovered and buried by the Dresden authorities themselves) to about 40,000 (an estimate based on previous German experience from dozens of other raids which combines the known dead total - 25,000 - with the proportion of missing typically unrecovered).

Who suggested that the Allies bombed the Holocaust? Not me. And when did the Allies ever attack specific trains? They were targets of opportunity. As almost all Holocaust-related trains were in Eastern Europe and for most of the war outside Allied range, and were in any case unpredictable as they did not run on timetables, how were they expected to attack them? The idea that the Allies didn't attack Holocaust related trains to keep Axis rolling stock tied up is deeply unreasonable. They couldn't tell a Holocaust train from any other. The only way they could have effectively blunted, but not stopped the "Holocaust" was to bomb the extermination camps. That, undoubtedly, was an error in retrospect.

Nope. Diplomats are not there to stop war happening. They are there to represent their national interests. They are functionaries, not moral arbiters.

I presume from what you write that you support the concept of the primacy of the United Nations and the International Courts, whose job is to do exactly what you want - prevent war from happening by conducting international relations within a legal framework and to work for peaceful resolutions to potential conflicts?

Cheers,

Sid.

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Post by sid guttridge » Tue May 17, 2005 7:14 am

Hi Vagabond,

Certainly the theories about strategic bombing predated the Spanish Civil War. However, the empirical calculations of its real effectiveness had to await its application in the Spanish Civil War. The first Barcelona raid (usually overshadowed in the popular memory by Guernica) was central to this.

(Not that it is really relevant to our discussion, but I would very much dispute that German observers concluded that the tank could serve as breakthrough weapons in their own right. The essence of Blitzkrieg was combined arms action to achieve a breakthrough, not independent tank activity.)

If the RAF had concluded that because the Blitz had failed Bomber Command should disband, Germany would have actually have won an immense victory, as it would have completely removed all direct British threat to Germany proper and none of the massive cumulative strain and destruction wrought on Germany's war economy and national morale by 1944-45 would have occurred. I ask again, are you not really advocating that Britain effectively drop out of the war altogether, given that the Royal Navy could not threaten Germany directly and the British Army alone was too small to hold a lodgement on the continent, let alone liberate it?

What is this "simply"? Is the absence of the front of some 10,000 high velocity weapons capable of anti-tank use of no significance? Is the shortfall in German production in 1944 of enough armour to entirely re-equip the Panzerwaffe of no significance? Is an aircraft productivity level only half that of the UK in 1944 really the productive miracle it is sometimes claimed?

Why do you bring the USAAF into the equation as a separate entity. Surely, if the failure of the Blitz ought to have taught the British that strategic bombing was a failure, the US ought to have drawn the same conclusion? If there was no raison d'etre for Bomber Command, there was also presumably no raison d'etre for the US 8th Air Force

Forgive me, but I thought Anglo-American bombing of tranport infrastructure and oil facilities were major contributors to German defeat in 1944-45. This being so, surely the continued pursuit of an ever stronger strategic bomber arm over 1942-43 was entirely justified by results?

Yup. The early British strategic bomber offensive against oil and transport targets failed to achieve its aims in 1940-42. But the, by then, Anglo-American offensive against the same objectives succeeded in 1944 when a much greater weight of aircraft was available. What exactly are you proposing to use against these targets if the Allied strategic bomber force had been run down, rather than expanded, in 1942-43?

Exactly. Germany's economy was so poorly geared to war production that it was almost bound to rise when it got going. However, largely thanks to strategic bombing, it failed by a wide margin to meet its expanded production targets or gain anything near the level of productivity achieved at the same time by the UK, let alone the USA.

Are you seriously proposing as an argument that had there been no Allied air threat to Germany, it might have turned over the machine tools used in the production of anti-aircraft artillery to producing consumer products for the home market while there was still a war on the Eastern Front requiring similar high velocity weapons? Have you any evidence that a single German factory was ever switched from war to civil production between 1933 and 1945?

There doesn't have to be a direct causal connection between Allied bombing and German failure to reach production targets that were deemed feasible before strategic bombing disrupted them. Indirect causal connections are perfectly adequate. Is there any doubt that direct damage impinged on production? Is there any doubt that transport damage impinged on production? Is there any doubt that any absentee rate at all impinged upon production? Is there any doubt that forced relocation impinged upon production? And so on.....

It may be difficult to quantify precisely because production lost does not leave the physical evidence of production physically destroyed. However, by matching German expected production against actual production we can come to the reasonable conclusion that the cost to the German armaments industry of Allied strategic bombing was very considerable.

OK. Could the Luftwaffe have been worn down by other means than a threat to Germany itself? What else was so certain to force the Luftwaffe into the air?

Yup, I was tempted to mention the Atom Bomb again myself. It was, after all, the ultimate weapon of the strategic bomber force in WWII.

Yes, less resources devoted to strategic bombers could have benefitted some other aircraft projects, but this can't be done just for its own sake. There has to be a demonstrably better alternative project? What is it to be?

Britain wasn't short of fighters during the Crete and Malayan Campaigns. They were simply in the wrong place.

Nope. Far from meaning that there were fewer long range aircraft available to Coastal Command capable of bridging the mid-Atlantic "air-gap", strategic bomber production meant that suitable aircraft actually existed. If not a strategic bomber design, what other aircraft do you suggest could have been employed? Nothing springs to my mind immediately.

The air gap was finally closed by the use of Liberators and escort carriers. It was only narrowed by the occupation of Iceland and the entry of the USA. If it had already been closed, the diversion of strategic bombers would have been a non-issue.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Post by Jake » Tue May 17, 2005 7:55 am

Hi guys, sorry to butt in...
sid guttridge wrote:The "Holocaust" DID begin without the cover of "Total War". It began earlier, but the mass industrial exterminations by gas were initiated in early 1942, before Britain adopted area bombing as policy and before Goebbels publicly declared "total war". It actually began at the very height of Germany's success, so it cannot be blamed on outside pressures.
Sid, I'm not making an issue of anything, I just wanted to comment on this. I agree with Reb that the holocaust might not have become what it was without the cover of total war. The 1941 Einsatzgruppen were minor compared to what came later - I can't agree they were already the 'Holocaust' as history records it. Had Op. Barbarossa been a success, no one can know what they would've developed into. That they developed into the 'Holocaust' is I think one of the many ramifications of the failure of Barbarossa. 'Total war' began before Goebbels made a statement to that effect. It began with the failure of the USSR to collapse when its door was kicked in. Early 1942 was already the beginning of the end. The height of Germany's success was probably August-September 1941. So I don't know if the holocaust can be blamed on outside pressures, but I certainly think the course of the war was a strong influence on its development.

Regards
Jake

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Post by sid guttridge » Tue May 17, 2005 8:40 am

Hi Jake,

If one marks the start of "Total War" with the declaration by Goebbels to that effect, one is talking about February 1943, if I am not mistaken. Slovak Jews began to be sent to Auschwitz gas chambers in March 1942, again if I am not mistaken. Construction began months earlier, authorisation predated that, initial gassing experiments took place in Serbia before that, tens of thousands of disabled Germans were "euthanised" in the late 1930s........

The "Holocaust" was not suddenly kick started by the advent of "Total War" whenever one dates it to or however one defines "Holocaust". There was a rising continuum of horrendous disregard for the sanctity of human life in its custody by the Nazi regime that even predated the war.

"Barbarossa" - the attempt to conquer the USSR - only failed in the minds of the Nazi regime when its resumption as "Blau" in November 1942 was rebuffed at Stalingrad and the last vestiges of hope died with the failure of "Citadel" in July 1943. The "Holocaust" was well under way before the German regime had given up hope of conquering the USSR, regardless of the code name of the moment.

Certainly the "Holocaust" might have developed differently under different circumstances. But this does not only mean that it would necessarily have been less severe. It might equally have been far worse. For example, the Germans had barely started on the Gypsies, or Europe's homosexuals, or Jehova's Witnesses, or the continent's mentally and physically retarded, etc. And who knows who else might have got added to the known list of candidates for extermination if they had really got the bit between their teeth?

Cheers,

Sid.

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Post by Jake » Tue May 17, 2005 1:04 pm

Hi Sid, sorry for continuing with this digression...

Nazi bestiality certainly began long before early 1942, but in terms of scale the historical episode called the 'Holocaust' is mainly known to us because of the events 1942-45. Had all such activities ceased in early 1942 for some reason, I don't think we'd remember much about it, like many other horrible episodes.

That these activities grew to the scale they did in this period, beginning in early 1942, I still see as a possible outcome of Hitler's increased(!) radicalness resulting from what he knew was probably a fatal setback, the failure of Barbarossa. The minds of the Nazi regime may not have contemplated defeat until Stalingrad or later, if at all in some cases, but it's arguable that Hitler's behaviour in late 1941 suggests he knew his great gamble had failed - pressing for the capture of Moscow at all costs despite his earlier wariness of 'treading in the footsteps of Napoleon', his taking over direct command of the Army, declaring war on the USA, and even the expansion of the murder campaign around this time. That its authorisation and planning began long before doesn't mean its execution was inevitable, nor is a series of steps necessarily a causal chain. Hitler and the Nazis authorised and planned many things that never got off the drawing board, for various reasons.

I certainly agree the final Nazi murder toll may have been even higher with the collapse of the Soviet government in 1941 for example, but equally it may have been far less. We can't know. My own personal opinion is that it would've been less, based only on the fact that I can't see what even Hitler would've felt he had to gain by all that mass murder in the wake of his successful domination of all Europe, and I question if it could've been carried out in peacetime, even in far off conquered lands. It's arguable that the Holocaust's gargantuan aspect was a product of Hitler's resentment at failure, the ultimate scapegoating.

I'm not for a minute trying to blame the Holocaust on the war, only to try and make the case that the war could have provided opportunity and impetus for its eventual scale. It goes without saying that the blame belongs to Hitler and his henchmen, but my own opinion is that the essence of their criminality lay in the way they took a total disregard for human welfare into the heart of government, the last place such sentiments should ever exist. They did this at least from the SA Purge onward. For a regime that was capable of behaving in that way, I think everything that came after was different only in degree, not in kind, and that the course of the war could arguably have had a strong influence on it.

Sorry for going on, I don't want to hijack your thread...

Regards
Jake

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Post by Reb » Tue May 17, 2005 6:32 pm

Hey Sid, c'mon....next to talking about my mama you've slurred me to the absolute max! UN? Reb? Not too bloody likely! I'd kick that whole bunch of cartoon characters the hell out of New York toots sweet! (you sure know where to put the needle)

But when I say a country's diplomats have the primary task of keeping us out of war I mean it. Has nothing to do with the silly buggers at the UN. You reply that our diplomats are supposed to represent our best interests. Well hello? Keeping us out of war is most definitely in our best interest.

It takes clever, brave men to do that because to keep out of war sometimes requires being quite brave and negotiating from strength. But the clowns who represent us today are chosen for every reason other than merit hence the constant wars in which we find ourselves.

Just my .02. We're not likely to agree on this one - your feelings toward govt and mine fail to overlap appreciably...8)

cheers
Reb

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Post by Vagabond » Wed May 18, 2005 1:28 am

Hi Sid,
sid guttridge wrote:Certainly the theories about strategic bombing predated the Spanish Civil War. However, the empirical calculations of its real effectiveness had to await its application in the Spanish Civil War. The first Barcelona raid (usually overshadowed in the popular memory by Guernica) was central to this...
Not for RAF Bomber Command, who for years had advocated the total dominance of the bomber in war of the future. You can speculate that the RAF was really only out to define a role for itself that no other arm could fulfill, in any case it predated the RA raid on Barcelona by many years.
If the RAF had concluded that because the Blitz had failed Bomber Command should disband,
That would have been a radical conclusion indeed, and to my certain recollection I have not suggested that the RAF should have drawn it. Rather, I suggested that the RAF might have decided to abandon all ideas of seriously affecting the outcome of the war by area bombings on civilian targets.
I ask again, are you not really advocating that Britain effectively drop out of the war altogether, given that the Royal Navy could not threaten Germany directly and the British Army alone was too small to hold a lodgement on the continent, let alone liberate it?
I'm questioning the effectiveness of the strategic bombing campaign that was waged against Germany's cities, particularly in the early years. I fail to see how you can equate that with letting Britain drop out of the war altogether.

It's true that Britain had few offensive options against Germany after the summer of 1940, but aggressive strategies were nonetheless pursued where possible, chiefly in the Mediterranean.
What is this "simply"? Is the absence of the front of some 10,000 high velocity weapons capable of anti-tank use of no significance?
Those 10,000 AA guns were not absent from the fronts, they were simply built because they were needed.

The USSBS puts it succinctly thusly:

For the (early war) years, the conclusion is inescapable that Germany's war production was not limited by its war potential - by the resources at its disposal - but by demand; in other words, by the notions of the German war leaders of what was required to win

From BBSU p. 31, from the PDF that Guido kindly linked to on the first page of this thread. Illustrative graphs accompany the text.
Is the shortfall in German production in 1944 of enough armour to entirely re-equip the Panzerwaffe of no significance?
As a percentage of 1940 tank production, the shortfall is massive. As a percentage of 1944 production, it is rather less significant.
Is an aircraft productivity level only half that of the UK in 1944 really the productive miracle it is sometimes claimed?
It certainly shows that the strategic bombing campaign put a real strain on the Luftwaffe, as I also aknowledged in my previous post; however it equally shows that the German economy in fact was up to the challenge of stepping up production of needed items as required even in 1944.
Why do you bring the USAAF into the equation as a separate entity.
The USAAF's bombing effort over Europe is chronologically seperate from the early, unsuccessful campaigns of RAF Bomber Command.

The USAAF's attempt at targetting a selected production bottleneck by hitting the Schweinfurt ball bearing factories seems to mirror Bomber Command's early efforts rather well, and just like Bomber Command's oil and transport plans, it failed - not due to inaccuracy, but due to prohibitive losses.
Surely, if the failure of the Blitz ought to have taught the British that strategic bombing was a failure, the US ought to have drawn the same conclusion? If there was no raison d'etre for Bomber Command, there was also presumably no raison d'etre for the US 8th Air Force
Strategic bombing, and in fairness also colonial policing, had been the RAF's chief reasons for existing as an independent arm in the inter-war years. By late 1940 the colonial dimension was largely irrelevant, and the strategic bombing dimension certainly needed revisions. The German campaign in France, and later also the Greek debacle, had demonstrated that much closer cooperation between land and air forces was necessary, and the Blitz had demonstrated that air raids on civilian targets could not bring about a nation's surrender.
Forgive me, but I thought Anglo-American bombing of tranport infrastructure and oil facilities were major contributors to German defeat in 1944-45. This being so, surely the continued pursuit of an ever stronger strategic bomber arm over 1942-43 was entirely justified by results?
The bombing campaign against the synthfuel industry indeed eventually proved effective - but this should be contrasted with the same target category being ruled out by Bomber Command in 1941 when they realized that Bomber Command did not possess the accuracy needed to knock out the synthetic oil industry. That's why they switched to hitting mainly civilian targets, in the shape of German cities.

It is perhaps perfidious to mention that the collapse of the synthfuel industry coincided rather nicely with Germany's loss of Romania's oil wells. Germany's and perhaps especially Italy's transport infrastructure was seriously damaged by strategic bombing - even so, the Germans were quite capable of concentrating forces by rail as late as March 1945, when the SBC stopped.
Yup. The early British strategic bomber offensive against oil and transport targets failed to achieve its aims in 1940-42. But the, by then, Anglo-American offensive against the same objectives succeeded in 1944 when a much greater weight of aircraft was available. What exactly are you proposing to use against these targets if the Allied strategic bomber force had been run down, rather than expanded, in 1942-43?
By 1942 these targets had been abandoned, and the RAF had settled for raids on civilian targets. The Lübeck raid of March 1942 yielded spectacular results, the question is if it was also a war-winning result.

I think Bomber Command's eventual settling for hitting civilian targets (and before you put words in my mouth, I am not questioning the morality of bombing civilian targets) was a simple case of trial and error: the oil plan failed. So did the transport plan. That left only civilian targets to hit, even if the Blitz had demonstrated that aiming for such targets, while easier, is not likely to decide the outcome of war.
Exactly. Germany's economy was so poorly geared to war production that it was almost bound to rise when it got going. However, largely thanks to strategic bombing, it failed by a wide margin to meet its expanded production targets or gain anything near the level of productivity achieved at the same time by the UK, let alone the USA.
Considering that the RAF undertook a strategic bombing campaign that was demonstrably unsuccessful in its early stages, and considering that Germany only went on something approaching a full war footing as late as 1943, I think you could argue that a largely speculative drop in German 1944 war production was a poor dividend from an air campaign waged at such a high cost in men and machines lost.
Are you seriously proposing as an argument that had there been no Allied air threat to Germany, it might have turned over the machine tools used in the production of anti-aircraft artillery to producing consumer products for the home market while there was still a war on the Eastern Front requiring similar high velocity weapons?
No, I am in fact arguing that civilian production would not have been changed to military production if there was no need for it. Vide the BBSU quote, above.

Incidentally, can you produce evidence to the effect that high velocity guns were diverted from the fronts to the defense of the Reich?
Have you any evidence that a single German factory was ever switched from war to civil production between 1933 and 1945?
Many weapons projects were axed and various orders for armaments were cancelled after the successful 1940 campaign. But no matter, my point was that Germany's civilian economy still had the surplus to produce such comparatively lavish items as civilian cars and rubber-soled shoes as late as 1942.
There doesn't have to be a direct causal connection between Allied bombing and German failure to reach production targets that were deemed feasible before strategic bombing disrupted them. Indirect causal connections are perfectly adequate. Is there any doubt that direct damage impinged on production? Is there any doubt that transport damage impinged on production? Is there any doubt that any absentee rate at all impinged upon production? Is there any doubt that forced relocation impinged upon production? And so on.....
No. The point is simply that Germany's economy was able to expand and produce more despite the Allied air campaign.
It may be difficult to quantify precisely because production lost does not leave the physical evidence of production physically destroyed. However, by matching German expected production against actual production we can come to the reasonable conclusion that the cost to the German armaments industry of Allied strategic bombing was very considerable.
We can conclude that German actual production did not match expected production - it is still something of a stretch to give the SBC full credit for that dividend. I think it is more fruitful to see where the SBC actually forced the Germans to change priorities - and nowhere is that more evident than in the production of aircraft types.
OK. Could the Luftwaffe have been worn down by other means than a threat to Germany itself? What else was so certain to force the Luftwaffe into the air?...
That was Kesselring's reasoning for switching targets from RAF airfields to London: to force a British air force that according to his statistics was on its heels to fight over a target that it had to defend. He was wrong. The Luftwaffe's earlier raids on RAF airfields were much more disruptive.
Yes, less resources devoted to strategic bombers could have benefitted some other aircraft projects, but this can't be done just for its own sake. There has to be a demonstrably better alternative project? What is it to be?...
For example closing the Atlantic air gap earlier. Or developing an operational airlift capacity for the British army.
Nope. Far from meaning that there were fewer long range aircraft available to Coastal Command capable of bridging the mid-Atlantic "air-gap", strategic bomber production meant that suitable aircraft actually existed. If not a strategic bomber design, what other aircraft do you suggest could have been employed? Nothing springs to my mind immediately.
Suitable aircraft existed prior to the war, in the shape of the domestic Wellington and the US built Catalinas and Fortresses. The struggle for resources between Bomber Command and Coastal Command was very real; in fact Harris had to borrow aircraft from Coastal Command to assemble enough bombers for the first 1000 bomber raid on Cologne in 1942. Very evidently, that meant a weakening of Coastal Command's efforts over the Atlantic.
The air gap was finally closed by the use of Liberators and escort carriers. It was only narrowed by the occupation of Iceland and the entry of the USA. If it had already been closed, the diversion of strategic bombers would have been a non-issue.
All other things being equal, less aircraft devoted to an inconclusive strategic bombing campaign (or so the Butt Report claimed) would have meant more aircraft available to provide air cover over the Atlantic.

Best regards,

Jon

sid guttridge
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Post by sid guttridge » Wed May 18, 2005 3:55 am

Hi Jake,

It must be remembered that four Einsatzgruppen were formed BEFORE the invasion of the USSR. They began work the moment war broke out with the USSR and had already killed tens or hundreds of thousands of Jews and others by the time the Wehrmacht became stalled before Moscow.

The "Holocaust" is amn ill-defined label used by outside observers. The Nazis did not begin something called "The Holocaust" against a particular people on a particular day by a particular method. Nor did the Jews and others experience it that way.

The "Holocaust" is a continuum of rising disgregard for the sanctity of certain human life in its custody displayed by the Nazi regime over an extended period. The moment it moved onto an industrial basis in spring 1942 undoubtedly sets it apart from history's other mass slaughters and makes it particularly memorable, but it remains part of a longer pattern in Nazi behaviour. In short, what happened from Spring 1942 was not a sudden aberration in Nazi behaviour. On the contrary, it was consistent with it.

The Jews were Hitler's "scapegoats" for decades. There is no evidence of a sudden hardening of his attitude to them.

I would suggest that, as Jews had been killed by the SS in rear areas from the outbreak of war in 1939 and hundreds of thousands had already been killed or allowed to die through malign neglect before the first German set back at Moscow, that the only significance of the spring of 1942 is a step change in the efficiency with which an existing policy was already being carried out.

Cheers,

Sid.

sid guttridge
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Post by sid guttridge » Wed May 18, 2005 4:01 am

Hi Reb,

I disagree. The duty of national diplomats is to pursue national self interest. Some wars are very definitely in the national self interest. It is not, therefore, a diplomat's job to avoid all wars, just those that are likely to prove counter-productive to national self-interest.

It is the UN's job to try to ensure that all international conflict is resolved peacefully. It is in its consitution.

Cheers,

Sid.

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