Why Did the British Bomb German Cities?
"The British government has long denied that wartime air raids on German cities were intended to kill as many civilians as possible. In fact, the raids, led by Arthur Harris, were motivated largely by a desire to hit back and destroy indiscriminately."
"Far from being unfortunate or freak occurrences, [the raids on Hamburg and Dresden] represented the ultimate fruition of British air policy. Bomber Command's entire strategic offensive seems to have been based on the belief that the Nazi regime could be destroyed through wholesale, indiscriminate killing of Germany's urban population."
"Both during and after the war, the government maintained that it was never Britain's policy to carry out carpet bombing of civilian targets. 'We have always adhered firmly to the principle that we attack none but military objectives,' declared Archibald Sinclair, the secretary of state for air, in the Commons in October 1943. The mounting toll of civilian deaths was presented as a regrettable consequence of raids against factories, energy plants, transport networks or military installations, not as an end in itself.
"Even after victory was achieved, this unconvincing line was maintained. In one lecture, Charles Portal, the chief of the Air Staff for most of the war, said that it was 'a curious and widespread fallacy that our bombing of the German cities was really intended to kill and frighten Germans and that we camouflaged this intention by the pretence that we would destroy industry. Any such idea is completely and utterly false. The loss of life, which amounted to some 600,000 killed, was purely incidental.' But as a study of wartime archives demonstrates, both Sinclair and Portal were being dishonest with the public. Urban destruction through 'concentrating bomb-loads on the densest and most vulnerable areas of cities', to quote one Air Staff paper, was the primary goal of Britain's air offensive over Germany."
comments powered by Disqus
Gerry F Wood - 2/20/2010
Were you around at the time???
I saw the devastation in London first hand, watched the City burning from my home in Reading, Berks.
As far as I know, the raids on German cities were in retaliation for the bombing of London, and also to counter Hitler's claims that no bombs would ever land on Germany (or was it Berlin?).
Those were terrible days, and the UK doesn't need to apologize for fighting for its life.
- Raleigh Trevelyan, Chronicler of a Notable Family, Dies at 91
- Former spokesman of B.C. anti-immigration group wants UBC history prof fired
- Harvard's Steven Shapin Wins History of Science Award
- Middle East Studies Association Fights a Rising Tide of Critics
- Juan Cole says the postwar Middle East governments were modeled on the Soviet Union, though not communist (interview)