WWII question - bombing of Dresden

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Lux Fiat says “I, for one, would be filled with glee to hear that you did her like Sherman did Atlanta, but you gotta follow your own conscience.”

I thought that I would like to use that expression, but updated it to use the fire-bombing of Dresden, which would have more of an international flavour and be more current. However, I wouldn’t know which person would fit in the sentence to replace Sherman. I looked at a couple of sites but couldn’t find a likely to candidate.

Would it be possible to accurately transpose the statement

“I crushed him like Sherman did Atlanta”
“I crushed him like ______ did Dresden”

and if so, what name should be used to fill in the blank?

Arthur “Bomber” Harris was Commander-in-Chief of RAF Bomber Command and the chief proponent of carpet bombing of civilian targets.

Allied Generals and Commanders that advocated carpet and fierbombing of civy targets should have been tried for crimes against humanity, just as many Nazis were at Nuremburg.

They were ordering mass civilian murder, and knew it. War or no war.

I am sure I am going to get flamed for this, but let her rip.

Dresden (and Hamburg) were both combined efforts on the part of Bomber Command and the Mighty Eighth Air Force. So a short list of inserts might be:

Sir Arthur “Bomber” Harris

Bomber Command

The Mighty Eighth

Jimmy Doolittle

Winston Churchill

However, the two most culpable above were probably Sir Arthur and Winston Churchill. Churchill wanted something impressive to lay down on Stalin at the Yalta conference. Harris, as Shiva mentioned, immediately and intentionally chose fire-bombing when given permission to destroy Dresden, and also planned the unique and completely devastating three-pronged nature of the attack.

However, in the international spirit of things, the 8th AF was in on it, too, and Jimmy Doolittle was its commander at the time. Their participation was a relatively small 200+ bomber precision raid the following morning on lines of communication into the city, to ensure that help could not arrive from outside and those who were trapped inside the death zone could not leave.

Winston Churchill was one of the most forceful proponents of the bombing Dresden (at least before the fact), partly to hurt German morale, partly in retaliation for the V-2 rocket attacks on Britain, and partly to intimidate Stalin (ironic because Stalin requested the bombing of Dresden’s railroads). There is some evidence to suggest that Churchill didn’t realize how bad it was going to be, and that he regretted it after the fact.

A South African, Sir Arthur “the Butcher” Harris was the head of RAF bomber command at the time and he is often blamed. He was an unrepentant supporter of the bombing of civilian targets.

Both the RAF and the USAAF took part. Is seems that most of the deaths were caused by the RAF boming on the night of Feb. 13/14 while, while the daylight bombing on the 14th and 15th by the Americans concentrated on the railroad targets. Estimates of the death toll vary widely, from 8,000 to 250,000. The U.S. Air Force uses the estimate of 25,000 killed. Critics of the bombing often use the figure 135,000 killed.

I’m not sure that the bombing of Dresden could be laid at the feet of any particular individual. For a detailed and well-researched analysis, try http://www.airforcehistory.hq.af.mil/soi/dresden.htm but I don’t think you’ll find “Bomber” Harris mentioned even once.

Boy, Tbone that site you gave must have taken their information from both Gen. “Bull” Turgidson and Col. Jack D. Ripper.

I haven’t seen the word “communist” used that many times in a paragraph since I had to go out into the hall in elementary school and kneel down and cover my neck with my hands.

I think you should consider the source and time-frame of the article. :rolleyes:

Sam, I think you might do well to consider the source material presented. If you can refute even the smallest detail, in its context, please let me know!

I am constantly amazed and appalled by the ridiculous apologists that seem to crawl out of the woodwork and paste themselves on the current scene like billboards. Neither of us lived World War II, Sam, but I try to understand it. I’m impelled by the fact that WWII is the single most world-changing event of the 20th century. The US role in that conflict has defined to some degree world relations to this day. It is worth studying and understanding.

The fact that you had an elementary school, a neck, and two hands is testimony that WWII ended right.

Actually, I found Tbone2’s link to be fairly decent, once one acknowledges that it is, obviously, a CYA document.

It is not hard to reconcile this official position with other views of the raid. (Which is not to claim that they are not self-serving.) The following statements are quite plausible.

  • Dresden was a legitimate target
  • The Soviets asked that communications centers be disrupted to aid their advance
  • The Soviets (might have) specifically asked that Dresden be a target due to its location
  • The Allied air command had included communication links on their high priority list
  • Dresden’s number came up.

Those statements could all be true without in any way affecting the idea that Harris ordered a particularly destructive raid, out of proportion to the value of Dresden as a target. It has been a while, so I do not recall whether any special tactics were used to increase casualties. I had generally heard that the casualty list was so high because of the number of refugees fleeing the Soviet army. I do not accept the casualty figures from Tbone2’s link at face value, but I would have to poke around some other sources to see what numbers look real to me.

The clearest evidence of the CYA nature of Tbone2’s link is the anonymous nature of the “groups” who made the decisions for targets and the forces to assault them.

These were not little democracies or consensus groups. At some point, these groups took direction from individuals. Naming only Spaatz (and treating him as a mere messenger of policy from SHAEF to the planning groups) is disingenuous, to say the least. Harris was the one who ordered and organized the raid, whatever orders he was following and whatever suuport he got from the planning groups.

I can’t think of any German military officers brought up on charges for bombing London.


Tbone To paraphrase your last post, “I am constantly amazed and appalled by the rediculous sycophants who seem to crawl out of the woodwork and paste themselves on the current scene like billboards.” Nice phrase.

I am 57 years old. My father fought in WWII, serving in the Pacific. Fortunately for him and his family, he was never fired upon, nor did he have to shoot anyone.

I can almost understand how a soldier in the field, such as a William Calley, might be afraid for his life, and kill people in a wanton manner. I wasn’t there. I can never understand.

And I understand that there are degrees of right and wrong. Black=Hitler’s death camps, White=fighting against Hitler to the death, grey/gray=the bombing of Dresden, as an example.

But did it justify bombing civilians in Dresden? That is the question asked.


Hmmm……i don’t know about this, Arnold. Sure, the phrase roles off the tongue rather nicely but have you considered how offensive it might be to some folk. I’m no PC kind of guy and perhaps I’m being overly cautious but……

Does the phrase still have the same feel if you change the parties:

“I, for one, would be filled with glee to hear that you did her like Hitler did the Jews but you gotta follow your own conscience.”

“I, for one, would be filled with glee to hear that you did her like the Germans did the Warsaw Ghetto, but you gotta follow your own conscience.”

“I, for one, would be filled with glee to hear that you did her like the Committee did Tienanmen Square, but you gotta follow your own conscience.”

“I, for one, would be filled with glee to hear that you did her like the Chinese did Tibetan Monastery’s, but you gotta follow your own conscience.”

Seems uncomfortable to me.
As to why Dresden: I’ve always been inclined to think the overriding policy of the Allies at that particular stage was to not aid the Soviets advance. Of course, we couldn’t be seen to hinder them but it’s important to remember, I think, that the name of the game was land grabbing. Churchill certainly, by this point, understood the likely post-war geography of Europe and that (what was to become known as) the Iron Curtain would divide the continent after the defeat of Germany. It is possible to see Dresden as (literally) the least we could do.

That context (hidden agenda) makes it easier, for me, to understand how Dresden remained relatively undamaged until then – it was not, nor had ever been, a high-priority military target. Sure, it was one of the Soviet desired options (because of the railhead to the Eastern Front) but the raid concentrated on the city centre. There were other more ‘helpful’ targets.

By implication, it would then be easier to discern that the decision to destroy Dresden came from the very top – it was more political than strategic in its design. I think the ultimate decision must rest with Churchill.

As to Churchill’s culpability, I’m not sure he (or anyone within the Allied Command) understood what would be the actual effect of the raid on the population. His first hand experience was of the Blitz and while that was seriously unpleasant, Londoners (or other city dwellers) did not, generally speaking, die in a ‘firestorm’ from suffocation. This was the fate of the majority of the victims at Dresden – I’m not sure Churchill could have understood how the greater intensity of the raid would create the circumstances that lead to mass suffocation.

Just thought some in here might be interested in more of a debate about the right and wrong of killing civilians. So I opened a GD thread.

Speaking of the morality of fire-bombing cities: the city of Hamburg was totally destroyed in just such a process, by combined attacks by the RAF and USAAF. The city was almost totally destroyed, and the center of the city was enveloped by a firestorm so hot, that metal, bricks and glass melted. Total civilian deaths were in excess of 150,000. Is this a war crime? Perhaps by today’s standards. You have to remember that we were fighting a fanatical enemy, who insisted in prolongoing the war, long past the point at which it (Germany) had any chance of winning. Any blame, therefore, lies at the feet of Hitler and the clique that supported him.

Yeah, London_Calling, now that you mention it, the Sherman/Atlanta line kinda ticks me off…

FWIW, my $.02 is this. Wasn’t the whole purpose of carpet bombing to destroy the Germans capability to produce the precision parts required in their war machines? IIRC, at least part of the targets were precision ball bearing plants, without whichm the Germans could not have continued to produce planes and tanks. The fact that it didn’t slow production at all is beside the point.

As for possibly attempting to slow the Russians in their advances, Eisenhower specifically let the Russians take Berlin to reduce the casualties to his own troops. As he said, “Berlin is just a place on the map. My job is to win the war.”

My uncle was there on D-Day and luckily survived. He was also part of the Battle of the Bulge and many other actions. I’ve always considered the fact that his generation put the value of their own society over personal safety to be one of the most respectable parts of that time. I called him up and asked him what he thought about carpet bombing in WWII and he stated that it DAMN sure made it easier on the individual infantryman when it came to assaulting into Germany. Not having to attack fully fortified cities because they were mostly destroyed due to carpet bomping made it that much more possible that he and his buddies would survive.

what was Goerring’s crime anyways? other than that he was a clown?

Dresden was bombed almost into non-existance. London was nowhere nearly bombed as much. It was firebombed so much that the asphalt from the roads was feeding the flames…wood and other normally combustable materials were long since gone. The fires were so strong bombers at 30000 ft were getting thrown around from the heat. It got to the point of stupidity, there was nothing left to be bomb… other than civilians hunkering down in basements (as buildings were long since flattened) but they still continued bombing. London was never even close to being totally and utterly destroyed.

While I do agree that Germans bombed civilians for no apparant reason other than to break morale (not a good plan), it doesn’t even compare to the savage bombing from the allied forces.