[lit-ideas] Re: When a civilized society fights a barbarous one

  • From: "Judith Evans" <judithevans1@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 26 Jun 2006 20:59:26 +0100

>Now while you say that "Dresden . . . can't ever be justified" 
>in your book and that "it was monstrous of Churchill to have 
>ordered it," you didn't live through the London bombing - the Battle of 

Nor did you, Lawrence.  Nor did you have a family that lived through the
bombing of Bristol, hiding from the bombs while the house next door collapsed;
fairly savage bombings carried out, it's thought, in error or because of a
lack of fuel; Cardiff was the real target, my garden now, perhaps a bomb-crater,
the next road, certainly, was bombed.

Between 7 September 1940
and 16 May 1941, British cities were bombarded pretty relentlessly.
43,000 people died and over one million houses were destroyed.

In London, one night, 430 Londoners were killed and another 1600

By ordinary bombs.  

And Dresden?  Dresden was firestorm-bombed.  

"This was achieved by dropping incendiary bombs, 
filled with highly combustible chemicals such as 
magnesium, phosphorus or petroleum jelly (napalm), 
in clusters over a specific target. After the area 
caught fire, the air above the bombed area, become 
extremely hot and rose rapidly. Cold air then
 rushed in at ground level from the outside and 
people were sucked into the fire."

"On the 13th February 1945, 773 Avro Lancasters 
bombed Dresden. During the next two days the 
USAAF sent over 527 heavy bombers to follow up
 the RAF attack. Dresden was nearly totally 
destroyed. As a result of the firestorm it was 
afterwards impossible to count the number of 
victims. Recent research suggest that 35,000 
were killed but some German sources have 
argued that it was over 100,000."

----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Lawrence Helm 
  To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx 
  Sent: Monday, June 26, 2006 8:36 PM
  Subject: [lit-ideas] Re: When a civilized society fights a barbarous one

  A little background on the "Strategic-Bombing" theory:

  According to Bevin Alexander in How Hitler could have Won World War II, the 
Fatal Errors that led to Nazi defeat, Hitler's first error occurred during "the 
Battle of Britain.  Germany was bombing Britain's sector stations and "The RAF 
began to stagger.  Between August 23 and September 6, 466 fighters were 
destroyed or badly damaged (against 352 German losses). . . And the real 
problem was not machines but men.  During the period 103 RAF pilots were killed 
and 128 seriously wounded, one fourth of those available.  A few more weeks of 
such loses and Britain would no longer have an organized air defense.

  "At this moment, Adolf Hitler changed the direction of the battle - and the 
war.  If he had allowed the Luftwaffe to continue its blows to the sector 
stations, Sea Lion could have been carried out and Hitler could have ended the 
war with a swift and total victory.  Instead, he made the first great blunder 
in his career, a blunder so fundamental that it changed the course of the 
entire conflict . . . on the night of August 24, ten German bombers lost their 
way and dropped their loads on central London.  RAF Bomber Command launched a 
reprisal raid on Berlin the next night with eighty bombers - the first time the 
German capital had been hit.  Bomber Command followed up this raid with several 
more in the next few days.  Hitler, enraged, announced he would 'eradicate' 
British cities.  He called off the strikes against sector stations and ordered 
terror bombing of British cities.

  "This abrupt reversal of strategy did not rest entirely on Hitler's desire 
for vengeance.  The new campaign had a lengthy, highly touted theoretical 
background.  It was the first extensive experiment to test the 
'strategic-bombing' theory espoused after World War I by an Italian, Giulion 
Douhet.  His argument was that a nation could be forced to its knees by massive 
bombing attacks against its centers of population, government, and industry.  
Such attacks would destroy the morale of the people and war production, and 
achieve victory without the use of ground forces."

  "The . . . campaign . . . aimed not at winning a battle but at destroying the 
morale of the enemy population.  If it succeeded, as Douhet had predicted, an 
invasion of Britain would not even be necessary.  The disheartened, defeated 
people of Britain would raise the white flag merely to stop the bombing.

  "Hitler was the first to attempt Douhet's theory, but his bombs failed to 
break the British people.  World War II proved that human beings can endure a 
great deal more destruction from the skies than Douhet had thought."

  Now while you say that "Dresden . . . can't ever be justified" in your book 
and that "it was monstrous of Churchill to have ordered it," you didn't live 
through the London bombing - the Battle of Britain.  I wonder how many 
Londoners who survived it shared your viewpoint.  But be that as it may, I 
think Douhet's argument still held credibility in a lot of British and American 
minds during the Dresden bombing.


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