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Old 01-19-2014, 05:18 AM   #51
DoTheMath
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Re: Why did Churchill shift bombing to German civilians?

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Originally Posted by lastcardcharlie View Post
I don't think he was referring to suspected fifth-columnists, because the next two sentences in the speech are:

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There is, however, another class, for which I feel not the slightest sympathy. Parliament has given us the powers to put down Fifth Column activities with a strong hand, and we shall use those powers subject to the supervision and correction of the House, without the slightest hesitation until we are satisfied, and more than satisfied, that this malignancy in our midst has been effectively stamped out.
http://www.winstonchurchill.org/lear...on-the-beaches
I think he was referring to people suspected of being fifth-columnists who were not actually fifth columnists. The point is he realized that the powerful tools being employed to sweep up actual enemies of the state would inevitably catch innocents. Even then he didn't realize how few real internal enemies there actually were.
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Old 03-02-2014, 02:15 AM   #52
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Re: Why did Churchill shift bombing to German civilians?

New book by Richard Overy, The Bombers and the Bombed: Allied Air War Over Europe, 1940-1945, is excellent for those interested in this topic. Overy emphasizes the expansion of bombing as a sop to Stalin in exchange for not opening a second front. And the failure of "strategic" bombing to do any real damage both because of the inability to hit targets and overestimation of both the physical and psychological damage done to Germany by apologists for Bomber Command.

Racism, too, should not be dismissed as part of the equation. Churchill chose to refer to "the Huns" as his enemy.
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Old 03-21-2014, 04:38 PM   #53
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Re: Why did Churchill shift bombing to German civilians?

Churchill witnessed german Zepplins bombing London in WWI which was widely regarded as an act of terror (and I agree on that). In WWII Germany started the air attacks by destroying Coventry, so they basically continued in the same pattern. Personally I can understand Churchills reaction to retaliate once it was possible.

On the other hand, it is really sad what happend, because so many beautiful old buildings got destroyed that were build long before that austrian painter got to power in Germany. Destroying cities is just wrong, regardless who does it and regardless for what reason.
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Old 03-21-2014, 09:53 PM   #54
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Re: Why did Churchill shift bombing to German civilians?

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Originally Posted by Shandrax View Post
In WWII Germany started the air attacks by destroying Coventry, so they basically continued in the same pattern. Personally I can understand Churchills reaction to retaliate once it was possible.
Let's try to get at least a few facts straight.

Coventry was "destroyed", or at least sustained the greatest part of the damage it suffered in air raids, on the night of 14-15 November, 1940. This was hardly the first air attack of the war, nor even the first on Coventry. Coventry had already sustained nearly 20 air raids. All it was first at was the level of destruction on an English city. Germany had inflicted higher levels of destruction on Polish towns and cities ~14 months earlier, and its bombing raid on Rotterdam 6 months and a day earlier had caused ~50% more civilian fatalities. Neither did the Coventry raid lead to British bombing of civilian targets. The RAF had been conducting what were in effect essentially bombing raids on civilian targets in Germany for 183 days before the big raid on Coventry.

The history of the escalation of strategic bombing of civilians between Germany and Britain went something like this:

!939-09-01 Germany starts the war and immediately bombs Warsaw as part of Unternehmen Wasserkante, a planned multi-day obliteration of Warsaw by air power (much of which was cancelled).
On the same day, President Roosevelt appeals to both sides to restrict bombing to attacks on military targets. Both sides agree to comply with the request. Despite this, the Germans find excuses to repeatedly bomb Polish towns and cities.

1939-09-03,04 RAF attacks German naval vessels in harbour, killing 8 German navy personnel - the first casualities inflicted by one of Germany or Britain on the other. The RAF is under strict orders not to attack land targets or to risk accidentally killing German civilians, and the ban is soon extended to cover ships in harbour. RAF bombing raids on German navy reduced to about 1 per month. German air forces are prohibited from attacking any British targets except warships, and troop transports at sea. Both sides explain these restrictions to their personnel as being necessary to avoid provoking the other side into attacking civilians.

1939-10-16,17 First German bombing raid in British territory - naval bases.

1940-03-16, more than 6 months into the war, German bombers miss the British naval base at Scapa Flow and jettison bombs over the "Mainland", unintentionally killing James Isbister, who thus becomes the first civilian casualty of air bombing between the two belligerent nations. The British retaliate with an attack on the naval and air station on the island of Sylt, which causes no casualties.

1940-05-09,10 German bombing attacks on military and transportation targets in France and the Netherlands in support of the German invasion of those two countries, killing scores of civilians. Britain responds with bombing raids on troop concentrations and transport routes including within Germany but west of the Rhine. Four German civilians killed.

1940-05-14, Massive German bombing raid on Rotterdam, kills nearly 900 civilians. Raid is legal under then current international law, as Rotterdam was in the front line and resisting militarily.

1940-05-15 RAF are authorized to attack oil, transportation and military production facilities east of the Rhine. Raids on such targets over the next week prove highly inaccurate and kill < 100 civilians.

So, a week into the invasion of western Europe, we have the following body count (possibly incomplete):

Polish civilians killed by German air forces: Several thousand
French, Dutch, Belgian civilians killed by German Air forces: About a thousand
German civilians killed by RAF: < 100
British civilians killed by German Air forces: 1.

While the Germans did not shrink from causing civilian casualties in an area where they were conducting ground operations, each side actively sought to avoid causing civilian casualties away from the battlefield. (There are some notable exceptions by German air forces in Poland.) Between Britain and Germany, the British were the first to conduct raids on enemy home territory that they knew would inevitably cause collateral civilian deaths.

Continuing the escalation timeline:

1940-07-02, after the fall of France, Britain resumes attacks on German ships in port.

1940-07-10 Battle of Britain begins with German air attack on British coastal shipping.

1940-08-08 Germany begins attacks on Britsh air bases and radar stations. Their pilots are under strict orders to avoid causing unnecessary civilian casualties, and despite the comparably inaccurate attack by British bombers on German targets, which are seen by the Germans as terror attacks, Germans are forbidden to use terror attacks on the British. However, following the British lead, in an effort to reduce bomber losses, the Germans switched more of their bombing raids to less accurate night operations.

1940-08-24 Off course German bombers accidentally release bombs on London. The next night British bombers deliberately attack Berlin for the first time, ostensibly targeting an air base and a factory, but with such inaccurate results in what obviously would have no bearing on the military situation over the Channel, that the Germans take this as an obvious provocation. In the face of this, plus given that he was already losing the attrition air war, Hitler changes policy to one of deliberately attacking cities at night, though targets were still chosen on the basis of military value.

So we have gotten to the point where both sides are deliberately targeting military targets in enemy cities, knowing full well that civilians will be killed in the raids. Coventry hasn't been attacked yet. And there will be about 20 attacks on Coventry before the one which devastates it.

Each country has engaged in escalatory behaviour:

Germany was the first in the war to use air bombing:
  • in an offensive campaign
  • in the area of ground operations
  • against cities
  • against a third party's civilians
  • in large scale raids against cities
  • that inflict civilian casualties on the other party
  • on the other party's capital city
  • to deliberately engage in an ongoing campaign against cities*

Britain was the first to use air bombing to:
  • attack outside the area of the ground campaign
  • bomb the other's home territory
  • bomb the other's naval ports
  • inflict military casualties on the other party
  • attack inland targets
  • attack non-frontline military targets where they knew civilian casualties were unavoidable*
  • deliberately attack the other's capital city
*If one were to argue that there is no meaningful distinction between the two asterisked item, the British were first. However one might also argue that there is no meaningful distinction between those two and bombing civilians in a city in the front line, in which case the Germans were first.

The Coventry raid was not the start of the air attacks on civilians. All the Coventry raid was significant for was another level of escalation - this time in effective use of new weapon systems: a mix of special HE and incendiary bombs designed to maximize damage, and use of remote radio guidance to improve accuracy of navigation. The British improved upon both.
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Old 03-22-2014, 03:56 AM   #55
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Re: Why did Churchill shift bombing to German civilians?

Coventry was the first big city that got destroyed in England. I tried to explain Churchill's behavior. There is a difference between watching stuff happening in the Netherlands and the same thing happening to your own people. I have to admit that I wasn't precise, because I was only talking about attacking cities and not about attacking civilians in general.

If you want to analyze the effect of air raids against civilians, you got to start with Spain in 1936. I think the german air force simply kept doing what worked out well in that confrontation.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bombing_of_Guernica
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Old 03-23-2014, 02:58 AM   #56
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Re: Why did Churchill shift bombing to German civilians?

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Originally Posted by Shandrax View Post
Coventry was the first big city that got destroyed in England. I tried to explain Churchill's behavior. There is a difference between watching stuff happening in the Netherlands and the same thing happening to your own people. I have to admit that I wasn't precise, because I was only talking about attacking cities and not about attacking civilians in general.
Coventry wasn't destroyed.

Nice try, but Coventry doesn't explain Churchill's behaviour while Rotterdam does. The authorization to attack military targets in cities throughout Germany, which would inevitably kill many German civilians, came the day after Rotterdam and six months before Coventry. The decision to carry out the symbolic or morale-targetted bombing, (e.g. Berlin) came ~3 months before Coventry.

Each side wanted to seize the moral high ground wrt bombing of civilians. Each would only cross a line after the enemy had first been seen to cross it. Escalation occurred when the sides differed in their interpretation of legitimacy or when accidental bombings were treated by the victim as deliberate.

So, Germany for instance, considered the bombing of Rotterdam legitimate since, under the Hague convention, bombardment of a city resisting attack was legitimate. The British OTOH regarded this as an unwarranted attack on non-combatants, which justified reduction of their own restraint with regard to the killing of civilians as a byproduct of bombing military targets in Germany. And Britain considered the deliberate bombing of military targets in Berlin to be a legitimate response to the accidental bombing of London, perhaps not realizing the Germans hit London in error, while the wildly inaccurate British bombing of Berlin targets looked like no more than a terror attack to the Germans,who decided to retaliate in kind systematically.

The only behaviour of Churchill or the British in general which is in any way explained by Coventry is the decision to use similar technological approaches and similar scale of attacks in order to cause similar levels of damage.

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Originally Posted by Shandrax View Post
If you want to analyze the effect of air raids against civilians, you got to start with Spain in 1936. I think the german air force simply kept doing what worked out well in that confrontation.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bombing_of_Guernica
You seem better at referencing iconic events (Guernica, Coventry) than in connecting cause and effect, or action and reaction. Why would we only start in 1936, as opposed to British use of bombing of civilians in the Middle East earlier in the decade, or bombing of civilians in WWI?
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Old 03-23-2014, 04:43 AM   #57
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Re: Why did Churchill shift bombing to German civilians?

Well, I didn't have an exact timeline on things like you seem to have. Also I remember that I read somewhere that Coventry got pretty much wiped out.

Personally I think that Churcill didn't care much about Rotterdam, as nobody on the whole world cares about Rotterdam, except for the dutch. I have no idea what makes Rotterdam special after Germany had already bombed cities in Spain and in Poland.

Also I lived under the impression that RAF air-raids against german civilian targets in the early days of the war - authorized or not - were rather ineffective. In fact they were pretty much laughable and can be compared to the "authorized" polish cavalry attacks on Berlin. At least I am 100% sure that Coventry went down, before there was any major damage done by the RAF to a german city. So in that game, Germany was clearly leading 1-0.

Just to add another little fact: The RAF probably killed more french allies in Mers-el-Kebir than german enemy for a quite a while. I wonder what Churchill was thinking there. In fact, I think it proves that he gave a **** about everyone else, including the french and the people of Rotterdam.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attack_...-el-K%C3%A9bir

Last edited by Shandrax; 03-23-2014 at 04:50 AM.
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Old 03-24-2014, 01:38 AM   #58
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Re: Why did Churchill shift bombing to German civilians?

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Originally Posted by Shandrax View Post
Well, I didn't have an exact timeline on things like you seem to have.
It shows. Relying on anecdote is not a reliable way to operate in a history forum. Use facts and timelines, citing original sources where facts are in dispute,

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Also I remember that I read somewhere that Coventry got pretty much wiped out.
I have no doubt that you read it. That doesn't make it correct. The bombing of Coventry has been over-hyped. Coventry had a pre-war population a little under 1/4 million people. The November 14/15 raid killed less than 600. A population that size would give rise to the existence of about 50,000 homes. The raid destroyed about 400 homes. The destruction of less than 1% of the housing stock and killing of less than 1/4 of 1% of the population does not IMO, constitute "destroyed" or "wiped out". People think that Coventry was destroyed because some of its famous landmarks were destroyed, and more than half of its buildings were damaged. But "damaged" can mean nothing more than scorched roof tiles or a single broken window pane.

What is remarkable about the damage to Coventry is how much of it was concentrated on the military targets of the city. 2/3 of its factories were heavily or severely damaged. 12 factories and 2 naval ordnance depots were destroyed. This displays much more accuracy than the RAF was capable of at this time. The accuracy was in part due to innovations used in this raid: the use of radio-directed navigation, and pathfinder bombers preceding the following waves. It was also a result of the greater operational experience of the German bomber crews.

The greater degree of damage caused in the Coventry raid was due partly to the higher accuracy, and partly to a new mix of bombs. First the Germans used high explosives to knock out utilities like water and electricity, and to crater roads to impede emergency vehicle traffic. Then they used a number of naval contact mines dropped by parachute. These exploded on contact at roof level, blowing roof tiles off. Then incendiary bombs were dropped, through the now-gaping roofs, landing inside buildings, where they were much more effective. The Germans employed two different types of incendiary bombs: magnesium - to start fires, and petroleum - to spread fires already started.

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Personally I think that Churcill didn't care much about Rotterdam, as nobody on the whole world cares about Rotterdam, except for the dutch.
Perhaps you are projecting your own dismissiveness onto others.

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I have no idea what makes Rotterdam special after Germany had already bombed cities in Spain and in Poland.
Rotterdam was geographically close to England. Spain and Poland were not. The Dutch people had a similar history to the English: a maritime Germanic people who developed an overseas empire, with a commercially-based society, mostly Protestant, and a long history of struggle with France. Britain had even had a Dutch King. To the British, the Dutch were very much "like us". The Poles OTOH, were relatively distant, foreign, Slavic, agrarian, continental, Catholic - very much "the other". Similarly, Spain was more distant, Latin, commercially backward, Catholic and an historic enemy. German attacks on Spain and Poland did not directly threaten Britain, British forces or British interests. Germany's raid on Rotterdam was part of a general offensive on Western Europe that directly threatened Britain. It should come as no surprise that Britain would be much more concerned about German treatment of the Dutch than they were about German treatment of Poles or Spaniards. We still see this attitude today, when the west is acting a lot more concerned about a relatively bloodless takeover of the Crimea than it did about genocide in Rwanda or bloody war in Darfur or central Africa.

The concern in Britain and Germany WRT bombing centred on how the parties treated each other as equals. Britain was no more concerned about Germany's treatment of Poles as an indication of possible German treatment of Britain than Germany was concerned about Britain's treatment of Iraqis. But when Germany killed thousands of civilians that the British saw as being "like us", the British took it to be an indication of what they too could expect from the Germans. They considered it justifiable therefor to withdraw their constraint on bombing missions in Germany.

If you don't think that the concept that Germany might treat Slavs different from western Europeans was valid, and therefore that western Europeans might treat Germans differently then Slavs treated them, then you should look at the death rate among POWs on the east front compared to the death rate of POWS on the west front.

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Originally Posted by Shandrax View Post
Also I lived under the impression that RAF air-raids against german civilian targets in the early days of the war - authorized or not - were rather ineffective.
There weren't any authorized RAF raids on German civilians. What changed after Rotterdam was that air raids were now permitted against military targets inside Germany proper, when it was known that such raids would inevitably kill German civilians.

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In fact they were pretty much laughable
That's not a meaningful fact at all. That the damage caused was "laughable" is a retrospective concept. To the participants it would have been considered tragic. To the British the small amount of damage relative to risk was tragic, and to the Germans the loss of German civilians was tragic. However the degree of damage to intended targets by British raids on Germany was not small compared to what had been achieved in similar situations elsewhere.

There was noticeable difference in the amount of damage caused by British bombing raids in 1940 compared to the damage caused by German raids of that year. However, this difference can be explained by differences in circumstance. German crews had operational experience from Poland and the Condor Legion in Spain. British crews were mostly making their first raids.
Before the battle of Britain, German bombing targets had mostly been in or near the front lines, and German bases had mostly been near the front lines. During the battle of Britain, the Germans flew mostly from airbases in northern France. In contrast, British raids started in England but had to go all the way to Germany. As a result, there was much more opportunity for navigational error to affect the British. Because of the relatively short flight distances of German raids, they mostly had fighter escort. Because of the long distance to Germany, British raids often had no fighter escort. This made British crews jumpier, subject to more course variation, and more likely to jettison bombs prematurely. It also meant a higher portion of British raids were conducted at night, when it was hard to aim at a target. Until the second phase of the Battle of Britain, a significant portion of German bombing was done using the much more accurate technique of dive bombing. The British almost exclusively used less accurate level bombers for missions against German land targets. In addition to being more accurate, dive bombers are slow and short-ranged compared to level bombers. They are quite vulnerable to fighter interception. These were not significant problems for Germany in Spain, the Polish campaign or in the attacks on the Netherlands or France. When the Germans tried using dive bombers to attack British airfields, they lost so many they had to withdraw them from the campaign. As a result, German bombing effectiveness over Britain was less than on the continent.

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and can be compared to the "authorized" polish cavalry attacks on Berlin.
While any two events can be compared, the question is whether such comparison is meaningful. British air raids on Germany were real, and caused real damage, just not as much as had been hoped. A Polish Cavalry attack on Berlin was never attempted. It was as mythical as the story of Polish cavalry attacking German tanks with horsemen carrying lances. It didn't happen. But don't mock the Polish cavalry. On the first day of the war a Polish cavalry brigade brought a comparatively much stronger German armoured division to a standstill, destroying over 100 armoured fighting vehicles (it would be a stretch to call the PzI, which constituted a majority of the losses, a "tank"). They didn't use lancers to do this. They used anti-tank guns, artillery, two armoured trains, and some of their own tankettes. The Poles used lancers effectively against German infantry in the open. The last war in Europe before WWII was the Polish-Russian war. The Poles won it in great part due to their cavalry brigades. The infantry that made up the great bulk of the Germany Army in 1939 differed little in weapons systems from the Russian infantry in 1921.

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At least I am 100% sure that Coventry went down, before there was any major damage done by the RAF to a german city.
I wasn't aware that there was any agreed definition of the threshold that constitutes "major" damage. It would be fair to say that the November 14/15 raid on Coventry caused more damage than the British had yet caused to any one German city.

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So in that game, Germany was clearly leading 1-0.
This gives the completely inaccurate impression that prior to Coventry neither side had inflicted any significant damage. In the first 30 days of the London Blitz (and by November 14, the Blitz had been going on for nearly three months), the Germans had inflicted more than 10 times the damage on London as was caused by the Coventry raid. Since Coventry was much smaller, the damage was a larger portion of the city, but given that London wasn't bombed on every one of those 30 days, all that the Coventry raid damage signified was that the Germans had improved their technique to deliver about twice as much damage per raid.

A more appropriate sports score analogy (with a nod to March Madness) would be a basketball game where Team Germany led 55-26 at the half. Team Britain was mostly scoring with foul shots, and neither team had attempted a three-point shot. At the start of the second half, Germany sinks a three-pointer (Coventry). A change in score from 55-26 to 58-26 in a basketball game is a lot less significant than a change in score from 0-0 to 1-0 in a soccer football game. And in this game, once Britain sees Germany attempting three-pointers, they change to a strategy that relies heavily on three-pointers and Britain goes on to come back and win an overwhelming victory.

Coventry was not the start of any significant policy change. It was not the start of the bombing of civilians. It was not the start of effective attacks on cities. It was not what caused a shift from attempts to hit specific targets to attacks on whole areas of a city. It just marked the introduction of more efficiently destructive techniques that were soon adopted and improved by the British.

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Just to add another little fact: The RAF probably killed more french allies in Mers-el-Kebir than german enemy for a quite a while.
It is not a fact. Your statement contains several inaccuracies:[LIST][*]The RAF was not involved in the attack at Mers-el-Kebir. The aircraft involved were from the RNAS.[*]The vast majority of French casualties at Mers-el-Kebir were caused by naval gunfire, not aerial bombardment.[*]The French were no longer allies. They had surrendered to the Germans and were considered by the British to be under German influence.[*]The RAF had killed more Germans to date than the RNAS killed French at Mers-el-Kebir.[*]British forces had killed way more Germans to date than they killed French at Mers-el-Kebir.

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I wonder what Churchill was thinking there. In fact, I think it proves that he gave a **** about everyone else, including the french and the people of Rotterdam.
What Churchill was thinking was that if the French Mediterranean Fleet was combined with the Italian fleet, Britain would lose control of the Mediterranean. Control of the Med was the key to British grand strategy. The British had no way to tell if the French would be both able and willing to keep their fleet from being used on the Axis side. What they did know was that the new Vichy government was headed by an extreme right-winger, and that the new French Minister of Defence had declared nearly three weeks earlier that "In three weeks Britain will have her neck wrung like a chicken." So they gave the French fleet commander an ultimatum to either join the British, transfer the ships to the wartime custody of either the Royal Navy or the then-neutral US or scuttle the ships. When the French refused to do any of these, the British set out to destroy the fleet. While the action shows that Churchill cared more about winning the war than about individual lives, the presentation of an ultimatum with these options, rather than a sneak attack, shows he did care about the lives of French sailors.
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Old 06-19-2014, 12:25 AM   #59
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Re: Why did Churchill shift bombing to German civilians?

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The theoretical potential for destruction of civilian life by air attack was enormous, and therefore terrible. The use of such potential was held by many (especially many of those potentially targetted civilians) to be immoral. While none of the major warring nations had agreed to a formal convention that prohibited air attack on civilian targets, at the start of the war the US had called upon the belligerants to refrain from air attacks on civilians. Britain, France and Germany all assured the US that they would not make such attacks unless the other side did so first. Neither side wanted to initiate bombing of civilians for fear of the effect that would have on public opinon at home and abroad, and for fear of the effects of retaliatory attacks on their own civilian population.
This, especially the underlined part, is really important to consider. Military and civilian governments don't just do things because "they can" ... there are political risks involved with any action. Even the Nazis had to be careful not lose political support at home, otherwise there were always generals and civilian leaders waiting for the opportunity to stage a coup. Same in England and France.
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Old 08-03-2014, 09:39 AM   #60
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Re: Why did Churchill shift bombing to German civilians?

Total war. When a war reaches the magnitude it did during WWII, your enemy's economy becomes a decisive factor in the outcome. Any way of damaging that economy becomes a pursuable option.
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Old 08-11-2014, 02:44 AM   #61
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Re: Why did Churchill shift bombing to German civilians?

It was an emotional response (to the bombing of English civilians) and a poor decision; would have been far wiser to continue attacking military installations, railways etc.
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Old 08-13-2014, 01:33 AM   #62
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Re: Why did Churchill shift bombing to German civilians?

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It was an emotional response (to the bombing of English civilians) and a poor decision; would have been far wiser to continue attacking military installations, railways etc.
I believe you should have preceded this answer with "** grunch **".

Now go back and read this thread. You might learn something.
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Old 04-27-2015, 05:06 PM   #63
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Re: Why did Churchill shift bombing to German civilians?

Interesting thread. I just finished. The whole question comes done to are civilians "innocent" and not to be targeted. Watching the crowds cheer Hitler make me think not so much. There was that great post that talked about who was more guilty the 18 year old conscript or the grandmother who informed on a homosexual. As you think about it remember to ISIS and Al Queda we are targets.
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