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Old 12-19-2013, 09:34 PM   #26
Deuces McKracken
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Re: Why did Churchill shift bombing to German civilians?

[QUOTE=DoTheMath;41459590]
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Originally Posted by Deuces McKracken View Post
My main point is that the targeting oWhat "pure targeting of civilians" are we talking about? You seem to be confusing the targeting of cities with the targeting of civilians. They are not the same thing. The premise in OP was flawed. The RAF didn't switch to targeting civilians, they switched to targeting cities. The reasons are well-explained by poster Lord Cochrane and to a lesser extent by Mandor_TFL.
They are more or less the same thing. Sure there is some secondary infrastructure damage that affects the military indirectly but that isn't the point in bombing cities. The question of the OP was whether the targeting of cities and civilians, rather than the standard military targets, was a gambit designed to goad Hitler into doing the same thing thereby creating a dynamic advantageous for the British. Just to be clear, my answer is that this is a flawed premise and that the real reason for bombing cities was based on more practical strategic considerations which, though probably misguided, might not be available to us by deduction.

The reasons given by Lord Cochrane seemed to be geared toward apologizing for Churchill. The arguments failed. He said essentially that Churchill bombed the cities/civilians because the unsustainable casualty rate in daytime bombing necessitated night bombing in which the only visible targets were cities. However, these circumstances in no way give cover from the fundamental idea in justice that says we are responsible for the known consequences of our actions. Churchill purposefully killed civilians and he is responsible for that, whether it was an efficient way to wage war or not.



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Again, what civilian bombing? The reasoning behind city bombing has already been explained. I agree that any notion of trying to win the war only by affecting civilian morale was misguided, but that was not main reason why cities were selected for bombing.
I was talking about the later explicit terror bombing of germany by the U.S. and britain.

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I would usually tend to agree, though there were thinkers at the time who suggested wars could be won by strategic air power alone, and Sun Tzu would remind you that defeating the enemy in battle was not the highest form of strategic art.
Yes, attrition as a tactic is not viewed highly among war theorists. However that does seem to be what it comes down to very often and, after all, if it was the best way to go why would we need theorists/tacticians? Even after we bombed Japan to hell they were still more scared at the thought of Russian troops on the ground. Winning wars with air power alone has to be among the most persistently argued yet proven fallacious thinking ever.




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In order to beat their army there may be other things you need to do. For instance, one of the main reasons for the failure of the German winter counter-offensive on the west front in December 1944 was a lack of fuel. The fuel shortage in turn was caused in part by strategic bombing of production areas, refineries, synthetic fuel factories, pipelines and railways.

Russia was well aware of the strategic importance and vulnerability of production facilities. That is why they went to such efforts to move much of their production east of the Urals, where it would be safe from strategic attacks.
I agree but I would put attacking supply lines/production facilities in the category of "beating their army" as oppose to demoralizing/terrorizing/killing their civilian base or other tactics not targeting the military directly.



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I don't know whether the British attacked German cities in the hope it would provoke the Germans to stop attacking airfields, however, it is a fact that they switched from targeting airfields to targeting cities after Berlin was bombed, and that Hitler supported the bombing of London. When I referred to "diverting war effort away from the front" I had in mind the large number of AA guns, fire fighters and most especially fighter aircraft which were deployed for the defence of German population and production centres. 88s shooting at British bombers over Germany are not shooting at Russian tanks in the Ukraine. Me109s protecting home airspace are not defending against ground attack aircraft at the front. It is well documented that a major goal of the strategic air campaign against German cities was the fixing and destruction of air war assets.

You are misstating the gambit theory. It merely requires that war aims could be better achieved by attacking cities, not by by attacking civilians. You and OP are the ones asserting that the British switched to attacking civilians. I and most of the responders in this thread are asserting the British and Germans switched to attacking cities, which is not the same thing as switching to attacking civilians. If you want to assert that the switch was for the purpose of attacking civilians as the exclusive or primary target, the onus is on you to provide the supporting documentation. Two of the most famous attacks on cities by the Germans were the ongoing blitz of London and the major attacks on Coventry. Both cities were legitimate military targets. London had one of the most important ports in England, was a major land communicaton hub and housed all sorts of government installations. Coventry manufactured aircraft engines and munitions.
Of course Hitler would have said that bombing London was part of the plan. He would never admit a mistake so there is basically no information in his response.

But why would hitler switch in kind to bombing cities? when clearly he was doing well in attacking military targets? Implicit in the OP thesis (which I recognize he is not asserting but merely asking) is the idea that this is a predictable response from hitler, that churchill somehow knew he would take this line.

Maybe the answer is that mutual switching to attacks on cities/civilians amounted to an approximate armistice that both leaders really wanted but was politically impossible. Just putting that out there. It's entirely possible that each side thought it was beneficial to scale back a more direct military confrontation, each thinking that they would have a bigger advantage down the road.

Just as an aside to think about, Churchill did refer to official reasons given for later terror bombing of germany as "pretexts".
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Old 12-20-2013, 03:28 AM   #27
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Re: Why did Churchill shift bombing to German civilians?

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What "pure targeting of civilians" are we talking about? You seem to be confusing the targeting of cities with the targeting of civilians. They are not the same thing. The premise in OP was flawed. The RAF didn't switch to targeting civilians, they switched to targeting cities. The reasons are well-explained by poster Lord Cochrane and to a lesser extent by Mandor_TFL.
They are more or less the same thing. Sure there is some secondary infrastructure damage that affects the military indirectly but that isn't the point in bombing cities.
ORLY? So what is the point of bombing cities? And how do you know this?

Also, you seem to severely underestimate the actual damage done to military targets by city bombing. Perhaps you are getting caught up in the ratio of non-military damage to military damage. However, when you have legitimate military targets and the only means at your disposal to destroy them is going to cause disproportionate collateral damage, sometmes you still have to go ahead with the inefficient attacks.

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The question of the OP was whether the targeting of cities and civilians, rather than the standard military targets, was a gambit designed to goad Hitler into doing the same thing thereby creating a dynamic advantageous for the British. Just to be clear, my answer is that this is a flawed premise and that the real reason for bombing cities was based on more practical strategic considerations which, though probably misguided, might not be available to us by deduction.
Can you explain what this real reason was and what were the more practical considerations on which it was based?

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The reasons given by Lord Cochrane seemed to be geared toward apologizing for Churchill. The arguments failed.
No, they succeeded in explaining the actual reasons why the British switched to bombing cities at night. The only way in which they "failed" was in failing to accept the false premise on which OP was based.

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He said essentially that Churchill bombed the cities/civilians because the unsustainable casualty rate in daytime bombing necessitated night bombing in which the only visible targets were cities.
Close enough, for now.

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However, these circumstances in no way give cover from the fundamental idea in justice that says we are responsible for the known consequences of our actions. Churchill purposefully killed civilians and he is responsible for that, whether it was an efficient way to wage war or not.
LOL. So if the Germans set up a V-2 launch site in a schoolyard and Churchill ordered it destroyed he'd be guilty of targeting schoolchildren?

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Again, what civilian bombing? The reasoning behind city bombing has already been explained. I agree that any notion of trying to win the war only by affecting civilian morale was misguided, but that was not main reason why cities were selected for bombing.
I was talking about the later explicit terror bombing of germany by the U.S. and britain.
What revisionists have you been reading? You are assuming something that is not in evidence here. Please provide the evidence of there having been "explicit terror bombing" by the U.S. and Britain.

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I would usually tend to agree, though there were thinkers at the time who suggested wars could be won by strategic air power alone, and Sun Tzu would remind you that defeating the enemy in battle was not the highest form of strategic art.
Yes, attrition as a tactic is not viewed highly among war theorists. ...
We're not talking about attrition here. We are talking about the need to defeat the enemy's army in battle. Attrition is not the only way by which to defeat an army in battle. The Germans didn't defeat the French in 1940 by using attrition. However what Sun Tzu said is "The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting." Contary to your assertion, it is not always necessary to defeat the enemy's army to achieve one's war aims.

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... Winning wars with air power alone has to be among the most persistently argued yet proven fallacious thinking ever.
Well that's one thing we agree upon.

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In order to beat their army there may be other things you need to do. For instance, one of the main reasons for the failure of the German winter counter-offensive on the west front in December 1944 was a lack of fuel. The fuel shortage in turn was caused in part by strategic bombing of production areas, refineries, synthetic fuel factories, pipelines and railways.

Russia was well aware of the strategic importance and vulnerability of production facilities. That is why they went to such efforts to move much of their production east of the Urals, where it would be safe from strategic attacks.
I agree but I would put attacking supply lines/production facilities in the category of "beating their army" as oppose to demoralizing/terrorizing/killing their civilian base or other tactics not targeting the military directly.
But bombing cities was "attacking supply lines/production facilities". That is why cities were attacked. That is one of the chief reasons why particular cities were chosen as bombing targets.

You seem to have nearly ignored this (IMO) rather important point:
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Perhaps looking at such communication would be the best way to determine whether they actually ever did target civilians.
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I don't know whether the British attacked German cities in the hope it would provoke the Germans to stop attacking airfields, however, it is a fact that they switched from targeting airfields to targeting cities after Berlin was bombed, and that Hitler supported the bombing of London. When I referred to "diverting war effort away from the front" I had in mind the large number of AA guns, fire fighters and most especially fighter aircraft which were deployed for the defence of German population and production centres. 88s shooting at British bombers over Germany are not shooting at Russian tanks in the Ukraine. Me109s protecting home airspace are not defending against ground attack aircraft at the front. It is well documented that a major goal of the strategic air campaign against German cities was the fixing and destruction of air war assets.

You are misstating the gambit theory. It merely requires that war aims could be better achieved by attacking cities, not by by attacking civilians. You and OP are the ones asserting that the British switched to attacking civilians. I and most of the responders in this thread are asserting the British and Germans switched to attacking cities, which is not the same thing as switching to attacking civilians. If you want to assert that the switch was for the purpose of attacking civilians as the exclusive or primary target, the onus is on you to provide the supporting documentation. Two of the most famous attacks on cities by the Germans were the ongoing blitz of London and the major attacks on Coventry. Both cities were legitimate military targets. London had one of the most important ports in England, was a major land communicaton hub and housed all sorts of government installations. Coventry manufactured aircraft engines and munitions.
Of course Hitler would have said that bombing London was part of the plan. He would never admit a mistake so there is basically no information in his response.
He didn't say it after the fact. He supported the attack as a response to the bombing of Berlin. I.e. he changed the plan or approved the changing of the plan.

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But why would hitler switch in kind to bombing cities? when clearly he was doing well in attacking military targets?
Two errors here.
  1. Because of the inaccuracy of bomb delivery systems, cities essentially were military targets. More precisely cities contained legitimate military targets, and to an observer not in on the attack briefing, any attempt to attack those military targets inevitably was indistinguishable from attacking the city in general.
  2. Hitler was not actually doing well attacking what you refer to as military targets (airfields and radar stations). The British had increasing numbers of fighter aircraft and fighter pilots in every week of the Battle of Britain, while the Germans were experiencing declines in the number of aircraft and crew.

There are a number of reasons why Hitler may have made the switch.
  • As I explained in an earlier post, both sides originally avoided making attacks where there was a high risk of causing civilian casualties, because of concern for foreign and domestic opinion, and because of fear of reprisal in kind and escalation. Once one side was seen to have caused civilian casualties these reasons disappear. Hitler may have legitimately believed that the British attack on Berlin gave him free reign to make the sort of attacks his forces wished to make all along, but had refrained from doing so because of Hitler's politically motivated restraining order.
  • If Hitler realized he was losing the Battle of Britian before making the switch, he may have felt that a switch to bombing aircraft factories and munitions factories, and shipping facilities for these, offered a potentially superior way to win the Battle. It is no concidence that the first big city attack (other than London) was a city manufacturing aircraft parts and munitions.
  • The first bombing of Berlin had high propaganda significance. A bombing of London was a natural propaganda response.

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Implicit in the OP thesis (which I recognize he is not asserting but merely asking) is the idea that this is a predictable response from hitler, that churchill somehow knew he would take this line.
Perhaps skepticism about this is another area where you and I agree.

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Maybe the answer is that mutual switching to attacks on cities/civilians amounted to an approximate armistice that both leaders really wanted but was politically impossible. Just putting that out there. It's entirely possible that each side thought it was beneficial to scale back a more direct military confrontation, each thinking that they would have a bigger advantage down the road.
Not a chance. Each side viewed the other's move to attacking cities as an escalation.

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Just as an aside to think about, Churchill did refer to official reasons given for later terror bombing of germany as "pretexts".
Full quote and context please. I'm having a hard time believing that Churchill referred to British actions as terror bombing. And if you are inserting that notion into a supposed quote, it is possible you have inserted some other notions as well.

The only thing like this that I have seen is speculation that Churchill was aware that the bombing of London which was ostensibly the excuse for the bombing of Berlin was in fact unintentional. Given that historians dispute whether the German bombing was accidental, the notion that Churchill knew it was accidental is a bit tenuous.

Given that a key part of this discussion centres around the (lack of) accuracy of bombing raids, I'd going to repose a question I asked in a different thread but which nobody answered:
Which country's air force caused the most bombing casualties among Allied (American, British, Canadian, French, Australian, New Zealand, Polish) Generals in Europe from 1943 to 1945?
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Old 12-20-2013, 06:09 AM   #28
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Re: Why did Churchill shift bombing to German civilians?

Grunching a bit, but given that Allied post-war planning at the time called for extremely harsh punishment of Germany, and that the western Allies used millions of Germans as slave laborers for 3-4 years after the war, dismissing vengeance and hatred as a factor seems overly generous to the Allies.
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Old 12-20-2013, 04:43 PM   #29
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Re: Why did Churchill shift bombing to German civilians?

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Grunching a bit, but given that Allied post-war planning at the time called for extremely harsh punishment of Germany, and that the western Allies used millions of Germans as slave laborers for 3-4 years after the war, dismissing vengeance and hatred as a factor seems overly generous to the Allies.
Who do you think is dismissing vengeance and hatred as a factor in city bombing? Certainly not me:
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City bombing included the targeting of civilians, both for morale (or terror) purposes and ...
My point is that
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Things rarely happen for only one reason.

... it is a mistake to think that the decision to area bomb cities at night was nothing more than a decision to target civilians to the exclusion of anything else, and that the sole purpose of targeting civilians was to destroy their morale.
Hate, revenge, terror, morale were all part of the complex set of reasons for bombing of cities.

You need to be aware that the Morgenthau plan was never fully implemented, was much modified, and ultimately abandoned. The notion that the plans developed in 1944 by a Jewish-American Secretary of the Treasury for the post-war administration of a captured central Europe were indicative of the motivation of Royal Air Force strategic bombing decisions made in 1940 and following is more than a bit of a stretch. The Allies were not controlled by some sort of hive mind. Also, a balanced description of the Morgenthau plan would not describe it as a punishment plan.

The article on "slave labour" you link to is very LOLWikipedia. It conflates the sort of POW labour specifically provided for by international convention with the illegal practices of some captors. It wrongly counts every prisoner as performing labour, when many did not. It fails to distinguish between registration for possible future labour that was never actually extracted and actual labour. It treats contingency planning for labour as if it actually happened. It counts POWs providing legal labour under the US or Britain in the same total as POWs treated illegally by the Russians. It gives date spans that it implies apply to all POWs when in fact by the end of the span very few POWs were still affected. Very few of its limited sources are specialists on the subject matter, and some of those that are are taken out of context. Given its tone and slant, I'm mildly surprised that it doesn't cite James Bacque.

If you want a more accurate view of the difference in treatment of POWs by the Western Allies, the Germans, the Russians and the Japanese, I refer you to the following table of POW deaths in captivity adapted from a work of an actual military historian
Ferguson, Niall (2004), "Prisoner Taking and Prisoner Killing in the Age of Total War: Towards a Political Economy of Military Defeat", War in History 11 (2), p. 186
CaptorPOW% died
GermanyRussia57.5
RussiaGermany35.8
JapanAmerica33.0
E. EuropeGermany32.9
JapanBritain24.8
GermanyBritain3.50
FranceGermany2.58
AmericaGermany0.15
BritainGermany0.03

As you can see, the combatants on the western front treated each other quite differently than the combatants on the eastern front. That sense is pretty much missing from the LOLwikipedia article you ref'd.

Your simple sentence "western allies used millions of Germans as slave laborers for 3-4 years after the war" is misleading and innaccurate on a number of levels. In most cases the Germans in question were prisoners of war, not civilians. Requiring labour by POWs is not slave labour, but covered by Convention and often compensated. In many cases the POWs volunteered for the labour, because of the compensation and for relief from camp boredom, and occasionally for the possibility of escape. Calling it "slave labour" is no more accurate than calling military service slavery. In the case of POWS held in America the "3-4 years" is actually more like 1-2 months. For POWs in Britain, the 3-4 years is more like 2-16 months for service while in detention. Repatriation rates were roughly similar to rates of repatriation of British personnel. Most ex-POW labour in Britain post 1946 was by volunteers who were paid better and had better prospects than what they faced on return to Germany. In fact a problem faced by Britain was that more ex-POWs wanted to stay in Britain than the government was prepared to allow. Some slavery! Ultimately about 15% of those who remained in Britain after release stayed permanently.

As for "millions", it is unlikely that Britain and the US ever had much more than 1.1million POWs performing labour at any one time. The largest number would be the roughly 750,000 German ex-POWs doing reconstruction work in Germany (i.e. fixing their own country) under American administration.
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Old 12-23-2013, 04:47 AM   #30
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Re: Why did Churchill shift bombing to German civilians?

I was dismissing vengeance and anger in the civilian bombing. It was always done for strategic reasons either for terror or the result of a game theory calculation. It is just my general philosophy that governments of a certain level of sophistication act chiefly strategically and are extremely unlikely to take what they know to be a suboptimal strategy in order to satisfy base emotions like hatred and vengeance. The politicians might fan the flames of hatred when it suits them, but they are essentially calculating, not lashing out.

For example even when we dropped the bomb on Japan, it was not because we hated the Japanese. We did hate the Japanese, but that was somewhat incidental wrt the decision to drop the bomb. That is, the people of the U.S. hated the Japanese at that time. But the government did it to send a clear message to Russia and set the tone for the world to be, after the war.
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Old 12-27-2013, 12:29 AM   #31
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Re: Why did Churchill shift bombing to German civilians?

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ORLY? So what is the point of bombing cities? And how do you know this?

Also, you seem to severely underestimate the actual damage done to military targets by city bombing. Perhaps you are getting caught up in the ratio of non-military damage to military damage. However, when you have legitimate military targets and the only means at your disposal to destroy them is going to cause disproportionate collateral damage, sometmes you still have to go ahead with the inefficient attacks.

Can you explain what this real reason was and what were the more practical considerations on which it was based?
I can only give my speculation, which is that it was either a misguided attempt to break the german morale or it was a strategic/game theory calculation, some type of wink to Germany that said it was in both of their interests not to hurt themselves (meaning their fighting forces) too much at this point in the war. Maybe germany had a real vulnerability that they were worried would be exploited? In any event the crucial aspect here which cannot be denied is that the mutual change to attacking cities/civilians marked a mutual downshifting from the proper war. There was too much popular support for war to realistically think about an armistice so this was the next best thing from the perspective of both of the leaderships. I'm not married to that theory but it seems plausible. Someone has probably done some work on this based on the actual internal communications but I am not aware of it.

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LOL. So if the Germans set up a V-2 launch site in a schoolyard and Churchill ordered it destroyed he'd be guilty of targeting schoolchildren?
Yes he would. Maybe it could be justified, and maybe the germans would share in the guilt by exposing children to risk of death. But this is hardly analogous to what we are talking about and which actually happened. And the later bombing campaigns were extremely inhumane. If you really want to talk about the benevolence of Churchill, which I suspect is what is the unacknowledged driving force behind a good portion of this thread, then we can talk about that.


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What revisionists have you been reading? You are assuming something that is not in evidence here. Please provide the evidence of there having been "explicit terror bombing" by the U.S. and Britain.
Are you serious?
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Old 12-28-2013, 12:58 AM   #32
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I thought part of the reason for taking the war to civilians was to help prevent a future war. Although Germany lost the first war their army was still in France and their civilians didn't feel the effects the same way those in other countries did. This enabled the Nazis to later convince enough of the population that they didn't really lose the war, they were just stabbed in the back by filthy commies and Jews...... The allies wanted to make sure Germany knew it lost the war so it wouldn't be convinced to start another one 20 years later.
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Old 12-28-2013, 02:25 AM   #33
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Re: Why did Churchill shift bombing to German civilians?

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ORLY? So what is the point of bombing cities? And how do you know this?
...
Can you explain what this real reason was and what were the more practical considerations on which it was based?
I can only give my speculation, which is that it was either a misguided attempt to break the german morale or it was a strategic/game theory calculation, some type of wink to Germany that said it was in both of their interests not to hurt themselves (meaning their fighting forces) too much at this point in the war. Maybe germany had a real vulnerability that they were worried would be exploited?
If all you can do is speculate, perhaps you shouldn't be so forceful with your assertions.

I am not an expert on the air war in Europe and is not my chief area of historical interest. However the opinions I express on the matter are the product of having read WWII military history as an amateur for over 45 years, from conversations with personnel who served on both sides during the war, conversations and correspondence with history professors, and from many hours digging around military libraries, archives and museums under the guidance of trained research assistants. I had multiple relatives who served during the war in the allied armed forces, including the Air Force, and in the resistance, and others who have served since. All my nephews are current members of the Canadian Forces (CF). I have a large circle of friends, colleagues and contacts who are serving or retired members of the CF - mostly officers, or civilian employees at the Department of National Defence (DND). I had contacts at D-Hist back before it became the Directorate of History and Heritage at DND.

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In any event the crucial aspect here which cannot be denied is that the mutual change to attacking cities/civilians marked a mutual downshifting from the proper war.
What a bizarre pair of concepts! City bombing as a downshift, and the change to city bombing being a turning away from "the proper war". The switch to city bombing was an escalation, and a settling in for the long haul.

I suggest you learn some more widely accepted concepts, such as the differences between tactical bombing and strategic bombing (Don't rely on the inadequate Wikipedia stub on tactical bombing.) The Germans began the Battle of Britain with what were essentially tactical bombing missions against British airfields and radar installations. When these failed to achieve air control, they switched to strategic bombing focused on aircraft and munitions production and transportation and communication facilities that supported air operations. Thus the German switch to city bombing was not a down shift but rather a shift from a failed short-term approach to an attempt at gaining air control with a longer term approach. They eventually shifted to what was more clearly a terror bombing campaign than that practised by the allies.

The notion that "proper war" consists of only attacking the enemy's military forces in the field totally ignores the overwhelming importance of industrial production to military success in prolonged large-scale wars.

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There was too much popular support for war to realistically think about an armistice so this was the next best thing from the perspective of both of the leaderships. I'm not married to that theory but it seems plausible.
To anybody familiar with the history, it seems ridiculous.

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Someone has probably done some work on this based on the actual internal communications but I am not aware of it.
OK, so what do actual internal communications say?

As it happens, I don't have to speculate about them. I can quote you the most important primary document. From the beginning of 1943, Allied bombing objectives were governed by a memorandum from the Combined Chiefs of Staff (Memorandum C.C.S. 166/1/D), which stated
Quote:
The Bomber Offensive from the United Kingdom


Directive to the appropriate British and U.S. Air Force Commanders to govern the operation of the British and U.S. Bomber Commands in the United Kingdom (Approved by the Combined Chiefs of Staff at their 65th meeting on January 21, 1943)

1. Your Primary object will be the progressive destruction and dislocation of the German military, industrial, and economic system, and the undermining of the morale of the German people to a point where their capacity for armed resistance is fatally weakened.

2. Within that General concept, your primary objectives, subject to the exigencies of weather and tactical feasibility, will for the present be in the following order of priority:
(a) German submarine construction yards.
(b) The German aircraft industry.
(c) Transportation.
(d) Oil plants.
(e) Other targets in enemy war industry.
The above order of priority may be varied from time to time according to developments in the strategical situation. Moreover, other objectives of great importance either from the political or military point of view must be attacked. Examples of these are:

(1) Submarine operating bases on the Biscay coast. If these can be put out of action, a great step forward will have been taken in the U-boat war which the C.C.S have agreed to be a first charge on our resources. Day and night attacks on these bases have been inaugurated and should be continued so that an assessment of their effects can be made as soon as possible. If it is found that successful results can be achieved, these attacks should continue whenever conditions are favorable for as long and as often as is necessary. These objectives have not been included in the order of priority, which covers the long term operations, particularly as the bases are not situated in Germany.
(2) Berlin, which should be attacked when the conditions are suitable for the attainment of the specially valuable results unfavorable to the morale of the enemy or favorable to that of the Russians.

3. You may also be required, at the appropriate time, to attack objectives in Northern Italy on connection with amphibious operations in the Mediterranean theater.

4. There may be certain other objectives of great but fleeting importance for the attack of which all necessary planes and preparations should be made. Of these, an example would be the important units of the German Fleet in harbor or at sea.

5. You should take every opportunity to attack Germany by day, to destroy objectives that are unsuitable for night attack, to sustain continuous pressure on German morale, to impose heavy losses on the German day fighter force, and to contain German fighter strength away from the Russian and Mediterranean theaters of war.

6. When the Allied armies reenter the Continent, you will afford them all possible support in the manner most effective.

7. In attacking objectives in occupied territories, you will conform to such instructions as may be issued from time to time for political reasons by His Majesty's Government through the British Chiefs of Staff.

—Combined Chiefs of Staff.
(emphasis mine)

Civilian morale is listed as the fourth of four objects with the general intent of eliminating the German capacity for armed resistance. The priority targets are all directly related to German war production. German civilians as such were not targeted.

The above directive superseded General Directive No. 5 (the so-called "Area Bombing Directive"). This directive set out a set of target priorities. The targets were amended from time to time. All the targets were either military production centres or specific military targets. This directive, coming after operational research had shown that night-time bombing was highly inaccurate, recognized that the greatest effect to production capacity from nighttime bombing would be achieved by disruption of the workforce. IOW, bombers had virtually no chance of hitting the production facilities themselves, but area bombing of the built-up areas near production areas could be counted upon to kill. wound and demoralize workers, and disrupt transportation to and from the facilities. So, nighttime bombing by the British in 1942 targeted war industry targets, primarily through their workers, as such targeting was the only real chance they had of affecting production.

As navigational aids and other developments improved bombing accuracy over time, the balance in intended effect shifted more towards direct damage to facilities themselves and away from indirect effects on production through worker casualties. Despite this, the number of civilian casualties rose over time, as a result of the significant increase in tonnage of bombs dropped.

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LOL. So if the Germans set up a V-2 launch site in a schoolyard and Churchill ordered it destroyed he'd be guilty of targeting schoolchildren?
Yes he would. Maybe it could be justified, and maybe the germans would share in the guilt by exposing children to risk of death.
Well, at least you are consistent. I think you need to learn to distinguish between targets and highly probably collateral damage. The target is what is intended to be destroyed. The collateral damage is what is also destroyed in the attempt. There are all sorts of examples of both sides avoiding targets when the expected collateral damage exceeded the value of the target. However, at the time, the lives of workers in arms factories, and of their families and neighbours were not considered so valuable as to negate an attempt to reduce the production of the arms factories. That attitude would not be seen to have materially changed, if one were to judge by the number of civilian deaths in Pakistan from US drone strikes on high value Taliban targets.

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But this is hardly analogous to what we are talking about and which actually happened.
On the contrary, it is directly analogous. We are talking about the difference between targeting civilians and accepting that civilians will die in an attempt to degrade military production. The target is what you wish to damage or destroy. The accepted collateral damage is what you are willing to inevitably also damage in the attempt on the target. The historical documents consistently show that the primary targets of city bombing were military production, communication, military installations, diversion of forces and warfighting capacity. Civilian morale was sometimes a secondary target. It was not the primary target or the sole target. One might argue that for a time a certain class of civilians - workers in arms factories - were targeted, but that is not an example of terror bombing.

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And the later bombing campaigns were extremely inhumane.
So it is humane to shoot a soldier who is shooting at you, but not the guy who makes the bullets he is shooting, nor the guy who ships the bullets to him, despite them both knowing and often hoping that the soldier will attempt to kill you those bullets? Is it humane to kill with a bullet but not with a bomb?

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If you really want to talk about the benevolence of Churchill, which I suspect is what is the unacknowledged driving force behind a good portion of this thread, then we can talk about that.
Hah! Benevolent is not the first word that comes to mind in connection to Churchill. I have no motive to rehabilitate him.

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What revisionists have you been reading? You are assuming something that is not in evidence here. Please provide the evidence of there having been "explicit terror bombing" by the U.S. and Britain.
Are you serious?
I'm quite serious. The notion of "terror bombing" having been practiced by the allies is quite controversial in historical circles. The primary documents (such as the ones I quoted or referred to above) do not seem to support the notion, however, the concept was current at the time. The Germans referred to British "terror bombing" in their propaganda broadcasts. In response to a sensational news report caused by an American journalist quoting an air officer out of context, Churchill even issued a memo requesting a review of the policy of "terror bombing" (an example of his benevolence?). He was forced to withdraw the memo and replace it with proper wording because the news report was wrong and there was no policy of terror bombing.

For a brief discussion of how doing history badly leads to the mistaken discussion of things like Allied "terror bombing", read this article by historian Terry Copp. It includes this crucial paragraph:
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The historian’s primary task is to try to determine what happened in the past as thoroughly as possible. To do this he or she must, in the words of R.G. Collingwood, “rethink the thoughts behind past actions.” This is a long, complex process, but when applied to Bomber Command it requires a clear understanding of the ideas, values and state of knowledge of those who made the crucial decisions and those who carried them out. It also means the historian must recognize that, while hindsight can help to raise questions about the past, intellectual honesty requires that we avoid using it to judge the actions of those who came before.
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Old 12-28-2013, 07:53 AM   #34
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Re: Why did Churchill shift bombing to German civilians?

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All the targets were either military production centres or specific military targets. This directive, coming after operational research had shown that night-time bombing was highly inaccurate, recognized that the greatest effect to production capacity from nighttime bombing would be achieved by disruption of the workforce. IOW, bombers had virtually no chance of hitting the production facilities themselves, but area bombing of the built-up areas near production areas could be counted upon to kill. wound and demoralize workers, and disrupt transportation to and from the facilities. So, nighttime bombing by the British in 1942 targeted war industry targets, primarily through their workers, as such targeting was the only real chance they had of affecting production.
I was watching a documentary recently that discussed the accuracy of night bombing and at one point only 1.5% of bombs were landing within 3 miles of the target.
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Old 12-28-2013, 02:01 PM   #35
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Re: Why did Churchill shift bombing to German civilians?

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I was watching a documentary recently that discussed the accuracy of night bombing and at one point only 1.5% of bombs were landing within 3 miles of the target.
Yeah, that's right. At first the RAF did not realize how inaccurate their nighttime bombing was, and they often tried to target specific production facilities or transportation infrastructure directly. Once they realized how inaccurate the bombing was, they gave up hope of any but fluke hits on specific buildings, and went with area bombing as having the best chance of having an impact on production. The areas chosen, however, were consistently driven by the presence of military targets (weapons factories, oil, transportation hubs, etc.) in the area.
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Old 12-28-2013, 09:35 PM   #36
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Re: Why did Churchill shift bombing to German civilians?

And further to the posts above about 'terror bombing', Albert Speer declaired that a few more raids like the one on Dresden would've ended the war.
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Old 12-29-2013, 03:23 AM   #37
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Re: Why did Churchill shift bombing to German civilians?

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And further to the posts above about 'terror bombing', Albert Speer declaired that a few more raids like the one on Dresden would've ended the war.
I am unfamiliar with any such remark by Speer about the Dresden raid. He did make such a remark wrt a series of raids on Hamburg, which killed more people than the big raid on Dresden.

The Hamburg raids were significant in a number of ways. They were the largest set of strategic bombing raids ever conducted up to that date. For the first time, the pathfinder force broke radio silence to report local weather conditions (as an aid to bomb aiming). The British adapted the German-introduced mass use of incendiary bombs to create a fire storm, which was unexpectedly effective. The Hamburg raid was the first to use 'Window' - aluminum strips dropped from planes to confuse radar.

I'm not sure what this raid or remark have to do with "terror bombing". Speer was Minister of Production. His comments refer to the significant effect the raid had on military production in the city. Unlike the Dresden raid, which was focused on communications and transportation facilities, the Hamburg raids were intended to reduce armaments productions. They succeeded. Hamburg never regained pre-raid production levels. Dresden quickly recovered its military production rates.
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Old 12-29-2013, 09:50 AM   #38
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Re: Why did Churchill shift bombing to German civilians?

Yeah I was using the word 'terror' basically with regards to Deuces posts above.

It may have been the Hamburg raids he was talking about I'll need to double check. It was on an interview on the classic documentary series World At War (I think I must've seen the series about 6 or 7 times over the years)
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Old 12-29-2013, 05:16 PM   #39
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Re: Why did Churchill shift bombing to German civilians?

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German civilians as such were not targeted.
This seems contradicted by the document you quote which said German morale was AN objective, including this:

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Berlin, which should be attacked when the conditions are suitable for the attainment of the specially valuable results unfavorable to the morale of the enemy or favorable to that of the Russians.
Attacking civilians to damage morale strikes me as the definition of terror bombing.

Even so, British virtue is being established on a pretty narrow basis -- the wiping out of civilians is different somehow if they are considered a military-economic target rather than if they are wiped out to frighten them. I'm reminded of an interview with the guy who targeted the airstrike in Vietnam that produced the iconic photograph of the girl running down the road after napalm burned off her clothing. It was extremely important to him years later to let her know that it was a targeting error. In other words, the difference between ethical and unethical is the state of mind of the perpetrators. If they intend to hit the innocent, they are bad. If they do the same thing while attacking industrial capacity or whatever, it is permissible. Bombing civilians "as such" is bad, but targeting factory workers' neighborhoods is strategic. It's the same result, the difference being a different neural pattern in the minds of the attackers.

There are many ways of distinguishing the Allies from the Axis, but air attacks on civilians cities is not one of them.
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Old 12-30-2013, 06:10 AM   #40
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Re: Why did Churchill shift bombing to German civilians?

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German civilians as such were not targeted.
This seems contradicted by the document you quote which said German morale was AN objective, including this:
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Berlin, which should be attacked when the conditions are suitable for the attainment of the specially valuable results unfavorable to the morale of the enemy or favorable to that of the Russians.
Um, where in that quote so you see anything about targeting civilians? Berlin wasn't some sleepy residential town. It was the Capital of the Reich. There were all sorts of symbolic and practical targets. Imagine the effect on morale if a major leader is killed or the headquarters of the Nazi party is destroyed or an important ministry office is burned down.

The fourth object of the strategic bombing campaign was "the undermining of the morale of the German people", not "kill as many German civilians as possible". There are many ways to undermine morale. Killing people is just one of them

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Attacking civilians to damage morale strikes me as the definition of terror bombing.
Again, where do you see anything in that document that says "attack civilians"?

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Even so, British virtue is being established on a pretty narrow basis ...
I don't know if we have established British virtue at all here. We have just established that the British and American strategic bombing campaign was neither solely nor primarily intended as a terror bombing campaign.

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-- the wiping out of civilians is different somehow if they are considered a military-economic target
No, they are not a target. They are part of the foreseeable damage that will result in an attempt to damage the target. The target is industrial production.

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... rather than if they are wiped out to frighten them.
Wrong again. In the attempt to reduce arms production, many civilians are killed, wounded or rendered homeless. This is expected to demoralize those not killed. (This works with only limited success, but the poor morale results from strategic bombing campaigns were not well understood at the time.)

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I'm reminded of an interview with the guy who targeted the airstrike in Vietnam that produced the iconic photograph of the girl running down the road after napalm burned off her clothing. It was extremely important to him years later to let her know that it was a targeting error. In other words, the difference between ethical and unethical is the state of mind of the perpetrators.
Yes, that is a well-understood legal principal. The way you have worded this paragraph, I'm not certain it is a principal with which you agree.

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If they intend to hit the innocent ...,
The bolded is more than a bit loaded. The underlined is important.

You seem to be suffering from the dreaded black-and-white disease. Civilians = innocent; Soldiers = valid target. I don't agree.

Let me suggest to you that an 18 year old army conscript driving a military food wagon is probably a lot more innocent than these civilians:
  • A 34 year old munitions worker who has a deferment from military service because he is very good at making booby-trapped time delay fuses on 500kg aerial bombs and has worked in the factory all his career, starting when it was clearly illegal under the Versailles Treaty.
  • The mother who has as many babies as she can because she wants to provide soldiers for the Reich, encouraged her husband to join the SS and sent all her kids off to the Hitler Jugend.
  • The shopkeeper who participated in Kristallnacht because driving Jews out of commerce would increase his market share.
  • The little old lady who voted for the Nazis ever since they first ran for election and who told the Gestapo where the homosexual couple down the street was hiding.
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... they are bad. If they do the same thing while attacking industrial capacity or whatever, it is permissible.
If they are targeting industrial capacity and in the process unavoidably kill civilians, it is not doing the same thing as trying to kill civilians.

If the allied goal was solely or primarily to kill or terrorize civilians, the target selection would be different. The raids would stay away from high value industrial areas, because those are the spots with the best anti-aircraft defence. A lot more of the attacks would be on cities without war-related factories that were not important road or rail junctions.

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Bombing civilians "as such" is bad, but targeting factory workers' neighborhoods is strategic.
... However, they did not target factory workers' neighbourhoods. They targeted whole sections of cities, which included arms factories, train yards, neighbourhoods in which factory workers lived, neighbourhoods with convents of nuns and concentrations of retired people, etc. When night bombing, they didn't have the means to target specific factories, or specific neighbourhoods.

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Bombing civilians "as such" is bad, but targeting factory workers' neighborhoods is strategic. ...
... and may also be bad. But it's not black and white. Failing to defeat the Nazis is also bad. Do you, for instance, think it would be a morally superior position to stand by and watch while the Nazis conquer Eastern Europe, kill tens of millions of "untermenschen", and enslave hundreds of millions more?

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It's the same result, the difference being a different neural pattern in the minds of the attackers.
I'm guessing from the way you phrase it that you don't agree that "a different neural pattern" makes any moral difference. If Joe drives down the street in his new-to-him used car, suffers brake failure and as a result kills a baby in a stroller he's just as morally culpable as if he deliberately tried to hit the stroller? Dead is dead. It's the same result.

Often the most moral course of action is just the least worst from among a bad set of choices. If you want to suggest that Bomber Command acted immorally in using night area bombing, please tell us what you suggest they should have done instead.

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There are many ways of distinguishing the Allies from the Axis, but air attacks on civilians cities is not one of them.
I'll agree with you that here was no significant difference in moral position between the Germans and British when it came to bomber attacks on each other's territory, except of course that Germany started the war and that eventually Britain developed a much greater capacity to do strategic bombing, and thereby caused way more casualties. When you factor in V-weapons however, I think the moral balance shifts a bit. The V-1 cruise missile and the V-2 ballistic missile were designed specifically as terror-bombing weapons. The 'V' in their name stands for 'Vergeltungswaffen' - literally "revenge weapons". They had even less of a chance of hitting a specific building-sized target than area bombing. When fired at England, they were targeted almost exclusively at London which had a small proportion of British armaments manufacture, but was the largest populated area.

Last edited by DoTheMath; 12-30-2013 at 06:17 AM. Reason: Added bullets, but I wasn't trying to kill any civilians. Honest!
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Old 12-30-2013, 06:11 AM   #41
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Re: Why did Churchill shift bombing to German civilians?

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Yeah I was using the word 'terror' basically with regards to Deuces posts above.

It may have been the Hamburg raids he was talking about I'll need to double check. It was on an interview on the classic documentary series World At War (I think I must've seen the series about 6 or 7 times over the years)
Sorry, Husker. I should have realized.

I don't think I've seen The World at War since the 70's or 80's.
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Old 12-30-2013, 01:03 PM   #42
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Re: Why did Churchill shift bombing to German civilians?

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the British and American strategic bombing campaign was neither solely nor primarily intended as a terror bombing campaign.
That's a solid conclusion. But it's puzzling because much of what you've written seemed to argue either that civilians were not a target at all, or that they weren't so innocent and therefore presumably legit targets.

Re: moral culpability. When a judge is determining sentences, yes there's a big difference between a drunk who kills a family with his car and an estranged husband who uses a gun. But I don't think that distinction holds up when a night bombing targets factories and morale, but not civilians "as such." And certainly planners hoped civilians who were bombed would lose morale. Residents were part of the target complex, not inadvertent casualties like house pets.
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Old 12-30-2013, 06:38 PM   #43
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Re: Why did Churchill shift bombing to German civilians?

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That's a solid conclusion. But it's puzzling because much of what you've written seemed to argue either that civilians were not a target at all, or that they weren't so innocent and therefore presumably legit targets.
I think much of the problem we are having centres around the word "target". You seem to treat the word as meaning "any thing that gets hit" or perhaps, "anything that the shooter knows he might hit". I understand it to actually mean "the principal thing that is intended to be hit". I don't have enough information to conclude that civilians were not targeted at all. I do have enough information to conclude that they were not primary targets. I also have enough information to conclude that Bomber Command, through their selection of targets and methods, knew that their bombing would result in the killing of tens of thousands of German civilians. This knowledge was accompanied by reactions ranging from malevolent glee to profound regret.

You are the one who raised the concept of innocence as a deligitimizer of targets. I have at least three problems with applying this concept. The ones I addressed directly are that I totally reject the idea that citizens are necessarily innocent and soldiers are necessarily not innocent. Many people would agree that a soldier in uniform who is not in the act of surrendering is a legitimate target. Yet I would suggest that a young person who is only in uniform because they were conscripted, has never fired a shot at the enemy and who probably never will, and who is too young ever to have voted, is a lot more innocent than many civilians. Yet he is, you seem to agree, a legitimate target. Something has trumped innocence with regard to his legitimacy as a target. I have no reason to believe that wearing a military uniform is the only thing that can overcome innocence to legitimize someone as a target. If (lack of) innocence was the sole criterion which legitimized targeting, I'd actually have to suggest that the adult non-military population was, as a whole, probably more deserving of being bombed than the Army was. For one thing they were, on average, older. They should have been wiser, but in fact they probably spent a longer time supporting or at least tolerating the Nazi government. But since I don't think that degree of innocence does or ought to legitimize targeting, I don't use this as a justification for bombing attacks that killed civilians. So the civilians are not necessarily more innocent than the Army, and innocence alone does not determine the legitimacy of a target. The third problem I have with the formulation is that it assumes that civilians were the targets. As I have repeatedly pointed out, they weren't.

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Re: moral culpability. When a judge is determining sentences, yes there's a big difference between a drunk who kills a family with his car and an estranged husband who uses a gun.
It is interesting that you would change the analogy from an example contrasting clear innocence with clear guilt, to one contrasting guilt for a lesser crime with guilt for a greater crime. The comparison you describe would affect the charge, not the judge's determination of sentence. You lose sight of the fact that intent goes not only to degree of crime, but also to guilt or innocence of any crime. You are guilty of DUI if you knowingly drank or took drugs - you intentionally ingested the impairing substance and intentionally drove. And to address your "end result is the same" point, you are guilty even if you didn't drive at the wrong speed, weave all over the road or hit anything. Consequent outcomes are less important than intent. But it is a legitimate defence if somebody slipped a tasteless intoxicant into your Shirley Temple without your knowledge.

Perhaps the change in analogy is useful however, because it goes to the fact that the moral issue here is more complex than simple intent on the part of the bombers. One can be guilty of a crime even if one didn't specifically intend the outcome which results in the charge - criminal negligence comes to mind. It is often sufficient to prove that one did not take care to avoid reasonably predictable bad outcomes. The bombers knew that their campaign would kill tens of thousands of civilians, yet they did little to avoid this, and even adopted approaches that would increase the civilian casualty rate. Surely this makes them at least guilty of criminal negligence? Not necessarily.

To illustrate, I'll mention a recent legal case in, I believe it was, New Brunswick. (I don't remember many of the details but the salient facts are what follows.) A man was charged with DUI (or the equivalent) and speeding. He had knowingly been drinking in excess. He got in a car and drove it well above the speed limit. He was found not guilty on both charges. This was not a matter of getting off on a technicality, due to police incompetence, or a legal loophole. He and a buddy had been drinking at a remote location and his friend became critically ill. They had no way of contacting an ambulance or emergency crews. The accused put his friend in the car and, despite being legally intoxicated, drove him at high speed to the hospital. The facts of driving while voluntarily intoxicated and of exceeding the speed limit were not in dispute. The accused was acquitted on a defence of necessity.

And that's why I asked you what you think Bomber Command should have done differently.

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But I don't think that distinction holds up when a night bombing targets factories and morale, but not civilians "as such."
Why not?

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And certainly planners hoped civilians who were bombed would lose morale. Residents were part of the target complex, not inadvertent casualties like house pets.
I expect many of the planners actually hoped civilians would actually be killed, nor just demoralized. And killing a much-loved pet might be expected to affect its owners' morale, so I wouldn't totally discount house pet casualties as a hoped for result.
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Old 12-31-2013, 03:23 PM   #44
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Re: Why did Churchill shift bombing to German civilians?

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Bomber Command . . . knew that their bombing would result in the killing of tens of thousands of German civilians. This knowledge was accompanied by reactions ranging from malevolent glee to profound regret.
That's an interesting point which raises the difficulty of assigning intentionality to a bureaucracy. What was the "plan" when some commanders wanted civilians hit, others wished the bombs only hit machines? A lot of the nuance we've been discussing falls away as hair splitting. But I'm still interested in assigning moral responsibility because it's important to do so. I think "the British attacked civilians" is a solid fact and should be prominent in discussion.

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the civilians are not necessarily more innocent than the Army, and innocence alone does not determine the legitimacy of a target.
You've got a point there, though there are plenty of civilians who are purely innocent.

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The third problem I have with the formulation is that it assumes that civilians were the targets. As I have repeatedly pointed out, they weren't.
This is jarring because in other sections you say flat out that some commanders wanted civilian casualties which I think makes them an intentional target, and you also say they are culpable even when the civilians were not the preferred target. I'm reminded of the Nuremberg judgment that the Nazis committed a war crime by blowing the dykes in the Netherlands. Their primary goal I am sure was to suppress violent resistance to the occupation, which like Allied bombing, lends itself to the "civilians as such" were not the target defense.

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I asked you what you think Bomber Command should have done differently.
That's an exceptionally tricky question. If I were on the planning staff in the midst of the Second World War, I doubt I'd act differently. But even if Allied terror bombing of civilians can be justified, I think it can and should still be called that because that's what it was. I also think it important to keep in mind the tyranny of good intentions. Most of the worst crimes, including many by the Nazis and the Khmer Rouge, were committed by people certain of their virtue and good intentions. And when people are blind to that you get Vietnam, the Belgian Congo, Britain in Kenya, etc. What we did varies only in flavor from what the Nazis did.

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But I don't think that distinction holds up when a night bombing targets factories and morale, but not civilians "as such."
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Why not?
First of all, the claim breaks down when we acknowledge the problem of the culpability of a bureaucracy, that some officials wanted civilians dead, others did not. Also, though I've come to realize this is not always your meaning, but when the argument is made that civilians were not intentional targets, the subtext is that the Allies were clean.

I find your outlook more and more interesting as I realized you were less defending Allied morals than answering the straightforward question: What targets did planners wish the bombs hit? But I still think the technical approach easily obscures the morality, there's still a claim of virtue within, even as you acknowledge "glee" about the bombing in another passage. I approach from a less technical direction, I'm more about, "let's be honest about what we did." And when shrinking arguments down to a size that fits in sentences, I want to say, "We attacked civilians," because we did. And that fact, which is one of the most important ones, gets lost if there isn't a chapter of discussion accompanying the statement that "civilians as such" were not targeted. And that claim is not really even technically correct. If intentionality is determinative, then civilians were specifically targeted, because that's what some in the bureaucracy were trying to achieve even as others thought differently.

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Old 01-01-2014, 06:18 PM   #45
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Re: Why did Churchill shift bombing to German civilians?

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... A lot of the nuance we've been discussing falls away as hair splitting. But I'm still interested in assigning moral responsibility because it's important to do so.

...

Also, though I've come to realize this is not always your meaning, but when the argument is made that civilians were not intentional targets, the subtext is that the Allies were clean.

I find your outlook more and more interesting as I realized you were less defending Allied morals than answering the straightforward question: What targets did planners wish the bombs hit? But I still think the technical approach easily obscures the morality, there's still a claim of virtue within, even as you acknowledge "glee" about the bombing in another passage. I approach from a less technical direction, I'm more about, "let's be honest about what we did." And when shrinking arguments down to a size that fits in sentences, I want to say, "We attacked civilians," because we did. And that fact, which is one of the most important ones, gets lost if there isn't a chapter of discussion accompanying the statement that "civilians as such" were not targeted. ...
So you aren't really interested in the technical matters and semantics. You really want to assign "moral responsibility because it's important to do so."

OK let's get down to it.

To date in this thread I have been focusing on historical fact more than moral argument for at least three reasons:
  1. I spend more time with history than I do with moral philosophy, so I feel more surefooted when addressing matters of historical fact.
  2. Historical fact is more concrete/tangible/objective than issues of morality, values and personal opinion, so is more likely to lead to conclusive discussions.
  3. I did take multiple philosophy courses back in college, and one of the things I learned is that an argument based on false premises is at best unproven and at worst false. The attempt to assign some form of moral culpability to Bomber Command is as old as the bombing campaign itself, but saw a particular resurgence during the 1990's. AFAIC, the issue was resolved then, but well-intentioned but under-informed people continue to come along and reach the same high-minded but misguided conclusions. Rather than have this thread burst out into a full-on expression of imagined war guilt, I had hoped to defuse the thing by restricting discussion to pointing out the inaccuracy of some of the premises on which your position rested, rather than descend into moral argument. Your most recent post and your preceding one showed that this was not working, so in my last post I moved more to a moral argument, though with a legal framework to underpin it.
Before I go any further, I want to make clear that I am not arguing that Bomber command is "clean". I disagree with your implied proposition that to argue that a particular case against them is unproven is the same as advocacy of innocence. Rather I am taking no position on actual guilt, as I find it inappropriately presumptive to put myself in the position of judging others in whose shoes I am unable to put myself - though I come closer, I think (due to age, background and knowledge), to fitting those shoes than you do.

The crux of the matter comes down to the following:

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Originally Posted by Bill Haywood View Post
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Originally Posted by DoTheMath View Post
And that's why I asked you what you think Bomber Command should have done differently.
That's an exceptionally tricky question. If I were on the planning staff in the midst of the Second World War, I doubt I'd act differently.
So you'd be a war criminal too?

You left out the important context of that quote (a little commentary and emphasis now added to help you out):

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Originally Posted by DoTheMath View Post
The bombers knew that their campaign would kill tens of thousands of civilians, yet they did little to avoid this, and even adopted approaches that would increase the civilian casualty rate. Surely this makes them at least guilty of criminal negligence? Not necessarily. [read "not at all" in this case]

To illustrate, I'll mention a recent legal case in, I believe it was, New Brunswick. (I don't remember many of the details but the salient facts are what follows.) A man was charged with DUI (or the equivalent) and speeding. He had knowingly been drinking in excess. He got in a car and drove it well above the speed limit. He was found not guilty on both charges. This was not a matter of getting off on a technicality, due to police incompetence, or a legal loophole. He and a buddy had been drinking at a remote location and his friend became critically ill. They had no way of contacting an ambulance or emergency crews. The accused put his friend in the car and, despite being legally intoxicated, drove him at high speed to the hospital. The facts of driving while voluntarily intoxicated and of exceeding the speed limit were not in dispute. The accused was acquitted on a defence of necessity.

And that's why I asked you what you think Bomber Command should have done differently.
The question followed an explanation and example of how even if somebody actually intended (though intentionality is not necessary for some types of guilt) and did something that on the face of it was wrong, they were not necessarily culpable. The question you quoted was posed in relation to that example to see if you could make the case that there was no necessity due to there being a practical alternative course of action available.

Since you cannot come up with an acceptable alternative course of action for Bomber Command (and, AFAIK, nobody else has either) , then they have no moral case to answer, due to the defence of necessity.

IOW, if action was required and they knew of no acceptable alternative action that would materially reduce civilian casualties, they did not act immorally.

Unless you can show that there was another course of action available to Bomber Command which they had reason to believe was sufficiently effective, then attempts to "assign moral responsibility", label their efforts "terror bombing" and talk about attacking civilians are specious. They are akin to calling the driver in the example above "a drunk driver and a speeder". Such labels may seem to be true on the face of things, but they completely misrepresent the totality of the situation. The judge did not find the driver guilty of DUI or speeding despite the facts the driver did both. In essence he wasn't a "drunk driver and speeder". He was a hero who saved his friend's life.
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Old 01-01-2014, 07:45 PM   #46
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Re: Why did Churchill shift bombing to German civilians?

A few subsidiary matters:

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Originally Posted by Bill Haywood View Post
That's an interesting point which raises the difficulty of assigning intentionality to a bureaucracy. What was the "plan" when some commanders wanted civilians hit, others wished the bombs only hit machines?
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This is jarring because in other sections you say flat out that some commanders wanted civilian casualties which I think makes them an intentional target, and you also say they are culpable even when the civilians were not the preferred target.
What some commanders wanted (and I'm not sure I referred to "commanders") is not really relevant unless they were able to act on their wants. Wanting something does not mean it happened. What the actual plan was is best deduced from the actual directives issued and the actual target lists. The directives were issued by the Combined Chiefs (or their predecessors), and you have now read the directive that covered the largest portion of the bombing. The targeting was the responsibility of Bomber Command headquarters, acting on the current Directive, and any additional instruction from Combined Chiefs that may have been issued from time to time. There was no scope for an individual who wanted to go off and separately target civilians if he wanted to do so. About the only people who had such an opportunity were the pilot and navigator of the lead plane in the pathfinder squadron marking the target, and later the operators of the radio beam navigational aids back in England. I am unaware of any case of anyone deliberately attempting to mark anything other than the intended target or designated alternate targets.

That the actual plan resulted in the deaths of many German civilians undoubtedly delighted some at bombers Command and just as certainly distressed others. Nether the prospective desires nor retrospective emotions were determinative of the plan. Hence you are wrong to conclude that the fact that some at Bomber Command wanted to kill civilians means the plan was to kill civilians.

I didn't say say "they are culpable even when the civilians were not the preferred target". I said that one might be guilty of criminal negligence when one doesn't take prudent action to avoid reasonably predictable damage. However, I did so in the context of questioning whether that was the case wrt to Bomber Command, and then used an example to illustrate why it was not.

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I'm reminded of the Nuremberg judgment that the Nazis committed a war crime by blowing the dykes in the Netherlands. Their primary goal I am sure was to suppress violent resistance to the occupation, which like Allied bombing, lends itself to the "civilians as such" were not the target defense.
Well, you'd be wrong about their primary goal. Violent resistance to the occupation was quite limited in the Netherlands (The geography made it difficult). In a few instances where Germans were killed or wounded, the Germans responded with retaliatory massacres, usually of political prisoners, and/or of inhabitants of locations where the resistance occurred.

The flooding was done primarily to restrict movement of the attacking allied armies, and channel movement onto exposed high ground (like dikes) so that fewer defenders were required to effectively defend a given area. I was unaware that the flooding itself was prosecuted as a war crime. If it was, the reason it was a war crime is that the result contributed to mass starvation of an occupied neutral country, in conjunction with a food blockade the Germans instituted in the winter of 44-45. So unlike the area bombing, the collateral effects of the flooding were primarily inflicted upon people who were not the enemy against whom the action was intended. Killing members of a third nation's population was regarded as worse then killing members of an enemy population and was a specific violation of Convention, whereas bombing of enemy civilians was not. Since the third party country was a non-belligerant under occupation the effects were regarded as much closer to killing one's own population (which itself however, was not contrary to Convention).

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I think "the British attacked civilians" is a solid fact and should be prominent in discussion.
You persistently fail to acknowledge the difference between "the British bombing attacks killed civilians" and the British attacked civilians." You persist in referring to the campaign as "Terror Bombing". Those are both perjorative and prejudicial formulations which you have not come anywhere close to proving. If there was a case to make, you should be able to make it without such language.

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But even if Allied terror bombing of civilians can be justified, I think it can and should still be called that because that's what it was.
Words and phrases have meanings. Sometimes they can have multiple non-identical meanings. A common fallacy is to show that meaning #1 of a phrase applies to a group and them impugn that group because meaning #2 is repugnant. "Terror bombing" is a phrase loaded with baggage. It was a favourite of Goebbels. You would do a much more credible job of arguing moral responsibility if you dropped the use of loaded phrases and stuck to agreed facts. Condemnation through (mis-)labeling is intellectually dishonest. Since I don't believe you are trying to be dishonest, I'm going to suggest that you amend your approach.

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Originally Posted by Bill Haywood View Post
I also think it important to keep in mind the tyranny of good intentions. Most of the worst crimes, including many by the Nazis and the Khmer Rouge, were committed by people certain of their virtue and good intentions.
Oh, please!

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Originally Posted by Bill Haywood View Post
And when people are blind to that you get Vietnam, the Belgian Congo, Britain in Kenya, etc.
I'm going to stick to one war. If I wanted to cite an example of immoral British wartime behaviour, I'd have to look back no farther than involvement in the second Iraq war.

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Originally Posted by Bill Haywood View Post
What we did varies only in flavor from what the Nazis did.
If you are referring to what the British did during WWII in Europe, I'm going to have to vehemently disagree. If you are referring to the totality of the history of the British Empire, then I will remain silent.

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Originally Posted by Bill Haywood View Post
... though I've come to realize this is not always your meaning, but when the argument is made that civilians were not intentional targets, the subtext is that the Allies were clean.
Is any nation which fights a prolonged large-scale war "clean"?
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Old 01-03-2014, 02:38 PM   #47
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Re: Why did Churchill shift bombing to German civilians?

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Originally Posted by DoTheMath View Post


LOL. So if the Germans set up a V-2 launch site in a schoolyard and Churchill ordered it destroyed he'd be guilty of targeting schoolchildren?


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Originally Posted by Deuces McKracken View Post



Yes he would. Maybe it could be justified, and maybe the germans would share in the guilt by exposing children to risk of death. But this is hardly analogous to what we are talking about and which actually happened. And the later bombing campaigns were extremely inhumane. If you really want to talk about the benevolence of Churchill, which I suspect is what is the unacknowledged driving force behind a good portion of this thread, then we can talk about that.

I think This post says alot more about Deuces/ Do the Math then it does about Do the Maths/Deuces message. When these guys talk about launching attacks from schools, this is interesting because this instance comes up in other areas of war as well thru history.

It has long been used as a tool by one side to discredit the other side by saying you are hiding behind children. In realty tho, warfare is total and the Rules of war(during a battle) are often set aside. I don't know if anyone itt has been in a battle( I have not) and I simply cant imagine what its like to be in the midst of a shootout or even an armed conflict.

Finally the answer is incredibly difficult, do you risk killing civilians or do you risk letting your civilians be hit. Whats interesting about this statement is I picked it up on the recent documentary Israel, A case for Democracy by Alan Dershowitz, not saying that I agree or disagree with this message tho.
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Old 01-17-2014, 09:46 AM   #48
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Re: Why did Churchill shift bombing to German civilians?

Slightly OT, but who are these "unfortunate people" in the "We Shall Fight on the Beaches" speech?

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We have found it necessary to take measures of increasing stringency, not only against enemy aliens and suspicious characters of other nationalities, but also against British subjects who may become a danger or a nuisance should the war be transported to the United Kingdom. I know there are a great many people affected by the orders which we have made who are the passionate enemies of Nazi Germany. I am very sorry for them, but we cannot, at the present time and under the present stress, draw all the distinctions which we should like to do. If parachute landings were attempted and fierce fighting attendant upon them followed, these unfortunate people would be far better out of the way, for their own sakes as well as for ours.
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Old 01-18-2014, 05:07 AM   #49
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Re: Why did Churchill shift bombing to German civilians?

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Slightly OT, but who are these "unfortunate people" in the "We Shall Fight on the Beaches" speech?
I believe he was referring to people who suffered internment or self-imposed internal banishment because of inaccurate suspicion of them having Nazi sympathies or being fifth-columnists. The British passed some rather draconian measures to protect against espionage and sabotage, And Churchill knew that wartime hysteria would naturally give rise to false accusations, but the government didn't have resources to quickly determine who was truly innocent and sometimes erred on the side of security of the state rather than the rights of individuals.
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Old 01-18-2014, 07:02 AM   #50
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Re: Why did Churchill shift bombing to German civilians?

I don't think he was referring to suspected fifth-columnists, because the next two sentences in the speech are:

Quote:
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
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