Topic overview Introduction: What were the aims of the Strategic Bomber Offensive ? How effective was it ? Historical debates: Did bombing constitute a ‘second front’ against Nazi Germany or was it a waste of resources ? What were the moral and ethical implications of the Strategic Bombing Offensive ?
The Allied bombing of Germany dwarfed any German attempts to inflict similar damage on the UK.
Aims King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visit Sir Arthur Harris, Head of RAF Bomber Command.
Sir Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris “The Germans have sown the wind. They are about to reap the whirlwind.” “There are those who say that a war cannot be won from the air by bombing. My reply is that no one has tried yet and we shall see.” “You destroy a factory and they will rebuild it. Kill the factory workers and it will take twenty years to replace them.”
Harris remains a controversial figure of WW2. A statue of him was only unveiled recently and was soon after splattered with red paint.
Aims of the Bomber Offensive T o inflict wide-scale damage on German military and industrial targets. T o ‘de-house’ the German industrial workforce. Civilian deaths were seen as an acceptable part of this strategy. T o undermine German civilian morale with an aim to making the government surrender T o open a ‘second front’ against Germany when there was no other way of striking at Germany itself.
Early stages (1940-41) R AF Bomber Command had limited striking power in the early stages of the war. B omber craft were inadequate to carry heavy bomb loads. N ight navigation and radar devices were primitive. B ombing accuracy was severely limited by wind and cloud conditions. L osses of bomber crews and aircraft far outweighed damage done.
1942-45 The RAF bomber offensive was stepped up in 1942. 1,000 bomber raids were launched against civilian centres such as Cologne and Hamburg. Improvements in Radar technology (H2S) made night navigation more accurate. Larger aircraft enabled significant bomb loads to be dropped.
The Avro Lancaster The RAF’s heavy bomber enabled serious bombing raids on German targets to be carried out.
Bombing raids Bombing raids could be so bad that firestorms could be created whereby the flames ‘ate’ up all the oxygen where the fire was and sucked in oxygen from the surrounding areas at such speeds that hurricanes were made which sucked in to them all living beings. Hamburg was one such place that suffered a firestorm in 1943 as did Dresden in February 1945
Bombing raids "People jumped into the canals and waterways and remained swimming or standing up to their necks for hours until the heat died down. Even these suffered burns to the head. The firestorm swept over the water with its showers of sparks so that even thick wooden posts burned down to the level of the water. Children were torn away from their parents’ hands by the force of the hurricane and whirled into the fire." Written by Hamburg’s police chief in 1943.
‘Highball’, a cylindrical ‘bouncing bomb’ designed by Barnes Wallace to breech the dams of the Ruhr valley.
The Bombing Raids Impact of a bombing raid? For most German civilians the greatest worry and danger were the bombing raids. Why? How could it strengthen morale? Lesson Objectives: 1) What provisions did the Nazis provide to counter this threat and reassure civilians? 2) How successful were they?
Air defences The Luftwaffe installed massive batteries of anti-aircraft weaponry called Fliegerabwehrkanone. The Allies began calling the resulting shells and shell fragments tearing through their planes Flak. Many talked of the inadequacy of air defences however in reality it was difficult to shoot down aircraft and thus a it was important to ensure that cities were protected effectively.
Air Raid warnings The Reich Association for Air-Raid precautions set up in 1933 System of air raid warnings worked out in 1935 – warnings were not sounded when isolated planes or small groups were spotted so as not to cause disruption. On occasions this was a mistake as pathfinder aircraft flying ahead of bombers were ignored Sirens were confusing and a number of different alarms were introduced throughout the war At times the alarm was only sounded when the bombers were 100km away – much too close to evacuate a large population
Defences Not really until 1940 that additional protection was made in 82 German cities Example Cologne – 39 million marks spent on building 500 shelters (accommodate 75,000 people), 25 bunkers built. Although raids in 1942 caused much destruction only 460 people died – industrial production back to normal in 2 weeks Thousands of workers were brought in to clear up damage – trucks brought 700,000 bars of soap – 10 million cigarettes Further thousand bomber raids in Essen and Bremen did little damage
Impact Endless raids though did wear German civilians down – by May 1943 Duisberg had been attacked 161 times and the population had suffered the strain of 623 alarms Under this strain air raid precautions were found to be inadequate
Morale Range of examples as you would expect – horror and panic to apathy and courage In the ruined cities the mood was critical towards authorities. People resented Goebbels’ propaganda that painted the offensives as attacks on Germany's cultural heritage rather than mass slaughter of civilians – he also commented that it might even give the regime the opportunity to build more National Socialist buildings once the war was over There were examples of solidarity and the Nazis tried to make out that the Volksgemeinshaft became a reality amid the ruins of many cities
Morale By 1943 – 4.5 million were homeless - 2.5 million lost virtually all they possessed. By the end of the war 12 million were homeless. The economy was unable to meet even their basic needs and some resorted to stealing Conflict between building more tanks and planes and desire to feed the homeless. Some parts of Germany did escape the horrors of bomber offensives (Black Forest and Bavaria). Last major raids were on Dresden.
What were the effects of the raids? 61 German cities were attacked by Bomber Command between 1939 and 1945 containing a combined population of 25 million inhabitants; 3.6 million homes were destroyed (20% of the total) 7.5 million people were made homeless 300,000 Germans are thought to have been killed as a result of the raids, and 800,000 were wounded Berlin was 70% destroyed by bombing; Dresden 75% destroyed BUT - were the wrong targets chosen? From 1939 to 1943, German cities were targeted and attacked. The more America and Great Britain bombed German cities during these dates, the more weapons Germany produced in their factories In early 1944, strategic targets were attacked (rail heads, rail lines, bridges etc.) The destruction of such targets effectively paralysed Germany. In 1945, Germany had mined much coal but had no way of moving it from the mines to where it was needed. When the war ended, the Allies found several hundred King Tiger tanks at a Munich rail yard ready to be taken to the war front - but the Germans had no way of getting them there
Towards the end – the church In the final stages attempts by the Nazis to turn a war weary and anxious people into ideologically pure National Socialists were unsuccessful as the church became more influential. Few benefited from the war in Germany – possible positive impacts of war? Doubtful whether this is true for Germany – gulf between rich and poor became wider.