Asked in History of the United States
Was the bombing of Dresden justified?
November 22, 2008 9:33AM
The biggest problem with dealing with the matter of the bombing of Germany is that it is judged against modern morals and standards of behaviour.
Civilians have suffered during war from the beginning of time. When the barbarians sacked Rome they slaughtered men women and children. When the French stormed Spanish towns during the peninsular war the citizens inside were killed and the towns raped and pillaged. The powers during the 19th century and the early 20th laid down ever more stringent rules about conduct during war trying to prevent these excesses but until the Hague Convention came along there were no hard and fast "rules of war".
In 1945 the Hague Convention did not prohibit the general bombing of a town to destroy its industrial capacity.
We have to look at Dresden in the light of the morality of the time.
Some people in Dresden and elsewhere claim that the Bombing of Dresden by the RAF AND the USAAF is a war crime. In my opinion it was not
I am not in any way denying the fact that what happened in Dresden was horrific and appalling. I do deny that the men who undertook the mission have any crime to answer for.
The bombing of Dresden has been used since 1945 as a tool to beat the RAF about its conduct of "terror bombing" during WW2.
The bombing of an industrialized town from the air in an attempt to destroy its industry or cause such loss of morale amongst its inhabitants that they ceased to work was NOT a crime by the Rules of War in 1945. The bombing of Coventry, London and other British Cities in 1940 and 1941 was also NOT a War Crime.
Within Europe we did not have the "industrial areas" afforded to towns in the New World. The factories were in and around the areas where the workforce lived. One side of the street would be the factory wall; the other side of the street would be the workers houses. Unfortunately this lead to what, nowadays, is called "collateral damage"
Dresden burned so heavily for several reasons.
It was a medieval city with many wooden buildings.
The population were not used to air raids and did not therefore have the knowledge that you need to put incendiaries out quickly
The raid had little opposition because its Anti aircraft defence had been taken away by the Germans for use on the Eastern front. Therefore the bombers were able to put their loads in a concentrated space with little or no opposition.
Dresden was not "chosen for destruction". This was a raid on an industrial centre which went exactly right with horrifying consequences due to many circumstances some of which I have listed above.
Why did so many people die?
The 25000 people that died (absolute top number using all available, reliable sources) see here http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/onthefrontline/3123512/Dresden-bombing-death-toll-lower-than-thought.html
did so because of the reasons above and the fact that Dresden's Air Raid Precautions were appallingly bad. There were few, if any, properly constructed public shelters despite money having been allocated for them which was spent by the local burghers on Air Raid shelters for their homes in the suburbs.
People therefore sheltered in basements of houses which, due to the firestorm above filled with noxious fumes and killed the occupants before the houses collapsed onto them and burned their corpses.
Many people have claimed in the last 60+ years that Dresden was a quiet peaceable town going about its business and waiting for the war to end. Read the paragraphs below which are taken from research by myself and many others for the truth about "quiet, peaceable, nothing to do with the war" Dresden.
In early 1945 the war was far from over. The Allies were still camped outside the borders of Germany, V2 rockets were still falling. The Allies had just fought the battle of the Bulge where the supposedly defeated Germans suddenly punched a huge hole in the Allied lines, German Rocket and Jet aircraft were coming off the production lines and proceeding to rip the hell out of the allied air fleets.
It was an operation undertaken due to many reasons.
1. A request from the Russians at the Yalta conference in February
1945. General Antonov "We want the Dresden railway junction bombed"
Meeting between the Chiefs of staff as reported by an interpreter. Records kept at the Public Records office in Kew
2. It was a German base of operations against Marshall Koniev`s left flank as he advanced into Germany. (See above)
Captured German High Command documents from Berlin in 1945 state that "Dresden is to be fortified as a military strongpoint, to be held at all costs." These statements are also backed up by decrypts from Ultra at Bletchley Park.
3. Munitions storage in the old Dresden Arsenal.
4. Troop reinforcement and transport centre shifting an average 28
troop trains through the marshalling yards every day. Intelligence from Russian and other sources stored in the Public Records office in Kew
5. Communications centre. Most of the telephone lines connecting
High Command to the Eastern front went through Dresden.
6. Quote from The Dresden Chamber of Commerce 1944. "The work rhythm of Dresden is determined by the needs of our army."
There were 127 factories in the Dresden Municipal area. The most
famous of these was Zeiss the celebrated camera and optics maker. In 1945 it was turning out Bomb aiming apparatus and Time fuses. (If you think the Dresden China Works making those lovely shepherdesses are more famous, they are actually made in Meisen 12Km down the River and always have been.)
A factory that previously made Typewriters and sewing machines was making Guns and ammunition
The Waffle and Marzipan machine manufacturer was producing torpedoes for the Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe.
The arts and crafts workshops in the old town were using their woodworking skills to make the tail assemblies for V-1s.
Other factories were turning out such non warlike goods as Searchlights, Aircraft components, Field Telephones and 2 way radios.
Yet another quote, "Anyone who knows Dresden only as a cultural city would be very surprised to be made aware of the extensive and versatile activity that make Dresden ONE OF THE FOREMOST INDUSTRIAL LOCATIONS OF THE REICH. (My Capitals)
Sir Arthur Harris? A Post war exponent of the bombing campaign?
Nope both wrong.
It comes from the Dresden City Council Yearbook of 1942.
The men who carried out these acts did so in the desire to make a world in which their descendants and countrymen, of whom I am one, could live in freedom from persecution and with a freedom to ask questions and form their own opinions. To those of you who feel it necessary to label them war criminals may I ask if you think that you could have asked a similar question under Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan?