When America goes to war, it attempts to halt destruction, atrocity, and murderous brutality by its enemies. Another reason for going to war is to prevent further slaughter or exploitation or ending slavery. The ultimate aim of a war is to reestablish social and political order and impose some measure of justice over the aggressors who first caused the conflict.
There are two kinds of war –limited and unlimited. Wars of annihilation seek to devastate, murder, slaughter and expunge from history a group of hated people. We are currently waging such a war against IS. It’s the same kind of war we waged against the Nazis and the Japanese military in World War II. That war was an unlimited one — a fact we tend to forget.
Our Western civilization is a one based on the Christian faith in which the development of individual human souls, individual human personalities, is is the destination and goal of history. As the historian Herbert Butterfield said, every human being is “a separate well of life,” and as such, deserves to be treated with respect and compassion. This view collides with the biological view of life which sees the end of life as the advancement of the species, not the individual. The preciousness of the individual soul, its innate value in the eyes of God, is discarded as useless by such a view. The worship of the collectivity, displayed by Nazism and Communism, cares little about the individual human destiny. To them, individual human beings are simply the means, spent carelessly and lavishly in order to secure the victorious collectivity. This contradicts the Christian idea that the individual soul has a value that cannot be weighed, that the individual soul is of eternal moment and should be respected as such. Human beings, the human personality, Butterfield said, “the crowning blossom of civilization.” This is what Greek culture and the Christian traditions have taught us.
War and Values
Unfortunately when war comes, these ideals are quickly sidestepped or ignored or overshadowed by other, more sinister elements and factors. War releases all kinds of vicious vicesa; depraved ambition, voracious greed and an obsession with gaining wordly glory. What emerges in the rank of the “good” side versus the “wicked” side is rivalry that springs up within the “good” factions. The branches of the U.S. armed forces began a campaign to be thought the most decisive factor in victory, the bringer of imperishable triumph. In America, the U.S. Army Air Forces, the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Army, the U.S. Marines quickly began to build their own empires. Ideals and selfish self-interest are blended together so expertly that they seem the identical.
In a very short amount of time, the desire to win at all costs, said to be a chief characteristic of our enemies, becomes our desire as well. War provides incentives for equipment and weapons manufacturers and scientists to devise more deadly weapons. Worse, the warring parties who pretend to serve the Good, are devoured by the desire to profit off of the selling of more deadly and injurious planes, missiles etc. Waging war soon becomes an ideological crusade not waged for human betterment, but waged in the service of vested interests. The aim of war is not simply victory over your enemies, it means trying to reap as much profits as you can while defeating them. The ideals for which the war has ostensibly been fought are contaminated and deformed.
Ideals remind me of a settlement set in a low land, surrounded and protected by a huge dike. The turbid sea surrounds this, and the sea is always at work, searching out ways to seep in, weaken, gain entrance and destroy. Political structures of history provide a framework for human activity, but over time, they pass away. They pass away because of human vices, little defections from honesty and fairness which makes the tottering structure finally collapse.
Wars of Annihilation
My uncle Jim served with the Eighth Air Force. He was a medium sized man slender and strong with sea-blue eyes. He had a loving wife and his children adored him. His father mistreated him. When he got back from serving with the Eighth Air Force and called home from Penn. Station and his father got on the phone As my uncle announced that he had returned alive, all his father said was, “I’ll get your mother.” Late in Jim’s life I once asked him what he hated most in life, and he replied with great passion, “I hate injustice.”
His heart’s desire was to be a pilot, but he had no depth perception and became a nose gunner in a B-17. He had earned a Distinguished Flying Cross after discovering that the man in the rear of his aircraft had gone silent. He went back and found that the plane had been hit and a shell had severed their oxygen lines. Thanks to what he saw, the pilot lowered the altitude and then, with nifty flying, brought the crew home safe.
What had his B-17 bombed? It had bombed Cologne Germany in May of 1942, then it had fire bombed Hamburg. He bombed Berlin twice. He once remarked to me, “It’s good we won the war. If we hadn’t, we have been branded as war criminals. Which we were.”
Strategic Bombing Offensive.
In October of 1917, Winston Churchill wrote, “All attacks on communications and bases have their relation to the main battle. It is not unreasonable to speak of an air offensive as if it were going to finish the war by itself. It improbable that any terrorization of the civil population which could be achieved by an air attack could compel the government of a great nation to surrender.”
He goes on, “In our case, we have seen the combative spirit of the (British) people was roused, not quelled, by the German air raids. Nothing we have learned of the capacity of the German people to endure suffering justifies us in assuming that they could be cowed into submission by such methods, or, indeed, that they would not be rendered more desperately resolved by them.” But then he added, “Any injury to the civil population because of an air attack must be regarded as incidental and inevitable.”
But Churchill changed. In 1940, Churchill was the de facto head of the British Armed Force, and British historian, J/.F.C Fuller said that by endoring such aerial attacks, Churchill detonated “a war of devastation and terrorization unrivalled since the invasion of the Seljuk’s.” We all know what the Seljuk’s did.
In May of 1942, according to historian J.M. Spaight, the British bombed objectives on the German mainland before the Germans began to bomb objectives on the British mainland. Freiburg was the first German target to be savaged.
Policies got more bloodthirsty. The Casablanca Conference of January 1943, outlined the chief German targets as the destruction of military, industrial and economic system, aimed at “undermining the morale of the ‘German people to the point where their capacity for armed resistance is fatally weakened.”
In other words, Churchill had come to ignore his own earlier insight and now aimed to destroy not German military and industrial targets, but the lives of innocent German civilians. One such atrocity, the bombing of Cologne, hit the center of the city where some 5000 acres were destroyed and, according to German estimates 11,000 and 14,000 were killed. The main object of the attack were not German industries but German civilians. According to Wikipedia, a total of 12,840 buildings were destroyed of which 2,560 were industrial or commercial buildings. Among the buildings classed as “totally destroyed” were: 7 official administration buildings, 14 public buildings, 7 banks, 9 hospitals, 17 churches, 16 schools, 4 university buildings, 10 postal and railway buildings, 10 buildings of historic interest, 2 newspaper offices, 4 hotels, 2 cinemas and 6 department stores.
The next horror was the firebombing Hamburg, in July 1943. Six British raids hit it at night, the Eighth Air Force hit it twice by day, and 7,500 tons of bombs were dropped. According to the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey, Europe, between 53 to 60 percent of the city was destroyed and about 80 percent of that was due to fire. About 12.5 square miles was entirely burnt out, 32 square miles was damaged. Between 60,000 to 100,000 were killed, and 750,000 were rendered homeless.
The Survey says, “As many fires broke through the roofs, there arose a column of heated air more than two and a half miles high and one and a half miles in diameter, as measured by the aircraft flying over Hamburg, This column was turbulent and was fed at its base by onrushing cooler ground-surface air. One and a half miles from this fire this draft increased the wind velocity from eleven to thirty-three miles per hour. At the edge of this area, the wind velocity must have been appreciably greater as trees three feet in diameter were uprooted. In a short time, the temperature reached an ignition point for all combustibles and the entire area was ablaze. In such fires, complete burn-out occurred; that is, no trace of combustible material remained and only after two days were the areas cool enough to approach.”
Fuller quotes this account, “Eyewitnesses described how the holocaust was so terrible the air was sucked into from outside the perimeter of the fire. Many were suffocated or shriveled up in the intense heat. Others were drowned on throwing themselves into the canals. Days later, when nearby cellars were opened, thousands were found to have perished as though cooked in an oven.
Next, the Air War Against Japan
The incineration of German cities during WWII has been well documented. Perhaps more attention by historians should be given to the results of US Air Force bombing of the cities and villages of North Korea during the Korean war. The best estimates of civilian deaths amount to between 15 to 20 percent of the entire population (some estimates go as high as 30%). General Le May bragged about those numbers.
The extermination numbers during WWII don’t come close to those numbers. Yugoslavia (mostly Serbia), Poland and the Soviet Republic of Belarus lost 10% of their population. The US has never been made accountable for the mass killing of civilians during the Korean War.
“We all know what the Seljuk’s did.”
We certainly do. The Seljuks were a particularly successful cultural and economic high point of the medieval Middle East, which laid the economic foundations of the successful resistance to the Crusades.
I think you’ll find that Churchill was being, as usual, racist and unpleasant. If it had not been for the Second World War, he would have been written off as an extremist, with few successes to his name.
“In May of 1942, according to historian J.M. Spaight, the British bombed objectives on the German mainland before the Germans began to bomb objectives on the British mainland. Freiburg was the first German target to be savaged.”
I have never heard about that. Sounds odd. It doesn’t feel that would have made sense. Although, look into the first event below. Why Freiburg? Close to France?
Deutsche Luftwaffe/German Airforce:
and there was Operation Tigerfish, but that was later.
Probably, the Osmanlis (Ottomans) pillaging in the Balkans more appropriate than Seljuks. Different flavor of Turkish Muslims. Just read recently that bombing the electrical grid would have had a greater effect then anything else that was bombed. They did bomb the oil fields in Romania from Libya w/ horrendeous losses.
Been watching “The Great Courses” videos on the Macedonians. It said part of the heritage of Alexander the Great, emulated by some Roman commanders, was clemency and graciousness in victory. Of course, he didn’t always do it and neither did all the Romans.
Part of our heritage in the War of Secession was Gen Joshua Chamberlian’s graciousness at the Confederate surrender in the Virginia county of Appomattox Courthouse. And the return gesture by Gen Gordon.
“Chamberlain, on his own initiative, ordered his men to come to attention and “carry arms” as a show of respect. Chamberlain described what happened next:
“Gordon, at the head of the marching column, outdoes us in courtesy. He was riding with downcast eyes and more than pensive look; but at this clatter of arms he raises his eyes and instantly catching the significance, wheels his horse with that superb grace of which he is master, drops the point of his sword to his stirrup, gives a command, at which the great Confederate ensign following him is dipped and his decimated brigades, as they reach our right, respond to the ‘carry.’ All the while on our part not a sound of trumpet or drum, not a cheer, nor a word nor motion of man, but awful stillness as if it were the passing of the dead.””
Chamberlain had had no formal military training and was a professor of languages at Bowdoin College in Maine. In addition to the Maine connection, he taught Arabic. Two connections to our patron, the Col..
I agree. But focus was on wWII.
Things have to be put in their historical context.
In military history, the Germans are always the baby-eaters, but for good reason. That’s because they have always been the first to cross the line.
They were the first to bombard cities outside the battlefield, to mass-execute civilian hostages, to use submarines against civilian ships, and to air-bomb village, town and city indiscriminately.
The response had to be in kind, although Allied troops on the ground (soviet excepted) did not engage in mass atrocities.
I’ve always been dubious of such claims about Korea. The strategic bombing of Germany and Japan including the atomic bombings in each case killed about one percent of the population. It is difficult to see how Korea could have been more than an order of magnitude higher. The ravings of Curtis LeMay have no statistical value as the airpower boys have always vastly overestimated their own effectiveness. It was, however, an awful thing no doubt with lot’s of napalm employed.
Spaight said in his book, Bombing vindicated, that Britain bombed the German mainland before the reverse, adding, “this historical fact has been publicly admitted.”
Perhaps UK & US served as instruments of the terrible Justice of the Lord.
After all, someone had to pay the blood price for what the Axis Powers were doing across all of Europe, in particular in USSR, Poland, and Greece.
The same goes for Japan.
The sentiment I heard from Chinese is this: “Too bad Americans did not drop a few more atom bombs on Japan.”
I think you are confusing what the Prussians did with other German-speaking peoples.
They were not much better than Sultan Mahmud Ghaznavi and his inheritors – Ghaznavids operated against Hindus and Prussians against the indigenous people of what later became know as Prussia – Perthurians, if I recall correctly.
Great post! Often overlooked and ignored by all Presidents is the fact that civilian populations at risk in all military and terrorism conflicts. A clear and present danger and time for the truth even by candidates for the Presidency.
And the operations and safety of METRO in D.C. area now a high security risk!
>”When America goes to war, it attempts to halt destruction, atrocity, and murderous brutality by its enemies. ”
Do Americans still believe this? The humanitarians story is always pushed to get the population to go along with the atrocities that are about to happen and the massive waste. But I am extremely hard pressed to think of when the last time if ever the US went to war for humanitarian reasons was. Perhaps Kosovo but if you scratched the surface I am pretty sure you would find there were other reasons there as well.
Ah! Another America hater heard from. I suppose you think that we went to war in Iraq to seize or exploit Iraq’s oil and that we went to war in VN for the rubber or the boundless supply of water buffalos or nuoc mam or some other silly thought you may have. pl
I don’t think hating America is at issue. My own view of the Iraq debacle is that a cabal, whose members were in positions of influence in the defense and foreign policy segments of the government, skillfully maneuvered America into the invasion of Iraq for an array of reasons which have been discussed at length here. Humanitarian considerations were not involved, except in the propaganda generated in order to gain support for the invasion.
Viet Nam was a different case.
Don’t kid yourself. This guy thinks that we do these thing to rip off the brown people. So why did we fight in VN? Was it for the nuoc mam? pl
Norks (like the Chinks sent to aid them) & Gooks (who suffered from napalm aplenty in northern Viet Nam) are Asiatic.
They are unlike the Kraut, whom the writers from the Anglosphere are able to “identify” & find “common ground” with.
I think people who were in London, and in particular the East End, through the war – who included my own and my wife’s parents, two of our grandparents, and other assorted relatives – would have been most surprised to learn that the Germans did not bomb targets in mainland Britain before May 1942.
From the Wikipedia entry on the Blitz:
‘Between 7 September 1940 and 21 May 1941, 16 British cities suffered aerial raids with at least 100 long tons of high explosives. Over a period of 267 days, London was attacked 71 times, Birmingham, Liverpool and Plymouth eight times, Bristol six, Glasgow five, Southampton four, Portsmouth and Hull three and a minimum of one large raid on eight other cities. This was a result of a rapid escalation starting on 24 August 1940, when night bombers aiming for RAF airfields drifted off course and accidentally destroyed several London homes, killing civilians, combined with the UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s retaliatory bombing of Berlin on the following night.’
(See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Blitz .)
From the relevant entry on a site called ‘World War II Database’:
’15 May 1940: The British War Cabinet decided to attack the German oil industry, communications centers, and forests and crops; attacks on industrial areas were to focus on the Ruhr region. Also, due to the costly daylight bombings, attacks were to be launched at nights. On the same day these directives were issued, the RAF began attacking industrial targets in the Ruhr, with 99 bombers flying the first mission. The decision to begin bombing civilian property outside of combat zones was the direct result of the German bombing of Rotterdam on the previous day.’
(See http://ww2db.com/battle_spec.php?battle_id=55/Bombing-of-Hamburg-Dresden-and-Other-Cities-World-War-II-Database .)
This decision was not taken in May 1942, when Germany was confronting the Grand Alliance, involving both Soviet Union and the United States. It was taken two years earlier, days after the Wehrmacht had invaded neutral Holland, at the beginning of the offensive which weeks later would lead to the collapse of France, leaving the British Empire to fight on its own. It was, moreover, not a decision to engage in ‘terror bombing.’
A quick Google search suggests that J.M. Spaight did not actually write what he is often supposed to have written. Rather than being an historian, he was Principal Assistant Secretary at the Air Ministry, and ‘Bombing Vindicated’ was written in 1944.
If the entry on the ‘Airminded’ site, which links to the complete book, is accurate, he was not an enthusiast for ‘Douhetism’, but was defending strategic bombing – and they are different things.
What Spaight actually wrote about the ‘who started it’ question appears to be that:
‘because we were doubtful about the psychological effect of propagandist distortion of the truth that it was we who started the strategic offensive, we have shrunk from giving our great decision of May, 1940, the publicity which it deserved. That, surely, was a mistake. It was a splendid decision. It was as heroic, as self-sacrificing, as Russia’s decision, to adopt her policy of “scorched earth”. It gave Coventry and Birmingham, Sheffield and Southampton, the right to look Kief [sic] and Kharkov, Stalingrad and Sebastopol, in the face.’
As the ‘Airminded’ entry brings out, there is a crucial distinction between targeting militarily important facilities, in knowledge that, as many of them are in urban areas, large-scale civilian casualties are bound to result, and deliberately causing such casualties, in the hope of breaking an enemy’s will to fight.
In a work written in 1944, Spaight – hardly surprisingly – was not candid about the fact that the British were clearly doing the latter: although this was something they did not start. However, according to the ‘Airminded’ entry, he was not himself an enthusiast for ‘Douhetism’, at least by this time.
(See http://airminded.org/2012/09/26/on-googling-british-terror-bombing/ .)
As it happens, while ‘Douhetism’ clearly caused inordinate human suffering, to no good end, the argument about the efficacy of strategic bombing more generally is certainly not finished. And it is also necessary to set decisions taken in the context of the situation at the time.
On all this, I would recommend to anyone interested an interview with a very fine American scholar, Professor Tami Biddle, which is helpfully split into sections, so one can easily locate material on particular subjects of interest.
In fact, it emerges from the section on ‘Bomber Harris’ that, at precisely the time that Spaight was writing, there was a behind-the-scenes argument going on between Harris and the Chief of the Air Staff, Portal, who thought that his subordinate was not focusing enough on the oil targets.
(See http://ww2history.com/experts/Tami_Biddle/Professor_Tami_Biddle .)
Speaking of the Iraq debacle CBS Morning News
had a segment profiie of Second Invictus Games
from Orlando Florida whose champion is Prince
Harry, two tour Iraq vet. An Olympic style event
show casing wounded veterans from many countries.
The most ghastly image was GWB speaking to the
audience in the presence of a severely burned
Air Force enlisted man. Has this creature no
conscience or humility? Complete denial? Almost
lost my breakfast.
MRW & Tyler:
This if off-topic but I thought you might be interested:
You are perhaps not aware that I opposed the invasion and occupation of Iraq from the beginning, actually from before the beginning, but BS is BS and I am tired of the endless war for economic exploitation crap. pl
Short laundry list: cold war ideology, inadequate appreciation of the China – Soviet relationship, belief in the domino theory, post WW II hubris, and failure to understand the role of nationalism. Not to mention an indispensable ingredient, a president who was petrified at the prospect of being identified as the man who “lost” Viet Nam.
I am aware of your opposition. My point
the tragedy imposed on all these service
members and the chutzpah of GWB
to partake in these events.
Tony Blair wasn’t available.
That is no accurate.
Very helpful. I have an old copy of Bombing Vindicated” which clearly not very helpful.
Henry Moore, Grey Tube Shelter, 1940
Historian CC. Adams calls it “The shining legend of the good war”. America went to war with Japan in 1941 following Pearl Harbor. Germany declared war on America on December 11 and the United States returned the favour thereafter. There was no “great humanitarian cause” motivating Americas declaration of war, merely the stupid actions of Japan and Germany.
Prior to the declaration by the USA, American industry had been doing quite nicely thank you. Britain had spent every pound and ounce of gold she had on American weapons – this was the reason for lend lease, etc. Britain had no more money! American trade with Nazi germany is also well documented.
As for the American people, according to some histories, they were deeply divided over participation in a European war.
So no. There was no great cause that stirred Americas loins.
You seem to have forgotten “Lend-Lease.” pl
I read or saw (History Channel?) something about how the RAF used psychologists in the planning of bombing raids on Dresden (and maybe others). They helped determine when certain elements of the population would emerge from shelter to in order to time the subsequent bombing waves. I specifically recall they targeted the time for young women with children would emerge in order to liquidate them in subsequent raids. I guess there was a strategic reason for this (kill those who produce other enemy population) as well as a psychological reason (destroy morale).
Dresden, based on the testimony of Freeman J Dyson, was a fluke. The RAF had been trying to do so for while and was never successful – only at Dresden they were successful for reasons unknown to this day.
there was NO valid strategic reason for the bombing.
Dresden was for many years an unattractive target, deep inside Germany. For this reason it was not very damaged in 1945.
The RAF developed a very scientific approach for destroying German cities and they usually did extensive test runs against smaller cities before raiding the larger ones, e.g. Brunswick (Braunschweig) was the test run for Hamburg in 1943.
Therefore, to assume that in 1945(!) Dresden was a “fluke” is strange. It was an undamaged city that became a nice target in 1945 with the dramatically decreasing strength of the German fighter units.
To may best of knowledge the final decision to use a carpet bombardment against civilain target was made in 1941.
In 1940 the RAF used operational resaerch to assess the damage that was done and found that the crews simply did not find their assigned targets, often they missed the city in which the target was.
The interesting aspect of the decision making in 1941 was that despite the hard data on the uselessness of the strategy it was decided to continue with a carpet bombing because the German population would be weaker than the British and falter. If hard data do not fit your opinion replace them with gut feeling.
At the same time the British Merchant Navy fought for survival and the UK groundforces were defeated in Africa.