History, traditions

War to kill civilians

Lately there has been a documentary on TV on night flights of Soviet long distance Air Force which started bombing Berlin in the first days of the Great Patriotic War in June, 1941.
This mission was more of propaganda than of military purposes. In fact, the allies’ Air Force made much more damage to the towns and cities of the Third Reich.

Winston Churchill was a Minister in charge of weapons during the World War I (1914-1918). At that time, he started thinking about a war as of something more than just confrontation between armed people or people in a uniform. Mr. Churchill believed that “it is extremely exciting when they point at you and miss”.  However, he preferred not only pointing, but also hitting. 20 years before Hitler initiated a global massacre, and his Air Force got orders to bomb Coventry, Rotterdam and Warsaw, Sir Churchill stated, “Probably, next time women, children and civilians will be killed”. Before that terrible war, German historian Manfred Messerschmidt discovered that the US Navy command developed the plans to suppress the enemy by bombing its civilian cities. This reminds other historical facts much, such as the conqueror of the Caucasus region general Ermolov who ordered to wipe out Chechen villages by artillery fire. Or the today’s Israeli leaders who are ready to conduct precision strikes on “the dens of the terrorists”. Now there is a technical capacity to conduct precision strikes at a certain spot, but in the last century the capacities and the way of thinking was different.

Carpet bombing of German cities was undertaken “to bring down the morale of the overall civilians, and industrial workers in particular”, as one of the British military orders formulates. The term “moral bombing” originated from the English language.
According to British military historian John Terraine, “Moral bombing means a threat or a probability for men, women and children to be thrown into pieces”.

His colleague Liddle Hart is of similar opinion. Being an expert on military, Liddle Hart reconsidered the common outlook on purposes of a war, and finally came to understanding that “bombing civilian objects produces negative results”. He compared “moral bombing” with invasion of Hordes of Mongols: “There was history’s irony – the peoples which entered the war for the sake of saving civilization, used the methods being hostile to civilization which the world has not seen since the massacre made by the Mongol nomads”.

Today, German historian Jörg Friedrich says that “A single mother with a baby in her hands will not go to march in Berlin to support Hitler’s regime. She just wants her baby to have a shelter and milk. Bombings only put closer ordinary people and the nasty regime”. Hitler’s Minister of propaganda Joseph Gebbels liked to repeat, “Our walls can be broken, our hearts can’t”.
Shortly before the victory at the World War II, Churchill was thinking about the strategy of bombing civilian objects, and asked himself, “How could we be considered animals as we do not go too far?”
”I went too far when I tried to prove the advantages of conducting air strikes on civilian objects”, remembered the author of the “Strategy of indirect actions” Liddle Hart. “However, soon I corrected my mistake a little… I was convinced that a critical air strike will cause less damage than a long war, and will exhaust the forces of the enemy less. The rival will need this force for rеstoring the destroyed objects. After studying the issue in-depth, I came to the conclusion that an air strike on industrial centers will not produce immediate critical result. The attack of this kind is likely to cause a new long war on exhausting the forces of the rivals”…

In his recent book “Fire. Germany in the bomb war of 1940-1945”, German historian Jörg Friedrich made an interesting conclusion after analyzing many archive materials. “Previously, we perceived bombing Germany as a fair revenge for the Nazis’ Holocaust”. Then I changed my opinion as even before the World War II all the countries agreed that massacring civilians contradicted the law”.

Igor Bukker

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