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"Dresden 1945: An Allied War Crime?" Topic


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Tango0119 Apr 2019 11:11 p.m. PST

"Last week, an estimated seventeen thousand people in Dresden formed a human chain to commemorate the aerial bombing of the German city in World War II. Deputy Mayor Detlef Sittel said that Dresden remembered its victims and called to mind the days "when Warswaw, Rotterdam and Coventry were laid in ruins by German bombers". Elsewhere in the city hundreds of neo-Nazis tried to hold a protest march, stating that Germany is not to blame for the war and accusing the Allies of war crimes. Where a demonstration last year was thwarted by anti-fascists, this time the extreme right had been granted a license to hold the protest march. Police from all over Germany, came to Dresden to keep the peace in the city…."
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Amicalement
Armand

ZULUPAUL Supporting Member of TMP20 Apr 2019 2:07 a.m. PST

Protests to state Germany didn't start the war? Rubbish. No war crime here either. IMHO

Skarper20 Apr 2019 3:00 a.m. PST

Let's not do this again again.

Personal logo mrwigglesworth Supporting Member of TMP20 Apr 2019 5:12 a.m. PST

No

Wackmole9 Supporting Member of TMP20 Apr 2019 5:51 a.m. PST

Nope

SOB Van Owen20 Apr 2019 6:08 a.m. PST

General Curtis LeMay, who was in charge of fire bombing Japan, said that if the US lost the war then he would be a war criminal. We didn't lose.

Dn Jackson20 Apr 2019 6:19 a.m. PST

Wasn't it Churchill who said of the Germans, "They have sown the wind and now they are reaping the whirlwind." ?

You don't get to start a war, commit massive atrocities, then cry foul when your opponents use every means at their disposal to defeat you.

Lion in the Stars20 Apr 2019 6:44 a.m. PST

Let's not argue this one again.

Von Trinkenessen20 Apr 2019 6:53 a.m. PST

Perennial can of worms again. We will be seeing a lot more of this in the future as the witnesses to the events of WW2 become scarcer.

Lee John Ayre20 Apr 2019 7:22 a.m. PST

Germany didn't start the war, Britain and France declared war on Germany following the invasion of Poland..
Both sides bombed each others cities so I don't think either side can claim the moral high ground. War is a horrible, ruthless business and can't be done nicely. Lets hope this sort of thing remains history.

Blutarski20 Apr 2019 7:22 a.m. PST

War crimes are like art. They are subject to the eye of the beholder.

B

Musketballs20 Apr 2019 7:45 a.m. PST

Germany didn't start the war, Britain and France declared war on Germany following the invasion of Poland..


The invasion of Poland doesn't count as 'starting the war'?

Since when?

deephorse20 Apr 2019 7:45 a.m. PST

Germany didn't start the war, Britain and France declared war on Germany following the invasion of Poland..

And who do you think invaded Poland?

Wolfhag Supporting Member of TMP20 Apr 2019 8:15 a.m. PST

No, only the losers commit war crimes.

Wolfhag

Legion 420 Apr 2019 8:35 a.m. PST

+1 Wolf …

PTL1815 Supporting Member of TMP20 Apr 2019 10:26 a.m. PST

Why stop there? was dropping the A bomb a crime? Was the bombing of Cambodia a crime? Was invading Iraq the 2nd time a crime? How about our illegal occupation of Afghanistan?

Gunfreak Supporting Member of TMP20 Apr 2019 11:04 a.m. PST

If you go to war, warcrimes will happen, from the extremely common (almost obligatory killing of POWs. To the the indesciminate killing of civilians through bombing.
To industrial genocide.

VCarter Supporting Member of TMP20 Apr 2019 11:26 a.m. PST

After WWII carpet bombing of cities as a tactic was abandoned by western armies. Bomber Harris of the RAF was never given a knighthood like many other British commanders were.

As far as postwar events go, there have been quite a few of their own people brought to trial by Western powers for action taken on the battlefield.

Add to that, some very restrictive rules of engagement are in place that are enforced by legal action for violating.

Thresher01 Supporting Member of TMP20 Apr 2019 12:43 p.m. PST

Nope, just an extension of the conflict at the time, sadly.

Germany started the war by attacking, invading, and annexing Poland, as most of us know.

Carpet bombing of cities was abandoned, but possibly nuking them was not, so……

Of course, those tactics were couched in language to say they were targeting "strategic targets" which just so happened to coincide with population centers in many cases, since those tend to build up around industrial sites, and those of commerce, like railyards, road networks, command and control HQs, governmental buildings, etc., etc..

You can bet that even today, cities are on the target lists of ALL those owning nukes, and even of those just coveting them, or on their way to fielding some/more.

SBminisguy20 Apr 2019 2:28 p.m. PST

Germany and Japan crossed every line of "civilized" warfare by wholesale terror attacks on civilian population centers, creating an existential total war threat to the Allies. Of course every means was used to survive and win. Well, almost every means-- nobody used nerve gas except the Nazis on their concentration camp victims.

As said earlier:

Dn Jackson 20 Apr 2019 6:19 a.m. PST
Wasn't it Churchill who said of the Germans, "They have sown the wind and now they are reaping the whirlwind." ?

You don't get to start a war, commit massive atrocities, then cry foul when your opponents use every means at their disposal to defeat you.

Legion 420 Apr 2019 2:30 p.m. PST

Yeah, from what I understand some of the very strict ROEs really have been in the way of actual effective ops in some cases. I realize we must have ROEs, GCs, etc. But if it gets your own or allied troops KIA'd or WIA'd … well to me that is unacceptable.

Blutarski20 Apr 2019 6:37 p.m. PST

"After WWII carpet bombing of cities as a tactic was abandoned by western armies."

>>>>> Indeed, mass Allied carpet and fire bombing of cities was ceased immediately after those enemy who remained alive in the ruins finally surrendered. I do not necessarily see how that would qualify as a particularly noble and selfless gesture. Let's be honest it was war in all its ugliness, nothing more, nothing less, and nothing terribly noble about it.


"Bomber Harris of the RAF was never given a knighthood like many other British commanders were."

>>>>> Absolutely true. However complicit and perseverant Bomber Harris was in carrying out the bombing campaign, let's once again be honest. Harris was no solitary "rogue operator". Every senior politician and military command in Great Britain was fully aware of and approved Harris's terror bombing campaign. The postwar scapegoating of Harris was IMO nothing more than a means of obtaining cover for those equally culpable senior political "higher ups" when the public finally became fully aware of the ugly consequences of the indiscriminate fire bombing campaign against civilian population centers.

I really hope I am wrong on the following point, but it seems to me that the greatest shame of this sad, deplorable episode of cynical public relations theater was that the many tens of thousands of British and Commonwealth Bomber Command aviators who died in the course of the war were given short shrift. The casualty rate of Bomber Command airmen over the course of the war rivaled that of the German U-Boat arm … which was absolutely prodigious.

If anyone gets the sense that this particular topic especially annoys me, they would be spot on.

B

ThePeninsularWarin15mm20 Apr 2019 6:46 p.m. PST

Wolfhag nailed it.

The winning side and their supporters have selective memories and a level of morality that's equally evasive.

Musketballs20 Apr 2019 7:09 p.m. PST

"Bomber Harris of the RAF was never given a knighthood like many other British commanders were."

He did actually receive a knighthood in 1942. And a higher order of knighthood after the war.

The post-war thing was over a peerage Attlee didn't offer him one and Harris refused to ask for one as he was furious at the absence of a campaign medal for Bomber Command.

Churchill finally persuaded him to accept a Baronetcy in 1953, when Harris returned from South Africa.

And it was actually Harris who made the 'reaping the whirlwind' speech.

VCarter Supporting Member of TMP20 Apr 2019 8:08 p.m. PST

I stand corrected RE the knighthood.

Thank you,

Vince

goragrad20 Apr 2019 9:58 p.m. PST

Actually Coventry was in retaliation for Berlin wihich was bombed specifically to get the Germans to shift from RAF airfields to cities.

And as noted it is the losers who were tried.

mkenny20 Apr 2019 10:41 p.m. PST

The apologists pile in with the usual excuse-'they all did it'-which is a pathetic effort to equate the two sides. Trying to put the Allies on the same moral level as those who deliberately set out to remove entire populations from the map is repugnant but that cuts no ice with those besotted by Luftwaffe 1946 and dream wistfully about what might have happened if only the war had lasted 6 months longer and the Haunebu were in service.
The killer fact that bombings such as Dresden where not specific war crimes at the time will be ignored because facts have no effect on those who 'know' the Allies were no better than The Einsatzgruppen………

mjkerner Supporting Member of TMP20 Apr 2019 11:18 p.m. PST

Bravo, mkenny, well put!

Lee49421 Apr 2019 5:37 a.m. PST

Yes. Wholesale killing of non combatants including women, children, babies and the elderly is a War Crime regardless of whether you are targeting a specific religion. Race or nationality and regardless of what euphanidm such as strategic bombing or resettlement that you use to cover it up.

Murvihill21 Apr 2019 6:59 a.m. PST

"Yes. Wholesale killing of non combatants including women, children, babies and the elderly is a War Crime regardless of whether you are targeting a specific religion. Race or nationality and regardless of what euphanidm such as strategic bombing or resettlement that you use to cover it up."
There is no absolute when it comes to war crimes. Refusing to bomb German cities after they started bombing cities would put the allies in a position that would encourage Axis resistance (we're damaging them and they can't retaliate). It was the Germans who decided cities were legitimate targets with Guernica, Rotterdam and London and they continued all the way until they couldn't do it anymore. What's wrong is the underlying concept that there are rules that can be adhered to unilaterally. The gentleman soldier only exists if both sides agree.

Lion in the Stars21 Apr 2019 7:04 a.m. PST

I'm going to note that Donitz was actively defended for his use of Unrestricted Submarine Warfare by US Admirals Lockwood and Nimitz.

Because Lockwood and Nimitz had also declared unrestricted submarine warfare on the Japanese, and said in open court that if the Court was going to make unrestricted submarine warfare a war crime Lockwood and Nimitz needed to be tried as well!

Blutarski21 Apr 2019 7:11 a.m. PST

The Doenitz episode is a cautionary tale for those willing to think about it.

Lockwood and Nimitz were honest men.

B

Fred Cartwright21 Apr 2019 7:59 a.m. PST

Unfortunately for those who support the concept of strategic bombing as a war crime it came along after the major conventions on the conduct of war were agreed. Is much easier to formulate laws of conduct when the only interactions combatants had with civilians was when they were physically on the ground in their country, much harder when they are flying overhead. There were many proponents of strategic bombing from all sides throughout the 30's where it was predicted to be the future way of waging war, but it was not felt necessary to codify the conduct of such a war in international law. It is also a general principle of the law that it is not retrospective. You can not accuse someone of a crime for an act that was committed before it became illegal.
In addition the concepts of total war and that of having civilians, who are protected from military action do not sit well together. When the entire resources of a state are focused on the prosecution of a war who are the non combatants? If you work in a factory during the day, but man an AA gun at night or turn out to parade with the Home Guard or Volksturm are you a combatant or not? If a machine used to produce the weapons of war is a legitimate target then why not the man who operates the machine? What infrastructure and resources of a state are legitimate targets when such things can be used for military purposes and also to support the non combatant population. I would argue that the concept of total war makes no distinction. It is the focus of all the means at a state's disposal on the destruction of the enemy state in its entirety. The question then remains is it a concept that we as a species wishes to sign up to? Would it make a difference if it was a question of our species survival vs an alien species?
Answers on a postcard please!

Fred Cartwright21 Apr 2019 8:04 a.m. PST

By the way there is nothing wrong with the citizens of Dresden remembering those who were killed in the bombing.

Legion 421 Apr 2019 9:19 a.m. PST

No matter how you see it … a lot of non-combatants were killed in WWII. Some intentional, some collateral damage. At least today we attempt to limit that sort of thing, especially in the West. But terrorist, jihadis, religious fanatics, etc., it is policy. And we see how hard it is to stop those crimes, etc. E.g. just ask a Yazidi … if you can find one … ?

mkenny21 Apr 2019 11:17 a.m. PST

Yes. Wholesale killing of non combatants including women, children, babies and the elderly is a War Crime regardless of whether you are targeting a specific religion. Race or nationality and regardless of what euphanidm such as strategic bombing or resettlement that you use to cover it up.
You are quite simply misinformed. You can 'kill' civilians under the 'rules of war'in force for WW2. There were rules and the strategic bombing may have been a crime against humanity but it was not ever a 'war crime'. The killing of civilians in Camps however, was a crime.
I hope that helps you see the German mass-murder in its proper context.

Musketballs21 Apr 2019 12:54 p.m. PST

I'm going to note that Donitz was actively defended for his use of Unrestricted Submarine Warfare by US Admirals Lockwood and Nimitz.
Because Lockwood and Nimitz had also declared unrestricted submarine warfare on the Japanese, and said in open court that if the Court was going to make unrestricted submarine warfare a war crime Lockwood and Nimitz needed to be tried as well!


Neither Nimitz or Lockwood testified at Nuremberg. They did, however, complete questionnaires submitted to them by Doenitz's defence lawyer. The Royal Navy also confirmed having carried out unrestricted submarine warfare in the Baltic.

Interestingly, the Court did actually rule that Doenitz had technically committed a war crime by waging unrestricted submarine warfare, but declined to sentence him for it. Their reasoning was that advances in technology notably aircraft had made the existing treaty rules obsolete, no-one was following them and it was unrealistic to expect anyone would (unless they wanted to lose all their submarines very quickly).


Before we get too dewy-eyed about Doenitz, it's worth remembering that he was ultimately sentenced to 10 years for stuff that Lockwood and Nimitz *didn't* do such as secretly ordering the sinking of neutral shipping outside declared blockade zones, re-issuing the 'Commando Order' after becoming C-in-C of the navy, and being ultimately responsible for naval dockyards at a time when thousands of slave labourers were worked to death in them.

He was no 'Mr Clean'.

Musketballs21 Apr 2019 1:10 p.m. PST

There were rules and the strategic bombing may have been a crime against humanity but it was not ever a 'war crime'


Aerial bombardment of an undefended city was a war crime, under rules that originally envisaged stuff being chucked out of balloons. The problem was how you defined 'undefended' by the 1930's or 40's. The official British stance was that there were no undefended cities in the UK because the national air defence system covered the whole country. Bombing Coventry was therefore beastly Hun behaviour, but not a crime and no attempt was made to prosecute it as one.

Jcfrog Supporting Member of TMP22 Apr 2019 9:16 a.m. PST

I have a paper on this on my site, strangely refused by some US mag ;) about the fight for ideals and the shaken morality…
And as a wargamer the suspicion that it was not even the best thing to do; bombing cities.

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP22 Apr 2019 9:52 a.m. PST

The only 'crime' of the Dresden bombings was that by the time it happened the people running the strategic bombing campaigns had lost sight of what their real objective was: winning the war. The bombing campaign had grown from a small thing into a colossal machine whose objective had been pared down to 'delivering bombs to targets'. The bureaucracy had grown so focused on the mechanics of getting those bombs from the factories that made them to targets in enemy territory that by 1945 they had stopped asking: will bombing this target help win the war? The 'how' had overwhelmed the 'why'. Not a crime, but regrettable, perhaps.

Keith Talent22 Apr 2019 2:54 p.m. PST

Deliberate bombing of purely civilian targets was difficult to prove legally in the framework of international law in the 1940's. Even Goering wasn't charged with it. He was tried on something like 26 counts iirc and not one of them was related to civilian bombing.
What is viewed as a "war crime " now, was not 70 years ago.

Blutarski22 Apr 2019 3:32 p.m. PST

The book "Dresden", by Frederick Taylor, makes the claim that the attack on Dresden was executed at the specific behest of Stalin. Dresden was, among other things, apparently an important German rail and logistics hub for the Eastern Front and the Soviet command wanted it destroyed/disrupted in preparation for their upcoming offensive into Germany.

B

Lee49422 Apr 2019 4:19 p.m. PST

Never ceases to amaze me how many people can be apologists for, advocates and proponents of, and defenders of the senseless slaughter of babies, children, women, the aged, the old and infirm.

Because it wasnt technically a crime it was ok. Because they did it first it's ok. We just did it better. Good for us! Because they were Nazis or Japs it was OK. Sad. Very sad.

And you need to ask if there could be more Holocausts on the Horizon?

Cheers!

mkenny22 Apr 2019 6:20 p.m. PST

Never ceases to amaze me how many people can be apologists for, advocates and proponents of, and defenders of the senseless slaughter of babies, children, women, the aged, the old and infirm.

Like those who try and detract from Nazi crimes by saying 'they all did it' you mean?
I know innocents got killed by all sides but there is a massive difference between accepting it as a terrible consequence of war and setting out with it as the intentional aim of your war.
There is nothing technical about something being legal as it either is or it isn't. I think the confusion arises because you conflate 'legal' with 'justice/moral'.

goragrad22 Apr 2019 9:36 p.m. PST

There is a tendency for many to want to make the Nazis and Japanese in WWII into a unique set of monsters.

Sadly, it was noted on another forum that the Italians skated on their numerous war crimes. Not only that they were also able to get themselves collectively get themselves into the victim category.

In reality there is that darkness in more of humanity than people care to believe. And of course there are pragmatists who will decide that their ends justify any means.

Lion in the Stars22 Apr 2019 10:31 p.m. PST

Before we get too dewy-eyed about Doenitz, it's worth remembering that he was ultimately sentenced to 10 years for stuff that Lockwood and Nimitz *didn't* do such as secretly ordering the sinking of neutral shipping outside declared blockade zones, re-issuing the 'Commando Order' after becoming C-in-C of the navy, and being ultimately responsible for naval dockyards at a time when thousands of slave labourers were worked to death in them.

He was no 'Mr Clean'.


Not disagreeing that Donitz was anything resembling a good or nice person.

But the point was still that Lockwood and Nimitz defended him on Unrestricted Submarine Warfare (and I will note that the very concept has dropped out of usage since WW2).

Also, yes, Dresden was a very large rail center, so it wouldn't surprise me if Stalin had demanded an attack to disrupt the delivery of supplies to the Eastern Front.

Uncle Goblin23 Apr 2019 6:57 a.m. PST

This is a extract of a book, I think from Bernard Brodie, about the Strategic bombing in WW2 that might be interesting for some:

PDF link

Martin Rapier23 Apr 2019 8:54 a.m. PST

"After WWII carpet bombing of cities as a tactic was abandoned by western armies."

Someone obviously forgot to tell the commanders of our respective strategic nuclear forces that.

What exactly do you think a large proportion of all those nuclear missiles are aimed at?

Blutarski23 Apr 2019 9:54 a.m. PST

This subject of war crimes defies simple analysis. One example – the Jewish peasant parents of an old schoolmate of mine were able to flee Austria after the 1938 Anschluss only through the intervention of the Japanese consul in Vienna who issued them (and many other Jews) travel visas. They spent the entire war under the protection of the Japanese government as part of an expatriate Jewish refugee colony in Shanghai, China. The Japanese government refused numerous demands by the German government to surrender these people.

I understand that the Italy, even under Mussolini, rebuffed German overtures and demands to participate in the "Final Solution" program.

Not apologizing for other acts of atrocity, just pointing out that these kinds of issues can be complicated to get one's hands around.

FWIW.


B

Fred Cartwright23 Apr 2019 11:01 a.m. PST

Someone obviously forgot to tell the commanders of our respective strategic nuclear forces that.

Seem to remember the US dropping large numbers of bombs on Hanoi during the Vietnam war. B-52's can carry a lot of bombs!

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