Allied actions to prevent French Civilian Casualties

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rcocean
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Allied actions to prevent French Civilian Casualties

Post by rcocean » 08 Jun 2021 20:41

Just curious as to what policies were put in place by USA/UK armies and AF to minimize French losses. Just from reading the Official Histories the US/UK military attitude seems to have been that killing Germans came first, and if some French civilians lost their lives, well, that's the way it is.

I'm just wondering if that was incorrect, and the US/UK armies/Air forces were doing things to minimize French Civilian losses, like not bombing villages/cities unless known to be occupied by German forces, or not shelling this or that place because Frenchmen might be killed.

Does anyone know of any policies in place in Ike or UK/USA to keep innocent French from getting killed?

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wm
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Re: Allied actions to prevent French Civilian Casualties

Post by wm » 08 Jun 2021 22:39

"that's the way it is" they (quite strongly) taught us when they trying to make an officer from me at the end of the last century.
So it seems nothing changed to this day.
Of course "that's the way it is" is valid during a real war with massive casualties and maybe nuclear explosions at every corner - not in the wannabee wars of today.

Sid Guttridge
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Re: Allied actions to prevent French Civilian Casualties

Post by Sid Guttridge » 09 Jun 2021 05:41

Hi rcocean,

Given that some 60,000 French civilians were killed by Allied bombing, (10% of the German death toll and similar to British civilian bombing deaths), this was a major issue.

The Fee French seem to have been quite pragmatic about the necessity for Allied bombing of France and the inevitability of French civilian losses as a result.

Indeed, it should not be forgotten that the Free French asked for Allied heavy bombers to be used at Royan in January 1945. They were reportedly told that only German troops and collaborators remained. As a result, there were over a thousand French civilian casualties hundreds of miles behind Allied lines in an Atlantic coast enclave inevitably going to surrender along with Germany itself.

I seem to recall that a British Army officer was court martialled for opposing the bombing of Le Havre in late 1944 because of the risk to French civilians. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Douglas_Home).

One wonders who was responsible for air raid precautions and civil defence in occupied France - the French civil authorities or the Germans?

Cheers,

Sid.

Carl Schwamberger
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Re: Allied actions to prevent French Civilian Casualties

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 10 Jun 2021 04:21

Sid Guttridge wrote:
09 Jun 2021 05:41
One wonders who was responsible for air raid precautions and civil defence in occupied France - the French civil authorities or the Germans?

Cheers,

Sid.
Almost entirely the later. The Vichy authorities, and local officials outside Vichy had to figure it out. The Germans did issue warnings of oncoming bomber formations. Construction crews & workers in German facilities were provided with bomb shelters, usually.

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Sheldrake
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Re: Allied actions to prevent French Civilian Casualties

Post by Sheldrake » 10 Jun 2021 11:57

rcocean wrote:
08 Jun 2021 20:41
Just curious as to what policies were put in place by USA/UK armies and AF to minimize French losses. Just from reading the Official Histories the US/UK military attitude seems to have been that killing Germans came first, and if some French civilians lost their lives, well, that's the way it is.

I'm just wondering if that was incorrect, and the US/UK armies/Air forces were doing things to minimize French Civilian losses, like not bombing villages/cities unless known to be occupied by German forces, or not shelling this or that place because Frenchmen might be killed.

Does anyone know of any policies in place in Ike or UK/USA to keep innocent French from getting killed?
There was a big argument about two months before D Day
Bombing policy was again under scrutiny as the Normandy Landings were being prepared. As the bombing of railway yards in northwest France began, Churchill was concerned by the high French civilian losses that were expected. At the 4 April 1944 War Cabinet, Portal advised that between 20,000 and 40,000 French civilians might be killed. Churchill told his colleagues he “felt some doubts as to the wisdom of this policy.” To Portal he wrote: “You are piling up an awful load of hatred.”

Churchill asked Eisenhower set a limit for each raid, of, say, a hundred estimated dead. Eisenhower declined. Churchill then put the matter to Roosevelt. This “slaughter,” he warned the President, “may easily bring about a great revulsion in French feeling towards their approaching United States and British liberators. They may leave a legacy of hate behind them.”

Roosevelt supported Eisenhower, telling WSC: “I am not prepared to impose from this distance any restriction on military action by the responsible commanders that in their opinion might militate against the success of Overlord or cause additional loss of life to our Allied forces of invasion.” The bombing went ahead. The casualties were high, more 4000 civilian dead, but far fewer than feared, and the railway disruptions were effective.
https://winstonchurchill.org/publicatio ... ng-policy/

rcocean
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Re: Allied actions to prevent French Civilian Casualties

Post by rcocean » 10 Jun 2021 18:29

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
10 Jun 2021 04:21
Sid Guttridge wrote:
09 Jun 2021 05:41
One wonders who was responsible for air raid precautions and civil defence in occupied France - the French civil authorities or the Germans?

Cheers,

Sid.
Almost entirely the later. The Vichy authorities, and local officials outside Vichy had to figure it out. The Germans did issue warnings of oncoming bomber formations. Construction crews & workers in German facilities were provided with bomb shelters, usually.
Thanks for the general opinions. To make it clear, I'm not talking about Vichy. I'm mainly interested about US/USA military policies to minimize French civilian deaths through Allied Military action in 1944-45. Vichy France was occupied by Germany in November 1942, Thanks for any information you can provide on that.

rcocean
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Re: Allied actions to prevent French Civilian Casualties

Post by rcocean » 10 Jun 2021 18:31

Bombing policy was again under scrutiny as the Normandy Landings were being prepared. As the bombing of railway yards in northwest France began, Churchill was concerned by the high French civilian losses that were expected. At the 4 April 1944 War Cabinet, Portal advised that between 20,000 and 40,000 French civilians might be killed. Churchill told his colleagues he “felt some doubts as to the wisdom of this policy.” To Portal he wrote: “You are piling up an awful load of hatred.”

Churchill asked Eisenhower set a limit for each raid, of, say, a hundred estimated dead. Eisenhower declined. Churchill then put the matter to Roosevelt. This “slaughter,” he warned the President, “may easily bring about a great revulsion in French feeling towards their approaching United States and British liberators. They may leave a legacy of hate behind them.”

Roosevelt supported Eisenhower, telling WSC: “I am not prepared to impose from this distance any restriction on military action by the responsible commanders that in their opinion might militate against the success of Overlord or cause additional loss of life to our Allied forces of invasion.” The bombing went ahead. The casualties were high, more 4000 civilian dead, but far fewer than feared, and the railway disruptions were effective.
https://winstonchurchill.org/publicatio ... ng-policy/
[/quote]

Thanks for the information! Very helpful.

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