Had U.S.A.A.F. attempted direct strikes against German civilian population during WW2 like R.A.F. did?

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Re: Had U.S.A.A.F. attempted direct strikes against German civilian population during WW2 like R.A.F. did?

Post by Attrition » 27 Oct 2018 08:23

That might be a distinction without a difference. Did anyone ask German survivors if they noticed a difference between British and US bombing or scrutinise German records?

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Re: Had U.S.A.A.F. attempted direct strikes against German civilian population during WW2 like R.A.F. did?

Post by Sid Guttridge » 27 Oct 2018 11:30

Hi Histan,

You post, "If the question is: did the USAAF have a policy of attacking civilian morale by destroying civilian housing? Then the answer is almost certainly - No."

The problem with this is that the USAAF took part in some of the same raids on cities as the RAF (i.e. Dresden). The Americans bombed in the day and the British at night.

Given the spread of bombs and difficulty in identifying targets in smoke, the functional difference between the USAAF trying to bomb marshalling yards in a city in the day and, the RAF trying to bomb a city with marshalling yards the night before or after, was probably pretty immaterial to the civilian population.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: Had U.S.A.A.F. attempted direct strikes against German civilian population during WW2 like R.A.F. did?

Post by wm » 27 Oct 2018 18:35

There was nothing in the Laws of War that forbade attacking civilian areas, although rules of engagement adopted by belligerents sometimes didn't allow that - but it was their own good will.
Bombardment of undefended areas was prohibited, but it's self-evident that German cities were defended.

In sieges and bombardments, all necessary steps had to be taken to spare religious building, hospitals, monuments, etc. etc. - but as far as possible. Civilian areas weren't mentioned - at all.
It was obvious if you bombarded a city with the guns of that era mostly civilians would be the victims.

What was forbidden was a wanton destruction of non-combatants and private property. Wanton - as in serving no military purpose.
But, for example, bombing the houses of German workers served a clear military purpose of harming the Nazi war production capability.

The best proof of that is the fact that no belligerent formally protested, ever. A formal protest is the first step in case a war crime was committed.

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Re: Had U.S.A.A.F. attempted direct strikes against German civilian population during WW2 like R.A.F. did?

Post by histan » 28 Oct 2018 01:05

Hi Sid

There is a difference between bombing aimed at destroying civilian housing and civilian housing destroyed as a result of bombing a military target. It is exactly the same as artillery fire aimed at destroying civilian housing and civilian housing destroyed as a result of shelling a military target.

You missed what I think is the important second point that I made - about USAAF policy of dropping bombs randomly over a town or city when they couldn't find the planned target.

It might also be argued that it is equivalent to telling a gun battery they have an allowance of shells and saying "fire at a concentration of enemy troops believed to be in that town but don't worry if the spotter can't tell you where the troops actually are, in that case just lob the shells at random into the town until you have fired them all."

In wm's analysis this pretty much amounts to the wanton destruction of civilian property, since it served no military purpose other than to use up ordnance.

I think it is very important to understand the difference between civilian casualties and the destruction of civilian property that happens as a result of action taken against a military target and deliberately targeting civilians and their property (even those working in munitions factories). The reason being that today the former is legal under the current rules of war, whilst the latter is not.

Regards

John

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Re: Had U.S.A.A.F. attempted direct strikes against German civilian population during WW2 like R.A.F. did?

Post by Sid Guttridge » 28 Oct 2018 11:18

Hi histan,

I would suggest there is not a lot of difference between bombing a military target in a city when you only have the means to use saturation bombing of the area in order to ensure that a few of your bombs will actually hit the aiming point even in daylight, and bombing the area to ensure that a few of the bombs will actually hit the military target at night. The British, knowing they could barely hit a city at night early in the war, made a virtue of the fact that such inaccuracy would at least help dehouse the civilian workforce of the pinpoint military targets they could not find. The Americans, who arrived later, when bombing was more accurate, were still, even in daylight, only able to mount saturation bombing in order to hit pinpoint targets in the cities. Both knew perfectly well that they would cause mass civilian casualties.

But then, at what point does a civilian worker in a military target off limits? When working? When en route to and from work? At home? And if so, why? Why should he expect to work building armaments such as bombs and bombers designed to kill enemy servicemen and doubtless civilians for eight hours a day, and yet still expect to sleep safely for eight hours at night?

There was always a legal option to stop Allied bombing of German cities, but the Germans not only never tried it, but stopped their allies doing so either.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: Had U.S.A.A.F. attempted direct strikes against German civilian population during WW2 like R.A.F. did?

Post by Attrition » 28 Oct 2018 13:36

From the perspective of colonialism, using the technology of the C20th to massacre civilians (by design or by accident) was an evolution in the customary policies of killing civilians, destroying civilian infrastructure, wasting crops to secure control over territory and its resources. Cortes, Cromwell and Lyautey would not have questioned strategic bombing from a moral perspective.

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Re: Had U.S.A.A.F. attempted direct strikes against German civilian population during WW2 like R.A.F. did?

Post by wm » 28 Oct 2018 17:08

All belligerents evacuated their non-essential civilians to the countryside where they were safe (except the Japanese who needed them as disposable firefighters defending their wooden cities.)
So yes modern technology and modern laws of war made war less terrible for civilians.

It seems you want "nice wars", wars where the civilians aren't affected and just enjoy them on TV.
You are forgetting colonialism was such a nice war, and this was the only reason it was practiced so widely and existed for so long.
Another similar example; American endless wars, or rather endless nice wars.
As the general said: It is well that war is so terrible, otherwise, we should grow too fond of it.
If something is nice, it never stops.

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Re: Had U.S.A.A.F. attempted direct strikes against German civilian population during WW2 like R.A.F. did?

Post by Sid Guttridge » 28 Oct 2018 18:13

Hi wm,

I thought that throughout history wars killed more civilians than soldiers and that WWII was no exception.

Ironically, the byword for mass slaughter in warfare is WWI - and yet this was reportedly the only major war in which more soldiers died than civilians!

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: Had U.S.A.A.F. attempted direct strikes against German civilian population during WW2 like R.A.F. did?

Post by Attrition » 28 Oct 2018 20:26

"It seems you want 'nice wars'"....

The only nice war is peace, which I'm rather favourable to, being a superannuated 1970s egalitarian. My point was that the civilian casualties inflicted by the belligerents of WWII weren't aberrant, they were the norm, except for many of them being European.

More soldiers than civilians may have died in the Great War but if non-European, civilian casualties are counted, it may not be the case.

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Re: Had U.S.A.A.F. attempted direct strikes against German civilian population during WW2 like R.A.F. did?

Post by Sid Guttridge » 28 Oct 2018 20:30

Hi Attrition,

I don't understand the ".....except for many of them being European" reference?

My impression was that Europe's internecine wars tended to be rather bloodier than colonial wars because they were between more evenly matched opponents.

In colonial wars the numbers involved tended to be much smaller and the combat more one-sided due to European technical superiority:

"Whatever happens, we have got,
The Maxim gun, and they have not.
"

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: Had U.S.A.A.F. attempted direct strikes against German civilian population during WW2 like R.A.F. did?

Post by Attrition » 28 Oct 2018 22:21

Go back to the Conquistadors and work forward, the death toll makes the C20th look like a bagatelle.

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Re: Had U.S.A.A.F. attempted direct strikes against German civilian population during WW2 like R.A.F. did?

Post by wm » 28 Oct 2018 22:55

Conquistadors or pathogens?

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Re: Had U.S.A.A.F. attempted direct strikes against German civilian population during WW2 like R.A.F. did?

Post by Sid Guttridge » 29 Oct 2018 19:45

Hi Attrition,

As wm says, what about pathogens? If the Spanish had just traded to the Americas, the death toll would have been almost the same because of them. Ditto Australasia and the Pacific.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: Had U.S.A.A.F. attempted direct strikes against German civilian population during WW2 like R.A.F. did?

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 29 Oct 2018 21:04

Hi Attrition,
Go back to the Conquistadors and work forward, the death toll makes the C20th look like a bagatelle.
In real terms, or % of population figures?

And why start with the Conquistadors, what about Tamerlane?

Regards

Tom

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Re: Had U.S.A.A.F. attempted direct strikes against German civilian population during WW2 like R.A.F. did?

Post by Attrition » 30 Oct 2018 16:54

I'm English and the Conquistadors are a good starting point to chart the European enslavements and exterminations that have been committed ever since. I'm not quite sure why you want to ask about the means of measuring mega-death, surely evil is evil? One example off the top of my head, on average, a million Indians died of famine in each year that Vic was empress. Compare that with the abortive Hongerplan.

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