Dresden Photos

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Re: Dresden Photos

Post by David Thompson » 22 Apr 2008 16:03

kujah – You asked:
I'm just wondering, if there were no legally-binding treaties or conventions in relations to the conduct of aerial warfare and bombardment, does this mean that the perspective that Dresden was a "war crime" in the legal sense is not a valid point?

The argument can certainly be made, but so far no poster has made it successfully. I tried to point out some of the conceptual problems at viewtopic.php?p=608983#p608983 and at viewtopic.php?p=743007#p743007
The war crimes issue specifically for Dresden is extensively argued in this thread:

Dresden bombing & post-liberation Euro gas chambers
viewtopic.php?t=33480

and there are additional discussions specifically dealing with Dresden in this thread (Dresden Photos), as well as other threads at:

Was Dresden bombing "Terrorism"?"
viewtopic.php?f=6&t=70783
Dresden 1945
viewtopic.php?t=1000
Dresden 1945
viewtopic.php?t=4838
Bombing of Dresden
viewtopic.php?t=20370
Destruction of Dresden
viewtopic.php?t=43901
Churchill's Warcrimes
viewtopic.php?t=25091

with some additional information at:

USAF Historical Analysis of the 14-15 February 1945 Bombings of Dresden
viewtopic.php?p=304620#304620
Dresden 1945 -- Just Another Raid?
viewtopic.php?f=6&t=71835
Surface and subterranean petroleum, oil and lubricant facilities in the Dresden area
viewtopic.php?p=395916#395916

The subject of war crimes and aerial bombardment in WWII Europe generally is discussed at:

Strategic Bombing as a War Crime
viewtopic.php?f=6&t=17636
Can the bombing of cities be considered as "Warcrimes"?
viewtopic.php?t=9136
Churchill & Harris Terror Raids
viewtopic.php?t=29691
Debate over UK WWII strategic bombing
viewtopic.php?t=25898
Terror bombing -- The Nazis started it
viewtopic.php?t=25592
Carpet-bombing towns and cities
viewtopic.php?t=44286
Stalingrad 23 Aug 1942: Tactics or Spoliation?
viewtopic.php?f=6&t=72803
Belgrade 6 Apr 1941: Tactics or war crime?
viewtopic.php?f=6&t=73365
German Air War in Poland 1939: War Crime?
viewtopic.php?f=6&t=51772
Rotterdam 14 May 1940: Tactics or Terrorism?
viewtopic.php?f=6&t=72797
The legality of targeting civilians
viewtopic.php?f=6&t=82959
WWII Strategic Bombing: Was it genocide?
viewtopic.php?f=6&t=80361
Nuremburg and Strategic Bombing
viewtopic.php?f=6&t=2235

I've got a few more questions:

2. As the accuracy of heavy bombers was increasing in the latter stages of the war, could a precision-attack similar to the ones on the Ruhr dams or the Tirpitz been an alternative form of attack at that time for the RAF and USAAF on the railways, marshalling yards and factories in Dresden?

I don't know the answer to this question as far as it concerns the RAF. For the USAAF, precision bombing wasn't very precise, as the postwar studies of the US Strategic Bombing Survey (Europe) showed:

US Strategic Bombing Survey (Europe) on bombing accuracy
viewtopic.php?p=395939#395939

3. What were the conditions like during the month of February 1945?

Could you be more specific?

4. Could the military objectives be considered disproportionate to the damage inflicted based on today's laws in any way?

I think the destruction of Dresden was generally reckoned to be disproportional at the time, though there is a controversy over whether the resulting firestorm was an intended result. As actually conceived and planned, the bombing of Dresden would probably be illegal under the 1949 Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians during wartime.

1949 - Convention (IV) Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, August 12
http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/lawofwar/geneva07.htm

5. What was the damage like on the actual military targets in Dresden after the firebombing? And in relation to the railways, did the damage have a short or long-term effect on the movement of Wehrmacht troops to the Eastern Front?

Your first question is discussed in some of the other threads. As I recall, the damage was moderate. I have never seen an answer to your second question.

6. Does the fact that Dresden had no anti-aircraft protection but a couple of fighters and searchlights have any impact on the legitimacy of the city as a military target?

Dresden did have anti-aircraft protection – see the report at viewtopic.php?p=605942#p605942
and more than a couple of fighter aircraft to defend it. See the summary (pdf file) of the 14 Feb 1945 raid on Dresden -- 4 B-17s shot down; group attacked by 25-30 Me-109s and FW-190 fighters in Tactical Operations of the 8th Air Force 6 Jun 1944-8 May 1945, Interdiction for the Russian Armies pp. 147-150
http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/AAF/AAFHS/AAF-HS-70.pdf

Since the city was occupied, defended and used for military purposes, and was never declared or made an open city, it was (as you conclude below), a legitimate military target under the applicable war crimes laws of the time.

7. Dresden was a legitimate military target. But was it a "military necessity"? in hindsight? In the context of the early 1945, did Bomber Command and the USAAF consider the bombing of Dresden to be a "military necessity"?

In the war crimes trials held by military tribunals of the western allies, the test on this issue was "objective necessity" – in other words, could a reasonable commander in the place of the defendant, who had the same information available to him as the defendant had, conclude that the destruction was a military necessity? Where the judges substantially disagreed, the charge was regarded as unproven. You can find several discussions of these cases (some unprosecuted), using the forum search engine and the search term "spoliation," with the search field restricted to the H&WC section. For the case of Dresden specifically, there are the interesting essays at:

USAF Historical Analysis of the 14-15 February 1945 Bombings of Dresden
viewtopic.php?p=304620#304620 and
Dresden 1945 -- Just Another Raid?
viewtopic.php?f=6&t=71835

8. In terms of the historical debates surrounding Dresden, we can call Irving and Friedrich as "revisionists". What type of historians could we classify Frederick Taylor and Gotz Bergander? (eg- post-modernist, empiricist, modernist etc).

I don't know. I'm more interested in history than historiography.

Thanks for any replies, and apologies if the answers already have been provided in previous posts or in other threads. I just had a quick skim through thus far.

Any time, kujah.

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Re: Dresden Photos

Post by kujah » 23 Apr 2008 00:31

David, thanks for your informative reply.

David, you said:
The argument can certainly be made, but so far no poster has made it successfully. I tried to point out some of the conceptual problems at viewtopic.php?p=608983#p608983 and at viewtopic.php?p=743007#p743007


I've just had a browse through but there are so many posts :S. What are the main arguments that are put through by the proponents of the "Dresden was a war crime" argument? Can the 1949 Geneva Conventions be used as a ex de facto/retroactive law in the case of Allied bombing if prima facie evidence was to come to light?

In regards to the conditions of February 1945, I was referring to the weather conditions encountered by pilots in Europe at that time. I apologise if I did not make my question clear. I'm under the impression that they mostly encountered 10/10th cloud conditions. Would this have a severe detrimental effect on precision bombing?

Last question: There's been conflicting evidence over whether or not the Russians had specifically asked for Dresden to be bombed. In some posts and in the USAAF Historical Analysis, this was argued to be the case. In others, it was said that Antonov and the Russian delegation had asked for "Berlin and Liepzig" to be bombed, with Dresden to be on the "bomb line" proposed. However, when the RAF and USAAF had notified the Russians that they will be bombing Dresden prior to the actual event, they neither agreed or disagreed. So what's the consensus around here?

Cheers, Kevin.

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Re: Dresden Photos

Post by David Thompson » 23 Apr 2008 03:39

kujah -- You remarked:

(1) I've just had a browse through but there are so many posts :S.

Truly. As the forum readership increased over the years, the growing multiplicity of threads on the same topics resulted in a "one subject, one thread" rule change here.

(2) What are the main arguments that are put through by the proponents of the "Dresden was a war crime" argument?

Here are the arguments that I've seen:

(a) The bombing violated the 1907 Hague IV Convention Annex.

(b) The draft treaty on aerial warfare, although not ratified, became incorporated into a common law of nations, which the bombing violated.

(c) The bombing was a crime against humanity.

(d) Those who think the bombing was not a war crime are WRONG! and there's something the matter with people who don't see the TRUTH!

(3) Can the 1949 Geneva Conventions be used as a ex de facto/retroactive law in the case of Allied bombing if prima facie evidence was to come to light?

No. Since Roman times, ex post facto laws have generally been regarded as unjust in a domestic (intra-national) context. The idea was that prohibited conduct should be clearly defined and the law published before just punishment could be inflicted. See generally this wikipedia article:

Ex post facto law
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ex_post_facto

International law recognizes the same principle. From early times, when one sovereign or nation broke a treaty or international agreement, the custom was for the offended sovereign nation to take reprisal – in other words, to take vengeance upon otherwise guiltless enemy nationals, to discourage further violations. Concepts such as proportionality were unknown at first, but later became customary.

Beginning as early as the Napoleonic wars, nations began to punish individuals for violations of the laws and customs of war, rather than exercise their right of reprisal. This tendency became marked in the war crimes trials which followed WWI. After WWII the tendency became customary in international law. The 1929 Geneva Convention on POWs, and the subsequent 1949 Conventions have severely restricted, if not banned, the ancient custom of reprisal. Generally, war crimes law has not been employed against individuals on an ex post facto basis, although that claim is often raised by persons who don't understand the meaning of ex post facto.

For more information on the meaning of ex post facto laws in the context of war crimes, see:

Ex post facto law and the Nuernberg trials
viewtopic.php?f=6&t=15033
Crimes against humanity - an ex post facto law?
viewtopic.php?f=6&t=27987

(4) In regards to the conditions of February 1945, I was referring to the weather conditions encountered by pilots in Europe at that time. I apologise if I did not make my question clear. I'm under the impression that they mostly encountered 10/10th cloud conditions. Would this have a severe detrimental effect on precision bombing?

I don't know enough about the subject to give you an informed answer, so I'll leave it to our readers to answer this question.

(5) Last question: There's been conflicting evidence over whether or not the Russians had specifically asked for Dresden to be bombed. In some posts and in the USAAF Historical Analysis, this was argued to be the case. In others, it was said that Antonov and the Russian delegation had asked for "Berlin and Liepzig" to be bombed, with Dresden to be on the "bomb line" proposed. However, when the RAF and USAAF had notified the Russians that they will be bombing Dresden prior to the actual event, they neither agreed or disagreed. So what's the consensus around here?

I have not seen any evidence contradicting the USAF version, nor any Soviet primary sources on the subject posted in the forum. Given the lack of sourced information to the contrary, most folks are probably more familiar with the allied version of events.

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Re: Dresden Photos

Post by kujah » 23 Apr 2008 04:20

Thanks David :D

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Re: Dresden Photos

Post by kujah » 23 Apr 2008 05:19

Some sources on the "Russian Request" debate:

Conclusion
... b. Strategic objectives, of mutual importance to the Allies and the Russians, underlay the bombings of Dresden. c. The Russians requested that the Dresden area be bombed by Allied air forces...


HISTORICAL ANALYSIS OF THE 14-15 FEBRUARY 1945 BOMBINGS OF DRESDEN

Did the Soviets request the bombing of Dresden?No, the Soviets never specifically asked for it. They were aware from the Tripartite negotiations at Yalta, however, that the British and the Americans had reserved the right to bomb it whenever they chose. In addition, at Yalta the Soviets requested "an action on communications [to] hinder the enemy from carrying out the shifting of his troops to the East from the Western Front...Spaatz, in accordance with previous agreements notified the Soviets 24 hours before the February 13 mission...At no time did the Soviets express a wish to halt the bombing of Dresden


p563 of "Carl A. Spaatz and the air war in Europe" by Richard G. Davis.

Meanwhile, the angle of approach at the Yalta discussions had shifted, and apart from General Antonov's request that Berlin and Leipzig should be paralysed, the Russians showed little further interest in the strategic air offensive. As far as its application to targets in eastern German was concerned, they seemed to have been anxious to restrict rather than to encourage its development...In the United States, where such a strong and public emphasis had been accorded to the selective and precise nature of American bombing, it produced an awkward situation [on the USAAF's participation in Dresden] which was only partly alleviated by the statement of General Marshall to the Secretary of War that the bombing of Dresden had been taken place at Russian request*

*The statement was contained in a memorandum of 6th March 1945. The American official historian accepts it as correct...It seems probable, however, that General Marshall read too much into the Russian request which, apart from the specific mention of Berlin and Leipzig, was in general terms. At any rate no evidence has come to light showing that the Russians asked specifically for the bombing of Dresden (footnote)


p106-113 Webster, C. and Frankland, N. “The Strategic Air Offensive Against Germany, 1939-1945” (4 volumes), 1961,

General Antonov, the Red Army's chief of staff, suggested that the Western Air Forces paralyse enemy communication centres like Berlin and Leipzig; he neither mentioned Dresden nor excluded it. On February 5th, when proposing a bomb line, east of which Western bombing would be forbidden, he left Dresden open to Western air attack. Contrary to later claims, the Soviets never specifically asked for an attack on Dresden...Later Soviet propaganda exploitation of the bombing of Dresden tempted some Westerners to try to shift some or all of the blame for it onto the Soviets, but the record does not support this."


p178 Levine, A.J, “The Strategic Bombing of Germany, 1940-1945”, 1992

Churchill made no response but departed for Yalta, where the Russians themselves suggested the need to "paralyse the centres: Berlin and Leipzig". Dresden was not mentioned; its fate had been sealed


p333 Longmate, N. “The Bombers: the RAF offensive against Germany, 1939-1945”, 1983

While the formal records that the only individual targets he [Antonov] specified were Berlin and Leipzig, the British Chief of Staff's own interpreter is certain that Dresden was also requested, not just by Antonov but also - strongly - by Stalin himself


p319 Probert, H. “Bomber Harris: his life and times: the biography of Marshal of the Royal Air Force, Sir Arthur Harris, the wartime chief of Bomber Command”, 2001
Last edited by kujah on 23 Apr 2008 15:28, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Dresden Photos

Post by David Thompson » 23 Apr 2008 13:55

Thanks, kujah, for those interesting quotes.

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Re: Dresden Photos

Post by kujah » 23 Apr 2008 15:31

And for those interested with the debate about Dresden, you might want to have a look at the book:

Firestorm: The Bombing of Dresden 1945 by Paul Addison and Jeremy A. Crang 2006

It was published after the University of Edinburgh held a debate between historians on the issue, and the book consists of separate chapters outlining the views of a certain historian on it. It does provide some vivid details on the actual bombing, the reasons behind it and the legal arguments surrounding it.

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Re: Dresden Photos

Post by Peter H » 03 Oct 2008 11:09

"Experts: Dresden Bombing Killed Fewer Than Thought"

http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,214 ... 18,00.html
A historical commission has concluded that the Allied bombing of Dresden killed up to 25,000 people -- significantly revising down previous estimates that said as many as 135,000 died in the 1945 attack.

The bombing of Dresden -- eastern Germany's cultural center -- has been a sore point in German relations with the countries of the Allied forces, coming with such vengeance so late in World War II.

The city was devastated, and there were enormous casualties among civilians and refugees. Historians have argued about just how many people were killed in the firebombing on the night of Feb. 13-14, 1945, with estimates ranging from 25,000 to 135,000.

Now, a special commission of a dozen experts, including university professors, archivists and military historians have said that after four years of research, the lower figure is more accurate.

So far, they have confirmed 18,000 deaths and say they have found no reason to assume that the final tally will be significantly higher. Their research is to continue until 2009....

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Re: Dresden Photos

Post by JamesL » 03 Oct 2008 15:48

I visited Dresden last year. My trip report can be found at the link below.

http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. ... 2&t=123621

Dresden was a legitimate target. The bombing was not a war crime.

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Re: Dresden Photos

Post by 197752 » 12 Oct 2008 02:15

As I understand it, the British high command was trying to destroy any city that might be used by the Nazis to prolong the war. Dresden had not been hit before and it seemed that it might be a haven for the Nazi attempt to keep the war going despite their obvious defeat. I pity the civilians who died there just as I pity all civilians who died in WWII. In my mind, however, it is no worse than any of the other bombings. Least we forget, the intention of strategic bombing was to break the will of the population--a topic still debated at the US Air Force's Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama today. The techniques have changed with the changes in bombing technology. The "Shock and Awe" bombing of Bagdad in the opening days of the Iraq War is the modern version of strategic bombing. A lot more surgical but still not a totally precise action--especially if the country being bombed uses its citizens as shields.

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Re: Dresden Photos

Post by tonyh » 13 Oct 2008 08:15

No country "...uses its citizens as shields", that's simply a very poor excuse used by an attacking country for civilian death.


Tony

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Re: Dresden Photos

Post by Penn44 » 13 Oct 2008 08:29

By the way, what was the British or American phrase for enemy civilian deaths in WWII?

When I took a nuclear weapon targeting course in the mid-1980s it was "collaterial damage."

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Re: Dresden Photos

Post by tonyh » 13 Oct 2008 09:02

The closest you'll get in Bomber Command parlance was "de-housing". I don't think USAAF had a term for it in the 40's, but "collaterial damage" surely is one of the greatest lingual slight of hands ever.

Either way, great care was/is taken by aggressor nations to gloss over or at least reduce the impact of their mass bombing results, which was/is dead people.


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Re: Dresden Photos

Post by Penn44 » 13 Oct 2008 09:25

tonyh wrote: ... Either way, great care was/is taken by aggressor nations to gloss over or at least reduce the impact of their mass bombing results, which was/is dead people.

Tony
Only "aggressor" nations engage in euphemisms? Your world is neatly split between those who wear the "white hats" and those who wear the "black hats."

War wouldn't quite be a war without someone get "deep six'ed." As long as they don't owe me money.

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Re: Dresden Photos

Post by tonyh » 13 Oct 2008 12:28

Only "aggressor" nations engage in euphemisms? Your world is neatly split between those who wear the "white hats" and those who wear the "black hats."
If you're bombing the crap out of another country, yes you're an aggressor nation.

That's not so hard to understand, is it Penn?

BTW, I mentioned nothing about "White hats" or "Black hats" and out of the two of us, I'd say my world view is made up of more greyer shades than your own.


Tony

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