Monday, June 22, 2015

The RAF Bombing Campaign in Germany: Ethical and Strategic Considerations

The RAF Bombing Campaign in Germany: Ethical and Strategic Considerations

Karl F. Rahder
Master's Thesis, Committee on International Relations, University of Chicago

November, 1988

Conscience is but a word that cowards use,
Devis'd at first to keep the strong in awe.
our strong arms be our conscience, swords our law.

Richard III


Part I:  The  Utilitarian  Nature  of  Bomber  Command's  Morale Campaign (p 5)

Part II: Misgivings, Public and Private (p 31)

Part III: The Anglo-American Offensive (p 46)

Conclusions (p 69)


In the aftermath of the Allied strategic bombing campaign against Germany, some 300,000 to 600,000 German civilians - mostly working-class people residing in the Reich's large, urban centers - had been killed by Allied air forces.   Some five to seven and one-half million non-combatants had lost their homes in an assault on sometimes undefended German cities which began on a small scale but   gained intensity and fury until, in the Winter of 1945, devastating raids took place in the cities of Berlin and Dresden, killing more than sixty thousand residents and refugees fleeing the Red Army in the east.   In Germany's largest cities, some 40% of the dwellings were destroyed or heavily damaged. In this four and a half year program of attacking the morale of Germany's people, Britain's RAF had contributed by far the largest share and paid a heavy price: some 55,000 aircrew were killed over Germany or German-occupied territory.1
This paper will examine the evolution of the British morale bombing campaign
through an ethical perspective, including reference to the just war tradtion.   Ethical
arguments have been posited both for and against Bomber Command's decision to bomb
noncombatants, and no policy which results in even unintended collateral deaths can be
made without reference to the long just war tradition which has in part come to define the
warring state and its place in the moral world. Can the morale campaign be ethically
justified?    If the RAF and the Air Staff, which had nominal control over Bomber
Command, developed a relationship between mass bombing of civilians and the surrender
of the German war machine and monitored the validity of this relationship, then there may
have been a legitimate rationale for breaking the long-standing ethical injunctions against
killing innocents.  How did the British formulate the relationship between mass bombing of
urban workers, shopkeepers and other noncombatants, and  surrender of the German state?
This is of vital importance, for the bombing of "innocents" has long been considered a most

1United States Strategic Bombing Survey (hereafter USSBS) Summary Report (European War), p 15; Lee
A History of Strategic Bombing (New York: 1982), p 122; Max Hastings, Bomber Command: The
Myths and Reality of the Strategic Bomber Offensive 1939-1945
(London: Michael Joseph 1980), pp 1, 352

unmilitary endeavor, and the way in which Bomber Command articulated its morale bombing policy will reveal the extent to which strategic, doctrinal and ethical issues were explored before the campaign commenced and during its execution. We will examine the analyses which drove - or sometimes challenged - morale bombing in the RAF.   If the bombing of cities such as Hamburg represented the "murderous lust of a sadistic enemy...transcending all human experience" to some German residents, we will want to understand how such a deliberate campaign was justified and sought.
Indeed, were the ethical issues actually addressed inside HM Government or was the utilitarian argument window dressing for a policy without an ethical or even a rational strategic basis?    In order to answer this question, we will want to determine the extent of misgivings over the morale campaign within the military and in HM Government as well as the strategic and ethical underpinnings of the campaign.   The article will explore how the few opponents of area bombing framed their arguments and compare those arguments with the Bomber Command's justification of its method and strategy.
Finally, we will examine briefly the   nature of American differences with their British partners at Bomber Command as well as whether ethical considerations played a role, internally or in the debate over bombing strategy.

Chapter I: The Utilitarian Nature of Bomber Command's Morale Campaign

Through the just war concept or tradition, we have a foundation for our sense of
moral right in war and hence of the nature of moral outrage committed by states in war,
especially "just war."   For it is not enough (and patently wrong) to argue that either all
war is morally proscribed or that states by definition are incapable of moral choice in
war.   Historical example very quickly renders both notions untenable.   The simple and

evident fact that we can still be shocked by actions of states at war implies that there is a deeply rooted (if for most people unarticulated) notion of what states may do in war as well as implicit permission that sovereign states may engage in war at all.
Just war criteria are usually divided into two broad and often complementary categories: the criteria under which states may engage in war and also the limitations states must abide by when engaged in a just war (that is, after the first set of criteria has been met).   The former, when taken together, are called the jus ad bellum and the latter limitations jus in bello.  The jus ad bellum consists of several ideas, most of which need not concern us in this article.2 In the modern world, the just cause (defense of one's borders) has become the paramount jus ad bellum criterion.3
The jus in bello criteria are two: that states must use means approximating those
used against them (proportionality) and that non-combatant immunity shall be maintained
(discrimination).   Ironically, while the means of warfare have become more destructive
and indiscriminate, the jus in bello criteria have lost none of their relevance in modern
thought.4 The RAF throughout the war maintained a somewhat utilitarian argument5 in
defense of the violation of noncombatant immunity while denying in public that
noncombatants were being killed indiscriminately.  Privately, Bomber Command and its
supporters inside the Government tended to admit in varying degrees to targeting
noncombatants.   The jus in bello criterion of discrimination is the key to the ethical
examination of Bomber Command's strategy.  While British intentions vis a vis Germany
before the war are outside the scope of this paper, we will assume (with the weight of
historical evidence on our side) that Britain was engaged in a just war.   For Britain, the

2See Johnson, Can Modern War Be Just, pp 18-29.  Johnson adds a seventh criterion in his unpublished essay, viz, that there be a reasonable hope of success.
3Can Modern War Be Just?, p 21
4Johnson points out in his essay that the jus in bello "have...risen in importance relative to the jus ad bellum over time."  Hardin adds that "in contemporary concern, the doctrine of just war is almost exclusively a matter of jus in bello after an unjust attack." See Hardin, p 185
5On utilitarianism and the action-based objections to consequentialist means, see Hardin and Ramsey,

jus ad bellum has been satisfied.   A purely just war argument in favor of Bomber
Command’s methods cannot succeed, for we are left with the ethical problem of a state
which  has  otherwise  satisfied  the  just  cause  killing  indiscriminately  hundreds  of
thousands of civilians, most of whom had nothing to do with the munitions factories
which the Government repeatedly claimed to be aiming for.  The analysis and history are
complex, for Bomber Command and the Air Staff posed several arguments, one for
public consumption (see Section II) and several internally.   The latter were a jumbled
assortment of wishful thinking in the guise of strategic analysis and a xenophobic set of
untestable assumptions.   In simple terms, Bomber Command's argument, as well as that
of many of its critics, was utilitarian: 'Our justification for the bombing of residential
areas is that this regrettable action will save Allied lives and shorten the war.'   This
argument (which justified nominally unjust means in the pursuit of a good end) may be
challenged on its own terms, as General Carl Spaatz did, or it may run against objections
along the lines that breaking the jus in bello criterion of noncombatant immunity is
immoral in its own right and cannot be justified by any good end.
To restate the problem, we will use a just war frarmework to examine the ethics of British strategic bombing campaign.  The just war tradition is always with us, forcing us to look at issues such as large-scale bombardment of civilians not simply from a strategic perspective, but an ethical one as well.   I would argue that the following hard-headed questions guide any command decision-making body when the question of killing large numbers of civilians in wartime is posed:
1) Has the nation in questioned examined the moral issue of killing civilians before embarking on a campaign to do so?
2) Is it a matter of last resort?
3)  Has the state articulated a relationship between mass bombing and surrender of its adversary?
4)   Is the validity of this relaitonship being monitored?            (If killing non-combatants
is working - that         is, compelling the adversary to surrender - then the state would
nominally be permitted to continue.                 If the strategy is not working, then the state

would be compelled to seek victory or survival without   resort               to       breaking       this
Let us now turn to Britain’s situation between the wars...
Bomber Command's mission evolved from a muddled pre-war set of doctrines
which were hastily formulated and often mutually exclusive.  The RAF could not seem to
make up its mind before the war what the role of Bomber Command was.  Up until 1933,
the RAF was the stepchild of British forces.  With rearmament beginning in 1933, based
in part on an exaggerated picture of German strategic forces, Britain still had only a
vague deterrence role for Bomber Command with no concomitant strategy.  By 1937, the
RAF's bomber force was rated so weak that its bases could probably not draw German
bombers away from raiding British cities.   In June of 1938, more out of fear of the
Luftwaffe than any ethical constraints, the PM told parliament that in the event of war,
the RAF would bomb only those German targets located away from cities.   In the final
days before war, Ludlow Hewitt (Bomber Command C-in-C) warned the Air Staff that in
the event of all-out attacks on Germany, Bomber Command would be wiped out in less
than eight weeks.6
Britain sought in the early months of the war to maintain a strictly precision-
oriented  bombing  policy.    This  was  largely  due  to  fears  based  on  the  pre-war
exaggerations of German strategic air power and what the Luftwaffe could do to London.
The  "knockout  blow"  literature  of  the  interwar  period  reflected  the  widespread
expectation in Europe that aerial warfare would be directed against cities in which the
residents would be bombed and even gassed.   Many of the apocalyptic pictures of a
knockout blow on London (launched from Germany or France) seem remarkably current,
finding a place in modern thought on the effects of nuclear war.   Among the principal
contributors to the knockout blow concept were Lord Trenchard, Italian General Guilio
Douhet, James Spaight and Basil Liddell Hart.   Douhet died in 1930, and Lidell Hart

6See Messenger, p 25; SAO IV, p 89; Quester, pp 82-89; Hastings, p 42

would eventually turn away from the concept of strategic bombardment of cities to articulate a tactical role for air power in concert with ground forces.   Trenchard would continue to exert a strong philosophical influence advocating the effectiveness of morale bombing in the RAF.7
In May of 1940 the "phoney war" had ended with the German assaults on the Low
Countries and France.   The only significant "strategic" aerial bombardment so far was
carried out by the Luftwaffe on targets in countries which could not strike back, such as
Warsaw.   Hitler claimed that the situation in Warsaw (and later, Rotterdam) was purely
tactical and the bombing had fallen within the parameters of the Hague Draft Rules.  This
is plausible, since Hitler immediately acquiesced to Roosevelt's plea for all parties to
pledge not to bomb cities indiscriminately.   Hitler further had given orders to his staff
that France and Britain were not to be bombed.  If Britain had given up on the  deterrent
power of the RAF, it was still uppermost in Hitler's mind.8 The most significant event
in the early air war was the bombing of Rotterdam, which seemed to confirm the
widespread fears of the knockout blow. The figure of 30,000 people killed was
generally accepted,9 and it seemed that the GAF had lost any inhibitions against killing civilians in large scale terror attacks designed to intimidate, create panic and bring a population to its knees.
Had Goering decided to resort to the strategies of Trenchard and Douhet?  In fact,
the Rotterdam incident was an example of the breakdown in command and control.  The
commander on the ground, having encircled the city, called off the attack, but not before
a large contingent of aircraft went aloft.   Signal flares lighted by the German ground

7For a survey of the knockout blow in interwar literature, see Kennett, chapter 3; Hastings, chapter 1;
Frankland, pp 16-40 and Uri Bialer, Shadow of the Bomber: The Fear of Air Attack and British Politics, 1932-1939 (London, 1980)
8See George Quester, Deterrence Before Hiroshima (New York: John Wiley, 1966), pp 106, 108 and passim for Hitler's desire to retain a deterrence relationship with Britain.
9Quester, p 110 and Kennett, p 107-8, 112

forces to ward off the attack went unheeded, and the city center was bombed with 980 civilians dying.10
Bomber Command's first desultory experience with precision bombing was its attack on the German seaplane base on the island of Sylt.   Despite claims by pilots of success, photo reconnaissance undertaken later indicated that

The operation does not confirm that...the average crews of our bombers can identify targets at night...nor does it prove that the average crew can bomb industrial targets at night...11

Training of Bomber Command crews was woeful during this period, and remained
inadequate during the first years of the war. (Harris would often decline to bomb
precision targets on the basis of his crews' inability to find them.)   In August of 1939,
40% of bomber crews could not find a target in a friendly city in daylight.12 Despite the
poor accuracy of this first operation, HM Government still hoped to stick to precision
attacks.   Its June memo to the Air Ministry reflected the unarticulated prewar emphasis
on precision:

the attack must be avoid undue loss of civilian life in the vicinity of the target13

These were the final days for the precision target set, although the Air Ministry and
the Government would continue to claim to be hitting military and other precision targets
throughout the war (see Chapter 2).   Bomber Command crews still took pains to avoid
hitting civilian targets such as hospitals in urban settings,14 but Churchill looked to

10Quester, p 110
11Charles Messenger, 'Bomber' Harris and the Strategic Bombing Offensive (NY, 1984), p 34-5 and SAO 12Messenger 29
13In Hastings 89
14Ibid, p 90

Britain's future strategy and found only "one way through." On July 8, 1940, the Prime Minister wrote a memo to the Minister of Aircraft production (Beaverbrook) advocating attacks upon the cities of Germany as the only way to "overwhelm" the Nazis, whom he saw turning "east" (read: the USSR) if British fighters were successful in fending off German bombers in the months ahead.   Churchill told Beaverbrook that he wanted Bomber Command to deliver an:

absolutely devastating exterminating attack by very heavy bombers upon the Nazi homeland.   We must be able to overwhelm him by this means, without which I do not see a way through.15

Here was the first enunciation of a means/ends based rationale for the killing of
large numbers of civilians in enemy territory.  The memo indicated a deliberate policy of
mass bombing, not a strategy which included collateral deaths which were not directly
intended.  At this juncture, Bomber Command still lacked the means by which this  mass
bombing of Germany's heart could be carried out.   A competent, four-engined bomber
was still years away, and in the meantime Britain's only truly strategic military force
would have to make do with two-engined bombers of limited range which Bomber
Command would sometimes have to coax from other services.    Importantly, the memo
also implied no military involvement on the Continent, if at all possible.   This was the
major motivating influence in Churchill's strategic thinking prior to Overlord.   Only
Bomber Command offered the possibility of at once making a major contribution to
Germany's defeat and avoiding another Somme while doing so.  We will have occasion to
return to this aspect of Churchill's thinking later on.
On July 13, the Air Staff issued a directive which specified oil and the aircraft
industry as the twin target sets. Sir Charles Portal, at this time C-in-C of Bomber
Command and a Trenchard disciple, replied that the plan was too limited and that such

15R.V. Jones, Most Secret War (1978) p 183 in Messenger, p 39

precision targets would likely not be hit.  When bombs missed their aiming points at oil plants which were far from urban areas, they would

hit nothing else of importance and do no damage, and the minimum
amount of dislocation and disturbance will be caused by the operation as a

Widely dispersed attacks would be more effective because of the collateral damage done to civil populations in an area campaign:

It largely increases the moral[e] effect of out operations by the alarm and disturbance created over the wider area.17

Thus Portal began backing into a morale strategy which would necessitate the killing of civilians as at least a desirable side-effect.  In July 1940, the German Air Force had begun attacks on coastal shipping (including ports adjacent to major cities) in preparation for Operation Sea Lion.   More than any other single event, the Battle of Britain proved to be the catalyst for the eventual anti-morale bombing campaign directed at the people of Germany.   Hitler's directive to the Luftwaffe was succinct: the aims of the bombing campaign in Britain were to 1) destroy the RAF and the aircraft industry, 2) destroy ports and food storage facilities and 3) attack residential areas as reprisals for possible British raids against German cities:
I reserve to myself the right to decide on terror tactics as measures of reprisal.18

16Sir Charles Webster and Noble Frankland, The Strategic Air Offensive Against Germany, 1939-1945 (hereafter SAO), Vol 1, p 150
17Hastings, p 101
18Quester p 114 fn 23

In mid August, the Luftwaffe was doing grievous damage to Fighter Command
aerodromes as well as attacking the aircraft industry.  Goering thought destruction of the
RAF would "open decisive possibilities for victory without an invasion"19 (much as the
Allied morale bombing advocates would claim four years later).   In late August, the
Germans added industrial targets at night to their day attacks.  Navigational errors caused
ten or twelve German airplanes to bomb residential London accidentally on the night of
August 24.  British reaction was swift, with 81 aircraft making what was described as a
precision attack on Berlin.  Five more Berlin raids were made in the next fortnight.
September 1940 was the most significant month for Bomber Command's future, a
month in which the RAF slipped   from its oft-announced position of precision targets
only to a stance which would give its later actions doctrinal precedence. After September
7, the GAF shifted its focus to London and away from Fighter Command aerodromes in
what were widely considered to be indiscriminate area attacks.    Portal, on September 11,
"proscribed" 20 German cities for revenge operations.     "In view of the indiscriminate
nature of the German attacks," wrote Portal, "every effort should be made to bomb
The Air Staff were "dismayed" and "determined to resist" Portal's desire to initiate
an area campaign which might bring havoc upon Britain's population centers.21 Further,
both the Air Staff and the Air Ministry still believed in the efficacy of precision targeting;
the early German bombing during the Battle of Britain was considered by the Vice Chief
of the Air Staff, Sir Richard Peirse, not to be deliberately terroristic, but "sporadic and
mainly harassing."22 On September 21, the Air Ministry issued a directive to Bomber
Command indicating the sanction for bombing cities.   This new target set reflected the
clash between those in the Ministry who favored precision attacks against a variety of

19For a useful chronological discussion of the Battle of Britain, see Quester, pp113-22 20SAO I, p 153
21Hastings, p 102
22SAO I, p 152

military and industrial targets and the Prime Minister and his allies, who favored punitive
raids on Berlin.   Oil was the main priority, along with communications. The German
aircraft industry and naval targets such as submarine pens and landing craft were the
secondary target set.   In the final paragraph, occasional morale attacks on Berlin were
sanctioned which would cause "the greatest possible disturbance and dislocation both to
the industrial activities and to the civil population generally in the area," although the
directive noted that "there are no objectives in the Berlin area of importance to our major
By October, Portal had moved from C-in-C of Bomber Command to Chief of the
Air Staff.  This represented the confluence of views between the new Chief and Churchill,
who was increasingly pressing for morale attacks against Germany.    Oil would remain the
major target of Bomber Command from the autumn of 1940 until the following May,
although after October 30, the twin target set was clearly oil and morale.  In poor weather,
which was most of the time (especially in winter), Berlin and other cities on Portal's
"proscribed list" were to be attacked. Portal ordered the new Bomber Command C-in C,
Sir Richard Peirse, to attack the cities "with such regularity as you may find practicable."
Bomber Command was further directed to raise fire-storms in the more important German
cities.  Unlike analyses in the near future which would link the psychological effects of the
morale campaign to victory over the German state, the Air Staff were more modest in their
goals.  The rationale for morale bombing was simply "to affect the morale of the German
people when they can no longer expect an early victory and are faced with the near
approach of winter and the certainty of a long war."   This was straightforward enough:
Bomber Command would "demonstrate to the enemy the power and severity of air
bombardment and the hardship and dislocation which will result from it."24 Britain had
now committed itself (without acknowledging this in public) to a morale campaign aimed

23Ibid, p 153; SAO IV, p 127
24SAO IV, pp 128-29

at the minds of the German people.   While the goals of this campaign were still modest, this too would change.
Technological constraints also played a role in Bomber Command's reluctance to
continue bombing precision targets.  Losses to German fighters in the Ruhr campaign and
the ineffectual attacks against hardened U-Boat pens in France made the shift to night
and to area all the more palatable.   But in the directives from Portal and in the increasing
pressure from Churchill, another - distinctly punitive - aspect of British policy was
surfacing.   In the wake of the futile Bomber Command attacks on military targets in
France, Churchill added momentum towards large-scale morale bombing by urging the
Air Minister (Sinclair) to devote greater resources to a build-up of bomber resources and
a semi-area campaign in the Ruhr.
While the area campaign was gaining in the Air Staff at this time, there was still no
overall rationale or strategy delineating what Britain hoped to achieve by bombing the
cities of Germany.  The manner in which this was attempted was unscientific, subjective,
and largely unchallenged - both on ethical and purely military grounds.  The first internal
attempt to rationalize morale bombing came from Sir Robert Vansittart, a Foreign Office
official who had access to a letter written by a "former German staff officer" who
strongly urged an "all-out attack on German morale."25 This was met with great interest
in the Air Staff, and the following month the Chiefs of Staff examined the effects of bombing morale for the first time.   This brief and inadequate "analysis" repeated the urgings of Lord Trenchard, who advocated a widespread campaign aimed at German morale, which he considered breakable, based on his personal observations in WWI. Thus the CoS declared in its overview of Britain's strategic objectives that
The evidence at our disposal goes to show that the morale of the average
German civilian will weaken quicker than that of a population such as our
own  as  a  consequence  of  direct  attack.    The  Germans  have  been

25SAO I, p 169

undernourished and subjected to a permanent strain equivalent to that of
war conditions during almost the whole period of Hitler's regime and for
this reason also will be liable to crack before a nation of greater

This can be seen charitably as a vaguely utilitarian argument: the "all out attack on German morale" was justified by the good end achieved - the surrender of the German state.   However, the salient issue of killing innocents was not mentioned, nor did the moral dimension come into play at all.   Indeed, there seemed to be a phobia for discussing the ethical issues or putting forward a compelling utilitarian justification for bombing noncombatants.   The result, as we shall see, was an increasingly savage, punitive campaign, carried out in an ethical and strategic vacuum.
In early 1941, Bomber Command continued its attack on the twin target set of oil
and morale.   Up to this time the area campaign was having almost no effect.   In
December of 1940, the city of Mannheim experienced the RAF's first experiment with an
area attack on a large city.  The purpose of the raid was to light fires throughout the city,
but the results of the attack by 92 aircraft were disappointing.   Precision attacks were
abandoned in late 1940 except for naval targets and oil.   The naval attacks were doing
little good; Bomber Command resisted the pleas of the Admiralty to aid in the Battle of
the Atlantic.   Both now and later, under Harris, Bomber Command would argue that it
was far more efficient to attack manufacturing facilities inside Germany (and to kill
German industrial workers) than to raid "panaceas" such as submarine pens in French
ports.   The durability of the submarine pens at St. Nazaire and Lorient seemed to favor
Bomber Command's approach.   The constant attacks upon the emplacements virtually
razed these towns and killed many civilians.   The U-boat support facilities continued to

26SAO IV, p 190

operate, however.   Admiral Doenitz said of the devastating but militarily futile attacks,
"No dog or cat is left in these towns.  Nothing but the submarine shelters remain!"27
Bomber Command seemed almost incapable of bombing any target, regardless of
size.  Churchill criticized Bomber Command for its utter inability to sink German cruisers
in Brest, and the escape of Scharnhorst and Gneisenau up the English Channel
underscored its impotence   during this period.   Indeed, until 1943, Bomber Command
was only a potential strategic weapon, one which might save Allied lives and bring
Germany to surrender without having to commit large British land armies to the
Continent.   But the RAF's ability to deliver knockout blows, in 1941, was still years
By February 1941, Portal was becoming disenchanted with the oil campaign.   By March,  oil attacks had ceased completely with the Air Staff concluding in April that oil was invulnerable.  Portal now came to embrace "mass attacks on industrial areas" as the most efficient means of crippling Germany's war at sea.28
1941 saw two monographs on the precision/area bombing dilemma that together proved to be the death-knell of precision attacks for Bomber Command.  The first was a memo written by Lord Trenchard in May to the Chiefs of Staff.  In his report, Trenchard echoed the earlier pseudo-scientific analyses of the German character and mixed this with wild projections and assumptions of what a strategic bombing force was capable of.  His estimates began the British notions that eventually Bomber Command would have a force of somewhere between 4,000 and 10,000 heavy bombers (perhaps as early as 1944) with which to defeat Germany from the air.
Trenchard articulated what for Bomber Command was "the great temptation, thanks
to the complete misjudgment of the German character and situation which reigned in all

27C & C II, p 316
28SAO I, p 165

sections of the British consciousness..."29 This temptation was the all-out attack on what
was perceived to be Germany's weakest link: the morale of her citizens, especially her
urban work force.  Trenchard articulated finally (in a bureaucracy in which there seemed
to be an inordinate fear of articulating what everyone wanted) the "rationale" behind
terror-bombing.  The rationale depended exclusively upon the putative superiority of the
British character to that of Germany's people.  This analysis repeated "intelligence" from
the Air Staff, Bomber Command, and the Ministry of Information regarding what the
German experience of strategic bombing was and what the ultimate result must be:
When we have surveyed the whole area of the struggle and the factors
involved, what is the outstanding fact?   It is the ingrained morale of the
British nation which is nowhere more strongly manifest than in its ability
to stand up to losses and its power to bear the whole strain of war and its
History has proved that we have always been able to stand our Casualties better than other Nations
Strategically it must be   sound to hammer the weak points of the enemy.
When we talk of weak points we mean the spheres in which we are
relatively stronger than he is.   Where are those weak points to be found?
Certainly not in land fighting...Where then is Germany's weak point?  It is
to be found in precisely the sphere in which I began this paper by stating
that we had a great strength.   All the evidence of the last war and of this
shows  that  the  German  nation  is  peculiarly  susceptible  to  air
bombing...The ordinary people are...virtually imprisoned in their shelters
or within the bombed area, they remain passive and easy prey to hysteria
and panic without anything to mitigate the inevitable confusion and chaos.
There is no joking in the German shelters as in ours...

29John Terraine, The Right of the Line, The Royal Air Force in the European War, 1939-1945 (London: Hodeder and Stoughton 1985), p 263

This, then is their weak point compared with ourselves, and it is at this weak point that we should strike and strike again.30
Trenchard went on in this extraordinary treatise to project that 70% losses could be incurred with a four hundred plane reserve (he anticipated aircraft inventories to be strengthened once America came into the war).    Even in such circumstances, the comparison between what the Royal Navy  and Bomber Command could do favored the latter.  When bombing ships at sea, 99% of bombs would miss the target, while in a city campaign, 99% would hit.  Morale, then, was the key.
Trenchard's views echoed those of the Air Staff, which in 1941 with a modest force
of obsolescent aircraft deluded itself that Germany was already suffering from the
incipient morale campaign.  An Air Staff report stated that the German people "cowered
under an incessant rain of HE, and plotted rebellion against the hated Nazi regime."31
Despite the lack of sufficient resources, the Air Staff backed further into morale bombing with a new target set announcement in July.   Transport and railways would form one leg of this new dyad (the Chiefs of Staff still felt that oil was the best precision target, but acknowledged Bomber Command's inability to interrupt Germany's oil supplies in any meaningful way).  The Air Staff estimated a CEP of 1,000 yards in good moonlight for these raids.   The other component of the new target set was morale, although the word "morale" was not used.   Since moonlight was required for any precision at all, for 3/4 of each month
it is possible to obtain satisfactory results only by the 'Blitz' attack on large working class and industrial areas in the towns.32
This wording made the area bombing campaign seem to be one of default, although
the Air Staff and Bomber Command (along with a somewhat ambivalent PM) had

30SAO IV, App 10, pp 194-197
31In Terraine, p 266
32SAO I, p 172

concurred for some time that morale was the most effective target.   The Air Staff plan was for an eventual force of 4,000 heavy bombers, but Sinclair told Portal in June that this proposal was encountering "heavy weather" with the ministers, who hesitated to sink as much as a third of Britain's industry into a single arm of the military.33
Amidst  growing  disillusionment  over  Bomber  Command  accuracy,  the  first
objective, scientific analysis was commissioned in 1941.   In July, Lord Cherwell (the
Prime Minister's scientific adviser and a close friend of Churchill's), commissioned an
exhaustive study of bombing effectiveness.    Lord Cherwell appointed D.M. Butt, of the
War Cabinet Secretariate, to analyze 630 photos representing a total of 6,105 individual
sorties.  Of these missions, 2/3 of the crews claimed to have reached the target.  The Butt
Report found that in fact, of the above crews, only 1/3 came within five miles of the
aiming point.  When attacking French ports, 2/3 of the bombers had CEPs of five miles or
better.   In the Ruhr, only 10% had a five mile CEP.   In a new moon, only 1/15th of all
sorties came within five miles of their targets.   These figures applied only to aircraft
claiming to have hit the target.34
Sir Richard Peirse and others in Bomber Command were dubious over Butt's findings and methodology.    Reluctantly, however, Portal agreed with the overall conclusions and was challenged by Churchill to come up with "proposals for action."35 The "action" proposed was Portal's reminder to the PM of the damage which would be wrought upon Germany once Bomber Command was armed with its 4,000 heavies. Germany would be "forced to her knees" in six months, once the bombers had been acquired.36 Bomber Command would
destroy the foundations upon which the [German] war machine rests - the
economy which feeds it, the morale which sustains it...and the hopes of

33Ibid, p 177
34Ibid, pp 178-9; Kennett, p 129; Messenger, p 48; Hastings, p 117; Terraine, p 242 35SAO I, p 179; Winston Churchill, The Second World War, Vol IV (1951), p 250 36Messenger, p 50

victory which inspire it.   Then only shall we be able to return to the
continent and...impose our will upon the enemy...It is in bombing on a
scale undreamt of in the last war that we find the new weapon on which
we must principally depend for the destruction of German economic life
and morale.37
As in the Trenchard memo of a few months prior, the bomber is seen not only as the agent which will smash German morale, but also as the means by which Britain can avoid a massive, destructive land war on the continent.   What was missing in this and most analyses was the logical progression between demoralization of the populace (including whether it would in fact happen) and victory over the German war machine.  The vague hope was that a land army would be merely a police force (this was articulated later during formulation of Pointblank) or that the Allies could dictate terms to a weakened, demoralized Germany.   The second possibility withered after Roosevelt's declaration of the "unconditional surrender" policy at Casablanca.
In the wake of the Butt Report's dismal findings, and anticipating a large strategic
bombing force, the Chiefs of Staff now drew up a list of forty three German cities having
populations of 100,000 or more.  Among them were Essen, Dusseldorf, Cologne and the
Ruhr industrial area.   The methodology for Bomber Command was based on German
damage to British cities during the Blitz.  The Air Staff made a study of bomb damage in
both Britain and Germany, and determined that British cities had sustained more damage
than German ones in attacks of similar force.  The higher level of incendiary use by the
Luftwaffe was cited as causing the disproportionate level of damage to English cities.
The Air Staff then recommended to Bomber Command that incendiaries be used in a
greater proportion in attacks on German residential areas.38 Coventry was the standard
model for British calculations of damage to Germany.  The Air Ministry speculated that
six Coventry-sized attacks would completely destroy a comparable German city, based in

37CoS memo July 31, 1941 in SAO I, p 181
38Ibid, p 252-3

part on industry and social life in Coventry having taken thirty-five days to recover after the December 1940 raid.
Churchill was not so sure of Portal's optimism.   Despite his pronouncement to
Beaverbrook the previous July that the heavy bomber was "the one sure path" to victory,
he now wrote his most perceptive observation on strategic bombing, a tome reminiscent
of his 1917 views in which he had found it "improbable that any terrorization of the civil
population which could be achieved by air attack would compel the Government of a
great nation to surrender."39 In what may have been a challenge to Portal, Churchill
threw cold water on the notion that strategic bombing could "be a decisive factor" in the defeat of Germany:

On the contrary, all that we have learnt since the war shows that its effects, both physical and moral, are greatly exaggerated.   There is no doubt that the British people have been stimulated and strengthened by the attack made upon them so far...The most we can say is that it will be a heavy and I trust a seriously increasing annoyance.40
Portal was momentarily stunned by the PM's apparent disavowal of strategic
bombing, not to mention the support he had given to the 4,000 bomber plan.  In a
carefully  worded  minute  which  Sir  Archibald  Sinclair  praised  as  "masterly"  and
"audacious," Portal both reminded Churchill of his past support and countered his argu-
ments.  This was not simply an argument designed to retain operational viability, but was
a reiteration of the morale bombing policy which Bomber Command had adopted over
the previous year.  Portal conceded that light, harassing attacks might unite national will,
but this could:
scarcely be said of attacks on the Coventry model.  Judging from our own
experience, it is difficult to believe that any country could withstand

39Quoted in Hastings, pp 44-5
40Messenger, p 50

indefinitely the scale of attack contemplated in the Air Staff plan...the consensus of informed opinion is that German morale is much more vulnerable to bombing than our own.41
Churchill replied to Portal's memo in early October, 1941.   In the memo, he continued his highly ambivalent views, on the one hand promising to continue the expansion program for Bomber Command, but on the other, expressing further caution regarding strategic bombing as a whole:

I deprecate, however, placing unbounded confidence in this means of
attack, and still more expressing that confidence in terms of arithmetic.  It
is the most potent method of impairing the enemy's morale we can use at
the present time.
Churchill also challenged the loose, pseudo-psychological view that German morale was somehow weaker than its British counterpart and that the decimation of an enemy's morale would perforce lead to victory:

Even if all the towns of Germany were rendered largely uninhabitable, it
does not follow that the military control would be weakened or even that
war industry could not be carried on...One has to do the best one can, but
he is an unwise man who thinks there is any certain method of winning
this war, or indeed any other war between equals in strength.   The only
plan is to persevere.42

Portal was caught in a vicious circle.   In its present circumstances, with 506
bombers available on a given day (none of these were Lancasters) and a very poor record
for accuracy and damage done to either German morale or the economy, Bomber
Command was not likely to get its 4,000 bomber force. If quality and quantity did not

41SAO I, p 183
42Ibid, pp 184-85

improve quickly, however, Bomber Command would never be able to deliver the knockout blows on German cities it was promising.
Peirse decided to demonstrate Bomber Command's ability to make heavy morale
attacks by ordering a number of raids in early November.   Among the cities attacked
were Mannheim and Berlin.   The result was heavy losses sustained by the bombers and
little damage to the German cities.   From   a 1940 loss rate of 3.2%, Bomber Command
was now suffering an unacceptable rate of 4.1%.43 Churchill called a halt to offensive
operations until the following Spring.
The end of 1941 saw the complete failure of not only precision bombing by the
RAF, but also of any convincing demonstration that Bomber Command could carry out
larger-scale morale attacks, which was the only mission left to it, the only mission it had
chosen for itself.   This failure was not entirely Bomber Command's fault; it lacked the
tools to do the job.  But the job itself was still ill-defined.  Bomber Command had come
to area bombing not only out of operational necessity, but through a long, circuitous
process of justification and tortuous rationalization.  The means of area bombing for the
purpose of breaking civilian morale seemed obvious enough, even self-justifying.  Surely
the end desired -- the defeat of Germany -- was also self-evident.  But not only was the
ostensibly utilitarian relationship between morale bombing and surrender not examined,
but the exact nature of Germany's collapse had been all but blithely ignored.   The
momentous implications of seeking to attack noncombatants had not even entered into
the discussion so far, nor would they.   Britain had been bombing morale and would
continue to do so on a greater and more terrible scale while hoping for the best.  It would
at least become "an increasing annoyance."
What was meant by "breaking civilian morale" was never clearly defined, except in
loose, self-deluded terms such as "final collapse," "general dislocation" or "internal
disruption."  By the end of 1941, in response to criticism from the US Special Observer

43Messenger, p 51

Group, the British Joint Planning Staff (JPS) attempted to define morale as an objective.
It did so in curious terms, stressing transport, living and industrial facilities while
downplaying the terror-oriented aspects of area-bombing.44 Perhaps to appease the
Americans, the definition was now far from Trenchard's and James Spaight's emphasis on
terror and the psychological effects of strategic bombing.  This divergence would not last
U.S. criticism of British strategic bombing plans as well as consultation had been
taking place almost since the beginning of the war.   In mid 1941, an American general
summed up a meeting with Air Ministry and RAF personnel.   The tone of the meeting
reflected future contentious debates between the Army Air Force (AAF) and Bomber
I told [the junior Air Minister] that I was no expert but so far as my
observations went, the British had no proof yet that their bombing had
been any more effective than the German bombing of England...I pointed
out that the Luftwaffe under the most favourable conditions had failed to
paralyse the British or reduce this country to impotence in over a year of
attack, at very short range, and when its energies were not engaged
elsewhere.   So why, I asked, should the RAF believe they could bring
down Germany at a greater range and with its targets very much more
dispersed than those in England and protected by very much better anti-
aircraft defences now than the British had here last year?   I built on
absolutely sure ground here because I have had a little time to study the
statistics on the damage done to Britain in the seven months between 1
June and 31 December 1940, and it is really surprisingly small...45
By the end of 1941, morale amongst the highest echelons of Bomber Command and
in the ranks as well was low.   Peirse was being criticized for lack of leadership.   The
incipient morale campaign was getting nowhere and causing grievous losses for air crews.

44SAO I, P 298
45Hastings,  p 120

On December 7, the Air Vice-Marshal (Bottomley) wrote that there was no "concrete
evidence" that morale bombing was having any psychological effect and the "material
results obtained have been definitely disappointing."46 Something would have to be
Incredibly, at this critical juncture no new analysis of strategy or rational utilitarian
study took place.   Instead of considering the ethical implications of what it was about to
do or examine the implicit relationship between morale bombing and German surrender,
Britain now came to sanction its slowly evolving terror campaign in de jure terms, if for
internal consumption only.   In February Bomber Command received from Portal and the
Air Staff the official approbation for a full-scale, deliberate terror campaign.  Even though
urban dwellings had been the primary target set for more than a year, Directive 22 was
significant for its stress on the morale campaign at the expense of other targets.   The re-
strictions of the last three months were lifted and Bomber Command was free to bomb
several specific cities until their "destruction has been achieved":
.the primary objective of your operations should now be focussed on the morale of the industrial workers.47

Most significant was this penciled notation from Portal to Bottomley:

Ref the new bombing directive: I suppose it is clear that the aiming points are to be the built-up areas, not,* for instance, the dockyards or aircraft factories where these are mentioned in Appendix A.
This must be made quite clear if it is not already understood.48

46SAO I, 256-57
47SAO IV, Appendix 8, p 144
* Underlining in original
48Memo Portal to Bottomley Feb 15, 1942 in SAO I, p 324

Directive 22 made official what had been taking place since Oct 1940, a month
before Coventry.   In a series of memos and gradual enunciation of policy, Bomber
Command and the Air Staff had finally come to adopt officially the bombing of German
cities.   This official embrace still lacked any thoughtful analysis of how the end of
surrender might come about, but Bomber Command was now irrevocably committed to
the deliberate attack on civilian morale.    The morale campaign was the result of
reluctance to articulate a comprehensive strategic policy for Bomber Command, which
had seemingly come around 180  degrees from the early days of the war when
Chamberlain promised no indiscriminate bombing, when the moral opprobrium for such
acts lay with the Germans at Rotterdam. The British, further, sought in the early days to
sustain the deterrence relationship with Hitler, avoiding the knockout blow on London.
Only during the Battle of Britain, when the knockout blow failed to materialize, did the
British go over gradually to the morale campaign.  They would avoid the limitations suf-
fered by the GAF by raining bombs down on German civilians on an unprecedented,
even unimaginable, scale.   The result would surely be panic, revolt, and victory.   In the
meantime, it was the only means to keep Germany occupied and the Russians placated.
(The Soviets were never convinced that the bomber offensive represented Britain's
proportionate share in the war effort. Stalin received copies of Harris's "Blue Book" of
bombed-out German cities, but he remained unimpressed beyond congratulations later in
the war over the destruction of large sections of Berlin.  The air offensive was a palliative
until the British were finally compelled to open a second front.)49
Working class housing was the ideal target set for several complementary reasons.
It was densely packed, usually close to the city center.  In the older cities such as Lubeck
and  Dresden,  much  of  the  construction  was  wooden.    Harris,  improvising  from
observations of the Blitz, dropped incendiaries in unprecedented numbers on German
working class neighborhoods and followed up with HE, which would keep firefighters

49See R.J. Overy, The Air War, 1939-1945 (Stein and Day, 1980), p 71 and Hastings, p 203

inside the shelters.   Middle-  and upper-class areas were not as suitable since these dwellings were more widely dispersed and often on the fringes of a city.  Emphasis was laid increasingly on the state of mind of the German worker.
In March 1942, Arthur Harris, Bomber Command's new C-in-C, opened a series of
area attacks which would continue for the duration of the war.   First Essen, and then
Lubeck were raided.   The attack on the latter was particularly violent.   Harris could not
attack German cities with impunity, at least not yet.  Navigational difficulties and a lack
of heavy bombers (by the Autumn of 1942 he would have only 100 Lancasters) meant
that lightly defended coastal towns in the west were most susceptible to raids. (Harris
refused a request from the PM in 1942 to attack Berlin.   It was too far, too heavily
defended, and Gee - the new navigational device - was hampered by geographic
limitations.50) Harris felt Lubeck would make a showcase target and provide a relatively
risk-free way for his crews to "be well 'blooded,' as they say in foxhunting..."51
The city
was on the northern coast and offered no real navigational challenges.  It was considered
militarily unimportant and had few AA batteries.   The most important criterion for
Bomber Command was the construction of its central residential area.  An old Hanseatic
capital  of  historical  and  artistic  importance,  Lubeck's  residential  dwellings  were
constructed mostly of wood, giving the city a highly combustible nature.  Harris said that
it was "built more like a fire-lighter than a human habitation."52 234 bombers released
300 tons of bombs (50% incendiaries).53 As Harris predicted, huge areas of the town
burned to the ground. 1475 homes were destroyed with another 2,000 badly damaged.
312 people were killed.54       RAF losses were light, with only twelve aircraft failing to
return.   Lubeck's industrial and military value were limited, but Harris felt that it was
"preferable to destroy an industrial town of moderate importance than fail to destroy a

50Kennett, p 131
51Hastings, p 165
52Terraine, p 476
53Kennett, p 132
54Hastings, p 165 and SAO I, p 392


large, industrial city."55       As a result of the RAF attacks in March, 3,052 people left the
city, but most of these returned soon after, as in other large area raids which "de-housed" large numbers of people.   Damage to Lubeck's industries was generally light, with all coming back to near full production within a week and many other destroyed factories switching to affiliates in other cities.   Later precision raids on Lubeck caused much heavier damage to factories and utilities.56
Rostock was bombed shortly thereafter.  Its circumstances were similar to those of
Lubeck's, and thousands of its residents fled the city in the wake of the raid.   The
situation, briefly, was close to mass panic, but this did not last long. The Heinkel factory -
- hit by a simultaneous precision attack -- was back to full production in two days.57
Most affected were Goebbels and Hitler, who were shocked at the news of the devastation.  Goebbels wrote in his diary that "community life in Rostock is almost at an end."  Ironically, he adopted the same sort of nationalistic, pseudo-psychological analysis upon which the RAF morale campaign was based.  The result of the Lubeck attack could have been worse, Goebbels wrote, for northern Germans could take the devastation. Those in the south might succumb to mass panic or demoralization:
The  English  claim  they  dropped  one  thousand  pound  bombs  onto
Luebeck.  The damage done there is indeed enormous...It is horrible.  One
can well imagine how such an awful bombardment affects the population.
Thank God, it is a case of North German population, which, on the whole,
is much tougher than the South German or the Southeast German
The German press was now labelling the British raids Terrorangriffe, or "terror
attacks."59 Hitler was both angry at the GAF's AA forces and frightened for what the

55Terraine, p 477
56USSBS, A Detailed Study of the Effects of Area Bombing on Lubeck, pp 1-31 passim 57Terraine, p 480
58Louis Lochner, ed., The Goebbels Diaries, 1942-1943 (Garden City: Doubleday 1948), p 160 59Kennett, p 144

future held.   Again, he sought a deterrence relationship with Britain through threatened
reprisals.   Indeed, up to this time, it was still possible for both countries to turn away
from urban bombing.   Certain members of Parliament proposed that a "gentlemen's
agreement" could be put into effect which would preclude any further intentional
bombing of cities.   Churchill and Eden, now seeing that Britain's cities had little to fear
from the tactically-oriented Luftwaffe, squelched this effort.   In April, Hitler warned
Churchill in a speech to the Reichstag that retribution would be soon in coming.  Attacks
on munitions factories would be ineffectual and not have the symbolic value of raids on
English cultural centers similar in importance to the German cities which had been
torched.  Perusing his Baedecker's guide to English cities, Hitler decided to attack every
town with a three-star rating.60 Thus the great cultural centers of Bath, Exeter,
Canterbury and York were bombed between April and June.          1637 civilians were killed
and the British public were "incensed."61        In a mirror image of the RAF's attitude, Hitler
told Goebbels
that he would repeat these raids night after night until the English were
sick and tired of terror attacks.   He shares my opinion absolutely that
cultural centers, bathing resorts, and civilian cities must be attacked now;
there the psychological effect is much stronger, and at the present moment
psychological effect is the most important thing...there is no other way of
bringing the English to their senses.   They belong to a class of human
beings with whom you can talk only after you have first knocked out their

60This may have been apocryphal.  See Kennett, p 132.  Goebbels was furious over the label "Baedecker raids" in his diary; see Lochner, pp 200-01
61Terraine, p 423.
62Lochner, p 190

Chapter II: Misgivings, Public and Private
The irrationality of Bomber Command's morale campaign, which seemed more punitive than strictly utilitarian, was rarely questioned inside the RAF.   Beginning in 1942 and continuing for the duration, members of parliament, writers, churchmen and a few general officers (usually retired and none in Bomber Command) questioned in ethical terms what was obviously to them a terror campaign.  As we shall see, the criticism took various forms. The dissembling nature of Bomber Command's arguments - to the public and to the Air Staff - made it vulnerable to those in Parliament who attacked its veracity and others who questioned the means on ethical grounds.
The Spring of 1942 was significant not only for Bomber Command's official policy,
but for Whitehall as well.   On the 24th of March the debate over Bomber Command's
proper mission became public.   At first, MP's questioned the investment of so many
resources into an arm of the military which was reaping so few results.  A.V. Bull echoed
the criticism made in 1941 by the American general when he pointed out that Britain's
morale and production had withstood the Blitz.  He also questioned the logic of "bombing
an enemy into submission."63 Bull spoke of a "disaster" which was not simply the
futility of such a policy, but the waste of resources which could be spent on more productive projects.
This was not, of course, a moral argument.   Policy was being questioned on the
grounds of efficacy, not the ethics of killing non-combatants.   The debate took a more
ethically-oriented turn in May, when Richard Stokes asked about morale bombing in the
House of Commons.   Despite frequent government assurances to the press that Bomber
Command was raiding only military targets in precision attacks, a few members were
becoming skeptical.  The objections were now moral as well as operational.  Stokes was
becoming the most outspoken critic of Bomber Command's morale campaign.   A WWI

63Messenger, p 64

veteran, decorated with the Military Cross and Croix de Guerre, he was a "constant thorn in the Government's flesh" regarding the bombing of civilians.64
Sinclair, along with Clement Atlee, was the chief government spokesman in the
House of Commons.  Sinclair denied repeatedly -- from 1942 to the end of the war -- that
the RAF had instructions to attack anything but military targets and vital factories, even
though he knew that Bomber Command had been specifically ordered not to attack these
very targets.
The few MP's who questioned bombing policy on moral or operational grounds were a tiny minority with little influence.   Stokes was often shouted down in Commons by members who cheered Sinclair's baldly dishonest claims.   Harris at least had the courage of his convictions (and any MP who bothered to read Harris's statements on area bombing can hardly have claimed ignorance).  He was exasperated with the government duplicity and repeatedly called for public declarations.
The Times repeated the government's duplicitous statements that the RAF were making only precision attacks.  When would Germany halt its propaganda regarding the alleged attacks on civilians and admit the devastation wrought to its communications, docks, and war matériel?  The Times correspondent assured his readers that
at no time have the RAF deliberately attacked either civilians or non-
military objectives.  It would not be worth the while of Bomber Command
to send valuable aircraft and highly skilled and equally valuable trained
men such long distances merely to knock down a few inoffensive houses.

The press in general repeated Churchill's public argument which capitalized on the
somewhat skewed version of history in which Germany had initiated the city campaign at

64Hastings, p 192
65Quoted in Messenger, p 82

Coventry and London in 1940.   Churchill's rationale was one of just retribution for Germany's sins:
We ask no favor of the enemy.  We seek from them no compunction.  On
the contrary, if tonight the people of London were asked to cast their votes
whether a convention should be entered into to stop the bombing of all
cities, the overwhelming majority would cry, 'No, we will mete out to the
Germans the measure, and more than the measure, that they have meted
out to us.'66
In reality, Churchill's assertion had an ironic twist that says much about the people
of London and the experience of noncombatants exposed to the horror of indiscriminate
bombing.  In May of 1941, a Gallup poll was published which measured public sentiment
for reprisal bombing in Britain.   Some agreed with Churchill's view that the Germans
should receive the full measure of what they had supposedly dealt to Britain's cities.  But
significantly, those who cried most for revenge lived in Yorkshire, Cumberland,
Westmoreland -- areas in the countryside, out of range of the German Blitz.  Some 75%
of the people in these rural areas favored "reprisal" raids on German cities.  By contrast,
those living in the hardest-hit areas, such as central London, were far less eager to see
German civilians suffer.   Only 45% of the citizens of central London favored such
reprisal raids.67
If Stokes and his allies were supporters of the war but critical of the means
employed, the handful of pacifists in the House had even less influence.  One of these was
Alfred Salter, a Labour MP from the working class district of Bermondsey, which had
suffered heavily in the Blitz.   Ill and barely able to speak, he made a classically deontic
speech to an uncaring House.   "All this is founded," he said, "on the great and terrible

66Quoted in Quester, p 141
67Angus Calder, The People's War (NY: Pantheon 1969), p 229; Michael Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars
(New York: Basic Books 1977), p 256;  Irving L. Janis, Air War and Emotional Stress (Rand Report:
1955), p 127

fallacy that ends justify means.   They never do -- never, never...Is there not pity in the whole world?  Are all our hearts hardened and coarsened by events?...Will not somebody, for the love of God, for the sake of Christ, demand sanity and peace?"68
Misgivings within the   RAF command hierarchy seem to have been virtually non-
existent.   Several factors may in part account for this.   One was certainly the overall
perception of German atrocities committed at Warsaw and Rotterdam.   Although the
damage to Rotterdam was actually light, figures at the time gave the impression that
Germany had "taken the gloves off."   The bombing of London (itself a reprisal for the
two-week bombing of Berlin) only added to the impression that Germany had deliberately
broken down its deterrence relationship with the UK.   Britain's position was unique and
for a time, desperate.  Until mid-1941, its strategic situation was bleak.  Fighter Command
had just managed to persevere in the summer of '40. Britain stood isolated until June of
1941, when Germany invaded the USSR.   Even then, the outcome was unclear until the
entry of the Americans.   In the early years, "the bombers alone provided the means of
victory."69 It is, nevertheless, odd that the moral implications of killing civilians
wholesale never entered the equation.    There is no evidence that general officers,
including the Air Marshals, had any ethical misgivings regarding BC's mission or even
considered the question worth examination.
Bomber Command saw its mission as "dehousing" as many German workers as
possible, although even this term begged a larger question.  Portal answered the question
of the fine difference between dehousing and killing noncombatants when he estimated
that with four to six thousand heavy bombers, Bomber Command could destroy six
million homes, "de-house" 25 million Germans and kill 900,000 civilians by 1944.70
(Cherwell, it should be noted, postulated that nothing demoralizes a person more than
having his house destroyed.  Harris also clung to the curious argument that Bomber

68Angus Calder, p 494
69Ibid, p 229,
70Hastings, p 203

Command was not trying to kill people, but simply demoralize them to the point where
they would no longer report for work. The result would be the impotence of   German
Bomber Command   never really examined its target set, either from a military or
ethical framework. Portal defeated plans for an "objective, scientific analysis" of the
strategic air offensive "without recourse to argument," citing only the delay it would cause
and the inevitable scope of such a study.71 Such studies were in fact taking place  in the
AAF throughout the war, but the RAF muddled through, using an unarticulated version of Trenchardian doctrine tied to operational limitations.
If there were no generals in Bomber Command who had moral objections, at least two figures with some former prominence objected heatedly and in unmistakably ethical terms to the morale campaign.   Major-General J.F.C. Fuller, together with Basil LidellHart, had in the twenties been amongst the most influential advocates of air power. Liddell Hart had warned of the coming of the aerial "knockout blow" but had since modified his views.  Both men had favored the use of tactical air  in concert with fast-moving ground forces, a concept applied with great efficiency by the Wermacht.
Fuller and Lidell-Hart now saw the morale-bombing campaign as not only an extravagant waste of resources and a military misstep, but an immoral, destructive act that would come to haunt Britain.  In August 1943, Fuller sent a letter to the London Evening Standard in which he deplored the morale bombing campaign.  "The worst devastations of the Goths, Vandals, Huns, Seljuks, and Mongols pale into insignificance when compared to the material and moral damage now wrought..." he wrote.   The Evening Standard's editor, Michael Foot (later the Labour Party leader) wrote back to Fuller that he "lacked the nerve" to publish the article.72

71Anthony Verrier, Bomber Offensive (London: Pan Books, 1974), p 96 72Hastings, p 198

Liddell Hart wrote a private "Reflection" in the summer of 1942, on the barbarism of city-bombing:
It will be ironical if the defenders of civilization depend for victory upon the most barbaric, and unskilled, way of winning a war that the modern world has seen...We are now counting for victory on success in the way of degrading it to a new low level - as represented by indiscriminate (night) bombing and indiscriminate starvation...73
Whatever influence Lidell-Hart and Fuller once had, they were now Cassandras,
like Stokes or Bishop Bell.  George Bell, the Bishop of Chichester, was probably the most
celebrated opponent of the morale campaign.   Bell was a long-time and ardent foe of
Nazism whose conscience could not abide the destruction of German cities.    His
credentials as a supporter of the war effort (and RAF crews) should never have been in
question, although he was attacked unfairly in the press for his views.   As early as May
1941, he argued that morale bombing was "a degradation of the spirit..."74 Bell was not a
pacifist.   Like Salter and Fuller, he questioned the means employed on their own terms.
Bombing military targets had a self-evident justification which did not trammel upon the
Augustinian notions of what a state might do in war.   The wholesale destruction of
German cities was another matter.  Writing in a church publication, the Chichester Dioce-
san Gazette, Bell argued that Britain could not take the moral high ground while the
Government exulted over the killing of German non-combatants:
I see signs in some quarters of giving way to the spirit which caused the
war...When a Minister of the Government speaks in exulting terms of a
ruthless and destructive bombing of the German people...or contemplate
the subjection of fifty German cities to the same terror as Hamburg (or
Coventry) has suffered...then we have real cause to grieve for a lowering
of the moral tone, and also to fear greatly for the future.   It is our whole

73Brian Bond, Liddell Hart: A Study of His Military Thought (London: Cassell & Co, 1977), p 145 74Calder, p 492

claim that we are fighting for a better world order, for freedom, for justice, for morality...75

Bell had some private support from his colleagues, such as Lord Lang, the former
Primate.   Another colleague, William Temple, the Archbishop of Canterbury, refused to
come to Bell's aid in calling for a statement from the Government on the bombing
campaign in the House of Lords.  Neither would Temple support Bell's efforts to have the
government make a declared distinction between Nazis and the German populace as a
whole.  Such a distinction would have of course made public justification or continuation
of the morale campaign very difficult.   Temple took a subtly utilitarian view which fixed
culpability for the war on all its participants.  The best a Christian (who was also a Briton)
could do was be "penitent" while participating in a necessary evil.76
Bell made his most significant and impassioned speech before the House of Lords on February 9, 1944, moving that the government make public its bombing policy.   The motion was actually a reasoned, informed indictment of morale bombing.
I would humbly claim to be one of the most convinced and consistent
Anti-Nazis in Great Britain.  But I desire to challenge the Government on
the policy which directs the bombing of enemy towns on the present scale,
especially with reference to civilians, non-combatants, and non-military
and non-industrial objectives...Few will deny that there is a distinction in
principle between attacks on military and industrial objectives and attacks
on objectives which do not posses that character...It is said that 74,000
persons have been killed [in Berlin] and that 3,000,000 are already
homeless.  The policy is obliteration, openly acknowledged.  That is not a justifiable act of war...[This will not stop] till, to use the language of the Chief of Bomber Command with regard to Berlin, the heart of Nazi Germany ceases to beat...

75Norman Longmate, The Bombers: The RAF Offensive Against Germany 1939-1945 (London: 1983), p
76Calder, p 488 and see F. A. Iremonger, William Temple (Oxford University Press: 1948),  p 232


Bell then challenged one of the pillars of Bomber Command's strategy.   If terror bombing was designed to  send a message to German civilians, then why punish the very people Britain was trying to influence?
If we wish to shorten the war...then let the Government speak a word of
hope and encouragement both to the tortured millions of Europe and to
those enemies of Hitler to whom in 1939 Mr. Churchill referred as
'millions who stand aloof from the seething mass of criminality and
corruption constituted by the Nazi Party machine.'   Why is there this
blindness to the psychological side?  Why is there this inability to reckon
with the moral and spiritual facts?   Why is there this forgetfulness of the
ideals by which our cause is inspired?   How can the War Cabinet fail to
see that this progressive devastation of cities is threatening the roots of

Viscount Cranbourne, speaking for the Government, repeated Sinclair's assertions in the House of Commons that
the RAF has never indulged in pure terror raids, in what used to be known as Baedeker raids of the kind which the Luftwaffe indulged in at one time on this country.77

Press reaction to Bell's speech was mixed -- the large dailies such as the Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail were harshly critical or satirical.  A few of the smaller or more progressive papers -- the Spectator and the New Statesman, for instance -- recognized Bell's sincerity and courage.78
The literature reflects no deep-seated resistance by aircrew members to morale
bombing.    Most shut out pangs of conscience early or justified area bombing by

77Hansard Lords (Feb 9, 1944), cols 737-755
78Longmate, p 377

comparing their actions to the German initiation of indiscriminate bombing at Warsaw and
Rotterdam.    Personal ethics paled in importance with the realities of the air battle.  There
apparently was, however, an undercurrent of ethical resistance within the ranks to morale
bombing.  Sometimes this took the form of a sarcastic comment by an airman at briefing;
more often of private regret.79 Bell's speech in the House of Lords struck a chord of
sympathy with many families who had sons in Bomber Command, as well as aircrew
members who felt that the terror campaign was wrong.  Many of the latter felt constrained
from speaking out; Bell became their champion.    In letters sent to the bishop, some RAF
crew members thanked Bell for his speech.  Families and other clergymen sent supportive
letters to Bell, telling him that there were "a not inconsiderable number [of RAF aircrew]
who are torn and disturbed, and it is these men who will be grateful to you."80
It is widely acknowledged that Bell's outspokenness cost him the Archbishopric of
Canterbury after the death of William Temple, much as Churchill's disavowal of the terror
campaign cost Harris a peerage and Bomber Command mention in the Honours List after
the war.
In October 1942 the Assistant Chief for Policy of the Air Staff issued a memo to commands throughout the RAF which sought to measure the intrinsic value of civilians in occupied and enemy territory.   The October directive made clear the rights civilians enjoyed (or forfeited) in the air war and drove a wedge between the rights of civilians in occupied Allied countries and the non-combatant residents of Germany:
1. The following rules govern out bombardment policy in British, Allied or Neutral territory occupied by the enemy:
Bombardment is to be confined to military objectives, and must be subject to the following general principles:
(1) The intentional bombardment of civilian populations, as such, is forbidden.

79Martin Middlebrook, The Battle of Hamburg: Allied Air Forces Against a German City in 1943, (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1981), p 349
80Personal correspondence with Stephen Lammers, Religion Department, Lafayette College

(2)  It must be possible to identify the objective.
(3)   The attack must be made with reasonable care to avoid undue
loss of civilian            life in the vicinity of the target.

2. German, Italian and Japanese territory:
Consequent upon the enemy's adoption of a campaign of unrestricted air
warfare, the Cabinet have authorized a bombing policy which includes the
attack of enemy morale.   The foregoing rules do not, therefore, apply to
our  conduct  of  air  warfare  against  German,  Italian  and  Japanese
No rationale, ethical or military, was offered.   The directive simply codified the morale campaign while placing the responsibilities for its inception on the enemy.   If Germany had begun unrestricted strategic bombing, its people forfeited their rights normally protected under just war criteria and notions of the immunity of civilians in war. Hitler had done much the same thing when he attacked English cities during the Baedecker raids, although his arguments had no moral flavor at all.  His reluctance to kill English civilians rested on fears of reprisals against Germany, not on a sense of the intrinsic worth of the residents of London.
Some influential Britons went further in their advocacy of the terror-bombing cam-
paign.    Robert Vansittart, of the Foreign Office, made broadcasts during the war
characterizing Germany as a violent pariah, the "butcher-bird" of Europe. In his "Black
Record," Vansittart saw Germany as innately militaristic and thus all Germans as guilty.
His identification of all German citizens with the Nazis was reminiscent of Churchill's
refusal to differentiate "good" from "bad" Germans in Parliament.  Vansittart wrote that

81Hastings, p 191.  Italics added.

the battle still rages round the question:   are we fighting the Germans or the Nazis?   One day historians will rub their eyes, and wonder how such silly questions could be discussed at the end of 1941.82
Vansittart's extreme views were noted with irony in Germany, where excerpts from
the Black Record broadcasts were used on posters which lined the walls of the subway
Another advocate of morale bombing was James Spaight, one of Britain's early
proponents of air power.   Along with Douhet and Trenchard, Spaight felt the most
efficient use of air power was strategic bombing directed against cities (although his
writings in the interwar period are sometimes highly ambivalent and indicate a good deal
of ethical reflection).   Spaight wrote on the psychological effects of mass bombing.   His
arguments and views were more sophisticated than Vansittart's; civilians were fair game
not because they were Germans, but because in modern war, practically all   workers in
urban centers contribute directly to the war effort.   They are part of the "pre-fabricated
Now, those areas have become in the march of events battle-areas.   It is
idle to pretend that they are still the quiet, innocuous towns which they
were once.  They are not.  They are dangerous, lethal, menacing towns - to
an enemy.  Terrible things - in his eyes - are done in them.  Battle begins
in them.  One must think today of battle as being pre-fabricated...The clash
of arms is only the final stage of a process which has had its beginning
elsewhere and long before...The making of arms is war-making.  It cannot
be called anything else.  It is not non-combatant work.84

82Lord Sir Robert Vansittart, Black Record: Germans Past and Present (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1941),
p ix
83Calder, p 490; see also Longmate, p 374
84J. M. Spaight, Bombing Vindicated (London: Geoffrey Bles, 1944), p 78

Spaight held that industrial workers and those involved in transport were warriors and could be attacked as combatants:
The  old  clear  distinction  between  soldiers  and  civilians  has  been
obscured...The people who make and transport war material are, to the
opposing belligerent, active, dangerous enemies.  He is as fully entitled to
try to put them out of action as if they were commissioned or enlisted sol-
diers.   They are in fact warriors.   The fact that they wear no uniform is
immaterial.  They are in no proper sense of the word non-combatants.85

Spaight made an important point regarding the activities of industrial workers, and
his premise had always been a component of Bomber Command's strategy (although the
state of mind of the workers from the point of view of sheer terror became more important
to Bomber Command as the evidence mounted that the area attacks were not affecting
Germany's economy in a significant way).   In an industrialized, modern state which
aggresses against its neighbors, workers who run the machine tools and railways which
manufacture and transport war matériel do contribute more directly to aggressive war than
at any time in the past.  Modern strategic war is more inclusive and more
consensual than
ever before.  If factories and their employees are legitimate targets during precision raids
directed solely at those factories, Spaight would hold that they are equally subject to attack
in their homes.
But even Spaight deplored terror for its own sake -- or said he did:

That is not to say that the whole population of an enemy country is subject
to        attack.        Indiscriminate          bombing         is        certainly          not
justifiable...Unfortunately, there are other victims whose connection with
hostilities is too remote to justify their being brought into the same
category and whom in any event it is neither the desire nor the interest of
an enemy to kill or mutilate.   No chivalrous airman wants to slaughter
grandmothers or babies.  The tragedy is that he may do so in trying to put

85Ibid, p 112

the others out of action.  It is an unintended, horrible, pitiable incident of war, but to say that is not to condemn air bombardment.86

This last point was an appeal to the doctrine of double effect, which spares agents
involved in necessary but regrettable collateral deaths when their cause is just and other
just war criteria are being met.   One's intention  in such a case is not simply to kill
noncombatants wantonly, but rather to undertake allowable actions in war (e.g. attacking
only military or industrial targets), recognizing that unintended civilian deaths are
unavoidable.87 Even though Spaight had to be aware of the the psychological argument
as well as Directive 22, he insisted that the Government was being truthful when it
declared repeatedly in public that only factories and traditional military targets (not
residential districts) were being bombed.
Bomber Command's methodology -- if not its strategy -- was articulated most
succinctly in March 1942 by Churchill's scientific advisor, Lord Cherwell.   In the now-
famous "Cherwell minute," the former Professor Lindemann sought to articulate Bomber
Command's means, even if the ends were given short shrift. (The assumed end --
Germany's collapse -- was by now an a priori part of the strategy of morale bombing.)
The Cherwell minute is reminiscent of Trenchard's essay ten months earlier, but with   a
scientific gloss.  The memo purported to project British bomber production over the next
year, expected tonnage of bombs carried and the effects on Germany's fifty-eight largest
The following seems a simple method of estimating what we could do by bombing Germany:
Careful analysis of the effects of raids on Birmingham, Hull and
elsewhere have shown that, on the average, 1 ton of bombs dropped on a

86Ibid, p 115
87See Hardin, pp 180-4 on double effect

built-up area demolishes 20-40 dwellings and turns 100-200 people out of
house and home...In 1938 over 22 million Germans lived in 58 towns of
over 100,000 inhabitants, which, with modern equipment, should be easy
to find and hit.    Our forecast output of heavy bombers
Wellingtons) between now and the middle of 1943 is about 10,000.   If
even half the total load of 10,000 bombers were dropped on the built-up
areas of these 58 German towns the great majority of their inhabitants
(about one-third of the German population) would be turned out of house
and home.
Investigation seems to show that having one's house demolished is
most damaging to morale.  People seem to mind it more than having their
friends or even relatives killed.   At Hull signs of strain were evident,
though only one-tenth of the houses were demolished.   On the above
figures we should be able to do ten times as much harm to each of the 58
principal German towns.   There seems little doubt that this would break
the spirit of the people.
Our calculation assumes, of course, that we really get one-half of our bombs into built-up areas.   On the other hand, no account is taken of the large promised American production (6,000 heavy bombers in the period in question).   Nor has regard been paid to the inevitable damage to factories, communications etc. in these towns and the damage by fire, probably accentuated by breakdown of public services.88

Lindemann's paper was circulated not only amongst the War Cabinet, but to a circle
of scientists on the highest level as well.  It was here that the Cherwell minute came under
close scrutiny and criticism.   Many of Cherwell's colleagues -- among them Sir Henry
Tizard, P. M. S. Blackett, and Solly Zuckerman -- subjected the report's conclusions to
their own individual statistical analyses and found the report to be seriously flawed.
Tizard found Cherwell's estimate of the number of houses destroyed five times too high.
Blackett concluded they were six times too high.89 Further, Tizard doubted that the

88Minute in SAO I, pp 331-32
89C.P. Snow, Science and Government (Harvard University Press: 1961), p 49.  Despite Snow's assertions,
Cherwell's figures may have been closer to the truth than those of the Tizard group.  The estimates of

navigational technology then available or projected could deliver massive blows even to targets as large as cities.
The debate between the Tizard-Blackett group and Cherwell is one of the enduring intellectual myths of the twentieth century.   The principals involved on the losing side have become wrapped in a cloak of virtue and the statistical debate has come to symbolize any struggle between parochial stupidity and moral rectitude.  C.P. Snow first brought the great debate into the open in his Godwin Lecture at Harvard in 1960.   His Science and Government recounts the struggle between Tizard and Lindemann, two scientists of great intellect who had known each other for decades and who possessed very different characters.   One is persuaded by the general tone of the book that the debate over Cherwell's memo was on moral grounds.  It was  not.
Not only is the rendering of Lindemann's personality "unsympathetic" (as Walzer
put it), but a close reading reveals both inaccuracies and the real nature of Tizard's
objections.   In the most revealing sentence of the book, Snow says that " was not
Lindemann's ruthlessness that worried us most, it was his calculations."90 Tizard's
differences with Lindemann were based on personality and the statistical database, not on an ethically-based rejection of terror-bombing.   Tizard communicated his misgivings to Cherwell, stressing the need for greater resources being devoted to the Battle of the Atlantic.  He felt also that Cherwell's projected figure of 10,000 heavy bombers  by mid1943 was unrealistic.   Seven thousand heavies seemed to Tizard to be a more accurate estimate.91 Tizard concluded that the short-term investment in heavy bombers was probably wasteful and that the morale campaign would be effective only if carried out "on a much bigger scale than [Cherwell envisaged]."92

houses destroyed vary.  See the figures for areas of cities destroyed according to the British Bombing Survey Unit and German authorities in Messenger, p 232
90Snow, p 49
91Longmate, p 132.  This figure was also, of course, utterly fantastic. 92Hastings, pp 143-44

The evidence indicates that Tizard did not object to Cherwell's "de-housing" strategy on ethical grounds.  The Tizard group's figures suggested simply that operational and production limitations would, for the foreseeable future, impede the terror campaign. Tizard told Cherwell that assuming Bomber Command could find the fifty- eight largest cities was "much too optimistic."  In  a note penned to Sinclair, Tizard assured him that he did not "disagree fundamentally with bombing policy."93

Chapter III: The Anglo-American Offensive

The  Anglo-American  aerial  partnership  has  often  been  described  as  both
complementary and beset by rancour, usually in the form of ethical differences over the
killing of non-combatants.   In some versions of the latter historical myth, the RAF
triumphs in the political, internecine struggle, resulting in a reluctant American Eighth Air
Force   participating in counter-population bombardment on a wide scale.94
What were
the actual issues and how did US generals articulate their differences with Bomber Command?  Were the ethically-framed arguments sincere?  How deeply did they go?  We will now explore the nature of the competition between these two great strategic air forces and the events which led to their cooperation in the wholesale destruction which took place in the final few months of the war.
At the Combined Chiefs of Staff meeting in June 1942, the British conferred with
their new allies to frame bombing policy and other matters.  The British by now realized
that they would receive almost none of the bombers they had hoped for from the
Americans; the plan now was to formulate a strategy for employing the USAAF in the

93SAO I, pp 333-35
94Johnson repeats this myth in Can Modern War Be Just?  It has been told in many sources, usually American.

area campaign.   This proved to be an impossible task.   The Americans were "fanatic" in their faith in precision, daylight bombing, an attitude which deeply concerned Harris and Churchill.   The Americans seemed to have no alternative in case day bombing failed. Portal was extremely pessimistic; the Americans would not be able to penetrate beyond the Ruhr without suffering staggering losses.   If daylight bombing failed after such a drawn-out experiment, the switch to night would probably consume two critical years. The Americans "have hung their hats on the day bomber policy," Air Vice-Marshal Slessor wrote, "and are convinced they can do it."   Attempting to make them see reason would only make them "obstinate."95
Despite the RAF's low opinion of the B-17 (the British argued that the Lancaster
should be produced in large numbers in the US while Britain would manufacture a
corresponding number of Mustangs), the AAF made its first bombing run against the
enemy over France in August 1942.   This and other early operations were against naval
and military targets in occupied territory, usually within range of friendly fighter escort.
Bomber crews exaggerated their fighter kills and for a time even the British were
Meanwhile, Portal still harbored hopes that the Americans would join Bomber
Command in a massive area campaign.   Such a force could destroy six million German
homes, leave 25 million homeless and kill 500,000 civilians, with one million seriously
injured.96 At the Casablanca Conference in January 1943, the British had several
strategic goals, primary among them being postponement of a cross-channel invasion until
1944.   This they achieved, agreeing to participate instead in the North African invasion
and operations in Italy and Sicily.   Strategic bombing would remain the centerpiece of
Britain's war effort, and Harris had already decided to back his American friends' wishes
to engage in daylight bombing, even though  Churchill thought it was "doomed."  Harris

95SAO I, pp 355-59
96Hastings, p 203

told Churchill that Arnold was "despondent" at the prospect of resources being taken from the American strategic bombing campaign and diverted to the Far East and other areas. Prudence called for supporting the AAF's autonomy, even though its mission differed from the RAF's.   The Americans would, the Air Staff felt,   learn from their tactical mistakes and eventually embrace morale bombing as the only viable strategy.
Casablanca seemed to place a low priority on morale as an objective for bombing,
and was something of a victory for the American precision advocates.   The directive
included five target sets which    suggested the possibility of attacking morale in a
somewhat secondary sense.   The primary target set listed the following in order of pri-

a) German submarine construction yards.
b) The German aircraft industry.
c) Transportation.
d) Oil plants.
e) Other targets in enemy war industry.
The most important passage, addressed to the strategic bombing forces of Britain
and the US,   stated that "Your primary object will be the progressive destruction and
dislocation of the German military, industrial and economic system, and the undermining
of the morale of the German people to a point where their capacity for armed resistance is
fatally weakened."  Harris received this on February 4, 1943.  His plan was now to exploit
Bomber Command's autonomy and continue the morale campaign unfettered, even though
Bottomley had told him that Directive 22 was now superseded.97 Through sheer deceit,
Harris managed to keep intact the spirit of Directive 22, which called for mass bombing of
residential districts.   In a letter to the Air Ministry apprising it of the content of the
Casablanca Directive and its effect on Bomber Command operations, Harris altered the
crucial paragraph.   The "dislocation" of the German industrial-military network and the

97Messenger, p 107

"undermining of the morale of the German people" was changed by Harris to "the
progressive destruction and dislocation of the German military, industrial and economic
system aimed at undermining the morale of the German people..."   Harris also changed
"your primary object" to "the primary object of Bomber Command" which seemed to
place an official sanction for a morale campaign solely within Harris's purview.98 Harris
was now free to "attack pretty well any German industrial city of 100,000 or more."99
From  Casablanca  came  the  Eaker  Plan  which  advocated  a  combined,
complementary assault against six key German target sets and 76 specific targets.  Eaker
felt that it was "better to cause a high degree of destruction in a few really essential
industries than to cause a small degree of destruction in many industries."100 The Eaker
Plan got underway in mid-1943 as Operation Pointblank.  This was the Combined Bomber Offensive at last.
Pointblank purported to guide the bombing operations of the two strategic air
forces.   American targets included aircraft production, ball bearings, and petroleum.
Bomber Command would attack cities associated with the Pointblank industries and
would devote operations against the specific targets only "as far as practicable."101
Harris thus had a free hand to continue the RAF assault on German morale almost
unhindered.   The "Combined Offensive" was a public relations fiction as the two great
bombing forces went their separate ways.    Despite the intention of Pointblank to
concentrate attacks on the German heavy industry and aircraft production, the British ter-
ror campaign was now fully underway.   Harris had the Lancasters he needed in growing
numbers, and Bomber Command had the navigational tools and "spoofing" devices to
embark on raids of awesome dimensions, though still far short of the most conservative
estimates of Tizard, Cherwell or Trenchard.

98SAO II, pp 12-15. Italics added.
99Harris, p 144
100Messenger, p 115
101Kennett, p 145

Hamburg was the first city selected for bombing by the RAF under the auspices of
Pointblank.  Famous as Europe's principal seaport, Hamburg was also a regional center of
maritime and military production.  Harris did not seek to attack particular factories or
shipping yards (such as the yard which produced the Bismarck).   His object as stated in
the official order was to "destroy Hamburg."102 The operation, known as "Gomorrah,"
would take several nights to accomplish - Harris did not think the city could be devastated
in a single attack.   The first raid came on the night of July 24. 791 planes - Lancasters,
Halifaxes, Stirlings and Wellingtons - attacked the city with 1541 tons of explosives.103
1500 people were killed and only twelve aircraft were lost, due largely to Window, the
foil-chaff the British were using for the first time.   In the first "cooperative" effort of
Pointblank, 68 B-17s bombed precision targets the following day and on the 26th as well.
On the 27th, the RAF attacked again with slightly less tonnage, but more than 3 million
individual incendiaries.   The result was a classic firestorm of stupendous dimensions,
killing some 42,600 people.104 Bomber Command staged two more large incendiary
raids on the city, but by now they were bombing rubble and the follow-up raids did little additional damage.     The report of the Hamburg Police President was not only a scientific account of the effects of the attack, but an emotive, graphic description of the experience of a firestorm for the inhabitants a large city:
Women, especially, hesitated to risk flight from the apparently safe shelter
through the flames into the unknown...people waited in the shelters until
the heat and the obvious danger compelled some immediate action...In
many  cases...they  were  already  unconscious  or  dead  from  carbon
monoxide poisoning...The scenes of terror which took place in the
firestorm area are indescribable.   Children were torn away from their
parents' hands by the force of the hurricane and whirled into the fire.

102Messenger, pp 128-29
103USSBS, p 7 I
104Kennett, pp 147-8; Messenger, pp 129-31

People who thought they had escaped fell down, overcome by the devouring force of the heat and died in an instant...105

For the rest of 1943 and into the Spring of '44, the RAF continued its city campaign, sowing great destruction on the residential sectors of Germany's cities.  German warrelated industry continued to thrive (for those workers who lost their homes, returning to work was often therapeutic) while the shops, service-sector and non-essential industries suffered most.106 An agent's report from inside Berlin told of the wholesale ruin, but also of the people's astonishment that the factories were untouched.107
Early in October, the US 8th Air Force made its most ambitious raids yet, attacking
Schweinfurt again in a series of four raids.  This was the infamous "Black Week" and in
its aftermath the 8AF was brought to a standstill. For the next six months the future of
precision bombing was in doubt.   In the final raid, 291 B-17s left from Britain.  At
Aachen, their fighter escort turned back, at which point the Luftwaffe launched a
defensive attack of unprecedented ferocity.  Losses were grievous, with 60 aircraft shot
down on the final raid, and 148 destroyed in toto during Black Week.   Having lost air
superiority to the Luftwaffe, the 8th would make no more deep penetrations into Germany
for the rest of 1943.
Inevitably, the appalling American losses at Schweinfurt fueled Harris's contention
that the AAF was involved in a pointless "panacea-mongering" strategy.  The Americans'
lack of flexibility had meant there were never any other options to pursue, and Harris now
urged the 8th to join him in attacking Berlin on a huge scale.   The allure of Berlin was
irresistible to Harris and Churchill and its psychological importance was far greater in
their minds than to the German military of political apparatus.   Harris told Churchill in
November that 19 German cities had been "virtually destroyed" and that the Ruhr was

105SAO IV, Appendix 30
106USSBS, A Detailed Study of the Effects of Strategic Bombing on Darmstadt, p 8 and Albert Speer interrogation in SAO IV, App 36
107Michael Sherry, The Rise of American Air Power (New Haven: Yale, 1987), p 156

"largely out."  The coup de grace for Germany's will to war was the destruction of Berlin. "We can wreck Berlin from end to end," Harris told Churchill, "if the USAAF will come in on it.  It will cost between 400-500 aircraft.  It will cost Germany the war."108
Arnold declined to participate.    He            (along with Portal) was concerned that
Pointblank objectives - including the destruction of the German fighter industry and the
subsequent gaining of air superiority in preparation for Overlord - were being ignored.
Harris was by now obsessed with punitive attacks on German cities, and Berlin in
particular.   Since he could not rely on American assistance, Harris made yet another
proposal which did not include the 8AF in his calculations.   Bomber Command would
now destroy Germany's largest remaining cities with its Lancasters only.   The projected
loss of Lancasters would be roughly equal to their projected production rate.   Germany
would be all but defeated by April 1, 1944.  Overlord would be unnecessary:
Allowing a loss rate of 5% to sorties which is what we must expect
bearing in mind the type of target we shall be attacking...this would cost
171 Lancasters per month which compares with a planned new production
of 212  Lancasters per month.    This allows us no margin whatso-
ever...From this it appears that the Lancaster force alone should be
sufficient but only just sufficient to produce in Germany by April 1st
1944, a state of devastation in which surrender is inevitable...109
Virtually the entire Air Staff - Harris's nominal superiors - were exasperated with
Bomber Command's C-in-C.   Bottomley replied to Harris on December 23, challenging
Harris's statistics and formally disavowing area bombing as a viable strategy.  If Bomber
Command was limited by night bombing to attacking cities, it could at least attack those
smaller cities in which critical Pointblank industries were located.   Schweinfurt was the
most important of these.   Either in concert with the Americans or alone, Harris was
"invited" and "directed" to attack the ball bearing facilities at Schweinfurt:

108Harris to Churchill, Nov 3, 1943 in SAO II, p 48
109SAO II, p 56


...your efforts should be co-ordinated with and complementary to those of
the Eighth Air Force.  The aim of this force is to concentrate primarily on
the destruction of the German fighter aircraft industry and the ball-bearing
industry.   Success of this task is vital to the successful conduct of the
combined bomber offensive; the neutralising of the German Fighter Force
is certainly a pre-requisite to the successful launching of 'Overlord'...I am
to emphasize the fact that your night bomber forces would make the
greatest contribution by completely destroying those vital centres which
can be reached by day only at heavy cost; examples are Schweinfurt,
Leipzig and centres of twin-engined fighter industry...

Albert Speer was "astonished" by the RAF's "vast and pointless area bombing" and
was amazed that the 8AF did not return once more to Schweinfurt to eliminate it once and
for all "at whatever the cost."110 The Germans learned from the Schweinfurt raids that
the Allies bombed in fits and starts, rarely staying with one target set, even when they
stumbled upon a critical component of Germany's war economy.   Speer feared that the
strategic air forces would realize the vulnerability of Germany's electrical power grid, but
the British had judged it to be too redundant and robust for destruction.   When attacks
began on synthetic oil (one of the few truly essential industries which could not be spread
out sufficiently), and it seemed that Germany's war machine was on the brink of collapse,
Speer reassured his staff that the 8th would soon tire of this target set.   "We have a
powerful ally in this matter," Speer said.   "That is to say, the enemy has an air force
general staff as well."111
After Black Week, the ball bearing industry was further decentralized and when Bomber Command finally bombed Schweinfurt under pressure from Hap Arnold and the Air Staff, little further damage was done.

110Hastings, p 259
111Ibid, p 260

For not the last time Portal - now converted along with Bufton and Bottomley to the
precision campaign - considered sacking Harris, but decided that Bomber Command's
prestige was too great for its leader to be fired publicly.   If Harris's city campaign
amounted to insubordination, he could always plead operational, tactical or meteorological
limitations.   And the PM's support (now waning a bit on the eve of Overlord) for Harris
and his personal interest in the morale campaign were further reminders of Harris's unique
position amongst the commanders.    He could not simply be gotten rid of without
concurrence from Churchill, and there was no reason to believe that this would be
Ignoring the Schweinfurt directive and the pleadings from his friend Arnold, Harris
now embarked on the great operation against Berlin which was designed to utterly destroy
the German will to wage war.  Instead, the "Battle of Berlin"* became the greatest debacle
in RAF history, savaging aircraft and crews, wasting finite resources and creating for the
Luftwaffe a decisive victory.   If Harris had few allies left at the Air Staff, Churchill was
still keenly interested in creating a Hamburg-style firestorm in Berlin.112 The "Battle" of
Berlin lasted from mid November 1943 through the following March, when Eisenhower
took direct command of all bombing forces in preparation for Overlord.  Magdeburg and
other cities were also raided in a vast campaign in which over 5,000 sorties were flown.
Tactically, the campaign stretched Bomber Command and its navigational technology to
their limits.  Crews were exposed to steady night fighter attacks (as Kennett said, German
fighters were enjoying a "renaissance") all the way to the capital, which was itself
defended by heavy AA.113 456 aircraft were destroyed in the campaign - loss rates

112Ibid, pp 295-9
* British historians and RAF personnel have used the curious appellation "Battle" to describe the large city
raids.  This stems from Trenchard and Spaight's contention that German cities, heavily defended by flak
and fighters, were redoubts which "attacked" the invading bomber forces, ostensibly attempting only to
destroy the machinery of war, not  kill civilians indiscriminately.  Thus the literature has come to describe
the "Battle of Hamburg" and the "Battle of Cologne," etc.  Thankfully, no one has described the events of
Feb 13-15, 1945 as the "Battle of Dresden."  See Spaight,
Bombing Vindicated p 51.
113Kennett, p 154

hovered between 6 and 12 per cent, far above what any air force could sustain.114 March
was the final month of Pointblank and the Berlin campaign.  Harris had substituted one for
the other, attacking no target cities listed in the January Pointblank directive from Bufton
while attempting to savage the German capital.   Bufton was again writing in official
dispatches that Harris was totally outside the control of the Air Staff and not cooperating
in overall Allied strategy:  "This state of affairs cannot be allowed to continue during the
critical months ahead..."115
Around this time, Spaatz realized the potential of staging raids on Germany's
synthetic oil industry.  Concentrated in 27 centers of major importance, synthetic oil was a
vulnerable target which - if interdicted - would cripple German fighter and mechanized
ground units.   Spaatz also had the long-range fighter which would decimate the German
defenses and give the 8AF clear air supremacy over the continent: the P-51.   Lastly, the
15th Air Force, stationed in Italy, could hit oil targets outside the range of the 8th.
"Speer's nightmare" had come true, and even though the AAF was committed to Overlord
until September, Spaatz's modest oil campaign reaped "dramatic" results.   In June, the
AAF devoted 11.6% of its sorties to oil.  In July this rose to 17% and August saw 16.4%.
But oil production fell dramatically from 927,000 tons in March to 472,000 in June.  Av-
gas fell from 180,000 tons in April to a paltry 10,000 tons in August.  The Luftwaffe could
barely get airborne.116
Portal attempted to rein Harris in and cooperate with the Americans by correctly
observing that Germany was "on a knife edge" due to the oil attacks.  Further squandering
of resources by bombing morale would "prolong the war by several months at least."  Sir
Charles gently chided Harris over the "magnetism" of German cities and wanted
reassurance that Harris was devoting his full efforts to the target set he had been assigned.
Harris continued the morale campaign, despite the growing alarm amongst his superiors

114Messenger, p 229 and Hastings, p 304
115Messenger, p 150
116Ibid, pp 318-19

that Bomber Command was rescuing Germany's military from imminent defeat.   Harris shot another memo   to Portal in which he complained of "too many cooks" deciding strategy and contended that despite the "diversions" of Overlord, Bomber Command had managed to destroy two and one-half cities per month.   He then repeated his contention that oil was yet another phantom: the past M.E.W. [Ministry of Economic Warfare] experts have never
failed  to  overstate  their  case  on  'panaceas',  e.g.  ball-bearings,
molybdenum, locomotives, etc...The oil plan has already displayed similar

On December 22, Portal told Harris only that he was "profoundly disappointed that
you still appear to feel that the oil plan is just another 'panacea.'"   He stressed that the
overriding concern of the strategic bombing forces was "to put out and keep out of action
the 11 synthetic plants in Central Germany
."118 Unfortunately, Sir Charles stopped just
short of ordering Harris to implement the oil plan.   By late December, Harris was behaving like a petulant child, complaining defiantly to Portal that "I have no faith in anything that MEW says."   He contended that the Ministry was "amateurish, ignorant, irresponsible and mendacious."   Portal chastised Harris's policy of foot-dragging and excuses by saying "I should have thought that at least you could have tried harder to destroy Schweinfurt."  Harris derided the oil plan as "a quick, clever, easy and cheap way out" and declared that he had "no faith...whatever in this present oil policy."  He suggested that the best solution would be for him to resign.  Portal chose now to give in with his own "easy way out."  "I willingly accept your assurance," he wrote,

117Ibid, p 84
118Ibid, p 86.  Italics in original.

that you will continue to do your utmost to ensure the successful execution
of the policy laid down.  I am very sorry that you do not believe in it but it
is no use my craving for what is evidently unattainable.   We must wait
until after the end of the war before we can know for certain who was
right and I sincerely hope that until then you will continue in command of
the force which has done so much towards defeating the enemy and has
brought such credit and renown to yourself and to the Air Force.119

Perhaps any other officer displaying such insubordination would have been sacked,
and indeed Portal, Bottomley and Bufton came close to doing it.   Portal seems the most
timorous of the three - knowing what he should do, but fearing the consequences (Harris
had such enmity for Bufton, "an officer considerably junior to myself," that the latter was
virtually powerless to influence, much less order Harris).   As Chief of the Air Staff, Sir
Charles alone was answerable to Sinclair and the PM - two staunch supporters of area
bombing and Harris.   Sinclair further was the major representative for the RAF's official
line: that Bomber Command raided only factories, military installations and other
precision targets.  Harris and Bomber Command, partly because of the official campaign
of duplicity (though Harris himself thought this hypocritical) benefitted immensely from
the precision-bombing argument offered to the public.   To have fired Harris (if that was
even possible) would have opened up the entire RAF strategy to public scrutiny and
debate, with the war not yet won.
Paradoxically, at this time area bombing was once again gaining currency within
the RAF and even the AAF.  Operation Thunderclap - a psychological warfare plan - was
incubated in the summer of 1944 by the British Chiefs of Staff to be implemented at a
point when German surrender was imminent.  Mass bombing of Berlin and other eastern
German cities would convince the Nazis that a guerilla war carried on after formal
surrender would be futile.   Terror bombing   of civilians would comprise the largest

119Ibid, p 93

component of Thunderclap and for the first time, surrender was not the assumed end result.  The bombing would constitute a message on the eve of surrender rather than bring about final victory on its own.
Response to the proposal in July was lukewarm.   Portal and the Air Staff were
against diverting bombers back to the phantom of "morale" and the Joint Intelligence
Subcommittee agreed, adding that attacks on Berlin were still costly.   The Director of
Plans summed up the general feeling by saying that "the game is not worth the candle."
Thunderclap would be held in reserve until such time that massive morale bombing might
make a difference by creating confusion in the east and aiding the Red Army.   A final
blow to Berlin, delivered by both air forces, would utterly destroy its administrative
functions and the flood of refugees from the raids would hamper troop movements,
preventing a speedy eastward reinforcement of the German army.120
The Americans were at first dubious.   Generals Charles Cabell, director of plans,
and Jimmy Doolittle, now commanding the 8th AF, both suspected that the British were
trying to drag the AAF into area bombing and implicate the Americans in any ethical
backlash at the end of the war.   Spaatz had always shown ambivalence regarding the
moral issues, and he now argued against  Thunderclap in seemingly ethical terms although
his arguments were usually pragmatic or political.   Like Doolittle and Cabell, he feared
that the RAF wanted the AAF "tarred with the morale bombing aftermath which we feel
will be terrific."121 As with the RAF, the AAF was fighting its own constant battle with
the other services (and within the Army itself) for autonomy and resources.  Spaatz knew
how important the public perception was in the US of a precision-oriented,   even
"humane" strategic bombing force which would ultimately gain victory and save Allied
lives as well as the lives of German civilians.   Spaatz also rejected the British argument

120Ibid, pp 98-103; Hastings, p 346; Messenger, p 185
121Ronald Schaffer, "American Military Ethics in World War II: The Bombing of German Civilians,"
Journal of  American History 67:2, Sept 1980, p 325 (hereafter Schaffer); and Ronald Schaffer, Wings of Judgement (NY: Oxford University Press, 1985), pp 83-4 (hereafter Wings)

that morale bombing could somehow diminish the German military in the field or compel
the government to surrender.   The general and Eisenhower were wary of Thunderclap as
well as British discussions concerning the use of gas against Germany in retaliation for V-
1 and V-2 attacks.    Eisenhower repeated Spaatz's purely military reasoning when he said
"I will not be a party to so-called retaliation or use of gas.  Let's for God's sake keep our
eye on the ball and use some sense."122 These sentiments would not last long.
By January, Thunderclap took on the guise of an intensive tactical operation
designed to support the Soviet drive in the east.   Attacks on Berlin, Breslau and other
cities would aid the Red Army by blocking German reinforcements while lowering the
morale of civilian refugees.  For bombing on this scale, the AAF would have to be brought
in, and the Soviets would have to be consulted at Yalta.   Churchill wanted to offer the
Soviets evidence of military support in the east, and Portal agreed that while oil was still
the major priority, "a severe blitz will not only cause confusion in the evacuation from the
East but will also hamper the movement of troops from the West."123 In preparing for
likely inquiries from the Soviet delegation, the PM asked Sinclair what plans the RAF had for "basting the Germans in their retreat from Breslau."   Sir Archibald responded with a cautious note stressing that the retreating German army was a target suitable for tactical air forces, both Anglo-American and Soviet.  The best use for heavy bombers continued to be Germany's vulnerable oil facilities.    As a sop to Churchill, Sinclair added that "opportunities" might arise for bombing Berlin as well as

Leipzig, Dresden and Chemnitz, which are not only the administrative
centres controlling the military and civilian movements but are also the
main communications centres through which the bulk of the traffic
moves...The possibility of these attacks being delivered on the scale nec-
essary to have a critical effect on the situation in Eastern Germany is now
under examination.

122Wings, p 79
123SAO III, p 101


Churchill was not pleased with the Air Minister's careful tone; he was interested in
a large-scale, punitive raid on Germany's remaining urban centers without deference to the
priority on oil.  He wrote to Sir Archibald a terse note whose meaning was unmistakable:

I did not ask you last night about plans for harrying the German retreat from Breslau.  On the contrary, I asked whether Berlin, and no doubt other large cities in East Germany, should not now be considered especially attractive targets.  I am glad that this is 'under examination'.  Pray report to me to-morrow what is going to be done.124
The message was quite clear to the Air Staff; on the 28th Bottomley and Spaatz
issued a new target set which included oil as first priority but listed in second position
Berlin, Leipzig, Dresden and "associated cities where heavy attack will cause great
confusion in civilian evacuation from the East and hamper movement of reinforcements
from other fronts."   Harris   had official sanction once again for his area campaign, and
Spaatz would now join him in a final, furious series of raids which would kill thousands of
Within the U.S. Army Air Forces (and before it the Air Corps and Air Service),
analyses of the relationship between strategic bombing and victory had been taking place
since the interwar period, when the American doctrine of precision bombing evolved at
the Air Corps Tactical School (ACTS).   At first embracing the doctrines of Douhet and
Trenchard, the Air Corps steadily moved towards a strategy of precision bombing as more
cost-effective and militarily efficacious.  Further, American analyses of terror bombing in
Spain and China found that the effects on morale were not only limited, but that bombing
an enemy's civilian population centers often raised morale and unified national will.125

124Ibid, pp 102-3; Messenger, p 185; Hastings, p 398
125For a comprehensive survey of American strategic doctrine in the interwar period, see Wings, chapter two and Kennett, pp 86-88

US observer groups in Europe came to similar conclusions after the start of WWII, and by 1942 Alexander Seversky would conclude in a book for a mass readership that the British terror campaign was wasteful in its vast and pointless destructiveness:
Another vital lesson, one that has taken even air specialists by surprise, relates to the behavior of civilian populations under air punishment.  It had been generally assumed that aerial bombardment would quickly shatter morale,  causing  deep  civilian  reactions,  possibly  even  nervous derangements on a disastrous scale.  The progress of this war has tended to indicate that this expectation was unfounded...
These facts are significant beyond their psychological interest.  They mean that haphazard destruction of cities - sheer blows at morale - are costly and wasteful in relation to the tactical results obtained...Unplanned vandalism from the air must give way, more and more, to planned, predetermined destruction.  More than ever the principal objectives will be the  critical  aggregates  of  electric  power,  aviation  industries,  dock facilities, essential public utilities and the like.126

The United States Strategic and Tactical Air Forces (USSTAF) had, however been
bombing "blind" through clouds employing H2X, a radar navigation device which
afforded a CEP of only two miles in poor weather.   Arnold had directed in November
1943 that when weather prohibited precision, radar bombing would be used against GAF
targets, but as the Americans made deeper penetrations into Germany, this rule was
expanded to include cities with "associated" military or industrial targets.  Thus, the 8AF
had been involved in a semi-area campaign by default with results often similar to the
RAF's morale campaign.  In April and May of 1944, the 8th bombed Berlin in a series of
area attacks designed to bring about German surrender on the eve of Overlord.127
While continuing the precision campaign, Spaatz kept his options open by directing
the Special Planning Committee in February 1944 to study the future German target set

126Alexander Seversky, Victory Through Air Power (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1942), p 145 127Hastings, p 384; Messenger, p 151; Wings, pp 67-8

after the destruction of the Luftwaffe.   In an analysis which far surpassed in scope and
method any similar study by the British, the SPC finally rejected morale as a suitable
target.  Morale was already low in German cities, the Committee found, and there was no
evidence that the social disruption would result in public pressure to end the war.  In fact,
the bombing was increasing Nazi controls over the population, and there were no viable
political channels in Germany outside the party to negotiate with or surrender to the
Immediately after the Normandy landings, Spaatz - after consultations with George
Marshall, Hap Arnold and Robert Lovett (Assistant Secretary of War for Air) - had plans
drawn up for psychological warfare.   The subsequent operation called for undefended
"virgin" towns to be attacked on a single day all across Germany.  Fighters would join in
strafing transport targets and villages.   This came to be known as "Clarion" and was the
subject of heated, emotional and ethically-based debate within the AAF.129 The chief
opponent of Clarion and other terror campaigns planned by USSTAF and the RAF was a
colonel named Richard Hughes, a British expatriate who joined the US Army after
moving to the United States in 1929.  Hughes served on the Air War Plans Division, and
exercised great care in US target selection for the 8AF, feeling that while German civilians
must be "made to suffer," they should not be subjected to promiscuous bombing and
strafing.   Hughes criticized Clarion and a similar plan named "Shatter" - designed by a
team led by Colonel Lowell P. Weicker, USAR - on largely military and pragmatic
grounds, but he also stressed the moral aspect.   Pragmatically, Hughes rejected the
utilitarian connection between terror and German surrender.   Morale was a "will of the
wisp" and terror attacks would give the Nazi propaganda machine a valid grievance.
Finally, the United States "represented in world thought an urge toward decency and better
treatment of man by man."  Hughes's views were shared by Generals Lawrence Kuter and

128Wings, p 71
129Kennett, pp 161-2; Wings, pp 73-79

Charles Cabell and Secretary Lovett, who feared that the "inhumanity of indiscriminate
bombing" would lead to political problems for the AAF in Congress and general
disapproval amongst the American polity.   Weicker continued to stress the value of
morale bombing, citing the terroristic effect of V-weapon attacks on England.   Morale
bombing was a way to demonstrate the costs of war directly to the German people.
"These Air Forces are not over here just to play cricket.  Our Number One responsibility is
to get on with winning the war, to shorten it as much as we can, and by so doing, save
Allied lives."   Spaatz decided for the time being not to implement Weicker's plan, citing
the diversion of resources and Lovett's views on the political/ethical backlash at home.130
Thunderclap elicited a strongly negative reaction from many US officers, both on
moral and political grounds.  General Cabell wrote that the British plan "gives full reign to
the baser elements of our people" and that the AAF should resist being sucked into "baby
killing schemes."131 General Kuter, the assistant chief of staff for war plans also based
his objections along utilitarian grounds.   Since German civilians had less influence on their government than in a democracy, morale bombing could hardly be expected to bring about a revolt.   Kuter also resented the large burden to be carried by USSTAF in the British plan; the AAF would be required to do "the majority of the dirty work" despite its commitment to precision bombing.   General Arnold, however, kept an "open mind" and would soon have terror-related proposals of his own.
The "War-Weary Bomber Project" was an American plan supported by Arnold
which called for filling older B-17s with 20,000 lbs of H.E. and sending them in the
general direction of a V-site or "fortified" German city.   The crew would bail out some
distance from the target, after having set the controls on automatic pilot.   Arnold noted
that hundreds of such War-Weary aircraft set loose all over Germany would have a
tremendous effect on civilian morale.  Spaatz was dubious regarding the practicability of

130Wings, p 77
131Ibid, p 83;  Sherry,  p 260; David Irving, The Destruction of Dresden (London: William Kimber, 1963),
p 110

the plan, but agreed that there was no reason why the planes should not be launched
against  cities   with  "associated"  military  targets.    The  War-Weary  project  never
materialized, largely because the British feared German retaliation against London.132
Clarion was carried out with "indifferent" results, despite the protests of Ira Eaker,
who told Spaatz in an "eyes only" letter that such a campaign "would absolutely convince
the Germans that we are the barbarians they say we are, for it would be perfectly obvious
to them that this is primarily a large scale attack on civilians as, in fact, it of course will
be."  Eaker contended that Clarion was a waste, especially since the oil campaign was "the
one thing where we really have the Hun by the neck."  The day might come when such an
attack on morale would reap results, but for Germany, that day had not yet arrived. In
tones which seem both ethical and political, Eaker argued strongly that "we should never
allow the history of this war to convict us of throwing the bomber at the man in the
Thunderclap got under way in modified form in February, with the 8th Air Force making the first major raid, the "precision" bombing of Berlin.   Despite Doolittle's objections that the Berlin mission would be costly and have no terror value since its citizens had been bombed for years, Spaatz ordered the 8th to raid the capital on the third of the month.  Twenty-five thousand civilians perished.134
Dresden was the ultimate result of Thunderclap, although the raid on this city was
not unique in inception or technique.  The attack was similar in effect to raids on several
of Germany's other old cities built with wooden, closely-spaced habitations such as
Hamburg and  Lubeck.  Dresden had been on Harris's list of remaining targets for months,
and the Spaatz/Bottomley directive gave it new importance.   On February 4, the Soviets
formally asked for attacks on German communications in the east and specifically
mentioned Berlin and Leipzig.   The raid itself has been amply documented in David

132Wings, pp 85-6
133Ibid, p 92
134C & C III, P 726; Sherry, P 260; Wings, pp 96-7

Irving's book and elsewhere: on the evening of the 13th, some 800 RAF bombers attacked the city, with 400 from 8AF on the following day, ostensibly attacking marshalling yards, which by the 15th were obscured by smoke and clouds during the second AAF attack.  An exact or even close figure for the number of dead will never be known, although David Irving's original estimate of 135,000 is certainly incorrect.   Citing the most recent data from East German and Soviet sources, Irving wrote to the Times in 1966 to revise his figures.   The official toll was listed as 18,375 dead and 35,000 missing (many of these may have been refugees).  The "expected" total for fatalities was roughly 25,000, although some historians today put the figure at closer to 35,000.135
Even though the attack on Hamburg may have killed more civilians, and Bomber
Command had been trying, with limited success, to create just these conditions for years,
Dresden was different for several reasons.  Shortly after the raid, an RAF air commodore
briefed the press, telling reporters, among other things, that the attack was designed to
cause destruction in areas where refugees were gathering in large numbers, and to disrupt
relief supplies.  An AP reporter wrote a dispatch which stated that "Allied Air Chiefs have
made the long awaited decision to adopt deliberate terror bombing of German population
centers as a ruthless expedient to hastening Hitler's doom."136 Somehow, the story
cleared the   British censor and was printed in papers all over America and broadcast in Europe and elsewhere.   The official denial appeared in Reuters the next day, but the damage was done; both the AAF and RAF were caught in a public relations crisis. Richard Stokes once again rose in the House of Commons to protest area bombing.  The disease and destruction in the cities the Allies would soon be occupying might be impossible to overcome, Stokes pointed out.   He further decried the government's policy of creating a "crescendo of destruction."137

135Dudley Saward, Bomber Harris, The Story of Sir Arthur Harris (Doubleday, 1985), pp 297-8 136Messenger, p 87; Wings, p 99
137See Hansard Commons, v. 408: March 6, 1945

In the midst of growing public disenchantment over Britain's role in the air war,
Churchill now sought to distance himself from a policy of which he was perhaps the chief
architect.   On the 28th of March, the Prime Minister addressed the morale bombing
campaign in terms which suggested that he found it ethically objectionable.  The memo to
Portal and the Chief of Staff would seem, to a casual reader, to be a pragmatic and
ethically-based challenge to Britain's major strategic contribution to the war:

29 March 1945.   Prime Minister to General Ismay (for Chiefs of Staff Committee) and the Chief of the Air Staff
It seems to me that the moment has come when the question of bombing
of German cities simply for the sake of increasing the terror, though under
other pretexts, should be reviewed.   Otherwise we shall come into control
of an utterly ruined land.  We shall not, for instance, be able to get housing
materials out of Germany for our own needs because some temporary
provision would have to be made for the Germans themselves.   The
destruction of Dresden remains a serious query against the conduct of
Allied bombing.    I am of the opinion that military objectives must
henceforward be more strictly studied in  our own interests rather than that
of the enemy.
The Foreign Secretary has spoken to me on this subject, and I feel the
need for more precise concentration upon military objectives, such as oil
and communications behind the immediate battle-zone, rather than on
mere acts of terror and wanton destruction, however impressive.138

Portal and Bottomley were taken aback by this disingenuous signal from Churchill,
who now seemed to be washing his hands of a very dirty business.  Bottomley showed the
message to Harris, who replied that the PM's conversion was "an insult" to the Air
Ministry and Bomber Command.   Harris made an argument for the morale campaign in

138SAO III, p 112

fundamentally utilitarian terms, while curiously denying that Britain had been engaged in a deliberately-planned terror campaign:

We have never gone in for terror bombing...I...assume that the view under
consideration is something like this: 'No doubt in the past we were justified
in attacking German cities.   But to do so was always repugnant and now
that the Germans are beaten anyway we can properly abstain from
proceeding with these attacks.'   This is a doctrine to which I could never
subscribe.   Attacks on cities, like any other act of war, are intolerable
unless they are strategically justified.  But they are strategically justified in
so far as they tend to shorten the war and so preserve the lives of Allied
Now Harris's argument took a curious twist.   While the utilitarian justification for
violating noncombatant immunity usually runs along the lines that one is proscribed from
doing X unless the positive effect Y ensues, the Chief of Bomber Command argued that it
was unethical for him not to do X unless it could be proved that Y would not result.  The
option of undertaking other means (e.g. precision bombing) with Y in mind was never a
To my mind we have absolutely no right to give them up unless it is certain that they will not have this effect.   I do not personally regard the whole of the remaining cities of Germany as worth the bones of one British Grenadier...139

The Air Marshals and the Chiefs of Staff refused to accept Churchill's effort at
separating himself from Bomber Command's long-standing policy.  The PM was told that
he would have to withdraw the minute and submit a more satisfactory one.   This was
done, with Churchill substituting a new message a few days later of a somewhat more
moderate tone:

139In Longmate, pp 345-6

It seems to me that the moment has come when the question of the so
called 'area bombing' of German cities should be reviewed from the point
of view of our own interests.  If we come into control of an entirely ruined
land, there will be a great shortage of accommodation for ourselves and
our Allies: and we shall be unable to get housing materials out of
Germany for our own needs because some temporary provision would
have to be made for the Germans themselves.  We must see to it that our
attacks do not do more harm to ourselves in the long run than they do to
the enemy's immediate war effort.  Pray let me have your views.140
As to the growing public misgivings over what was apparently a terror-bombing policy after all (and the Prime Minister's sudden change of heart), Harris attributed the feelings of shock to a misplaced sentimentality:

The feeling, such as there is, over Dresden could be easily explained by any psychiatrist.    It is connected with German bands and Dresden shepardesses.  Actually Dresden was a mass of munition works, an intact Government centre, and a key transportation point to the east.   It is now none of these things.141

By the end of the war, Germany's "heart" had almost ceased to beat.   General
Erhard Milch, using the same metaphor, said after the war that the Bomber Command
morale campaign   "inflicted grievous and bloody injuries upon us but the Americans
stabbed us to the heart."142 With a smaller force than Lindemann or Tizard had
projected, Bomber Command had savaged so many cities by the Spring of 1945 that
planners were running out of targets.  But to what end had over 55,000 aircrew lost their
lives, and what was gained by killing hundreds of thousands of German civilians?  As we

140SAO III, p 117
141Longmate, op. cit.
142Hastings, p 408

have seen, the closest Bomber Command or the Air Staff ever came to strategic analysis
of the morale campaign was the series of memos by Trenchard, the CoS and others which
purported to gauge the state of mind (and fortitude) of the German people.  Their character
and tenacity under bombing was judged to be Germany's critical weakness, which if
exploited would surely lead,   somehow, to surrender of the Reich.   Britain chose a
"strategy" which was never focused, flailing out at the softest targets Bomber Command
could find, which endured the bombing on an ever increasing scale.  The workers, despite
what Cherwell surmised, continued to man the factories which were for the most part on
the peripheries of the large cities.
The means by which victory would take place - riots, revolt, decline in productivity
- were never examined under close sociological or psychological scrutiny.   Only Lord
Cherwell's argument regarding the behavior of dehoused workers approached a reasoned
(if completely speculative - he had misinterpreted data from Zuckerman's studies at Hull)
argument for what Bomber Command could hope to achieve.   Other than the Cherwell
minute, there was no reasoned, utilitarian rationale for the area campaign and the
deliberate killing of Germany's urban residents.   One can reasonably suggest that such a
strategy can be justified as long as the results are not yet known and when other options
have been exhausted: an experiment in terror is acceptable when the other criteria are met
(just cause) and when the evidence indicates that the good end achieved will outweigh the
harm done. (We should also remember Walzer's injunction of the "supreme emergency,"
although Britain's supreme emergency ended or at least became less severe when the
Soviets entered the war.)   Evidence gathered throughout the war made it clear even to
MEW and the Air Staff that despite the routine terror attacks on German cities, production
continued to rise.143 By 1943 MEW estimates showed that Bomber Command claims of

143Terraine has shown the following figures: for tank production, 760 per month in early 1943, 1229 per month in Dec '43, and 1669 in July 1944; for aircraft, Germany produced 15,288 in 1942, 25,094 in 1943 and 39,275 in 1944.  The German economy, unlike in Britain, had remarkable slack and produced "guns and butter" for much of the war.  See also USSBS Over-all Report (European War) and USSBS, The Effects of Strategic Bombing on German Morale: v 1

having seriously disrupted German production were fiction.  Bomber Command had preferred "intelligence" from dubious sources since the beginning of the Ruhr campaign that conformed to its own predilections.144
Bomber Command slipped gradually but relentlessly toward a strategy of terror
bombing from almost the beginning of the war.   After France fell and when Germany
demonstrated its inability to deliver a knockout blow, Britain was free to develop the
means to deliver her own.   The lessons of the GAF's failure - that bombing can weld
people together as well as inure them to further suffering - never found their way into
British planning (even though Churchill   had recognized this, both in 1917 and in his
memo to Portal).   The limitations of a tactical air force employed in terror bombing did,
however, drive Churchill to devote 1/3 of Britain's industrial resources to the production
of strategic bombers.
Britain did not adopt terror bombing simply because it was the only activity which
she could engage in with any success - the Admiralty constantly pressed for bombers to
aid in the war against U-boats, and others in the military argued for diversion of bombers
to North Africa and other theatres.  The morale campaign was, however, the only strategic
contribution Britain could make for several years, at least until the Americans could be
brought in.   Even after the entry of the US, the specter of a debacle on the continent
against an enemy even Trenchard admitted was superior was always an implicit (and
sometimes explicit) theme in British strategic thinking.   The result was that the area
campaign became the real panacea.
Deluded by its own internal assessments of German morale, Harris and Bomber
Command became driven by a loose, uncritical assumption that morale bombing would
crush the German war machine by punishing the very people the Chiefs of Staff and the
Air Staff said they wanted to influence - its workers.  This "strategy" was never admitted
in public and never fully articulated internally.   It was ultimately found wanting but was

144Overy, p 144; SAO III, pp 302-3; Verrier, pp 320-2

continued because Harris could not (and after the Spring of 1944 would not) switch to daylight/precision raids.   The other factor militating against participating in the oil campaign was Churchill's desire for a punitive campaign against Germany as a whole. The morale campaign was thus a method without a clearly defined goal - the means employed became an end.   Beyond its vaguely Trenchardian means, Bomber Command never really had a strategic view until the disavowal of area bombing by the Air Staff in 1944 and the embrace of Spaatz's oil campaign.
If the strategy of Bomber Command was hard to detect, the ethical restraints against
killing non-combatants never seemed to enter the equation at all - at least within the RAF.
Publicly, Sinclair invoked the rule of double effect to stave off "incorrigible" MP's, but the
argument was insincere. 
Civilian deaths were not collateral, they were the central tenet of
Bomber Command's "strategy."  Even here, Bomber Command could not come to terms
with the consequences of breaking the
jus in bello criterion against the slaughter of non-
combatants.   If they were not "innocents," but modern combatants in the "pre-fabricated
battle," then a strictly punitive campaign could possibly have been justified, even in just
war terms.   The internal argument, as far as it went, was however that the very people
being bombed would revolt (recalling the panic in 1917-1918 London after a modest
series of attacks by Gotha bombers) and demand an end to the war.145 Panic and
"internal collapse" would surely follow area bombing and in turn would mean defeat of the Nazis.
If there is scant evidence of ethical misgivings over the morale campaign within the
RAF, and no evidence for a systematic analysis of the psychological effects of aerial
bombardment,  the  situation  within  the  AAF  was  very  different.    Schaffer  has
demonstrated convincingly that the "ethical" objections to area bombing by the RAF
within USSTAF were often veiled political and pragmatic arguments.  Arnold and Spaatz
are represented by the official AAF history as moral agents who made strategic decisions

145Kennett, pp 24-6

on both deontological and utilitarian grounds.   The American air chiefs were worried
about the post-war world and how morale bombing would affect relations with the
occupied Germans.   They were also, however, concerned with the domestic American
perception of air power and the AAF's morally "clean" precision-bombing heritage.
Spaatz, Arnold, and even Kuter and Lovett were prepared to use terror when it would
make a difference in the surrender of the German state towards the end of the war.    This
was a more authentically utilitarian argument than had been formulated by Bomber Com-
mand and was similar in effect to USSBS findings after the war that gradual and steadily
increasing bombing of towns and cities made almost no impact on morale of civilians.  In
fact, morale tended to be slightly higher in those cities which were categorized as "heavily
bombed" (i.e. 30,000 tons on average) than in those receiving a more moderate tonnage
(6,000).146 Repeated bombings of the same city also resulted in diminishing returns.
True shock occurred in cities which were unmolested for long periods and suddenly
received large-scale, savage blows, especially at night.  The result was not civilian riots or
demands for German surrender, however.    Lethargy, fear, other minor psychiatric
disorders and anxiety were far more common.   As the SBS pointed out, controls in a
police state leave few avenues for protest and policy change.147
While the AAF, in the internal critiques of Thunderclap and Clarion,  had reached
the conclusion that terror bombing was not likely to have the desired effects, the RAF
chose to bomb in the dark, without critical examination of its first principle or a coherent
strategy for its Air Marshals.   Throughout the war, the dialectic of morale bombing and
victory was never subjected to any scrutiny in a formal way within the Air Staff or
Bomber Command.

146See USSBS Summary Report (European War), p 22; USSBS Over-all Report (European War), p 96 and USSBS The Effects of Strategic Bombing on German Morale: v 1 passim.  Unfortunately, the detailed
effects of civilians under bombing are beyond the scope of this paper, apart from the broad lessons which were apparent to MEW, the Air Staff and the AAF during the war.  See also Janis.
147USSBS Over-all Report, pp 96-9



The following bibliography contains both citations listed in the thesis and sources
which served as general background.  Primary sources dealing with the evolution of the
RAF morale bombing campaign are virtually non-existent in the United States.  The
official history (SAO) contains many primary sources in the form of personal letters,
directives and memos, as well as appendices including an interview with Albert Speer.
Messenger cited material from the Public Records Office at Kew, and it is possible that
the PRO files will produce major work in the future on the internal RAF debates.
Schaffer's Wings of Judgment, while lacking an ethical or analytical framework, is an
invaluable work on the divergence between stated policy and actions within the AAF.
The United States Strategic Bombing Survey represents the largest body of primary
source material on both the economic and psychological effects of mass bombardment
from the air.

H.R. Allen, The Legacy of Lord Trenchard (London: Cassell & Co, 1972)

Allen Andrews, The Air Marshals: The Air War in Western Europe (NY: William Morrow, 1970)
Uri Bialer, Shadow of the Bomber: The Fear of Air Attack and British Politics, 1932-
1939 (London: Royal Historical Society, 1980)

P.M.S. Blackett, Fear, War, and the Bomb (NY: McGraw Hill, 1948)

Brian Bond, Liddell Hart: A Study of His Military Thought (London: Cassell & Co,
Angus Calder, The People's War (NY: Pantheon 1969)

Roland Chaput, Disarmament in British Foreign Policy (London: George Allen &

Winston Churchill, The Second World War, Vol IV (1951)
______________, Their Finest Hour, (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1949)
Wesley Frank Craven and James Lea Cate, eds. The Army Air Forces in World War II
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1948-1958), Vol I, "Plans and Early

C & C II, "Europe: Torch to Pointblank"
C & C III, "Europe: Argument to V-E Day"


Gordon Daniels, A Guide to the Reports of the United States Strategic Bombing Survey, (London: Royal Historical Society, 1981)

Giulio Douhet, The Command of the Air (Office of Air Force History, 1983)

Meryl Fialka, International Law and Allied Bombing of Civilians During World War II
(Unpublished Master's Thesis, University of Chicago Political Science Department,
Noble Frankland, The Bombing Offensive Against Germany (London: Faber and Faber, 1965)
Haywood Hansell, Jr.,The Strategic Air War Against Germany and Japan: A Memoir (Office of Air Force History: 1986)
Russell Hardin, "Deterrence and Moral Theory," Canadian Journal of Philosophy: supplementary volume 12, pp 161-193

Arthur Harris, Bomber Offensive, (London: Collings, 1947)

Max Hastings, Bomber Command: The Myths and Reality of the Strategic Bomber Offensive 1939-1945 (London: Michael Joseph 1980)

J. Bryan Hehir," Ethics and Strategy: The Views of Selected Stratetgists" (Unpublished

F. A. Iremonger, William Temple (Oxford University Press: 1948)
David Irving, The Destruction of Dresden  (London: William Kimber, 1963)
Irving L. Janis, Air War and Emotional Stress (Rand Report: 1955)

Brian Johnson and H. I. Cozens, Bombers: The Weapon of Total War (London: Methuen, 1984)

James T. Johnson, Can Modern War Be Just? (New Haven: Yale 1984)
______________, "Recent Strategic Developments: A Critical Overview" (unpublished paper)

R.V. Jones, Most Secret War: British Scientific Intelligence 1939-1945 (London: Hamish Hamilton ,1978)

Lee Kennett, A History of Strategic Bombing (New York: 1982)
Basil Lidell Hart, The Revolution in Warfare (London: Faber and Faber)

Louis Lochner, ed., The Goebbels Diaries, 1942-1943 (Garden City: Doubleday, 1948)
Norman Longmate, The Bombers: The RAF Offensive Against Germany 1939-1945 (London: Hutchinson, 1983)
Charles Messenger, 'Bomber' Harris and the Strategic Bombing Offensive (NY: St Martin's, 1984)

Martin Middlebrook, The Battle of Hamburg: Allied Air Forces Against a German City in 1943 (NY: Scribner's, 1981)

R.J. Overy, The Air War, 1939-1945 (Stein and Day, 1980)

The Parliamentary Debates (Hansard), House of Commons (HM Stationery Office) v
Hansard  Commons*** Mar 31 and May 27, 1943 Hansard Commons, v. 408
The Parliamentary Debates (Hansard), House of Lords (HM Stationery Office) v. 130 Barry Powers, Strategy Without Slide-Rule (London: Croom Helm, 1976)
George Quester, Deterrence Before Hiroshima (New York: John Wiley, 1966)

Paul Ramsey, The Just War: Force and Political Responsibility (New York: Scribner's
Hans Rumpf, The Bombing of Germany (NY: Holdt, Rinehart & Winston, 1963)
Fritz Sallagar, The Road to Total War: Escalation in World War II (Santa Monica: Rand Corporation Report, 1969)

Dudley Saward, Bomber Harris, The Story of Sir Arthur Harris (Doubleday, 1985)

Ronald Schaffer, "American Military Ethics in World War II: The Bombing of German Civilians," Journal of  American History  67:2, Sept 1980
______________, Wings of Judgement (NY: Oxford University Press, 1985)
Alexander Seversky, Victory Through Air Power (New York: Simon and Schuster,

Michael Sherry, The Rise of American Air Power (New Haven: Yale, 1987)
Malcolm  Smith, British Air Strategy Between the Wars (Oxford: Clarendon, 1984)

C.P. Snow, Science and Government (Harvard University Press: 1961)
J. M. Spaight, Air Power and the Cities (London: Longman's, Green & Co, 1930) ___________, Bombing Vindicated (London: Geoffrey Bles, 1944)
Lord Tedder, With Prejudice (London: Cassell & Co, 1966)
John Terraine, The Right of the Line, The Royal Air Force in the European War, 1939-
1945 (London: Hodeder and Stoughton 1985)

Lord Sir Robert Vansittart, Black Record: Germans Past and Present (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1941)

Anthony Verrier, Bomber Offensive (London: Pan Books, 1974)
United States Strategic Bombing Survey, Air Force Rate of Operations (Military Analysis Division)

USSBS, Area Studies Division Report (Area Studies Division: Jan, 1947)

USSBS, Bombing Accuracy, USAAF Heavy and Medium Bombers in the ETO (Military Analysis Division: Nov, 1945)
USSBS, The Defeat of the German Air Force (Military Analysis Division: Jan, 1947) USSBS, Description of RAF Bombing (Military Analysis Division: Jan, 1947)
USSBS, A Detailed Study of the Effects of Area Bombing on Lubeck
USSBS, A Detailed Study of the Effects of Strategic Bombing on Darmstadt  (Area Studies Division: Jan, 1947)
USSBS, A Detailed Study of the Effects of Strategic Bombing on Hamburg (Area Studies Division: Jan, 1947)

USSBS, The Effects of Strategic Bombing on German Morale: v 1, v 2, (Morale Division: May, 1947)

USSBS Over-all Report (European War, September, 1945)

USSBS Summary Report (European War, September, 1945)

Michael Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars (New York: Basic Books 1977)
D.C. Watt, "The Air Force View of History," Quarterly Review, v 300


Sir Charles Webster and Noble Frankland, The Strategic Air Offensive Against Germany, 1939-1945 , Vol 1, "Preparation"

SAO II, "Endeavor"
SAO III, "Victory"
SAO IV, Appendices

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