“Was Strategic Bombing By Bomber Harris Morally Justifiable?”

I am undecided as to whether or not strategic bombing by Bomber Harris was morally justifiable. To support my answer, I am going to look at who Bomber Harris was and what strategic bombing is. I am also going to look at why he chose this method and also at what he hoped to achieve by using this method before I come to my conclusion as to whether or not it is morally justifiable.

During the early part of the war, Bomber Command had several commanders, however in February 1942 Air Marshal Sir Arthur Harris took over. He was to become one of the most controversial figures of World War Two. He remained Commander-in-Chief of the Bomber Command from 1942 to 1945 and was nicknamed “Bomber” by the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. Bomber Harris is most noted for his decision to use strategic bombing in the war effort.

There are two types of bombing. Namely, tactical and strategic bombing. Tactical bombing refers to to combined operations, for example the airforce supporting the infantry on the ground. Strategic bombing refers to the use of independent air power to defeat an enemy state as well as referring to the wider picture, destroying the enemy’s morale being an example in this case. It was also believed that long-range bombing raids had the potential to force the enemy to surrender because the bombers would always get through.

The idea of the bombers always getting through came about during the Spanish Civil War which took place from 1936 to 1939. The Germans supported General Franco and Hitler sent the Luftwaffe to aid the fascists. It was suggested that a German Condor Legion should be formed to fight in the Spanish Civil War. The initial force consisted of a Bomber Group of three squadrons of Ju-52 bombers, a Fighter Group with three squadrons of He-51 fighters, a Reconnaissance Group with two squadrons consisting of He-70 bombers and He-70 reconnaissance bombers and finally, a Seaplane Squadron which consisted of He-59 and He-60 float planes. Hitler hoped that by sending the Luftwaffe to fight in the Spanish Civil War they would acquire experience and would have the opportunity to practice their tactics.

The Luftwaffe practiced their tactics on the town of Guernica which was situated in northern Spain, thirty kilometres east of Bilbao in the Basque province of Vizcaya. At the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, Guernica had a population of about seven thousand people, but by the end of a raid by the German Condor Legion, it was estimated that nearly two thousand people had been killed and nearly a thousand injured.

On the 27th of April 1937, the German Condor Legion bombed Guernica. The town was struck by explosive bombs and then by incendiaries which were to cause maximum fire damage. People were machine-gunned by fighter planes as they fled their homes. The raid took three hours and by the end, the town had been completely obliterated. By the end of the Spanish Civil War it was generally thought that in future warfare, the air force would destroy the cities because the bombers would always get through. It was later revealed that General Franco had asked the German Condor Legion to carry out the raid in an attempt to demoralize the Basque people and it was the idea of demoralizing the people that appealed to Harris. However, the basic premise of bombers always getting through was incorrect.

During the period between 1939 and 1942 bombing was useless by the British because they have poor aircraft and lack the manpower and equipment. The British had slow aircraft and the Spitfires were short range and cannot reach Germany. As a result of the Spitfires being short range fighters, the bombers did not have an escort. This meant that the bombers were not getting through. During the day the German ME109 would destroy the British bombers. The British decided to bomb Germany at night. However, bombing at night meant that navigational skills are poor and accuracy of bombs hitting their targets decreases which meant that civilians were increasingly being hit instead of the targets. Between 1929 and 1941, the Germans and the British don’t want to hit the civilians and believe that their targets should have military value. However, this eventually leads to total war between 1942 and 1945.

Lauren Edwards 13D

As Britain was not prepared for war, it was then decided that Britain’s Bomber and Fighter commands would combine to become tactical and support the army. However, Harris did not approve and said that he would bomb Berlin to keep the Bomber Command separate. There was then a massive increase in the bomber force and a new aircraft was introduced. The Lancaster was a four-engined, heavy bomber and was a long range aircraft. It was this aircraft that Harris would use in his raid.

In 1943, Bomber Harris announces a 1000 Bomber Raid. Knowing that the bombers were not getting through, he decides to attempt to overwhelm the Germans by sending in one thousand bombers in at once thinking that at least some will get through. As the British were flying at night, Harris came up with Night Area Bombing and his justification was that if enough civilians were bombed then they would give up because their morale would have been destroyed.

In conclusion, I don’t think that strategic bombing by Bomber Harris was morally justifiable. Although it’s inevitable that there will be casualties during wars, it is inhumane and inexcusable to deliberately attack civilians in order gain supremacy over the enemy.