Arthur 'Bomber' Harris (RAF Bomber Command):
"The Nazis entered this war under the rather childish delusion
that they were going to bomb everyone else, and nobody was going
to bomb them. At Rotterdam, London, Warsaw, and half a dozen other
places, they put their rather naive theory into operation. They
sowed the wind, and now they are going to reap the whirlwind."
After the retreat from Dunkirk and the defeat
of France, RAF Bomber Command was one of the only ways to take
an offensive war to Germany. The first daylight raids were disastrous,
so the RAF reverted to night-time operations. Arthur Harris of
Bomber Command believed that concentrated air attacks alone could
bring Germany to its knees and win the war. Political indecision
about bombing civilian cities and the need for Bomber Command
to support operations elsewhere, would distract Harris from wanting
to do what he felt was needed to be done.
Retribution for the Blitz attacks on British
cities, as well as lowering the morale of the German people were
considered good reasons for bombing Germany. Also hitting industrial
areas where German factories supplied the Nazi war machine, it
was hoped it could stop or even just hamper its capacity to operate.
But by the end of 1941 Bomber Command had lost over 700 aircraft,
which was proving costly in men and machines.
On the 30th May 1942, a massive force was gathered
for one raid on a German city. Its target was Cologne and the
operation was known as "1000 Bomber Night". The efforts
were devastating for Cologne, but it proved that a concentrated
air attack could be mustered and strike deep inside Germany.
With America now in the war, it had its 8th Air
Force based in England, and during 1942 it had been building up
its force ready to join the RAF in bombing operations on Germany.
The Americans preferred to fly their operations during the day,
and also flying in close formation. Their "flying fortresses"
were exactly that, heavily armed to ward off the bombers biggest
enemy, the single engine fighter plane. The Luftwaffe soon learnt
how to deal with such tactics and they would fly head on into
the American formation, which would break up the close formation,
and the German fighters would then pick off the bombers one by
The British kept to their night time operations
and flying solo. Night bombing could not really guarantee pinpoint
bombing, and the effects were very much like the effects that
the British people had experienced during the Blitz.
So the stage was set, pinpoint bombing of factories
by day, to discriminate bombing of cities at night. Terrorized
German civilians would experience the "Firestorm" that would sweep
the targeted city. The hope was to break the will of the populace,
and damage the heart of the Nazi industrial war machine.
In January 1943, at the Casablanca meeting, it
was decided by Churchill and Roosevelt to combine British and
US bombing raids on Germany. This operation was to focus a concentrated
effort to disrupt the enemy and prepare Europe for when the Allies
would invade mainland Europe. These raids would target transport
networks, U-boat yards, oil installations, aircraft plants and
armament factories. This would disrupt and weaken the enemies
industrial capacity to fuel and supply its armed forces. On 17th
May the RAF attacked to Ruhr dams with some success, this operation
was immortalized in the film "The Dambusters".
In July 1943 bombing raids concentrated on the
port of Hamburg. For a week the Americans attacked by day and
the British by night and turned Hamburg into a "Hell on Earth".
The combination of a summer heatwave and the bombing attacks created
a man made tornado of flame. This firestorm engulfed the city
and over 30,000 people died in the raids. Albert Speer (Hitler's
Armaments Minister) believed that six more raids like Hamburg,
on other German cities, would have ended the war. But the Allies
did not have the resources to carry out another operation like
Hamburg. The Allies reverted back to normal operations, sometimes
with disastrous results.
The American attack on the ball bearing factory
was a daring and brave attack deep inside Germany, which took
the Germans by surprise, but the Americans paid a very high price.
On August 17th 1943, 600 British bombers attacked
the secret German rocket research facility at Peenemünde.
Although the raid did not destroy the base, it did gave the Nazi's
a serious problem, the problem of carrying on with research, development
and production of their rocket programme. The British might not
have been successful in destroying Peenemünde, and the Nazi
rocket programme with it, but it was successful in delaying mass
production of the rocket. In hindsight that delay was priceless,
and by the time the Nazi's relocated its operation and mounted
mass production, the Allies had gained enough time to invade mainland
Europe without threat from the new weapons.
Although London would suffer V1 and V2 rocket
attacks it would be short lived. Again the delay the bombing raid
created saved London from a longer intense attack. It has been
said that these weapons could have turned the war in Hitler's
favour, but the raid stopped the weapon from being a major advantage
After pinpoint attacks like Schwienfurt and Peenemünde,
strategy was reverted back the night time area attacks. Harris
believed with American support he could destroy Berlin within
six months and win the war for the Allies. But the depletion of
the US 8th Air Force meant that the RAF would have to go alone.
Harris would send out messages to his crews that would be read
out at mission briefings : "Tonight you go to the big
city, that's Berlin. You have the opportunity to light a fire
in the belly of the enemy and burn his black heart out."
Future attacks on the German capital, Berlin
(The Battle of Berlin), took a heavy toll on the RAF. Over a four
month period over 1000 bombers and crews were lost. The RAF wrought
terrible damage on the cities of Germany, it dragged the German
populace into 'Total War'. The very same effect that their Nazi
leaders had inflicted on other cities during the war, cities like
Rotterdam, Warsaw, Coventry and London.
"They sowed the wind, and now they are
going to reap the whirlwind."
With the air raids on Berlin, and other German
cities, German troops and equipment had to be redirected to try
and defend those cities. Troops that would have been used on the
eastern front against the Soviets. The air raids on Germany had
become an aerial second front, and Albert Speer (Hitler's Armaments
Minister) believed the bombing of Germany was the start of a second
front, as early as 1943.
In March 1944 both British and US bombing operations
were redirected, and were used for the preparation of Operation
Overlord and the D-day landings in June 1944. It would be six
months before they would continue their air strikes on Germany
again, and when they returned they continued to destroy the heart
out of the Nazi homeland until its surrender in May 1945.