Bomber Offensive, Sir Arthur Harris

Bomber Offensive, Sir Arthur Harris

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Bomber Offensive, Sir Arthur Harris

Bomber Offensive, Sir Arthur Harris

Sir Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris was one of the most controversial British military leaders of the Second World War, commanding Bomber Command for most of the war, and in particular during the strategic bombing campaign against German industrial cities. Since the war his role, and that of his command, has come in for repeated criticism, which started even as the campaign was being carried out. Perhaps as a result Harris produced his account of the campaign almost immediately, and it was published in 1947, by which time the men under his campaign had already been denied a campaign medal.

This book is of interest for two reasons - its insights into the campaign itself, and Harris’s views on some of the more controversial issues. We thus look at the various bombing aids produced during the war, how they worked, their limits, how they influenced the sort of raids that could be carried out, and how they were used in practice. We also look at the development of the command’s aircraft, its slow increase in size, and the changing priorities it was given. He is also willing to acknowledge the many limits suffered by Bomber Command early in the war, when their aircraft weren’t powerful enough and their bombing not accurate or heavy enough to have much impact.

Harris has interesting things to say on the idea of an attack on German morale, even at this early date acknowledging that it was almost impossible to undermine civilian morale in the Nazi police state, where state repression was always more frightening and more immediate than the bombers.

Harris tends to overplay the role of the bomber and its potential to win the war by itself. As a result he underplays the impact of repeated land and naval defeats on Japanese morale, and gives all of the credit to the Japanese surrender to the American strategic bombing campaign.

There is an interesting explanation of the purpose of the strategic bombing campaign, which he considers to have only lasted for a single year, from the point in 1943 where the command became large enough and effective enough for it to begin to the point in 1944 when it was placed under the command of General Eisenhower. He also points out that some of his missions were requested by the Allied armies, such as the bombing of Dresden.

Harris makes a strong, but not entirely convincing case for the bomber campaign, perhaps because he rather over-argue his position in places, and over values the heavy bomber as being the decisive weapon of the 1940s, making armies and navies obsolete.

1 - Facing the War
2 - The First Bombing
3 - In the Air Ministry and USA
4 - Bomber Command
5 - The Preliminary Phase
6 - Getting the Weapons
7 - The Offensive Under Way
8 - Long Range Attacks
9 - The Invasion of Europe
10 - The Offensive Against Oil
11 - The Final Phase
12 - Summing Up and the War of the Future

Author: Sir Arthur Harris
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 256
Publisher: Frontline
Year: 2015 edition of 1947 original

Bomber Offensive

Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Arthur “Bomber” Harris remains a controversial figure in the history of the RAF. While many vilify him for his merciless carpet bombing of Germany, others believe that his contributions to Allied victory are grossly undervalued. In Bomber Offensive, Harris candidly describes how he led the men of Bomber Command in the face of appalling casualties, his fierce disagreements with higher authority, and the complicated relationship he had with Winston Churchill.

Written soon after the close of the Second World War, Harris's memoirs reveals the man behind the Allied bombing offensive that destroyed the Nazi war machine, but also many beautiful and historic cities, such as Dresden. His defense of these total war tactics stands in stark contrast to modern military policy, which considers such indiscriminate killing a war crime.

More info about the ebook

Publisher: Pen & Sword Aviation
Published: 2020-01-24
ISBN: 9781473812604

Sir Arthur Travers Harris, 1st Baronet

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Sir Arthur Travers Harris, 1st Baronet, byname Bomber Harris, (born April 13, 1892, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England—died April 5, 1984, Goring-on-Thames, Oxfordshire), British air officer who initiated and directed the “saturation bombing” that the Royal Air Force inflicted on Germany during World War II.

Harris was reared in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and educated in English public schools. He joined the 1st Rhodesian Regiment at the outbreak of World War I and served in South Africa and South West Africa (now Namibia). Following his return to England in 1915, he joined the Royal Flying Corps and eventually commanded various squadrons in France and at home. After the war he was given a regular commission in the Royal Air Force (RAF). Throughout the 1920s and ’30s, he served at several posts in Iraq, India, and Britain and in the Air Ministry.

Harris was made an air commodore in 1937, was named air vice-marshal in 1939, and rose to air marshal in 1941 and to commander in chief of the RAF Bomber Command in February 1942. A firm believer in mass raids, Air Marshal Harris developed the saturation technique of mass bombing—that of concentrating clouds of bombers in a giant raid on a single city, with the object of completely demolishing its civilian quarters. Conducted in tandem with American precision bombing of specific military and industrial sites by day, saturation bombing was intended to break the will and ability of the German people to continue the war. Harris applied this method with great destructive effect in Germany—most notably in the firebombings of Hamburg and Dresden. During the preparations for the Normandy Invasion in early 1944, Harris was subordinate to American commanders such as Dwight D. Eisenhower and Carl Spaatz and directed the destruction of transportation and communication centres in cities all across German-occupied France.

Harris retired in September 1945 and the following year was made marshal of the RAF. Soon after, he wrote his story of Bomber Command’s achievements in Bomber Offensive (1947). The morality and even the efficacy of saturation bombing came under severe question after the war, and, disappointed by such reappraisal of his war aims and methods, Harris lived for a time in South Africa, where from 1946 to 1953 he was managing director of the South African Marine Corporation. He was created a baronet in 1953.

Royal Flying Corps

After completing training, he served on the home front before being transferred to France in 1917. A skilled pilot, Harris quickly became a flight commander and later commander of No. 45 and No. 44 Squadrons. Flying Sopwith 1 1/2 Strutters, and later Sopwith Camels, Harris downed five German aircraft before the end of the war making him an ace. For his accomplishments during the war, he earned the Air Force Cross. At war's end, Harris elected to remain in the newly formed Royal Air Force. Sent abroad, he was posted to various colonial garrisons in India, Mesopotamia, and Persia.

Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Arthur Travers Harris

  • Rank: Marshal of the Royal Air Force
  • Service: British Army, Royal Air Force
  • Nickname(s): Bomber, Butcher
  • Born: April 13, 1892 in Cheltenham, England
  • Died: April 5, 1984 in Goring, England
  • Parents: George Steel Travers Harris and Caroline Elliott
  • Spouse: Barbara Money, Therese Hearne
  • Children: Anthony, Marigold, Rosemary, Jacqueline
  • Conflicts:World War I,World War II.
  • Known For:Operation Gomorrah, Bombing of Dresden


The British had identified the importance of Germany's fuel supplies before the war in their "Western Air Plan 5(c)". [9] : 56 The focus of British bombing during 1940 changed repeatedly in response to directives from the Air Ministry. At the start of June, oil targets were made a priority of night bombing with attacks on other war industry to be made on dark nights (when the oil targets could not be located) but with the proviso that "indiscriminate action" should be avoided. On 20 June oil targets were made third priority below the German aircraft industry and lines of communication between Germany and the armies at the front. Following a brief period when German shipping was given priority, oil targets were made secondary priority in mid July under a policy of concentrated attack with five oil refineries listed for attention. [9] : 56–57 Sir Charles Portal was sceptical of the likelihood of success, saying that only a few targets could be located by average crews under moonlit conditions.

The RAF viewed Axis oil as a "vital centre", [10] and in February 1941, the British Air Staff expected that RAF Bomber Command would, by destruction of half of a list of 17 targets, reduce Axis oil production capacity by 80%. [11]

Although the Butt Report of August 1941 identified the poor accuracy and performance of RAF bombing, [9] : 70–71 Air Chief Marshal Arthur Harris maintained at the subsequent Casablanca Conference the great importance of oil targets in Axis territory. [12] The first US bombing of a European target was of the Ploieşti refineries on 12 June 1942 and the oil campaign continued at a lower priority until 1944. Priority fell with the need for attacks on German V-weapon targets ("Operation Crossbow") in France and then the attacks on lines of communication in preparation for the invasion of France (described as the "Transportation Plan").

In March 1944 the "Plan for Completion of Combined Bomber Offensive" was put forward which found favour with the British Ministry of Economic Warfare. The plan proposed attacking "fourteen synthetic plants and thirteen refineries" of Nazi Germany. [13] [14] [15] [16] The plan estimated Axis oil production could be reduced by 50% by bombing—33% below the amount Nazi Germany needed [17] —but also included 4 additional priorities: first oil, then fighter and ball bearing production, rubber production, and bomber output. The damage caused by the 12 and 28 May [18] trial bombings of oil targets, as well as the confirmation of the oil facilities' importance and vulnerability from Ultra intercepts and other intelligence reports, would result in the oil targets becoming the highest priority on 3 September 1944. [19]

In June 1944, in response to Air Ministry query on resources, Bomber Command staff estimated it would take 32,000 tons of bombs to destroy 10 oil targets in the Ruhr. Harris agreed to divert spare effort to oil targets. They were deemed to be of such importance that one raid was staged that consisted only of bomb carrying fighters, to rest the bomber crews and surprise the defenders. [9] : 246–247

In late summer 1944 the Allies began using reconnaissance photo information to time bombing with the resumption of production at a facility. Even with the weather limitations: "This was the big breakthrough . a plant would be wounded . by successive attacks on its electrical grid—its nervous system—and on its gas and water mains." (author Donald Miller). [5] : 320 However, due to bad fall and winter weather, a "far greater tonnage" was expended on Transportation Plan targets than oil targets. [20] The benzol (oil) plant at Linz in Austria was bombed on 16 October 1944. [21]

In January 1945, the priority of oil targets was lowered.

To prevent oil supplies from Romania reaching Germany, the RAF had extended its aerial mining activities to the Danube.

Despite the RAF and Harris claims regarding the great importance of oil targets, Harris had opposed assigning the highest priority to oil targets [22] but acknowledged post-war that the campaign was "a complete success" with the qualifier: "I still do not think that it was reasonable, at that time, to expect that the [oil] campaign would succeed what the Allied strategists did was to bet on an outsider, and it happened to win the race." [5] : 311 [23]

Joint Chiefs of Staff Directive 1067 prohibited German post-war production of oil through July 1947, and the United States Army made post-war provisions to rehabilitate and use petroleum installations where needed, as well as to dispose of unneeded captured equipment. [24] After inspections of various plants by the "European technology mission" (Plan for Examination of Oil Industry of Axis Europe) [25] and a report in March 1946, the United States Bureau of Mines [26] employed seven Operation Paperclip synthetic fuel scientists in a Fischer–Tropsch chemical plant in Louisiana, Missouri. [27] In October 1975, Texas A&M University began the German Document Retrieval Project and completed a report on 28 April 1977. The report identified final investigations of the German plants and interrogations of German scientists by the British Intelligence Objectives Sub-Committee, the US Field Information Agency (Technical), and the Combined Intelligence Objectives Sub-Committee. [28]

Despite its successes, by the spring of 1944 the Combined Bomber Offensive had failed to severely damage the German economy or significantly interrupt production of a vital item. The oil campaign was the first to accomplish these goals. [29] The US strategic bombing survey (USSBS) identified "catastrophic" damage. [18] Of itself, German industry was not significantly affected by attacks on oil targets as coal was its primary source of energy. And in its analysis of strategic bombing as a whole the USSBS identified the consequences of the breakdown of transportation resulting from attacks against transportation targets as "probably greater than any other single factor" in the final collapse of the German economy. [30] : 159

Several prominent Germans, however, described the oil campaign as critical to the defeat of Nazi Germany. Adolf Galland, Inspector of Fighters of the Luftwaffe until relieved of command in January 1945, wrote in his book "the most important of the combined factors which brought about the collapse of Germany", [31] and the Luftwaffe's wartime leader, Hermann Göring, described it as "the utmost in deadliness". [17] : 287 Albert Speer, writing in his memoir, said that "It meant the end of German armaments production." [4] : 412–4 It has been stated to have been "effective immediately, and decisive within less than a year". [32] Luftwaffe Field Marshal Erhard Milch, referring to the consequences of the oil campaign, claimed that "The British left us with deep and bleeding wounds, but the Americans stabbed us in the heart." [33]

The following statistics are from the British Bombing Survey Unit. Figures are for the oil campaign in the last year of the war. [30] : 158

Number of attacks by the RAF and USAAF against oil targets:

Eighth Air Force
Fifteenth Air Force
Bomber Command
May 1944 11 10 0
June 1944 20 32 10
July 1944 9 36 20
August 1944 33 23 20
September 1944 23 8 14
October 1944 18 10 10
November 1944 32 19 22
December 1944 7 33 15
January 1945 17 5 23
February 1945 20 20 24
March 1945 36 24 33
April 1945 7 1 9
Total 233 221 200

Eighth Air Force
Fifteenth Air Force
Bomber Command
May 1944 2,883 1,540 0
June 1944 3,689 5,653 4,562
July 1944 5,379 9,313 3,829
August 1944 7,116 3,997 1,856
September 1944 7,495 1,829 4,488
October 1944 4,462 2,515 4,088
November 1944 15,884 4,168 16,029
December 1944 2,937 6,226 5,772
January 1945 3,537 2,023 10,114
February 1945 1,616 4,362 15,749
March 1945 9,550 6,628 21,211
April 1945 1,949 124 5,993
Total 66,497 48,378 93,691

The efficiency of the bombing was lacking. Working from German records for certain sites, the USSBS determined that on average 87% of Allied bombs fell outside the factory perimeter and that only a few percent struck plant or equipment inside the boundary. The USAAF could put 26% of their bombing within the factories in good bombing conditions, 12% when using a mix of visual and instruments but only 5% when it had to use instrument-only bombing techniques and 80% of their tonnage was delivered under partly or fully instrument conditions. The RAF averaged 16% inside the factory. Bomber Command's efforts against oil were more efficient in some regards – although delivering a smaller total tonnage it did so from 2 ⁄ 3 base area. [ clarification needed ] The USSBS believed that Bomber Command's heavy bombs – 4,000-pound (1,800 kg) Blockbuster bombs – were more effective than an equivalent weight of smaller bombs. Both RAF and USAAF dropped a large number of bombs on oil targets that failed to explode: 19% and 12% respectively. [30] : 158–159

Bomber Harris: His Life and Times : The Biography of Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Arthur Harris, Wartime Chief of Bomber Command

This is the definitive biography of one of the most controversial figures of the Second World War.

Sir Arthur Harris remains the target of criticism and vilification by many, while others believe that the contribution he and his men made to the Allied victory is grossly undervalued. Harris has been condemned, in particular, for his Area Bombing tactics which saw civilians and their homes become legitimate targets along with industrial and military installations. This is explored by the author and placed fully within its context, and just as importantly, within the instructions he received from Churchill’s administration.

Henry Probert’s critical but highly sympathetic account draws on wide-ranging research and, for the first time, all of Harris’ own papers, to give an outstanding insight into a man who combined leadership, professionalism and decisiveness with kindness, humour and generosity.


Harris's attitude towards conflict was determined by his experiences in the First World War, Mr Assheton added.

'He flew over Passchendaele in 1917, seeing the soup of mud and ground-up bodies. It made a very strong impression on him.

Who is Malcolm Gladwell?

Malcolm Gladwell, is a Canadian journalist, author and public speaker.

Born in Hampshire, in England, Gladwell has published seven books.

The first five, which included The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference and Outliers: The Story of Success were on the New York Times bestseller list.

Gladwell also presents the popular podcast Revisionist History.

The author is known for distilling published academic research into a popular format to reveal unexpected findings.

Gladwell's new book, The Bomber Mafia: A Dream, a Temptation, and the Longest Night of the Second World War, is about the pilots who worked in Alabama in the 1930s to develop precision bombs which would only kill their intended targets.

'He wanted to be a farmer in Africa but spent the next 30 years serving his country.

'He wanted to finish the war as quickly as possible . . . and the bombing campaign meant that a million able-bodied Germans were committed to air defence and couldn't join the land battle against the Allies.

'There is no glory in war. My grandfather knew that better than anyone.'

Gladwell's new book is about the pilots who worked in Alabama in the 1930s to develop precision bombs which would only kill their intended targets.

The author said the men, who included US Air Force officer Haywood S. Hansell, did not want a repeat of the First World War, where millions were killed on battlefields in France and Belgium.

Speaking of Harris, Mr Gladwell said: 'In my book I call Bomber Harris a psycopath, which I think is an accurate description.

'It has earned me the ire of some British historians. There is some division of opinion on this one.

'I think it's pretty clear during the Second World War when the Allied bombing campaigns veered away from the clean pursuit of strategic objectives and really turned in to exacting a kind of vengeance on German civilians.

'That was inappropriate during the Second World War and it is certainly inappropriate with the benefit of hindsight.

'I do not think history treats Bomber Harris kindly and nor should it.'

Sir Arthur, who died in 1984 at the age of 91, refused to accept a peerage for his war service because his men had been denied a campaign medal.

On Tuesday, Gladwell acknowledged that his claim had earned him 'the ire of some British historians' but then doubled down by saying the 'psychopath' label was an 'accurate description'. Pictured: Sir Arthur Harris

The Bomber Command, which had the highest casualty rate of any British unit after losing 55,573 out of 125,000 men, finally got a memorial in 2012.

The statue of Bomber Command pilots, in London's Green Park, had paint thrown over it in 2019.

The memorial was put up despite objections from some German politicians.

In 2013, an interview with Sir Arthur emerged in which the former RAF commander said he would order the fire-bombing of Dresden again.

The attack, which was carried out by both RAF and US pilots over the course of just three nights in February 1945, killed an estimated 25,000 German civilians.

Speaking in the interview, which was filmed in 1977, Sir Arthur said he would do it again if he had to.

He said: 'If I had to have the same time again I would do the same again, but I hope I wouldn’t have to.'

Sir Arthur also claimed that the bombing 'kept over a million fit Germans out of the German army… Manning the anti-aircraft defences making the ammunition, and doing urgent repairs, especially tradesmen.'

Harris also hit back against the notion that area bombing was his idea. He instead saidit was already Government policy.

He said: 'I lived in a shower of directives from the day I took over to the last day of war.

'The directive when I took over was that I wasn't to specifically aim at anything unless ordered to do so and to blast the German cities as a whole.'


Born in Cheltenham in 1892, Sir Arthur Harris emigrated to Rhodesia, modern day Zambia and Zimbabwe, at the age of 17, returning to England at the outbreak of the First World War to serve his country.

He joined the Royal Flying Corps and in 1918, when it was created, he joined the RAF.

By the 1920s he was a Squadron Leader serving in the Middle East. Following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War One Britain and France were in control of the region.

In 1922, with rebellions rising in Mesopotamia - modern day Iraq - Sir Arthur took part in bombing raids over villages held by rebel tribes. It was a learning curve for the RAF and was said to have inspired later attacks on German cities during the Second World War.

Born in Cheltenham in 1892, Sir Arthur Harris emigrated to Rhodesia, modern day Zambia and Zimbabwe, at the age of 17, returning to England at the outbreak of the First World War to serve his country

Historian AJP Taylor wrote of Sir Arthur: 'He genuinely believed that the German people could be cowed from the air as he had once cowed the tribesmen of Irak (sic),' according to the BBC.

Before the outbreak of the Second World War, he would serve in India, Palestine, Egypt and Persia.

In the early part of the war, the Bomber Command’s raids had little effect. The bombers only flew at night to reduce the danger of being shot down, but with primitive navigation equipment, this made it difficult to identify and hit a small target.

In 1941, it was decided that The Bomber Command would target entire industrial cities - known as area or blanket bombing.

This policy was endorsed by Churchill and formally adopted in early 1942 as Sir Arthur took the helm of The Bomber Command.

Harris said at the start of the bombing campaign that he was unleashing a whirlwind on Germany.

Allied raids in February 1945 tore through the East German city of Dresden, killing up to 25,000 people

Working class housing areas were targeted because they had a higher density and firestorms were more likely. This disrupted the German workforce and the Germans capability of producing more weapons.

In May 1942, now serving as Commander in Chief of RAF Bombing Command, Sir Arthur organised the first 'Thousand Bomber Raid,' launching 1,047 aircraft against Cologne in an overnight bombing raid to overwhelm enemy radar and defences.

Over 3,000 buildings were reportedly destroyed and another 9,000 damaged.

Two more raids with similar numbers of raids happened in 1942 under Sir Arthur's leadership - an uneffective attack on Essen and a raid on Bremen, which targeted factories and shipyards.

In July 1943, the Commander-in-Chief oversaw the Battle of Hamburg, codenamed Operation Gomorrah, which was a series of air raids which lasted for eight days and seven nights.

In February 1945, with the Second World War just three months away, Sir Arthur oversaw the firebombing of Dresden, which killed 25,000 German people.

In the space of two days, 3,900 tons of bombs and incendiary devices were dropped on the city in East Germany.

In 1975, Sir Arthur defended the attack on Dresden, saying: 'The bombers kept over a million fit Germans out of the German army… Manning the anti-aircraft defences making the ammunition, and doing urgent repairs, especially tradesmen.'

He retired from the RAF in 1946 and died in Oxfordshire in 1984, at the age of 91.

HARRIS (Sir Arthur).

Published by Collins (1947)

From: Robert Kirkman Ltd PBFA (Eggington, United Kingdom)

About this Item: First Edition, with map endpapers, 8vo. (pp. 288), original cloth Without dust jacket, spine worn and drab, edges heavily foxed, endpapers and preliminary leaves foxed. Seller Inventory # 6750


Harris varttui Rhodesiassa Afrikassa ja kävi yksityistä sisäoppilaitosta Englannissa. Ensimmäisen maailmansodan alla hän liittyi 1. rhodesialaisrykmenttiin ja palveli Etelä-Afrikassa sekä Lounais-Afrikassa. Hän palasi Englantiin 1915 ja liittyi kuninkaallisiin ilmajoukkoihin. Hän komensi sodan aikana useita lentomuodostelmia Ranskassa ja Englannissa ja sai sodan jälkeen vakituisen viran kuninkaallisissa ilmavoimissa. Maailmansotien välisenä aikana Harris palveli eri tehtävissä Mesopotamiassa, Intiassa sekä Britannian ilmailuministeriössä. Hänet ylennettiin 1937 ilmakommodoriksi (air commodore), 1939 varailmamarsalkaksi (air vice-marshal) ja 1941 ilmamarsalkaksi (air marshal). [1]

Harris nimitettiin kuninkaallisten ilmavoimien pommitusjohdon (RAF Bomber Command) päälliköksi helmikuussa 1942. [1] Hänet tunnetaan etenkin Saksan asutuskeskusten tuhoamiseen käytetyn terroripommitustavan isänä. Siviilikohteiden massamaiset terroripommitukset perustuivat Britannian hallituksen ja pääministeri Churchillin päätökseen 1942, mutta Harris kehitti pommitusilmavoimien tehokkuuden siviiliväestön surmaamisessa ennen näkemättömälle tasolle.

Ensimmäinen liittoutuneiden valtavista terroripommituksista (Thousand-bomber raids, ”tuhannen pommikoneen iskut”) kohdistettiin Kölniin 30.–31. toukokuuta välisenä yönä 1942. Kolme päivää myöhemmin nauhoitetussa uutisfilmissä Harris ilmoitti armottomien pommitusten odottavan kaikkia Saksan kaupunkeja ja käytti raamatullista lausahdusta: ”He ovat kylväneet tuulta ja nyt he tulevat niittämään myrskyä”. [2]

Harris kehitti niin sanotut kyllästyspommitukset (saturation bombing), jossa massiiviset ilmaiskut keskitettiin yhteen kaupunkiin kerrallaan tavoitteena asuinkortteleiden täydellinen tuhoaminen. Päämääränä oli murtaa saksalaisten taistelutahto ja -kyky. Nämä pommitukset sovitettiin yhteen amerikkalaisten päiväsaikaan suorittamien täsmäpommitusten kanssa, jotka taas tähtäsivät sotilaskohteiden ja teollisuuden tuhoamiseen. [1]

Tunnetuin esimerkki brittien terroripommituksista oli Dresdenin kaupungin tuhoaminen sodan loppuvaiheessa 13.–14. helmikuuta 1945. Kaupungissa oli silloin jopa miljoona ihmistä, mm. satoja tuhansia pakolaisia, eikä lainkaan ilmapuolustusta, koska siellä ei ollut sotilaallisia kohteita. Tuhoisa pommitus tappoi myöhempien arvioiden mukaan 25 000–40 000 ihmistä yhden yön aikana. Huomattavasti korkeampiakin lukuja on esitetty, koska kaupungissa olleiden ihmisten määrää ei tiedetä edes suunnilleen suuren pakolaismäärän takia.

Harris tunnettiin täysin säälimättömänä ja monomaniaan saakka itsepäisenä ihmisenä, joka ei piitannut omista tappioista. RAF Bomber Commandin lentäjät kutsuivat häntä nimellä butcher Harris ("teurastaja-Harris"), sillä hän tapatti lentäjiään yöllisissä pommituksissa sumeilematta. RAF Bomber Commandin tappiot olivatkin suhteellisesti koko Britannian asevoimien kaikkein suurimmat. Erityisesti Avro Lancasteria pidettiin kuolemanloukkuna, josta pelastautuminen koneen saatua osuman oli lähes mahdotonta.

Harris jäi eläkkeelle syyskuussa 1945 ja vuotta myöhemmin hänet ylennettiin kuninkaallisten Ilmavoimien marsalkaksi. [1] Hän kieltäytyi 1946 aatelisarvosta, koska pommitusmiehistötkään eivät saaneet erillisiä sotatoimien muistomitaleja. Sodan jälkeen Harrisia arvosteltiin terroripommituksista, mutta hän ei koskaan jälkeenpäinkään pahoitellut aiheuttamiaan tuhoja ja kärsimyksiä.

Arvostelusta katkeroitunut Harris muutti Etelä-Afrikkaan ja toimi siellä South African Marine Corporationin johdossa 1946–1953. Hän julkaisi 1947 teoksen Bomber Offensive. [1]

Vuonna 1953 uudelleen pääministeriksi tullut Churchill myönsi Harrisille aatelisarvon ja hänestä tuli Chipping Wycomben 1. baronetti. Harris palasi samana vuonna Britanniaan ja asui loppuikänsä Goring-on-Thamesissa. RAF:n veteraanien Bomber Harris Trust pystytti Harrisille patsaan RAF:in kirkon ulkopuolelle St Clement Danesiin Lontooseen 1992. Patsaan pystyttäminen herätti protesteja etenkin Saksassa.

Air Marshal Arthur Harris

Air Marshall Arthur Harris was Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief in RAF Bomber Command during the second half of World War Two As commander of Bomber Command, Harris ordered his pilots to bomb civilian targets on a huge scale. He also ordered the aerial attacks on Dresden in February 1952 which left the city in ruins.

Born in April 1892, Harris moved to Rhodesia when he was 17 to try his hand at mining gold and growing tobacco.

At the outbreak of World War One, Harris signed up with the 1st Rhodesia Regiment. and first saw action in Southern Africa where he helped take on German forces.

In 1915 Harris went back to Britain. He became part of the Royal Flying Corps and in 1916 became a qualified fighter pilot, at which time he went to France where he joined up with the 44 Squadron. During this time he witnessed the ineffectiveness of trench warfare - it was slow and difficult to make progress. It was reportedly this that is thought to have encouraged his belief in aerial bombing. By the end of the war, he was in charge of 44 Squadron.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris

Harris became an RAF squadron leader in 1919. He served all through the British Empire - including across the Middle East and in India, Iraq, Iran and the Middle East - during the 1920s and early 1930s. At that period, the air force was using bombing raids to oppose rebelling tribes in Iraq. To the horror of many RAF personnel, more extreme weapons were also being used in some of these raids, including delayed action bombs and poison gas. Some senior military figures, such as Air Commodore Lionel Charlton, were so shocked by this that they resigned from their positions. But Harris was unrepentant, claiming that he had no other option but to carry out the bombing raids.

Harris was made Deputy Director of Plans in the Air Ministry in 1933, and he served in this role for four years. As relations with the Germans soured through the 1930s, Harris was already looking forward to the potential potential role that the air force could play if another war broke out - he put together a document outlining his findings.

Harris was made an Air Vice Marshall by September 1939. In the opening stages of the war he worked in America purchasing planes to help with Britain's effort in the war. Harris was then made head of Bomber Command in February 1942. Up to this point, this section of the air force had not enjoyed much success: its day-time raids had resulted in heavy casualties while the night-time attacks had been largely inaccurate.

Since he was Bomber Command’s commander, Harris promoted 'area bombing'. Harris held the belief that German morale would be severely damaged if cities were bombed. The German people would then inflict the government with pressure to surrender.

To begin with, raids targeted Lubeck and Rostock - incendiary bombs were dropped and the cities were greatly damaged. In May 1942, a vast bombing raid on Cologne severely damaged the city. Only 40 planes were lost.

Huge bombing raids carried on over cities like Hamburg and Berlin, and resulted in the well known Dresden raid in February 1945, in which large parts of the city were razed and approximately 20,000 civilians killed. More than 600,000 German civilians were killed in the raids and 6 million homes were severely damaged. The raids also presented bomber crews with a high amount of danger: throughout the war, Bomber Command experienced the loss of more than 57,000 men and a lot of aircraft such as the Lancaster bomber. Over 600,000 German civilians and destroyed a total of six million homes.

In the beginning, Winston Churchill gave his support to Harris. In 1941 he had said that the Germans should be forced into submission through any means possible.

However, Churchill gave Harris instructions in 1945 that the area bombing of Germany should come to a halt.

“The destruction of Dresden remains a serious query against the conduct of Allied bombing.”

Harris was made the RAF Marshal in 1946, but felt Bomber Command did not receive the recognition that it deserved (in his opinion). Harris was greatly angered when Bomber Command pilots were not awarded campaign medals when the war was over.

Many people have questioned the morality of Bomber Command’s area bombing strategy, which indiscriminately targeted civilians. Within 24 hours of the unveiling of a statue of Harris near Trafalgar Square in 1992, it was splattered with blood red paint . Unsurprisingly, Harris trenchantly defended his tactics. In his memoirs, he even claimed that bombing ‘proved a comparatively humane method’ because it saved ‘the youth of this country and of our allies from being mowed down by the military as it was in the war of 1914-1918’.

Soon after Harris’s promotion to Marshall, he retired from the RAF and emigrated to South Africa. Arthur Harris passed away on 5 April 1984.

"In spite of all that happened at Hamburg, bombing proved a comparatively humane method. For one thing, it saved the youth of this country and of our allies from being mown down by the military as it was in the war of 1914-1918."

(A quote from Arthur Harris’s 947 memoirs)


  1. Erik

    This sentence is simply incomparable)

  2. Sousroqa

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  3. Macewen

    Excuse, I thought and moved away from this sentence

  4. Drugi

    I am sure you have been misled.

  5. Madoc

    Granted, a useful thing

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