War crimes WWII? - Page 5




 
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October 2nd, 2004  
doddsy2978
 
It is interesting to note that there were far more civillian casualties in WWII than any other conflict. I seem to remember that, in fact, there were more civvy casualties than military. Now that is something! Mind you - and I do NOT wish to enter into a side discussion, here - circa 6 million of these were definitely NOT down to the Allies.

As for who decides who are the baddies and who are the goodies! Well,what is the point of prosecuting a war, winning and not deciding! Eh! (A bit of flippancy never hurts )
October 3rd, 2004  
curious
 
My first post - please be gentle!

In his previous post Doddsy2978 said: "It is important to realise that the bombing of conurbations in WWII came from a mis-understanding." He cited the "accidental" bombing of London - which led the RAF to retaliate against Berlin - and then which led on to the "Blitz".

With respect, I don't think that this is truly the origin of area bombing and the inclusion of civilians onto target lists for both sides in WWII. The Germans had already targetted Rotterdam and Warsaw as deliberate terror bombing, designed primarily to strike at enemy morale - though with incidental strategic "military necessity" benefits, of the type already quoted in support of the bombing of Dresden.

It was the Germans too who in WWI (as early as December 1914) had shelled UK East Coast ports such as Scarborough, Whitby and Hartlepool - see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Dogger_Bank - with laughable military significance. Zeppelins later bombed London and Paris, and British bombers joined in with attacks against urban "industrial targets" (see http://www.firstworldwar.com/airwar/bombers_britain.htm).

The point of mentioning all this is to illustrate (not exhaustively) that the drawing in of civilians into war was well under way - and had been for centuries. Even in more recent civilized times, a great city like Paris could come under bombardment and siege (1870).

The Hague Conventions and the like were an attempt to regularise what was permissible. Many of their strictures fell in the face of true battlefield experience and military necessity - submarines required to surface to attack, and give a chance to crews to abandon their ships before sinking. But they were well-meaning and undoubtedly helped to reduce some (not all) of the brutalities incidental to war. Donitz at Nuremberg called that bluff when his defence lawyer threatened to call in US Pacific Fleet officers to testify as to the US unrestricted submarine warfare policies and tactics.

The war crimes issue is really not about things like area bombing or "targeting" civilians, I suspect. It is much messier and not so easily reducible to simple checklists of what is and is not permissible. After all, if you espouse (or have thrust upon you) "total war", then philosophically all is permissible.

If we are left with the (admittedly unsatisfactory) traditional tests of the "laws and usages of war", rooted in a much more general Western Christian-Humanist ethic and civilization, then we are down to applying much more pragmatic standards - though still with recognisable boundaries. Now, you have to leave the Soviets (and, I suppose, the Japanese) out of this. Like the Nazis, they played by their own rules; though (an IMPORTANT distinction) the Nazi control over the Services was nowhere near as total, and the German forces retained autonomy and a perception of historical military tradition and ethics. Focussing on the "Western front" European War - because that's where much of the debate relevant to the UK/US contextual comparison leads us - it seems clear that the parameters and rules for Allied societies, armies and personnel were vastly more faithful to these "laws and usages of war" than their opponents. (Can you imagine Tommies or GI Joes standing idle by, smoking, taking snaps, and so on while the police auxiliaries rounded up men, women and children, made them dig their graves, and then shot them en masse?)

The niggling and problematic questions for those viewing it from the Allied "Western" viewpoint lies with the more anonymous forms of waging war: area bombing, the use of atomics, even blockade..? Overall, I conclude that the Allies fought an honourable and just war; and that the "crimes" now being laid at their door were morally equivalent to the righteous use of force that our civil laws permit in cases of self-defence.

Hmmm...doesn't help much, does it? Sorry about that, and the length.
October 4th, 2004  
doddsy2978
 
Hi there Curious - Sorry for not making my point clear. I was talking about the first bombings that put the civvie masses at risk in that era of WWII, NOT ever. Prior to the events I spoke of, both sides endeavoured to keep the bombing to legitimate military targets - bases, airfields and docks etc and preserve the lives of civillians.

I hope this clears it up a bit..
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October 5th, 2004  
david_the_positive
 
Dresden was in the Soviet Occupation Zone. Dresden bombing in Soviet literature was regarded as a means to worsen the situation for the Soviet Army and anger the Germans against it.

It was, of course, much more tempting to point out mistakes of a cold war competitor then to study one's own.
October 5th, 2004  
doddsy2978
 
I have the impression (and I could be wrong here) that Dresden was basically a retaliation for Coventry. The sad thing about Dresden, apart from the massive casualty state, was the destruction of a, reportedly, beautiful, medieval town. Perhaps that should have been preserved, if only for the sake of posterity. In any case, this bombing raid was, probably as near to a war crime as you can get as far the bombing campaigns are concerned. Can you hold any one man culpable? No! I think not. The same can be said about the German leadership of the time, no one man can have a finger pointed at him in blame for any Luftwaffe action over Allied territory.

Just my two penn'orth!
October 22nd, 2004  
Rufus Excalibur
 
Dresden was about sending a message to the Red Army and Stalin.

'Look what we can and will do! Don't even think about going past Berlin ivan!'

So was this a warcrime or Real Politik or both. Since I believe it was an act that was not needed to defeat Germany but to send a warning to the Ruskies then you could classify it as a crime, but this is where Real politik tkaes over. In 1945 we were fighting the Germans and the Japs and allies of the Russians, within years even months Germany and Japan were allies and Russia the enemy. Same in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the 80's Russia and Iran were the enemy and therefore Saddam and Osama our 'friends', now that has all changed.

The world of International relations is complicated, murky and full of intrigue. The sooner 'liberal pinkos' undertsand this the better (but they won't)

These same people are under some strange spell that makes them believe that war has rules. Naive, deluded. human nature takes over.

We committed many war crimes both by the state and the individual, but the battle was good against evil and the states ends justified the means. In terms of the individual, you see your best mates head blown off next to you by the enemy, surprise surprise some individuals out of 15,000,000 active troops might want a spot of revenge.

Real life needs real people not those with the heads in the clouds

"We have ceased to be a nation in retreat!" Margaret Thatcher 1982
October 22nd, 2004  
redcoat
 
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pollux
If a bombing was a crime then it was the bombing on Dresden ,
According to the rules of war existent at the time of WW2, bombing of an enemy city was not a war crime.
The only way that that the bombing of an enemy city could be classed as a war crime, was if the city had been designated an 'Open City' (ie undefended) by its government before the bombing.
The only person to be charged with a war crime for the bombing of a city was a german general who ordered the Yugoslavian city of Belgrade to be bombed after its government had declared it an 'Open City'.
Quote:
Dresden had at this time only rudimentary military units. It was a designated ambulance city with over 300.000 refugees who fled from the eastern front and lots of injured soldiers.
That is incorrect !
There is no such thing as a "designated ambulance city"
and despite the many myths Dresden was not filled with refugees at the time, as it was the Nazi governments policy to move the refugees further west as soon as they arrived in the city.
Dresden was no more of a crime than the bombing of Coventry was.
October 23rd, 2004  
godofthunder9010
 
 
The truths about Dresden are automatically going to be obscured if you are reading the official British account. That's becasue it was primarily their opperation. The United States was heavily involved, so that is going to tend to make their official account fairly unreliable as well. You can count on the Soviets to exaggerate in the opposite direction.

Underlying thing is this: If Dresden and the manner in which it was bombed was acceptable according to the rules of war, then so were Hiroshima and Nakasaki. All three of those bombings were done with only one primary purpose: Inflict as many civilian casualties as possible. The question is, was deliberate targetting of noncombatants against the rules of war at the time?

Dresden does stand alone as having no difference whatsoever toward the outcome of the war. It may or may not have been "official" but it was a refuge city with an absolute minimum in military targets -- and this fact had left it as the only German city not firebombed up to that point. The Soviet army was almost there already and Britain and the USA had decided to show the Soviet Union what the bombing campaign could do.
October 23rd, 2004  
Doppleganger
 
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by redcoat
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pollux
If a bombing was a crime then it was the bombing on Dresden ,
According to the rules of war existent at the time of WW2, bombing of an enemy city was not a war crime.
The only way that that the bombing of an enemy city could be classed as a war crime, was if the city had been designated an 'Open City' (ie undefended) by its government before the bombing.
The only person to be charged with a war crime for the bombing of a city was a german general who ordered the Yugoslavian city of Belgrade to be bombed after its government had declared it an 'Open City'.
Quote:
Dresden had at this time only rudimentary military units. It was a designated ambulance city with over 300.000 refugees who fled from the eastern front and lots of injured soldiers.
That is incorrect !
There is no such thing as a "designated ambulance city"
and despite the many myths Dresden was not filled with refugees at the time, as it was the Nazi governments policy to move the refugees further west as soon as they arrived in the city.
Dresden was no more of a crime than the bombing of Coventry was.
IMO I'm afraid the bombing of Dresden was very much a 'moral' crime, this coming from someone who comes from the UK. There was no military reason to firebomb Dresden. It was designed as a demonstration for the Soviets who were advancing ever closer towards Berlin. The Allies all knew that the war was over in 1944 - it was a matter of time when. The US and UK knew that the real 'enemy' would shortly be the Soviet Union and the firebombing of Dresden was ordered with that in mind.
October 23rd, 2004  
redcoat
 
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by godofthunder9010
Underlying thing is this: If Dresden and the manner in which it was bombed was acceptable according to the rules of war, then so were Hiroshima and Nakasaki.
OK then, we agree. No war crime.
Quote:
All three of those bombings were done with only one primary purpose: Inflict as many civilian casualties as possible. The question is, was deliberate targetting of noncombatants against the rules of war at the time?
Actually the primary purpose was to inflict as much damage as possible. So no. They are not war crimes.
( they knew high civilian casualties would be a result of this this, but when has war ever been 'nice')

Quote:
Dresden does stand alone as having no difference whatsoever toward the outcome of the war.
Neither the London 'Blitz' or the V1 and V2 campaigns achieved anything either.
Quote:
It may or may not have been "official" but it was a refuge city with an absolute minimum in military targets -- and this fact had left it as the only German city not firebombed up to that point.
The reason it hadn't been heavily bombed before was due more to its position in the far South-East of Germany than anything else. It was simply too far away until late 44.
As for military targets, the major target was the railway marshalling yards as well as the 270 military production related factories within the city.
As the 1942 Dresden yearbook boasted
"Anyone who knows Dresden only as a cultural city...would rightly be surprised to be made aware of the extensive and versatile industrial activity, with all its varied ramilfications, that make Dresden... one of the foremost industrial locations of the Reich"
The first air raid on Dresden was a USAAF raid on the Frierichstadt marshalling yards by 30 bombers of the 303rd Bomb Group on the 7th October 1944, which caused over 270 civilian deaths. A second raid by the USAAF on the 16 January on the same target caused another 376 deaths

As for being a 'refuge' city Dresden had in fact been designated a 'Verteidigungsbereich'( a defensive area or military strongpoint) by the German military on 1st January 1945. Truthfully all the cities in the east of Germany had millions of refugees passing through them. Dresden was not 'special' in that way.
Quote:
The Soviet army was almost there already and Britain and the USA had decided to show the Soviet Union what the bombing campaign could do.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Dresden along with a number of other cities in the east was bombed to help the Soviets, not frighten them.
Dresden was only included in the RAF target list after the British Air Minister Sinclair sent a minute to Churchill stating that after consultation with the Allied Joint Intelligence Commmitee " That available effort should be directed against Berlin, Dresden, Chemnitz and Leipzig or against other cities where severe bombing would not only destroy communications vital to the evacuation from the East, but would also hamper the movement of troops from the West"
That's the reason Dresden was bombed. not some Cold war myth about trying to 'scare' the Soviets

What is often misunderstood about the raid on Dresden is this.
The raid on Dresden was not 'special' in any way. It was just a standard heavy raid using the same tactics the RAF had used from mid 1943.
That its effects were greater, was due as much to chance than anything else.
Dresden had been a 'lucky' city until 13 Febuary 1945.
Then their luck ran out.