Bomber Harris and Nukes

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by OSACIN, Oct 14, 2005.

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  1. I suppose this thread would be better on an RAF site, but as this is all things military, I thought id add it here;- the question is a thought which has always intrigued me ;- If Bomber Harris had had access to nuclear weapons would he have used them.
    In my opinion the answer is he wouldnt have thought twice, and had the war not ended when it did, I am certain he would have got hold of one and taken Berlin out - but thats only my opinion - luckily it never happened but its an interesting question.
  2. It would certainly have saved a lot of petrol. You'd only need one Lancaster to zap 40 000 Germans instead of hundreds.... they could have used the money they saved to give BAOR lead lined suits.
  3. He would'nt have given it a second thought, would have dropped one without loosing any sleep as far as I can see.

    I think it was Hamburg he reffered to when he said he'd rather kill the entire population if it could save the life of one British Soldier
    Probably a horrible mis-qoutation on my part but it was something along those lines
  4. I think it was a response to Dresden revisionism. Quite right too. Plenty of time for tree-hugging fluffy bunny cuddling peace-niks to second guess after the men of action have done the job, mopped up and gone home for tea, medals and a swift first draft of the old memoirs...
  5. I certainly think there is too much tree-hugging revisionism about Harris and the bomber campaign. I recall that my grandparents (working under the Nazi bombs at Rolls Royce, Derby) and all their friends I ever met expressed that they were more than happy to see German cities incinerated, along with all of their populations. They felt no sympathy or revulsion at all for the loss of civilian life: that '40's generation had already lost many fathers, uncles and brothers to the germans the "first time around", and they viewed the whole German (and Japanese) race as an evil bent on enslavement of the world, that had to be crushed.

    On the subject of japs/nukes/Hiroshima - maybe some older forum members will recall a TV interview with Gp Capt Leonard Cheshire VC on the 40th(?) anniversary of Hiroshima. He of course flew as UK observer on one or both of the atom bomb drops. Cheshire - at the time of the interview a devout christian and head of the philanthropic Cheshire homes foundation - stated words to the effect that "he felt today as he had felt then: that the japanese had committed such barbarities, that nothing was too bad for them". I'm probably horribly mis-quoting him, but he certainly startled the interviewer, who was expecting some christian hand-wringing in line with BBC/CND condemnation of the Bombings!!
  6. Len Cheshire was definitely no hypocrite. He almost certainly was sincere in saying what is now PC anathema, that it is alright to feel a certain way, at a certain time in response to certain situations - regardless of how you think it may play to future generations. Bliar would do well to keep that thought in his mind next time he takes a foreign policy initiative but keeps the "boys and girls" hands tied...
  7. My grandparents had RR at the bottom thereabouts of their garden. There was an ack-ack gun down there as well. Grandfather worked at Leys, sadly gone now I believe.
  8. Grandfather was a quality control engineer involved in uprating Merlins in the race to get the performance edge over the Luftwaffe, and in getting the outsourced parts up to RR standards. Gave some very interesting insights into the true nature of RR jet engine preparations before and during the war.

    My parents and aunts/uncles, then my generation of grandkids, used to play with a "toy rocket" that had found its way into the ancestral toy box from an RR workshop. In about 1978 it was found to be a live and functionable incendiary bomb..... 8O
  9. IMHO, Bomber Harris would have leapt at the chance of dropping nukes on Germany, after all they would be the perfect means to carry out his strategy of destroying German cities. Certainly it would have been more effective than the best efforts of RAF Bomber Command and the US 8th Army Air Force, impressive though those efforts were.
  10. If you ever go to Bletchly Park, there used to be a small letter from a US president, thanking the staff for saving Berlin from the first Atom Bomb!

    Berlin had been the intended first target, but due to Enigma etc the war was shortend against Germany, hence Berlin was saved from a second sun.

    So that should answer the question!
  11. Hmmmm..... I think Harris might have leapt at the chance... BUT...

    Not sure about whether or not he'd have gotten away with it, I know the Septics had severe reservations about using them in the ETO.
  12. If Harris and Bomber Command had Nuclear weapons on hand they would have been employed. However, as with the Campaign as it in reality unfolded, the important question is not whether Harris would have sanctioned their use, the question is the rather "would the British Government have sanctioned the use of Nuclear Weapons".

    Given that Bomber Command had complete political support for almost the entire Campaign, it is reasonable to think that sanctioned use of Nuclear weapons would have not been forthcoming.

    In March 1941, the War Cabinet meeting and subsequent paper trail, laying out GOVERNMENTAL policy and the framework for what would be Bomber Command's campaign was laid out.
    In the Air Ministry Doc (sorry I do not have the PRO ref number to hand), the aim was to "dehouse" 10,000,000 Germans. Perviously the document had outlined that for every 10 Germans dehoused, one would be killed. Ergo as of March 1941 Official government policy for the RAF was to kill 1,000,000 Germans in pursuit of "morale". Nuclear weapons are arguably the greatest of all weapons available to attack "morale".

    This document was signed by Sir Charles portal (Chief of Airstaff) and counter-signed by Winston Churchill. This is a clear 11 months or so PRIOR to Harris' appointment as AOC Bomber Command (feb. 1942)
    It was also demonstrably a continuation of the pre-war Western Air Plans (WAP's) that had not been developed upto 1939, but were in no way negated by either the Chamberlain, or Churchill administrations once war broke out.

    So the political will was most definately present, to unleash the most intense bombing campaign against Germany Possible. This political will was needed, when depending on the sources quoted between 16 and 40% of Britain's war economy was devoted to the strategic bombing of Germany. Had Britain been able to develope a Viable Nuclear weapon, then this certainly would have been employed.
    The possible "opposition' of the United States to a Nuclearised United Kingdom, would have been weighed against the perceived immediate strategic advantages (a speedy conclussion of the war with Nazi Germany), as well as a not insignificant Post War advantage that a Nuclear Capable United Kingdom would have had in respect to the United States and Soviet Union. That is some of the very same reasons that the United States employed the "bomb" against Japan in 1945.
    The geopolitical benifits of Nuclear weapons were certainly considered significant enough for a impovirished Post war Britain to pursue such weapons.
  13. Why drop the bomb?

    Because if Hitler had had one, he'd have threatened to , or used one. Wasn't that the premise of 'Fatherland' ? He'd certainly have used Tac Nukes against the Normandy bridgehead. Some very brave Norwegian men and women ensured he couldn't.

    And of course, the Russians would hardly want Berlin if it glowed in the dark for 20 years.

    What was the radioative half-life at Hiroshima and Nagasaki? How soon was it before it was 'safe' to live there again
  14. OldSnowy

    OldSnowy LE Moderator Book Reviewer

    My Two penn'orth:

    Firstly, who would have dropped the bomb? I would think it would have been from a US 'plane, a B-29, rather than a Lanc. That would enable it to have remained firmly under US control, and it could have had a mixed crew for PR purposes (much as L Cheshire flew on 'Bock's Car''s mission). There would be no need for the US to make the UK a nuclear power (but this was before the treachery of many UK scientists was revealed, and relations in the nuclear world soured between UK and US - and for once, I think the US were quite right about this).

    Secondly, the effect of the bomb on the city - Berlin is pretty flat, so a 20Kt blast, similar to that at Hiroshima and Nagasaki (and 20Kt is still the 'default' when considering NW effects) would have been pretty damned effective - BUT caused minimal fallout. An airburst results in very little, but causes maximum damage.

    Thirdly, what was the wartime view of this in the UK? Well, NW had never been used. The almost religious hatred of them, which was stirred up and developed by the anti-nuclear movement in the '50s simply did not exist then (or for some years after - it appeared largely after the testing of the first H-bombs, and the death of some Japanese fishermen, but that's another story). There was no stigma attached, so why not use it? It's just a bigger bomb, and we were already using pretty big ones where required.

    So, would we have used it? Damned right. It might also, of course, have had the added benefit of scaring the bejaysus out of Uncle Joe, and kept him well beyond the Elbe, thus making life a lot nicer post-war for millions of Europeans.
  15. OldSnowy,

    Interesting two penn'orth - bit that caught my eye however was the reference to the "treachery of many UK scientists". Can you elaborate further on that?