Non Warcrime itility for Bomber Command 1942

Now I want to be clear, I am NOT a personal proponent of Strategic bombing, and consider this to be the existential terror behind nuclear war, not the radioactive junk at the core of modern bombs. It’s the DOCTRINE that’s evil, not the technology.

Nonetheless, I feel I need to ask the question Sparty has not brought up: what else CAN RAF bomber command be used for in the spring and summer of 1942 other than Strategic bombing (bombing of cities and civilian infrastructure)? Britain has invested heavily in this force, and they need politically to use it for SOMETHING, this is a simple reality, both for home opinion and for Stalin, and to not look even more weak to the US leadership.

What else CAN they do with these bombers that try and burn German cities to the ground at this stage of the war, and in THIS campaign season? The best I can think of is redeploying a third of the RAF bomber command to North Africa and bombing the Afrika Corps out of existence or at least cratering the roads so bad the supply tracks can no longer make effect runs from Tripoli to Cyrenaica. Honestly earlier in the year when Rommel is pinned in front of the Ganzalli Line they might, MIGHT have been able to Kai Sahn the front of the line and turn it into a moonscape along with the bulk of the Afrika Corps kit (to borrow from events that haven’t happened yet), but I don’t know if the Lancasters and such could do such precision tactical bombing the way B-52s could do in later generations.

This might not impress Stalin all that much but the Afrika Korps was a not-insignificant investment of German AFVs, and destroying all of that might panic Hitler into a premature Tunisiagrad (not appropriate term here) but I doubt it until unless the 8th army starts making major inroads towards Tripoli.

THat’s all I can think of, but if there are people here better versed in strategic bomber capacities, I’d be welcome to hear alternatives to war crimes.


I’m not sure that that needing ‘politically to use it for SOMETHING’ is a particularly strong argument for committing such actions. That essentially gives a carte blanche for just about anything you can imagine. After all same could be said of AH and JS, they had the camps & gulags - they had to use them for something didn’t they…

The main problem with the bombings is that they were deliberately aimed at the civilians. If a factory or other industrial target was hit that was more of a collateral damage than intentional. Which is the problem. It is true that technology of the WW II didn’t exactly help much in this respect but there would have been considerable difference in at least trying to bomb actual military-industrial targets with collateral damage being the civilians due to inherent inaccuracy of the bombings and with deliberately aiming to bomb (i.e. kill) civilians while causing collateral damage to military industries.

You are kind of getting at my point. Like it or not, the first goal of any politician is to stay in power, if they don’t they WILL be deposed and at the mercy of those who will do whatever it takes to stay in power. This is why systems and checks and balances are so important, the perverse incentive to stay in power no matter what affects everyone though, in different ways, it’s been said Marcus Arelius knew Commodus was a monster but couldn’t bear to name an adoptive heir because it would be signing the death warrant of his son due to Rome’s snake pit factional system would use Commudous as a rallying point even if Commodus protested otherwise, which had always happened to other claimants during the Year of the Four Emperors. And much to my horror as I was pondering why I was so troubled about the story of Samuel turning on King Saul, I realized that whatever Saul did AFTER Samuel (and supposedly God) rejected him, I realized that Saul was backed into a corner trying to defy divine prophesy and thus God himself because the end of Saul’s house ruling Israel put his entire immediate family in danger and almost certainly meant the death of his sons especially Johnathan.

Now that sounds like a tangent, but I assure you it presses home the peril of losing power, especially in perilous times. Power is the only thing that protects and looking impotent is the fastest way to lose the greatest power a government has: legitimacy. Not doing SOMETHING major with Bomber command in 1942 was politically dangerous in both domestic and foreign affairs because the British government had nothing but disasters on its hands since the breaking of the first siege of Tobruk.

Strategic Bombing can be done in a non/less war crimey way, even in World War II contexts, when focusing on logistics, smashing train lines, shooting up trains, and paralyzing logistics, that was ultimately the way German Industry was FINALLY broken in very late 44 and 45, but clearly the tech for that kind of precision bombing, especially at night didn’t exist, not even to hit usually well out of the way oil refineries.

BUT those Gulags and concentration Camps COULD have been run much less evil, as maximum work camps and not as happy fun torture centers. Still not great by our standards, big improvement for the those enduring them. Same thing with Stat bombers. They are designed as strat bombers but they are planes, so they can be retrofitted to do other things.

If Stalin weren’t the worst, and this is all on him, retrofitting them as long-range recon planes to give the Soviets long-range intel on German troop movements, but that would require Stalin not to be a treacherous POS and he’d already doublecrossed the Americans and stole the planes from the Doolittle Raid that landed in Vladivolstok. He did return the crews but seriously Fuck That Ingrate.

They could have flown high priority cargo runs but again, Stalin was a treacherous weasel who would have stolen the planes and specs.

They could have been useful in taking Crete or Norway to bomb Ploesti or secure Lend-Lease Lines IF the British had the Manpower, but they didn’t, and I don’t think they could have been used as bailout Kamakazies to crack the Sub pens in France, although if they did that would be flipping awesome and might have ended the war a lot sooner.

Then again that peens had concrete sheets 10-15 meters thick of solid concrete. MAYBE if you filled the planes with N-STOFF and the planes had retrofitted ejector seats with parachutes and commandos were ready to pick them up in little rubber boats and the French resistance was on standby in case they got blown inland, and that’s total James Bond territory but real-life WW2 Spec Force Malarky included Mad Jack Churchill Christopher Lee so I think they totally could have pulled it off. I’m just not sure even a Lancaster stuffed to the gills with N-Stoff, even if the British knew about the stuff could destroy a Sub Pen in Occupied France

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Clinging to the power is the goal of the dictators and autocrats - not that of politicians in a healthy democracy. Such persons are dangerous to a democracy. So i strongly disagree with the idea that the UK ‘had’ to do something with the bombers. Some one may have thought they had to do so in order to keep clinging to the power, but the itself UK did not. That would just be putting personal interests ahead of everything else - even ahead those of the country.

A much greater effort to provide Coastal Command with very long range bombers would have eased pressure on the Atlantic convoys, reducing losses of British and Canadian escort ships and especially of the merchant ships they were protecting. Getting more of the supplies and equipment delivered would open up more military options on other fronts. The RAF, by their own actions, appear to have considered the Royal Navy as almost as much of an opponent as the Luftwaffe for all the efforts they made to avoid giving Coastal Command the bombers they needed.


Fair enough, in that it solves appeasing the home public and the US ally but what does this do for Stalin staring down another, potentially fatal German summer offensive? We have the luxury of hindsight and could trust the average logistical intelligence reports of the time but it’s always easier to bet with other people’s people’s money,

If Atlantic patrols by the RAF with the Strat bombers could have a short term and pronounced effect on wolf pack operations in the Norwegian Arctic or alongside Africa on the Horn route to Iranian ports, then there’s definitely a win for Stalin even if it’s not a second front, a much bigger bump of Lend Lease is probably going to be a consolation prize Stalin is going to complain about but not actually be unhappy with.

Do you have any data to show that it would or did later in the historical war? It’s not strictly necessary but would bolter the argument a lot, and I like this line of thinking.


If you don’t mind Wikipedia this is from the article on the Mid-Atlantic Gap:

RAF Coastal Command, when it was created in 1936,[1] was given responsibility for A/S (or ASW) patrol. It was equipped only with small numbers of short-ranged aircraft, the most common being the Avro Anson (which was obsolescent by the start of World War II) and Vickers Vildebeest (which was obsolete); for a time, shortages of aircraft were so severe, “scarecrow patrols” using Tiger Moths were even employed.[2] Bomber Command routinely got higher priority for the best, longest-ranged aircraft. Only as Bomber Command transitioned to four-engined aircraft did Coastal Command receive the castoffs, such as Vickers Wellingtons, which finally had adequate range for A/S patrol.[3] Moreover, Coastal Command’s motley assortment of Ansons, Whitleys, and Hampdens were unable to carry the standard 450 lb (205 kg) depth charge; that needed Wellingtons or Sunderlands. (The other aircraft capable of carrying it, the Avro Lancaster, was Bomber Command’s crown jewel.)[4]

Coastal Command’s prize was the Consolidated Aircraft Liberator GR.I, commonly called the VLR Liberator or just VLR. The Liberator B.I proved too vulnerable for bombing missions over Europe, but had excellent range and payload, ideal for A/S patrol.[5] Top priority for these was the U.S. Navy for reconnaissance operations in the Pacific, where their long legs were equally valuable, but where they generally carried out missions of lower priority than Coastal Command’s.[6]

VLRs were of particular importance in times when Bletchley Park was unable to read Kriegsmarine Enigma (Ultra).[7] When ON 127 was attacked by U-584 on 11 September 1942, there was exactly one VLR of 120 Squadron overhead.[8] Fifteen U-boats converged on ON 131, only to meet aircraft, and Coastal Command sank two, while in protecting ON 136, 120 Squadron’s VLRs sank U-597 on 12 October 1942.[9] Even then, VLRs proved invaluable in co-operation with shipborne “Huff Duff”. Defending SC 104, VLRs guided by HF/DF drove off three shadowers in one day, 16 October.[10] They bettered the performance on 29 October, for HX 212, driving off five,[11] and seven on 6 November around SC 107.[12] “…[T]he apparent inadequacy Newfoundland-based air support was highlighted by the early interception of SC 107 and the resultant bitter and costly battle.”[13] This led RAF to belatedly move a number of Coastal Command squadrons.

The paltry nine Liberator GR.Is operating over the Atlantic,[4] members of 120 Squadron based in Iceland, were nevertheless a worry to Admiral Dönitz, BdU.[14] As a measure of how valuable they were, after patrols off Canada were added in 1942, only one ship was lost in convoy.[4] Even in mid-1942, Coastal Command only had two squadrons of Liberators and Fortresses, and at the first sign of Coastal Command’s success against U-boats, Harris sought to have their aircraft used in attacking German cities.[3]

After Convoy SC 118, Professor Patrick M. S. Blackett, Director of the Admiralty’s Operations Research section, made several proposals, including diverting VLRs from Bomber Command to Coastal Command. “Despite the strength of Blackett’s case, the Admiralty (not to mention the Air Ministry, Bomber Command, and the Americans) believed for some time yet that it could not afford to reduce the heavy air offensive in the Bay of Biscay or to abandon the bombing of German bases by the RAF.”[15] “The number of VLR aircraft operating in the North Atlantic in February [1943] was only 18, and no substantial increase was made until after the crisis of March.”[16] Nor were night air patrols, recognized as necessary, initiated until the autumn of 1943.[17]

A relatively tiny increment of long- or very long-range aircraft paid high dividends against the U-boats. A higher number of four-engine aircraft provided earlier in the war would almost certainly have turned the tide a year or more earlier.


Well shit, while not the whole answer, that may go into my AH story where the Allies have to get smarter after my MC’s pigeon missiles make strat bombing into an epic fail. I always thought it was airships that made the ASP a success but coastal four engine patrols my be just as big or bigger.


I’m going to take an unpopular stand here. Strategic bombing was seen as a way to shorten the war. We had had 2 generations of ideas being built around idea that bombing will break population and their will to fight. This is how these men were schooled. They designed aircraft to do this. Those aircraft cost an enormous amount of money and the military had to justify that expense.

Why would these men be willing to take harsh action? They were raised during World War 1 and they knew they could not endure another war of trench stalemate. This was a more humane war they were engaging in.

Now once the war begins the claims of bombing accuracy proved to be fabrications. The technology was not even close to being able to put a bomb onto a pickle barrel so you have to justify the technology. Ok so you can’t hit a factory but you can hit the factory workers and more than that you can break their morale and force them to sue for peace. According to their doctrine this makes perfect sense.

Finally the other side started it so even if it was brutal, they started it.

Now what else could we have done? We tried bombing oil fields and it didn’t work very well. Bombing sub pens was a waster of time until we developed the tall boys to damage them. If it was easy to destroy the pens we wouldn’t have had to resort to commando raids.

Strategic bombers have a pretty terrible record of combat support. In Normandy, it leveled towns and probably killed more French than Germans. If you can’t hit factories hitting roads was not going to be any more accurate. How long did it take to destroy the rail network? Most of the useful damage only really occurred after the German Air Force was seriously weakened.

We used our tools to hit the best targets they could hit. The strategy was the only real one they could use with this tech. Maybe they should have canceled the whole bomber program and developed true ground air support. But that is using hindsight by using 1960’s doctrine in the 1940’s.

TLDR: the strategic bombing campaign was inevitable and can no more be blamed on 1942 war conditions than what the governments had spent 15 years developing and building tech without considering how it could be used. That’s my opinion. Besides the Germans deserved every bomb they got for starting this monstrous war.


Politicians start wars, not 90 year-old Hans whose house gets set on fire while he is sleeping; nor 18 year-old Gunter who got drafted straight out of school. Do the children who die during these bombings also deserve to die for ‘starting the war’?

Bomber command needs to be called out for the shameless war criminals that they are.


Not going to try to change your opinion but the 90 year old Hans who works in the tank factory and has 3 grandsons committing atrocities on the Eastern front. The 90 year old Hans who supported Hitler in 1933 because it would make life better. Who cheered as he invaded country after country. Maybe he is not so innocent. Those babies sure are innocent but where are their parents protecting them? Politicians start wars but the German civilians spent years watching Hitler build armaments that no peaceful nation needed, helped him terrify Jews then kill them. Helped him kill Germans guilty only of being useless in society.

This was not a monarchy, they voted him in and helped him all the way.

Those monstrous British? Well they dropped a lot of leaflets until the Germans started fire bombing cities. Then they struck back as hard as they could. Was that evil? It’s understandable to think so. Maybe they should have just dropped leaflets all war? Maybe they should just have surrendered to save lives.

For me when I read about the way the war was handled on the Eastern front, not by Hitler, but by millions of Germans. There are no innocents.

As Halsey said, when this war is over the only Japanese spoken will be in Hell. He saw it as a war to the death. We kill them or they kill us. He was not alone in that thinking.

It’s easy for us to sit back today and judge past actions but I’ll bet neither of us was a participant who had to deal with this as a day to day death count. So judge if you want.

I tell you something I am guilty of. I live in a country with the ability to kill millions of people in an hour. Because of this if we are stupid enough to stumble into a war, millions of my brothers and sisters will die because we allowed it to happen. We bear that responsibility when we select our leaders.


Great article series here and interesting thoughts thank you. However there is a reason that Wikipedia quoting will get you an “F” in Universities. This is another hit piece on Arthur Harris and as he actually FOUGHT THE UBOATS AS WELL!!

I don’t blame you but Wikipedia is full of nonsense as there is NO peer review but lot of activists of all sorts.

Just for the record:
1 Sir Arthur Harris was not in charge of resources, RAF Bomber Command was fell under the Air Ministry (Sinclair) and Churchil and they higher layers did the resource planning. This is a bit how any organisation works.

2 The higher layers showered Arthur Harris with directives which he had to comply with. He needed resources for that.

3 Arthur Harris had to obey those directives or be court-martialled. He did however demand “a written order” for the planned bombing of Bordeaux which according to harris was too far away from the sub-pens to have any effect. The bombing of Bordeaux was canccelled.

4 He did bomb other sub pens with not so much effect BUT

5 His "Gardening operations against the U-boats shipping lanes were quite succesful as it mines sank u-boats, forced the Germans to keep sweeping mines and created a panic.

6 Bomber Harris also used Mosquito’s with Rockets and 57 mm guns to harrass U-boats and minesweepers in waterways.

7 And as for rivalling the Navy, Bomber Command was kind enough to finally whack the Tirpitz in Tromso. Yes probably a lot of poor 18 year old Germans draftees died but what choice did the dam busters have?

So basically Coastal Command and Bomber Command partly did the same tasks, the also held joint planning sessions with fighter command as well to coordinate. They weren’t separate. Obviously this went with some tension also because Coastal Command used to be the RNAS in earlier times. The Coastal Command did have the Sunderlands which was a great plane but could have gotten more liberators to close the gap, then again every front ws demanding more resources.

" Moreover, Coastal Command’s motley assortment of Ansons, and [Hampdens]were unable to carry the standard 450 lb (205 kg) ); that needed Wellingtons or [Sunderlands])."

The Wikipedia scammer also implies that Coastal Command didn’t have Sunderlands. They had several squadrons at the start of the war in 1939. Another flat out lie.

As for the bombing battle, it was more technological race than something else. The Royal Navy did not expect another 1917 because of Asdic. The ended up in a massive technology race which in the end was won by the Allied air forces . Including Bomber Command. Not to forget the Allied Navies, merchant Marine and the production workers in the US as well as sabotaged by slave labour.


Fantastic information. I learned something there.

I wish we didn’t have to bomb the way we did but the technology just wasn’t there but also neither was the doctrine. Ways of using technology usually lag well behind the invention of devices.

The war in the Atlantic took everything we had to get on top. That we did speaks volumes about the amount of efforts by all forces involved.

Yes the US produced a lot. But without our allies, I doubt there was any way to win the war at a cost level we would have accepted. It was a team effort. I am frequently amazed by the technological advances made by the British while being actively attacked. The German scientists had nothing on them.


I am obliged to try and change your opinion, however, because Jon Snow would not approve of this.

Sure, it is easy to sit back in our comfy chairs, and true that none of us were participants. BUT by your logic, every German is evil and deserves to die. If that were true, then WW2 should’ve ended with the genocide of the German people. Clearly, this wasn’t the case. This is the tactic the Mongols used and is what led to the destruction of Merv, largest city in the world at that time.

Plus, we’ve had plenty of soldiers who participated in the war and witnessed the death toll day to day. After the enemy surrenders, we didn’t have widespread murdering of POWs, only isolated cases. Why is that? Shouldn’t they be blinded by rage? Shouldn’t they execute them on the spot? Or, are both sides just happy they don’t have to fight.

And, just as a side note: how the F is a parent supposed to protect their child from a 20t bomb!?


Well one thing is for sure. Jon Snow would not have approved. he also would insist on personally killing ever Nazi he faced and never would have had henchman doing his killing. He also is way better looking than me so makes a better Avatar.

The leaders who ordered the bombers to bomb, I.e. Churchill, Roosevelt and their chief planners did not consider this as anything other than a vital necessity. They gave orders and the generals carried them out. They never gave orders to shoot POW’s or civilians as that was considered a crime.

This is not saying that they just followed orders but military’s are disciplined machines. Even the Mongols you mentioned were following their leaders wishes when wiping out towns. This applies for thousands of years. Only in the last few hundred years has it really changed.

Back to WW2, bombing was a nationally approved policy to win the war. No one saw it as nice but they saw it as necessary to win the war. If Germany had surrendered after the 1000 plane raids, they would be hailed as hero’s. If they had fled the cities and drastically cut production, then it would have shortened the war. Saying bombing wasn’t very effective is only looking back with hindsight because we underestimated how durable industrial society is. That doesn’t make it a crime. For Britain, who was losing the war in every way possible in 1942 to not have bombed, would have been a crime.

All war is ugly and messy and people who shouldn’t die, die. Even in today’s wars. The fantasy that war has become civilized is not the reality I see. It just isn’t fought in our homes and cities right now. Look at our arsenals and doctrines and the wars being planned are no more civilized than they ever have been. Don’t fight wars is the only message to learn.

How do you protect your child from a 20t bomb? By making sure the leaders of your government aren’t the types who start wars. In a democracy, this is our responsibility. Germans failed in that task. Japanese failed in that task. Both of those countries started wars thinking they would win and win big. Not very smart.

I really do respect that you disapprove of the bombing and think it’s abominable. It’s what it was. Germany made us fight it to the bitter end. Japan made us fight it to the bitter end. The writing was on the card by 1943. Why did these madmen fight on? Look to that for the real crimes.


Sorry but I don’t think they all are or were, at least not all. They were not shameless and their opinions after war varied from shame and regret to we had a tough job to do and did it but had to stop the Holocaust and save the relatively free World.

Had they been as bad as you imply they wouldn’t have started with leaflets. The Allies were confronted with a genocidal maniacal system which was sending young boys and girls into suicidal attacks all the way until the battle of Berlin. This crazed blind adherence to authority was incomprehensible to even my grandparents. The genocides could only be stopped by winning the war fast.

Now to what I find horrible with no excuses: I

While Bulgaria has been commended by the Wiesenthal centre e.g, in 2017 for adopting the antisemitism definitions. Also Bulgaria managed to save its own Jews. However Bulgaria did deport 11343 people who happened to be Jewish from its occupied territories.Most if not almost all died in Treblinka. Those to me are purposeless crimes.



By the way Mark Felton has an excellent audioseries on Treblinka where those 11343 people were sent with. That is what the Allies were fighting and the place the Bulgarian forces of the time sent them to. I don’t criticize the Bulgarians of today who had nothing to do with it but as the site in the previous post said, Bulgarian history seems to ignore this. Not sure if that is true, maybe you know?
Treblinka - The 1943 Uprising (Episode 1) - YouTube


This sounds a little harsh but dead on accurate. Every Nation has things in their history we must learn from so as to improve our future actions. As a citizen of the US, I have plenty of them but that doesn’t include strategic bombing, well at least not world war 2 bombing.


I can confirm that. Often I encounter students who use Wikipedia when talking about some historical injustice and I had to snap them out of it and convince them to go through primary sources first.


I offered the Wikipedia entry just for background info, as I’m far too lazy to do serious research on the topic just for a relatively casual conversation. Wikipedia is a useful starting point for a lot of non-academic research, but I agree it should never be used as anything like a primary source. They let any idiot edit that thing. They even used to let me edit it back in the old days (it’s been years since I tried logging in, don’t know if my credentials are still valid).

I’m very split on my opinions on Bomber Harris, and I had relatives who served in the RAF and my wife had relatives who were in Bomber Command. Harris is the poster child for what we, in the postwar years, chose to view initially as a great crusade then a generation later as a warcrime nearly as barbaric as the Nazi or Japanese warcrimes. I think Harris was totally persuaded of the potential war-winning strengths of airpower even if he wasn’t an actual worshipper at the shrine of Giulio Douhet. Based on his success at winning intra-service and bureaucratic battles during the war – and winning Churchill’s support in many cases – he was a very effective leader for Bomber Command and the RAF in general.

In the summer of 1940, Britain had no effective expeditionary field army, and the Royal Navy was reeling from losses incurred during the Dunkirk evacuations and the end of the Norway campaign. The RAF were, at least psychologically, the final defenders of Britain. The commanders of the RAF’s defence during the Battle of Britain bolstered that image, even though individually they were sidelined after the worst of the Blitz by others (Park to a training command, Dowding to early retirement) and their successors benefitted from the halo effect they’d created.