It is wrong to judge Dresden bombing through the prism of hindsight
I WONDER if Dan Mcphail’s father would appreciate that his perfectly valid belief that (however sadly) you could “save lives by killing 100,000 people”, would be condemned by his son as propaganda worthy of Dr Goebbels (Letters, May 17).
Mr Mcphail has of course an immense advantage over those who had to make such appalling decisions in 1945 – he knows exactly when the wars in Europe and the Far East did in fact end.
One considered estimate in early 1945 was that it could last until November, if German troops were able to stall the Soviet advance effectively.
Japan’s authorities were given fair warning at Potsdam in July 1945 but chose to ignore it. An invasion of Japan’s mainland might well have caused far more deaths and destruction than Hiroshima/ Nagasaki did in August, both in Japan and throughout SE Asia in their prison camps, and could have endured far longer than only “two weeks”.he seems to favour conventional bombing but in the next sentence accepts that over Tokyo it caused as many deaths as Hiroshima’s atomic bomb.
In early 1945, London was under attack by V1 and V2 rockets, and it was not known how advanced Germany’s nuclear weapons developments were.
Dresden was not merely producing nice porcelain milkmaids, it had major industrial factories still supplying Germany’s military, and it was an important transport and communications hub; many experts believed it generated a more immediate effect to destroy the latter facilities rather than the factories. They may have been wrong, but that does not justify describing it as “particularly disgraceful because 25,000 people were killed for little strategic or tactical purpose”.
Such decisions in the heat of war based on partial data will inevitably turn out sometimes to be wrong, over-optimistic or subject to the law of unintended consequences, but I would not dream of being so selfrighteous as to condemn such decisions with the benefit of hindsight more than 70 years later – or even in 1944 from the relative safety of the House of Lords, like Bishop Bell. Churchill did have every right to condemn them, and even he had grave reservations about Harris’s Dresden bombing. John Birkett,
12 Horseleys Park,
THE suggestion by Dan Mcphail of the Phoenix Friendship Club that the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki may have shortened the war by a mere two weeks should not go unchallenged.
Anyone with the least knowledge of Japan and its culture, which has completely different assumptions from ours, would know that assertion to be entirely false.
The starkest example of the difference is that the last two Japanese soldiers, Second Lieutenant Hiro Onoda and the Taiwanese Private known as Teruo Nakamura, held out separately until 1974 – 29 years after Japan had surrendered.
By August 1945 President Franklin Roosevelt and his military planners were well aware of the resistance which awaited allied forces invading Japan.
Early in 1945, it had taken 70,000 marines and an armada of more than 500 ships five weeks to take the eight square miles of Iwo Jima from its 21,000 Japanese defenders. Following that up to half the civilian population of Okinawa had died during the capture of that island– many of them in Japanese army massacres and incited mass suicides.
Without the dropping of the two atom bombs, Japan would have fought on with vastly more loss of life, civilian and military.
6 Inveralmond Grove,