Saturday, September 1, 2007

Allied bombing campaign - war museum controversy

By now everybody and his dog has weighed in on the National War Museum exhibit’s implicit hand-wringing over the allied bombing campaign during WWII. U of T professor Randall Hansen thinks the museum was mistaken in acceding to veterans’ demands that the exhibit be altered.

Naturally, as a right-wing war monger, I’m with the vets. This letter from a WWII RAF bomber pilot makes some excellent points much better than I ever could:

Letter published: Saturday, September 01, 2007
Re: The War Museum's Great Mistake, Randall Hansen, Aug. 31.

From his comfortable chair at the University of Toronto, Randall Hansen declares that objection to the objectionable plaque in the Canadian War Museum is "a national embarrassment."

He laments the fate of Dresden, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Stuttgart, Hanover, Darmstadt, Pforzheim and other German cities bombed during the Second World War, and raises the inflammatory spectre of women, children and old men being burned, boiled and asphyxiated while cowering in cellars.

Prof. Hansen's should know that the rules for aerial bombardment were laid down by Hitler, when the Luftwaffe savaged Warsaw in the war's early days. In May, 1940, long before the 1945 attack on Dresden, Rotterdam felt the brunt of the German's aerial assault. Next, London was set ablaze, Coventry was reduced to rubble, along with Birmingham, Newcastle, Portsmouth, Liverpool, Bournemouth. The list goes on.

We simply followed the rules that the Germans themselves had established, but in the end, we did it more effectively. Had we not, the campus at U of T would now be patrolled by the Gestapo. They would no doubt be applauding Randall Hensen's distorted view of history, but some among us consider it a national disgrace.

Les Morrison, Lancaster bomber pilot, Burlington, Ont.

Thank you Mr. Morrison! PoMo moralizers and hand-wringers like Randall Hansen and his ilk at the War Museum should drop dead. Churchill and the other leaders did what they thought at the time was necessary to defeat unarguably evil and brutal enemies. Trying to second-guess and pass moral judgement on their decisions sixty years after the fact is, at best, a waste of time.


Anonymous said...

Les MacPherson has a good column in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix. The gist of it is if you want to know if the bombing was effective, ask the Germans.
They certainly seemed to feel that it went a long way to winning the war.

Anonymous said...

Just sent this to the TS editor a couple of minutes ago: Paul Berton’s article on the War Museum “capitulating” is a good example on why the veterans taking action about inaccurate signage, for his article, like the contested sign, is based on opinion and not necessarily fact. The comment that leaps out at me from the museum script is the following: “The value and morality of the strategic bomber offensive against Germany remains bitterly contested.” By who? Who is “bitterly contesting” this issue? Certainly must be an enormous amount of people to earn a such a visible place and set the tone for the entire exhibit. The “who” I expect, it is a bunch of left wing historians that are trying to make a social statement, rather than stating fact and the reasons of the day for such a brutal campaign (which is also probably the reason they put Kyle Browns portrait is in the main lobby). Barry

JR said...

Anon, Thanks for the ref. MacPherson's column was excellent.

Anon (Barry), I agree. That "bitterly contested" crap is just one more ruse that lefty historians and other moral relativists use to try to make the Allies look as bad as the Nazis/Axis.

Anonymous said...

Just for the record, in an internal memo made public after the war Churchill conceded that the bombing of German cities was morally questionable and he had misgivings about it. So yes, this has been a controversial and contested issue since the beginning by more than just "lefty historians and moral relativists." If you believe that we should trust so much in the decisions made by Churchill and his counterparts, maybe you should follow their lead by thinking critically instead of blindly following the righty historians and propagandists.

Anonymous said...

What do you want your museums to convey? Is it a historical accurate picture or is it a picture of how we wished things were?

Who decides what is historically accurate? I say this is done by historians and NOT vets.

Most vets are kind and well meaning individuals but I do not attribute the ability to evaluate history to them. Sure they were there but there is a huge difference from being in the battle to understanding the forces that put you on the battlefield.

Having been involved in the battle does not automatically give you an accurate historical perspective. It should be intuitively obvious that vet's opinions would not be unbiased.

Churchill was no saint - far from it. If you read his opinions on the use of force on Iraqi villages (in the early 1900's) you will see that there is not much difference between him and his enemy in WWII.

If you believe that we did nothing wrong during WWII then fine, lets have this fairy tale reflected in the museum.

Ask yourself this: "where do we explain to the younger generations the mistakes that we made?" Ask yourself if there is any public institution where we say we made a mistake.

I close with this paraphrase of something I read recently:
What is the difference between throwing 500 babies into a fire and throwing fire from airplanes on 500 babies? The answer is none.