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Editor’s Corner

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Yet another autumn is upon us, so rake up those leaves and then settle in with our latest issue. By now, interested readers will note that the Finder’s Index referenced in the Summer edition is fully up and running. As promised, this catalogue of all material published in the Canadian Military Journal since its inception in 1999 is also a living thing, and it will be routinely updated. We sincerely hope it will prove to be a useful research tool for our readership.

We lead this issue with a brace of articles dealing with Canadian operations in Afghanistan. The Director of the Canadian Forces Leadership Institute at the Canadian Defence Academy, Colonel Bernd Horn, takes the point with a riveting first-person recollection of an engagement with a suicide bomber while on a recent deployment to the Kandahar City area. The incident paints a graphic picture of some of the many challenges facing our troops operating in the region, and it “raises a large number of leadership challenges and issues at the tactical, operational and strategic levels.” Next up, Captain Linda Shrum homes in on some issues related to transformation within the context of the current NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) operating in Afghanistan. Her primary concerns address fratricide, assuring freedom of movement for the tactical commander, and ensuring that tactical tasks do not jeopardize strategic goals. While deployed to the region at the Kabul Multinational Brigade Headquarters (KMNB HQ), she helped develop a joint Tactical Airspace Operations Cell (TASOC), and she uses her own observations and experiences as a case study of ways to improve operational control at the tactical level by utilizing jointness in airspace operations.

Then, moving around the globe, our own Major Michael Ward, an experienced peacekeeper and now a senior staff officer at the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre in Ottawa, puts forth a compelling argument for the establishment of an international trusteeship in Haiti. As a vehicle for better understanding the motives and methods of our large neighbour to the south, Lieutenant Colonel Marcus Fielding, an Australian Army engineer on exchange duties with the Americans, discusses the United States Unified Command Plan, and, particularly, how it affects coalition operations conducted with friendly powers working in concert with US armed forces. Next, Major Pierre Lepine, a Canadian air force officer serving as a strategic analyst at the German Ministry of Defence in Berlin, tracks the challenges facing the German Armed Forces (Bundeswehr) as it moves away from its previous static force structure to its new focus as an expeditionary force. This trend is emerging at a time when Germany is seeking a higher profile within the world community of nations, and is attempting to shed its self-imposed post-Second World War stance of diplomatic semi-isolation. 

Next, a pair of articles re-visits the Principles of War from somewhat different perspectives. David Harries opines that while the Principles codified in the 17th Century still fundamentally apply, the global war on terrorism has altered military doctrine, and the broad new paradigm of security that globalization has spawned merits some reconsideration of those Principles. Then, Robert Bolia, a United States Air Force computer scientist, examines the traditional Principles in terms of the current Revolution in Military Affairs, and the impact of concepts, such as Network-Centric Warfare and Effects-Based Operations. 

In our historical section, Ray Stouffer, an Air Force Logistics Officer specializing in tactical and strategic air transportation, who currently teaches history at the Royal Military College of Canada (RMC), charts former Minister of National Defence Paul Hellyer’s views on the use of air power, and how those views ultimately affected selection of the Northrop F-5 Freedom Fighter as a tactical air support fighter for Canada during the 1960s. Major John Grodzinski, an armoured officer who also teaches history at RMC, examines the effectiveness of formation command by the Canadian general officers who served as field commanders during the First World War.

We then offer opinion pieces by former career diplomat Louis Delvoie on what he believes are realistic expectations for Canada in Afghanistan, and some observations by Doctor Allan English on a possible and viable restructuring of the Air Force Reserves. Allan’s proposal, in part, draws upon a pool of qualified civilian workers, who could make a worthwhile contribution to the Canadian Forces at minimum disruption to their civilian lives. Martin Shadwick then takes a look at mobility issues and initiatives for the Canadian Forces, and we close with our usual selection of book reviews for your consideration.

OK, I guess it was bound to happen... For the past two years, as your editor, I have been content to sit on my hands and to use this column strictly to provide signposts as to issue content, and also for the occasional administrative comment or to pay tribute to a recently departed colleague. However, an historical issue with present-day ramifications has arisen with respect to which I no longer feel I can, in good conscience, and given my scholarship in and familiarity with the subject, remain impartial. So here goes…

While it may be unfashionable in today’s world, I believe a society needs its heroes, and no element of a society more so than its armed forces. Ours is a rapidly changing global community. Even the term ‘hero’ gets badly overworked, and there also appears to be a lot of confusion as to just what actually constitutes heroism. However, the virtues of courage and honour do not change. Fortunately, our Canadian military history is replete with outstanding examples of both virtues to hold dear and to emulate. I also submit that a nation, and that includes our great nation, needs to be reminded from time to time that sometimes citizens just have to be prepared to fight, to take a stand for the values in which we believe and hold dear. By way of example, during the 1930s and 1940s, Nazism was a hideous blight upon humanity, and it needed to be eliminated by whatever means necessary. 

The window of opportunity for paying proper tribute to our Second World War veterans is rapidly closing. With that in mind, particularly in light of the recent explosion of negativism with respect to the Second World War strategic bomber offensive, I believe it is time to comment with respect to the rationale for and the results obtained by the bombing campaign. This massive effort, for various reasons and from various sources, has been denigrated over time, and the participating aircrews have been frequently marginalized, occasionally even demonized. However, I submit that the results of the Allied bombing were much more significant, both directly and indirectly, in bringing the war to a successful conclusion for the Allies than has been previously broadly acknowledged. I also believe it is essential to understand that one cannot revisit historical decisions and actions through the lens of 2006 sensitivities. Furthermore, I suggest that it is vitally important to judge what was undertaken only in the context of the times, and based upon information and planning considerations that were available to those prosecuting the war at the time. Hindsight, after all, is always 20/20.

The Allied bombing of the Third Reich and the other Axis nations was very much in keeping with Britain’s overall peripheral war strategy. It took the offensive to the enemy from the war’s early stages, demonstrating to friend and foe alike that Britain and the Dominions did not intend to acquiesce to the totalitarian regimes. It provided a ‘poor man’s second front’ to the beleaguered Soviets, when no other major commitment, such as a premature land campaign, could be initiated. Readers should note that this issue was particularly germane, since in the early 1940s memories of the wholesale carnage exemplified by the Western Front of 1914-1917 were still painfully fresh, and although the final year of the war, 1918, was much more fluid and dynamic, re-creating another situation whereby massive land armies would become deadlocked in bloody stalemate was considered intolerable. However, the Soviets were lobbying hard for some form of offensive relief, and even the Americans, who had agreed to a ‘Germany first’ war priority, were particularly anxious to get the European war over with as quickly as possible, then concentrate Allied efforts against the Japanese in the Pacific. There was significant pressure to ‘fast track’ an invasion of northwest Europe, long before the British and Dominion forces felt they were ready for such an undertaking. Therefore, the bomber offensive was, in many ways, the ultimate manifestation of a ‘guerrilla war’ strategy, attacking the enemy in a niche periphery, such as through its industrial production capacity, when massive, head-on confrontation was still not a viable option. 

The bombing offensive also dealt telling blows to the enemy’s economic and industrial infrastructure, forcing an exceptionally resource-intensive decentralization of their war industries, and that impact was huge, as well as tying down massive amounts of manpower and material just to honour the threat. It goaded the Nazis into massive and largely inconsequential retaliation campaigns, such as the V-1 and the V-2 programs, while other potentially war winning initiatives, such as a timely concentration on the jet and rocket fighter programs, were marginalized. Decentralization led to massive inefficiencies, but also to tremendous additional strains upon an already overburdened and vulnerable transportation network, exacerbated by the ensuing requirement this policy direction placed upon the need for additional petroleum products, especially after the Allies started to treat oil as a high-level priority target in 1944. It also forced the Nazis to de-emphasize some really scary initiatives that held great developmental promise. These included their nuclear, biological and chemical warfare programs, as well as the timely completion of a new series of U-boats, particularly the blue-water Type XXI, which still could have wreaked havoc upon the Allied shipping lanes had they been floated in numbers prior to the end of the war in Europe. Finally, it paved the way, through destruction of the enemy air defences, oil resources, and transportation networks, for a successful invasion of Germany through northwest Europe in 1944. 

Detractors of the bombing campaign continue to suggest that the bombing had very little effect until the very late stages of the war. However, they forget that the German economy and its war production industrial output was, under Hitler’s orders, essentially on ‘trickle charge’ until the nation went to a 24/7 ‘Total War’ footing after their disastrous defeat at Stalingrad early in 1943. This period is coincidental with the onset of the Combined Anglo-American Bomber Offensive. The mind boggles at what the Germans might have been able to accomplish had they not been forced to honour the bombing threat, and had they had unfettered use and control over their production facilities, and unrestricted access to their transportation networks and systems.

The campaign was also very successful in mining the western Baltic, forcing the German navy to operate virtually exclusively out of the eastern Baltic, and requiring them to garrison 40 divisions to protect the Courland Pocket in western Latvia, the Gulf of Danzig, and East Prussia during the latter months of the Soviet advance. In the end, this tied down a full third of the forces available to fight the approaching Red Army, and these forces contributed virtually nothing to the final defence of the German homeland.

That the bombing caused massive civilian casualties is undeniable. I maintain that approximately 593,000 civilians perished in the Greater German Reich alone as a result of the bombings, including 410,000 German civilians, 23,000 non-military police and civilians attached to the German armed forces, 32,000 foreigners and prisoners of war, and 128,000 displaced persons. However, while these numbers are large, they pale in comparison to the genocide perpetrated upon the peoples of Europe and Eurasia by the Germans and their proxies. By contrast, Great Britain alone lost roughly 65,000 civilians due to aerial bombardment during the war, approximately 43,000 of which occurred during the Blitz of 1940-1941. A major reason the British casualty total is not infinitely greater is that the Allied bomber offensive forced the Germans to concentrate on the majority production of defensive, fighter-type aircraft to meet the bombing threat, and they then became unable to generate a significant late-war long-range strategic bombing force of their own. Another reason is that the industrial bombing attacks of 1943 through 1945 greatly diminished the anticipated effectiveness of the V-1 and V-2 rocket programs, and thus, the number of civilian casualties. However, let there be no doubt. There is ample evidence to believe that Germany would have had no scruples about bombing Britain to dust had the means been available to them. 

Unquestionably heavy losses were endured by the Anglo-American aircrews that prosecuted the campaign, 81,000 of whom forfeited their lives aboard 18,000 aircraft lost from all causes. The Bomber Command share was 55,573 airmen aboard 12,330 aircraft, of which 8655 went down over Germany, Italy and Occupied Europe. The fatal casualty cost to Canada was nearly 10,500 aircrew members of the Royal Canadian Air Force and Canadians serving in the Royal Air Force. 

Moral issues aside, even the German camp has long acknowledged that the area bombing policy, as it was conducted during the Second World War, was entirely legal. In fact, it has only been illegal since August 1948, when the Red Cross Convention on the Protection of Civilians in Wartime was signed in Stockholm. And in reality, full legal ratification and recognition of that initiative did not occur until decades later. 

Civilian casualties, many of whom were undeniably innocents, were an inevitable result of the bombing campaign, of which the partial and overt mandate was to de-house the enemy industrial worker population and to shatter their will to wage war. Indeed, from 1943 onwards, in Sir Arthur Harris’s own and very public words which echoed the will of the Allied governments: “The primary objective of Bomber Command will be the progressive destruction and dislocation of the German military, industrial and economic system aimed at undermining the morale of the German people to the point where their capacity for armed resistance is fatally weakened.” Readers must also realize that while the deliberate slaughter of the German work force was never mandated, collateral damage was certainly anticipated. The destruction of residential areas was intended to make it extremely difficult for that work force to remain on the job. The western propensity for either embedding industrial complexes in residential areas, or for building residential areas around industrial facilities, inevitably produced further casualties. This reality was further exacerbated by the fact that Bomber Command, as it operated during the Second World War, was ‘a blunt instrument’ with only very limited specialist precision capabilities. Even at its technological peak, it lacked the overall and widespread surgically precise targeting capabilities of today’s weapons platforms. In short, collateral damage to civilians was considered a necessary adjunct to the bombing. 

Detractors of the campaign also erroneously suggest that the Allied governments were duplicitous in their portrayal of the bombing campaign to their citizens. In fact, public opinion polls and even propaganda posters of the period reinforce that those citizens were made fully aware of the intentional bombing of Germany’s industrial cities, and they confirm that the bombing had widespread public support.

In summation, the bombing offensive took the fight to the enemy. It created a second front that bled off German resources from the Soviet campaign in the east, and it diverted massive amounts of material and manpower from Germany’s primary combat endeavours. It dealt telling blows to its industrial infrastructure, and it paved the way, through destruction of Germany’s air defences, transportation network, and petroleum resources, for that eventual massive land invasion through northwest Europe in 1944, now generated at a time when the Allies deemed they were ready for such a formidable undertaking.

There, I’ve said it. Barbs and arrows are welcomed. Enjoy our Autumn issue.

David L. Bashow

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