Wednesday, August 29, 2007

"A MUSEUM ISN'T A WAR MEMORIAL"

So says Professor Margaret MacMillan in today's Globe, and yet that's precisely how how our Second World War veterans want the Canadian War Museum to be treated.

The battle's not over yet. But under pressure from Bomber Command veterans' groups and sympathetic politicians, the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa will adjust the wording on a panel dealing with the 1945 firebombing of Dresden.
And yet...
With his back to the wall and no hope of matching German military strength, Winston Churchill was delighted to let Sir Arthur Harris win the war with bombers. Any scruples could be quelled by memories of the thirteen thousand British victims of the Luftwaffe.
...
The Bomber Offensive was pursued with a single-mindedness reminiscent of the frontal assults of the earlier war. Daylight raids over German cities and industrial targets led to intolerable casualties. Night bombing was a little less costly but hopelessly inaccurate. Allied propaganda insisted that bombers hit pin-point targets on military and industrial objectives. In fact, the incendiary and blockbuster bombs were aimed at civilian populations with much the same purpose of terror that had inspired the Luftwaffe. The Allied bomber attacks cost Germany 560,000 dead and 675,000 injured, most of them women and children, but German war production until the spring of 1945 was cut by as little as 1.2 per cent.
(Desmond Morton, A Military History of Canada, McClelland and Stewart, 4th ed., 1999 [1985], p.205).

I have been to the war museum and seen the exhibit in question. The veterans are acting as if this is the only exhibit in the entire building that people are going to read. It is impossible to view the Second World War exhibit and not immediately understand that defeating the Nazis was an imperative and that using all of the resources at the allies disposal was necessary. It is obviously difficult to confront the reality that thousands of Canadian and allied airmen lost their lives dropping bombs on civilians, but a museum should be a place where citizens can be informed of and assess their own history.

Posted by Matthew @ 9:30 AM

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I have often been intrigued, even back to the Valour and the Horror, that criticism of the Bomber Command tactics is immediately linked to criticism of to the Bomber Command crews.

I suppose it is to be expected that those involved might feel that way, but the same is true even today, where one cannot criticize the Afghan mission without being accused of not supporting the troops - while those who go to the extreme length of sporting a ribbon decal on the back of their car are clearly entitled to the moral high ground.

Earlier this year Cliff Chadderton of the National Coucil of Veterans was quoted: “We suggest that the refusal to change an explanatory panel in regard to the bombing campaign underscores the danger of leaving the public with an incorrect perception in respect to the courageous achievements of Canadians in Bomber Command, 10,000 of whom lost their lives"

Give us a little credit Mr. Chadderton - I have never linked my perception of brave young men and boys in the RCAF to the tactics of Bomber Command.

Posted by Blogger Matthew's Dad @ August 30, 2007 12:23 AM #
 
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