Strategic Bombing Historiographical Paper (2006)

So remember when I said I had reading list?  Well, I can do even better than that–I have an entire historiographical paper about the Allied Bombing Campaign in World War II.  It’s a bit dated (I wrote it back in 2006), but the end notes and bibliography have more than enough things to get a person started.

Warning:  This is a paper.  So if you’re planning on reading it in one go, the little counter on the bottom tells me this thing is over 11,000 words long.  Plan accordingly.

 

 

 

 

Destruction From The Heavens:

A Historiographical Examination of the United States Army Air Force’s Bombing Campaign Against Nazi Germany

 

by

 James Young

20 April, 2006

 

 

 

 


Introduction

            Noted military analysts James F. Dunnigan and Albert Nofi, in their book Dirty Little Secrets of World War II, justifiably dubbed their subject conflict “the most enormous human drama in history.”[1]  Taking place in or around all six of the world’s inhabitable continents, involving naval battles on all of its oceans, and with military and political consequences that continue to the present day, this conflict has had a direct or indirect influence on every human being alive since 1939.  Begun with a madman’s aggression, containing the epitome of man’s inhumanity to man, and concluded with the sun’s power let loose with the atomic pyres of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Second World War saw numerous examples of humanity’s bravery, cowardice, and cruelty to his fellow man.  Many of these instances took place within controversial campaigns conducted both by the Allied and Axis Powers, as both sides conducted their mortal struggle for victory.

Prominent amongst these campaigns is the Combined Bomber Offensive against Nazi Germany, Great Britain and America’s attempt to render Nazi Germany prostrate via airpower.  The breadth and depth of the Royal Air Force’s (RAF’s) effort has led to an extensive and diverse historiography.  Unfortunately, this historiography is divided on the start date of the RAF’s dedicated attacks, making it difficult to conduct a truly effective study.  In addition, the RAF’s actions, unrepentant emphasis on “area bombing,” and lack of documentation comparable to the United States Strategic Bombing Survey (USSBS) make any attempt to provide even a partial historiographical survey a labor on par with a full doctoral thesis or mass-market book project.[2]  Taking place at night, with targets that were both morally and physically ambiguous, Bomber Command’s efforts remain emotionally charged to the present day, with names such as Dresden and Hamburg mentioned nearly as often as Auschwitz and Dachau in the detailing of World War II’s horrors.

In contrast, the United States Army Air Force’s (USAAF’s) campaign is relatively tidy and clearly defined, if only slightly less controversial.  Conceived in the Interwar Period (1919-1939), American air doctrine was a mix of European (e.g., Douhet and Trenchard) and domestic (e.g., Billy Mitchell) theorists combined with American technological prowess (e.g., Norden bombsight) and self-confidence.  Taught primarily at the Air Corps Tactical School located at Maxwell Field in Montgomery Alabama, USAAF doctrine emphasized the superiority of the four-engined bomber over likely opposition.  Bombers, it was believed, flew too fast for contemporary interceptors to catch and too high for anti-aircraft artillery (AAA, or “flak”) to hit.  These machines’ crews, all but invincible from enemy interference, were expected to place their bombs on critical enemy nodes such as transportation centers, bridges and, most importantly, the industry that supplied and maintained ground forces.  Rather than facing the horrors of an attritional ground war, 1930’s USAAF leadership taught that America’s aircraft would knock any likely opponents out of a major conflict with a few well-placed salvoes of high-explosive delivered in mass daylight raids.[3]

America’s entry into World War II brought an opportunity for this doctrine to be executed against Nazi Germany.  Utilizing Great Britain as its primary base, the USAAF organized the 8th Air Force to place doctrine into practice.  Despite the cautionary warnings of their RAF counterparts, themselves roughly handled in a little over two years of offensive daylight operations, the USAAF believed its pair of four-engined bombers, the B-17 Flying Fortress and B-24 Liberator, were equipped with sufficient firepower to look after themselves.  This view had some merit, as the most common British four-engined bombers, the Stirling, Halifax, and Lancaster were lightly armored and carried eight or nine rifle caliber machine guns in order to maximize their bomb load.[4]  In contrast, both the Flying Fortress and Liberator carried ten to thirteen heavy machine guns, heavy armor, and flew higher and faster than their British counterparts.  Although both American aircraft carried a much smaller bombload than the RAF aircraft, USAAF leaders believed that this was offset by their increased accuracy by operating in daylight conditions and by using the Norden bombsight.[5]

As this survey will show, this campaign’s numerous issues remain contentious.  However, there are many facts that are not in dispute and these will be recounted here.  The United States Army Air Corps began carrying out daylight raids beginning with the August 17, 1943 attack on Rouen, France.  This raid, carried out in daylight, was the beginning of twenty-two months of unremitting aerial combat, culminating with an April 25, 1945 raid on Pilsen, Czechoslovakia.  During this period, in accordance with USAAF doctrine, technological development, and moral considerations the 8th and 15th Air Forces conducted numerous raids against Nazi Germany’s critical infrastructure.  From the dozen aircraft that penetrated Occupied France to Rouen, the American raids grew in strength to great thousand bomber hammer blows falling the length of Germany by 1945.  Combined, the two units flew hundreds of missions, dropped over 1.5 million tons of bombs and, combined with their RAF compatriots, thoroughly wrecked Nazi Germany’s major cities and industrial infrastructure.[6]

In the course of delivering this wholesale destruction, the 8th “lost 26,000 men, representing a loss rate of 12.4 percent…the highest casualty rate of any of the US armed forces in the Second World War.”[7]  Combined with the 15th Air Force’s roughly 16,000 losses, the more than 42,000 dead and missing represented over 10% of the United States’ military losses in World War II.  In monetary terms, the USAAF’s bombing campaign cost America over six billion 1945 dollars in airframe costs and expenditures alone, with infrastructure, personnel, and other costs adding much more to this total.[8]  As if such loss expressed in raw numbers were not terrible enough, there remains the additional human costs incurred whenever a nation loses a large number of men whose intelligence, drive, and idealism were the primary reason they found themselves first in the USAAF, then in the skies over Nazi Germany, and finally falling to earth in blazing, shattered aircraft.  In order to bring war to Nazi Germany and her populace, America paid an extensive price in blood and treasure both before and after the first U.S. Army ground soldier set foot in occupied Europe.  Such a massive investment, even without the moral ramifications of dropping ordnance on nominal non-combatants, was almost certain to generate a large degree of study and examination.  This began almost immediately after World War II with the USSBS and continues via general publications to the present day.  These works fall into four broad areas of focus: effectiveness of the campaign as a whole; effects of American bombing on cities and civilians; German defensive countermeasures and their efficacy; and historical studies of specific units (e.g., the 8th Air Force) and aircraft (e.g., the B-17 bomber).

A few representative works should help the reader understand the general parameters of these fields.  An example of a book that addresses the American bombing campaign specifically is Stewart Halsey Ross’s Strategic Bombing by the United States in World War II, while a work that addresses it within the larger framework of World War II aerial warfare is Walter J. Boyne’s Clash of Wings.[9]  Herman Knell’s To Destroy A City and A.C. Grayling’s Among the Dead Cities are two examples of works that focus on the campaign’s effects on German urban centers.[10]  The German fighter force, the Jagdwaffe, has inspired several works that cover its various personalities and equipment, with Michael Spick’s The Luftwaffe Fighter Aces and Trevor J. Constable & Colonel Raymond F. Toliver’s Horrido! comprising some of this subject’s best works.[11]  As for the ground complement of the Reich’s defenses, Edward B. Westermann’s Flak: German Anti-Aircraft Defenses, 1914-1945 is the only English language volume that focuses primarily on this topic.[12]  Finally, there remains a large number of books that focus on specific units, with the 8th Air Force as a whole being represented the most heavily.  For the Allies, the venerable B-17 has the most aircraft-specific texts devoted to it, while the ubiquitous Me-109 has received the most interest amongst those airframes piloted by the Jagdflieger.

Overall, all four types of texts share several critical flaws.  First, they utilize different metrics to define success or failure when discussing the USAAF daylight offensive.  At best, these manipulations of German and American data are a brilliant example of Mark Twain’s famous commentary on statistics and untruths.[13]  At worst, they are extremely poor instances of authors allowing their personal bias to overcome their scholarly responsibilities.  This bias, either for or against the American bombing campaign specifically or Allied bombing as a whole, is the second major defect in the current historiography.  Advocates of bombing usually fall prey to the third failing, an overemphasis on the American bombing campaign’s effect on the Jagdwaffe in particular and the Luftwaffe as a whole from January 1944 to May 1945.  More importantly, both sides share the fourth major defect of these works, that of stating an unequivocal moral position without adequately addressing or disproving the ethical arguments of the opposing side.

The USAAF’s Campaign In General Histories

            Texts which address the USAAF’s campaign against Germany as part of a larger history of World War II prominently display all four of these flaws.  This larger group, in turn, can be divided into two sub-groups.  The first of these, published prior to 1976, were prepared without knowledge of the Allies’ cryptographical success against the German’s Enigma codes, commonly known as Ultra.  As such, they usually give American leadership a relatively easy time for costly missions such as Ploesti, Regensburg, and Schweinfurt.  An example of this phenomenon can be found in Edward Jablonski’s Tragic Victories, one of many works produced by this author.[14]  In the introduction, Jablonski states “[g]reat plans were devised, carried out with incredible valor, and then…discovered [not to have] quite worked out as planned.”[15]  Jablonski’s further discussion of the great travails of 1943 then proceeds to emphasize the tremendous virtues of the Allied aircrews with nary a mention of their leaders’ cold-blooded decision to send them into growing fighter defenses even with full knowledge of the Germans’ strength.[16]

Despite the fact that the 8th Air Force’s aircrews understood that theirs was a dangerous business, it is unlikely that many of them would have regarded their superiors’ callousness in the same sanguine manner of Jablonski.  Utilizing aggressive, stirring prose, Jablonski portrays these costly and bloody raids as partial successes, in each case pointing out that the countermeasures required of the Germans were “almost equally effective” to direct hits.[17]  In reality, as ULTRA made painfully aware to the American and British leaders, the effect of all the 1943 raids was far from that commonly accepted at the time or before the full ULTRA intercepts were made available.  Jablonski and his contemporaries, through no fault of their own, were making historically inaccurate assumption based upon faulty Allied data.  Unfortunately, this makes use of their works far from optimal for most historians.

Making these works still less suitable for current use is their overwhelming bias in favor of the Allied bombing campaign as a whole.  In his first Airwar volume, Terror From the Sky, Jablonski begins to lay the groundwork for his relentless drumbeat of justification for the ensuing mayhem that would descend on Germany courtesy of the USAAF and RAF.[18]  First, on page 17, Jablonski outlines a list of names that would come “to stand for…fiery desolation from the air” that ends with London.[19]  Making allowances for Jablonski’s knowledge that he was planning on producing three more works on the Second World War’s aerial combat, the fact remains that his ending with London, especially at the end of a section on the Luftwaffe’s destruction of Guernica, clearly indicates a pro-Allied bias in his work.  This is made more manifest by the amount of time devoted to discussing the human impacts of the German raids on England during the Battle of Britain and subsequent Blitz versus the near-celebratory tone given to the detailing of German and Japanese catastrophes such as Hamburg, Dresden, and Tokyo.  Jablonski, by virtue of his decision-making, seems to indicate the death of a young bride at a British hat factory was far more important than the extermination of over 50,000 Germans within the Hamburg firestorm.[20]  Jablonski is unapologetic in his bias, going so far as to entitle one of his chapters “Reap the Whirlwind,” a reference to an earlier alliteration to the Germans having “sewn the wind” with their attacks on Great Britain.[21]  Arguments such as these, in addition to being poorly constructed, do little to advance scholarly discussion of the American and British campaigns.

Works written after 1976 that address the campaign as part of the larger war effort correct many of the mistakes made by Jablonski and his contemporaries, however.  The post-ULTRA authors, for the most part, acknowledge the grave errors made by the 8th Air Force’s commanders from 1943 to 1944.  Richard Overy gives these mistakes the fairest treatment, stating that the American aerial commanders had “ignored Clausewitz at their own peril” in determining to strike at German industry without first making a concerted effort to reduce the defending forces, specifically the Jagdwaffe.[22]  Stephen Budiansky expounds on this error in his work Air Power, pointing out that American commanders such as General Carl Spaatz “inhabit[ed] a fantasyland” with regards to their beliefs on 8th Air Force crews effectiveness in the face of enemy fire and acceptance of “outlandish claims by B-17 gunners” with regards to destruction of Jagdwaffe fighters.[23]  Having delivered this rather forceful broadside, Budiansky then proceeds to outline the numerous errors committed by the USAAF hierarchy, such as delaying drop tanks for escort fighters, as well as the necessity of changing both doctrine and leaders in order to make the 8th Air Force much more effective.[24]

The assessment of this increased effectiveness, however, still lacks a single working metric.  Budiansky discusses the increased accuracy of the 8th Air Force towards the end of 1944 and into 1945 (with accompanying chart) as well as the effect of the oil shortage on the Wermacht as a whole and the likely effects if such an oil offensive had been begun earlier. [25]  Overy similarly addresses the oil but also discusses the effects of the campaign on Axis morale, German industrial output, and the Combined Bombing Offensive’s general effect on the conduct of the war.[26]  Boyne also discusses the impact of the American (later joined by the RAF) emphasis on oil production, yet does not conclude this argument in the same forceful manner of Overy and Budiansky.  All three men discuss a myriad of percentages, numbers, and tonnages, but the reader must often make the extrapolatory leap to understand that this was perhaps a vindication of the pre-war emphasis on precision bombing.

Even with the marked improvement on the pre-ULTRA works, post-ULTRA books still demonstrate a clear bias towards American (and by extension, Allied) efforts.  This becomes apparent through their clinical treatment of the German populace as well as their overemphasis on the USAAF’s daylight fighters’ effectiveness.  Boyne and Budiansky dehumanize the tremendous suffering that the Combined Bombing Offensive wrought upon the average German civilian, with Budiansky’s inadvertent comparison of killing sheep and civilians particularly unfortunate.[27]  Overy is far more humane, pointing out the grinding morale degradation caused by Allied bombing as a whole, with the unremitting pressure placed upon the German populace by the RAF and USAAF combined being almost palpable in his description.[28]  Unfortunately, the preponderance of general histories, both on World War II as a whole or aerial combat therein, lean more towards Boyne and Budiansky than Overy.  Perrett’s Winged Victory makes few mentions of German civilians, while works such as James L. Stokesbury’s A Short History of World War II presents these dead as faceless numbers with the exception of Hamburg and Dresden’s unfortunate denizens.[29]  It would appear, in most general histories, that a German citizen had to be caught in the howling maw of a firestorm in order to be worthy of close examination.

Under the Tonnage: The German Populace’s Experience

            This error is more than compensated for in those works that focus on the plight of German civilians.  Bridging the gap between the mainly technological focus of those books already examined and those which concentrate almost wholly on the German populace are the aforementioned work by Stewart Ross and Conrad Crane’s Bombs, Cities, and Civilians: American Airpower Strategy In World War II.  Both works, while ostensibly focused on the American bombing campaign, spend as much time discussing the effect American bombing had on civilians, both German and Japanese, as in discussing the technical means by which such bombing was delivered.

Of the two, Crane’s book is far more objective, as he carefully details the development of American doctrine, the attitude of the USAAF’s leaders and their military and civilian leadership, the American populace, and American airmen.  Crane follows this with a discussion of the hardware of the American campaign, concentrating first on bombing aids then on the bombs themselves.  Throughout he displays the gradual erosion of USAAF concerns with regards to civilian casualties, culminating with the easy acceptance of blind-bombing via radar through cloud cover in Europe and subsequent area bombings in Japan.  The reader is left with the sense that the USAAF came into World War II full of idealism and a general desire to carve out Germany’s industrial heart with a minimum of what later leaders would euphemistically call “collateral damage.”  Unfortunately, as Crane shows, this idealism was quickly fatally compromised.  First, through their tacit acceptance of British area attacks, to the point where USAAF leadership “continually discouraged any public criticism of British obliteration raids,” America’s military leaders fully condoned the actions of their rather more ruthless ally.[30]  Second, by making a distinction between raids on German-occupied countries and Germany itself in several directives, the USAAF implied that it was not overly concerned with those German civilians that ended up under bombs which missed their target.[31]  Lastly, as Crane neatly summarizes, the “attitudes of American leaders towards the bombing of urban areas were affected to varying degrees by concerns for ethics, efficiency, and public relations.”[32]  American bomber commanders, confronted by the growing lists of casualties and under pressure to end the war, likely did not overly concern themselves with dead citizens of the Reich be they factory worker, woman, elderly, or even child.

They did not, however, seek to murder these individuals wholesale, either.  It is on this very important point that historian Stewart Halsey Ross’s work immediately founders.  Strategic Bombing by the United States in World War II: The Myths and the Facts casts the USAAF leadership as a gathered band of homicidal men bent on establishing a separate air force on the bones of Germany and Japan’s civilians.  In contrast, Ross casts Adolf Hitler and, by extension, Nazi Germany as a nation that regularly abided by the treaties it signed.  Strategic Bombing notes that “Hitler proposed in 1935 and again a year later a universal agreement that aerial bombardment should be restricted to a zone of military operations,” then follows this with an observation that the RAF refused as such an agreement would conflict with its nascent bomber doctrine.[33]  Ross also ensures the reader is aware that the reader is aware that Adolf Hitler was the first leader to respond to President Franklin Roosevelt’s call for a public declaration against the bombing of civilian targets in 1939.  Finally, he portrays Great Britain as the builder of “the most aggressive fleet of big bombers in Europe” while simultaneously emphasizing Germany’s “tactical” bombers, thus implying that Britain’s air marshals, like their USAAF counterparts, sacrificed the possibility of a clean, sanitary air war on the altar of decisive aerial bombardment.[34]

Ross culls these facts from official documents, unit histories, and previous completed works.  As with the remaining statistics, quotations, and excerpts that compose his argument, they seem quite sound in isolation and build a credible case if taken alone.  Unfortunately, the untidy remainder of World War II serves to completely undermine this carefully constructed argument.  Hitler’s subsequent conduct at Munich in 1938 and the ultimate outcome of the Maximov-Ribbentrop treaty are but two of the myriad examples of the Nazis’ duplicity, thus making any 1935 diplomatic overture highly suspect.  With regards to civilian targets, even if one discounted the Condor Legion’s assault on the Spanish town of Guernica in 1936, the fact remains that German Stukas were likely strafing fleeing Polish refugees even as the Fuhrer was positively responding to Roosevelt’s request.  While these actions could be attributed to a few overzealous Luftwaffe pilots, the subsequent bombings of Warsaw, Rotterdam, and London clearly indicates that such actions were not an anomaly.  Finally, the Battle of Britain shows that the Luftwaffe’s bombes, while “tactical” in conception, were readily applied to strategic tasks at a whim.  These facts are readily available to the casual student of World War II history, and their omission indicates that Ross may have sacrificed accuracy in the interest of bolstering his argument.

Unfortunately for students of the Allied Bomber Offensive, such bias appears to be the norm for works concentrating on German civilians’ fate during World War II.  Amateur historian Herman Knell, author of To Destroy A City, examines the American and British offensive from an altogether different perspective than the other authors studied—that of a “dehoused” survivor.  This experience, as well as Wurzburg Germany’s relative anonymity in other books dealing with the American and British offensives, appear to be the main impetus behind the completion of To Destroy a City.  In the introduction, Knell recounts that Wurzburg is one of the “three most ravished cities in Europe” at the end of World War II.[35]  This lists exclusion of non-German cities makes it somewhat suspect, but Knell supports this controversial statement with the observation that “U.S. and British bombing surveys prepared after World War II tell us that…Wurzburg [was]…89 percent destroyed.”[36]  Having provided this evidence, however, Knell does not subsequently discuss what these percentages truly entails, leaving scholars with the task of finding his source or using contextual clues to determine just what exactly this statement means.

Such contextual aids are few and far between in Knell’s work.  Instead, To Destroy A City clearly suffers from the haphazard research that went into its construction.  Knell, a fair writer, is a poor organizer.  His first one hundred seventeen pages discuss the historiography of the World War II bombing campaigns in general, an autobiographical introduction of the author’s situation in May 1945 and subsequent decision to investigate the Allied Bombing Campaign against both Germany and Japan, Wurzburg’s general worth as a military target, the raids upon that city, the development of aerial bombing strategy from before World War I through the end of World War II, and short biographical sketches of key bombing leaders up until 1945.  In and of themselves, most of these subjects have required complete books for proper, objective treatment, and Knell’s book suffers from attempting to simplistically cover them in the allotted space, especially when he does so in a manner guaranteed to cause chronological disorientation.  The recounting of these subjects do not support Knell’s contention, recounted on pages 11-13, that he is attempting to correct or avoid previous historical biases.  It is somewhat dishonest to state that it is “far more important to understand why [bombing] happened than to point a finger and pillorize people and events” then use words such as “executioner” to describe Allied aerial commanders and “mass executions” to describe bombing raids on German cities.[37]  Even though he subsequently softens this language to the more euphemistic “practitioners”, Knell clearly indicates his disgust with the entire campaign by stating “nobody should ever call [Allied commanders] heroes.”[38]

Although such a way of thinking is understandable from a person who suffered first hand from Allied bombardment, like Ross’s work it ignores critical facts.  The American and British commanders fully believed that their actions would, if not lead to victory outright, greatly shorten the war.  With the experience of World War I within their living memory, most of these men sought to avoid the bloodshed and generational decimation of ground warfare.  In addition, these men had watched the Luftwaffe pummel several civilian targets, to include numerous English cities, without remorse or mercy.  Although, unlike Ross, Knell does not excuse or exclude his countrymen’s aerial actions, he does not adequately address the effect these raids had on the Allied leadership’s feelings towards the German populace.  This omission is only partially balanced by Knell’s acknowledgment of the difficulties experienced by American and British aircrews in flying through German defenses to deliver their loads, and is one of the work’s critical failings.[39]

Similarly significant is Knell’s incorrect appraisal of the state of aerial technology during World War II.  On pages 220-221, the author attempts to build a case that Sir Arthur “Bomber” Harris willfully chose to ignore the capabilities of the Mosquito bomber in order to continue delivering large quantities of inaccurately aimed high-explosive.[40]  That these raids did indeed cause “heinous losses of innocent civilians” is indisputable, yet similarly irrefutable is the fact that the Mosquito capabilities described by Knell applied to the unarmed reconnaissance version flying at high altitude.[41]  In addition, the examples cited within To Destroy A City required a level of training, bravery, and luck that was all but unsustainable in large numbers, especially by an almost exhausted RAF.   Those strikes which were made required a “long spell of working up” and, while spectacular, were arguably not cost effective.[42]  Finally, Knell also ignores the lethality of German defenses.  In each of the cases cited by Knell, the targets struck with such precision were poorly defended, with relatively few automatic cannons or the dreaded ’88.’  In contrast, most of German industry lay within dense flak belts, the depth of which would have to be transitioned during ingress and egress.  More importantly, the Mosquito’s survivability lay in both its high speed and the time required for German fighters to climb to altitude.  At low level, the Fw-190 and late-model Bf-109s were quite capable of overtaking a clean Mosquito, much less one carrying a significant warload.  As with his over concentration on the strafing exploits of American fighter-bombers, Knell’s decision to utilize a few ill-chosen examples in an attempt to bolster a particular argument is a rather large flaw in an otherwise creditable work.  Although non-fatal, such a mistake serves to make the remainder of the work unfortunately suspect and of only broad, general use in scholarly study.

In contrast, British philosopher A.C. Grayling’s work Among the Dead Cities: The History and Moral Legacy of the WW II Bombing of Civilians in Germany and Japan, is of only general use for historians.  Despite its subtitle, it quickly becomes evident that Grayling’s work is oriented more towards a philosophical examination of the American and British campaigns rather than a general history.  Among the Dead Cities postulates that the Combined Bomber Offensive’s implications were justifiably “obscured by the fact that a much larger and more important moral matter occupied the mental horizon of the post-war world, and quite rightly so—the Holocaust.”[43]  Grayling then proceeds to lay out three pressing reasons why these issues must be immediately addressed.  First, “the descendants of the bombed have begun to raise their voices and ask questions about the experience of their parents and grandparents,” that is, contemporary German and Japanese citizens are starting to question the necessity of their forebears’ travails.  Second, “history has got to be got right before it distorts into legend and diminishes into over-simplification, which is always what happens when events slip into a too distant past.”  Lastly, Grayling believes an examination of Allied area bombing can lead to a “proper understanding…of how peoples and states can and should behave in time of conflict.”[44]

These reasons are all sound and solid reasons for a frank, open discussion of American and British efforts to utilize airpower to knock Germany out of the war.  Grayling seems adequately spurred by them to present his central thesis that, yes, the Allied Combined Offensive was indeed a war crime.  Immediately aware of the his opponents’ primary arguments, Grayling utilizes the bulk of his introduction to disproving the theory that Nazi Germany’s evil fully justified any and all means used to destroy it.  This frontal assault begins on page six with the following passage:

 

Nothing in this book should be taken as any form of revisionist apology for Nazism and its frightful atrocities, or Japanese militarism and its aggressions, even if the conclusion is that German and Japanese civilians suffered wrongs.  A mature [emphasis mine] perspective on the Second World War should by now enable us to distinguish between these two quite different points.[45]

 

Grayling follows this initial barrage with several examples that further illuminate his line of thought, followed by a seemingly obligatory statement in which he makes it “emphatically clear” that he is not attacking the wartime service of the RAF and USAAF bomber crews, only merely stating that they may have been involved “in the commission of wrongs.”[46]  Grayling attempts to dispel the almost certain bitter feelings his statements are sure to cause with a bit of autobiographical frivolity that seems to mitigate veterans’ ire by recounting his love for their aircraft and service.[47]  Finally, Grayling lays out the component of his central question and gives a rough outline, the overall effect of which is to make the reader receptive to both his historical question and central argument.

The crux of Grayling’s argument is that, yes indeed, American and British bombing raids were full-fledged war crimes and thus, by extension and derivative from his own presented examples, Allied aircrew were war criminals.  It is upon this moralistic rock that Grayling’s work, founders rapidly.  For four chapters, Among the Dead Cities concisely outlines the American and British bombing offensives, provides a vivid recounting of German experiences underneath American and British bombs, and conducts a brilliant expose on the mindset of leaders both for and against wholesale bombing.  Having laid his historical and technological groundwork, Grayling then builds his moral superstructure by clarifying exactly the “‘wrong’ at stake” utilizing just war theory.[48]

Rather than relying on this, however, Grayling makes his first major mistake in stating that the Allies’ behavior postwar, both in the persecution of Axis leaders and the wording of the Geneva Convention of 1949, served as a “retrospective indictment of the practices” carried out during World War II.[49]  Having leaped onto this metaphorically thin ice, Grayling proceeds to stomp on its surface by stating “[t]he moral culpability of area bombing was so well recognised during and immediately after the war that when at last an effort was made to arrive at a firm and binding statement of the laws of war, it was explicitly outlawed by them.”[50]  Grayling then launches a whirlwind assault that encompasses fellow historians (Robin Neilland’s Bomber War is particularly roughly handled), Allied wartime decisions and, most importantly, the morality of the leaders who decided upon the implementations of their superiors.  In the final chapter, aptly entitled “Judgment,” Grayling wraps up his argument by equating American and British bombing attacks with various terrorist actions, culminating with a reference to Hamburg and Hiroshima being equivalent to the September 11th terrorist attacks.[51]

Like Knell, Grayling’s argument begins to unravel in the face the technological limitations of World War II.  First, Grayling attempts to split a moralistic hair, stating that that “precision-bombing efforts against industry, transport, power and military targets” would have sufficed to prevent Germany’s full industrial capacity from reaching the Wermacht in the field.[52] This statement, echoing Knell’s reliance on a massive number of Mosquito bombers ranging across Germany, likewise ignores the state of aerial ordnance delivery available in World War II.  As Budiansky illustrated in Air Power, cited above, the USAAF was only able to begin placing a large percentage of their bombs within 2,000 feet of a target in the latter part of 1944.  In turn, even this rather limited accuracy was dependent on two conditions.  The first was USAAF air superiority, a condition not truly met until a combination of long-ranged escort fighters, rapidly declining German pilot skill, and a lack of fuel eviscerated the German Jagdwaffe (a process to be examined in more detail below).  The second condition, seldom seen thanks to capricious Central European weather and German passive defense measures, was good visibility.  In short, Grayling’s hypothetical campaign would have required the ideal sought by air power enthusiasts during the interwar period: an supine enemy and cooperative Mother Nature.

It is at this point that Grayling’s attempt to shave a fine distinction falls apart.  Grayling states unequivocally that bombing directed in daylight against industry is decisive and, not being specifically designated as ‘area bombing,’ morally acceptable.   However, even if the ideal conditions had existed with far more regularity than actually occurred, 70% of ordnance landing within 2,000 feet of a target still leaves 30% landing outside this circle.  Thus, a 1,000 aircraft raid carrying a common load of six 500-lb. bombs apiece would drop 1800 pieces of ordnance at random throughout occupied Europe and the Third Reich.  The ultimate destinations of this “outside group” cannot be fully known, as the statistics treat weapons jettisoned by aborting bombers over the English Channel and those which landed at 2,500 feet from the aiming point equally.  What is known, however, is that aerial ordnance was quite efficient in killing exposed personnel both at the point of impact and at relatively long distances through fragmentary and secondary effects.  Grayling, in adapting this particular aspect of the argument, appears to state that German civilian deaths were appropriate as long as the “good intentions” of precision aiming were there.  This approach is simplistic at best, as a German civilian killed on accident or through the misfortune of having his farmhouse located within “danger close” range of a German arms factory is just as dead as one whose housing block was the proposed aiming point.

Grayling does not attempt to address this flaw in his argument, instead moving immediately into a detailed examination of the February 1945 attack on Dresden.  As with most historians that utilize this German city as an example of the Allies’ utter immorality in their bombing offensive, Grayling manages to establish several critical points.  First, he adroitly points out Dresden’s cultural importance, contrasting its inclusion on the approved target list with Secretary of War Henry Stimson’s decision to exclude Kyoto, Japan from the list of suitable atomic bomb targets.  Second, he emphasizes Bomber Command’s desire to inflict pain on the German populace and intimidate the Russians, stating that “calculation involved in using civilian lives and the precipitates of history to make a gesture in a game of diplomatic politics is breathtaking.”  This charge is made in conjunction with the oft-repeated statement “that one of the main motives for the atom-bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was to demonstrate to the Russians the superiority in weaponry that the United States had attained,” thus implicitly equating Dresden’s attack to the two ill-fated Japanese cities.  Lastly, Grayling points out that the city was “known to be full of tens of thousands of refugees fleeing the approach of Soviet troops,” thus completing the common litany of “reasons not to bomb [Dresden].”[53]

Unfortunately for Grayling, this emphasis on Dresden and effort to intertwine it with the final assault on Japan exposes his central thesis to pointed, valid counterarguments.  By presenting no primary source for his allegation regarding the reasoning behind the dropping of two atomic bombs, Grayling allows it to be readily discarded even without recourse to contrary evidence.  Furthermore, the mentioning of two cities’ whose fate in large part was due to the fanatical, unreasoning resistance of a tyrannical leadership leaves open the possibility that the political and conditions leading to Dresden’s immolation were similar if not identical.  In his emphasis on the refugees fleeing Soviet troops, Bomber Command’s aiming point, and the horrific outcome of the raid makes several critical omissions which address these geopolitical factors all the more glaring.  Like Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Dresden was a major city within one of history’s most oppressive, notorious regimes.  To portray it as an innocent, defenseless victim of a savage Allied assault is to ignore the defensive plans of Army Group Center, the offensive plans of the Red Army, or the simple fact that World War II bombing art did not allow for the pinpoint ordnance delivery common to modern aerial warfare.[54]  Finally, and most importantly, the extension of this line of reasoning places most of the onus for Dresden’s agony on the Allies rather than its proper place on the Nazi leadership that began a war of aggression than refused to surrender when clearly beaten.

This tendency to understate the Axis leaderships crimes is best exemplified by Grayling’s dismissive statement that “even if all the arguments of the defenders of area bombing are correct…[a]rea bombing was neither necessary nor proportional, and it was neither of these things by quite a long way.”[55]  While strong in delivery, this passage and its companions are relatively weak in factual support.  It is quite easy, sixty years on, to state that the Allies handled Germany (and Japan), a bit roughly and with disproportionate force.  However, this ignores several well-known historical facts.  Whereas Grayling is quick to point out that the Allies heaviest blows fell once the Axis tide was clearly receding, he neglects to point out that this was also the period of the heaviest losses among both USAAF and RAF bomber crews.  In addition, as illustrated in the works previously surveyed, the Jagdwaffe and flak units were still inflicting casualties up to the final day of the war.  On the ground, the Wermacht continued to strenuously resist British and American advances to the Elbe, while the fanatical resistance offered in defense of Berlin has been well documented by able historians such as Cornelius Ryan, Max Hastings, and Antony Beevor.  It is a bit idealistic to expect the Allies to cease launching bombing missions, much less large-scale ones, in the face of determined aerial and ground opposition.

Most importantly, however, to state that the Allies’ efforts were disproportional, and not by a small margin, is to utterly ignore German conduct throughout the war.  Japanese excesses against Prisoners of War (POWs) has often led Western sources to speak highly of the Wermacht’s treatment of the same.  Unfortunately, this ignores the excesses conducted against the Red Army in the East.  More importantly, Nazi ideological beliefs turned the Eastern Front into a “racial conflict of the most savage kind in which any methods, criminal or otherwise, were sanctioned.”[56]  Given carte blanche, the German soldier raped, pillaged, and burned in a campaign that resulted in the death of over 12 million Soviet civilians.[57]  On the German Home Front, the Nazis implemented the Final Solution, and proceeded to utilize the methods of industrialization to gas, shoot, or work to death millions of Slavs, gypsies, Jews, and other humans considered “sub-human.”  That this process, despite the precious resources its implementation consumed, continued literally until advancing Allied forces pushed open the camp gates indicates the depths of the Third Reich’s depravity.

It is unlikely that the Nazis’ victims, not to mention the USAAF airmen who became casualties during these final raids, would agree with Grayling’s glib assessment that the Allies hands were only less dirty than those of the Nazis by a matter of degrees.[58]  In just war theory, proportionality is the belief that wars’ ultimate goals and aims must be proportional to the costs involved.[59]  The objective of the USAAF Bombing Campaign, and the Combined Bomber Offensive of which it was an integral part, was the destruction of a homicidal, racist, and tyrannical regime that had plunged the entire world into a conflict that killed over 78 million people.[60]  Together, the USAAF and RAF are believed to have killed 593,000 German civilians, that is .76% of this total.[61]  While this may not fit into Grayling’s opinion of what is proportional, it clearly fits into just war’s theory of this concept and thus renders his central argument unsupportable.

The German Defenses

            Less morally ambiguous than discussions of the relative worth of German civilians’ lives versus those of the Third Reich’s victims, however, is the examination of Nazi Germany’s defense and the soldiers that manned them.  These works, especially those produced during the Cold War, tend to avoid taking moralistic positions, focusing narrowly on how the Luftwaffe conducted its defense of the greater Reich.  Westermann’s Flak is the only English language text that attempts to portray the men and women who manned the Reich’s anti-aircraft batteries as anything but anonymous secondary actors ineffectively attempting to stem the ever growing tide of American and British bombers.  Its uniqueness precludes its use in the examination of trends, and thus it will not be further discussed herein.

In contrast to their flak comrades, German fighter pilots (Jagdflieger) have individually and collectively been the subject of dozens English-language texts.  Most of these books treat the Jagdflieger with great respect, with noted aviation historian Michael Spick’s sentiment that “[a]lthough the cause for which they had fought was tarnished, their honor was redeemed by the luster of their deeds” being representative of general sentiment.[62]  The USAAF’s daylight offensive, directly engaging a Jagdwaffe already overcommitted in the Mediterranean and Eastern Europe, is widely acknowledged as the instrument which destroyed the German fighter arm.  Used to engaging much smaller single and twin-engined aircraft at low and medium altitude, the arrival of the much larger Liberators and Fortresses was a sharp shock.  Spick, once again, provides the most concise elucidation of this phenomenon, pointing out the effect the bombers’ size and defensive fire had on the pilots who conducted these initial interceptions.[63]  General Adolf Galland, the Luftwaffe’s chief of fighters, reinforces this point in his autobiography, The First and the Last.  On page 151, Galland equates the Jagdflieger’s initial encounters with these aircraft to an infantryman’s first encounter with enemy tanks, with his pilots having to overcome their “shyness of the [bombers]” in order to discover their “vulnerable points.”[64]  As noted by Spick, Galland, and several other authors, this process was fraught with dangers due to the American bombers’ dense formations and heavy armament.  Moreover, this process was left to tactical units rather than being driven by a centralized Jagdwaffe process of experimentation utilizing captured airframes.  While ultimately successful, with aces (Experten) from Jagdeschwader (JG) 2 devising the successful head-on assault, this methodology exposed a critical operational failing on the part of Galland and his subordinate staff.[65]

Such operational failings were fairly common and, when coupled with the strategic errors made by the Third Reich all but guaranteed the Jagdwaffe’s eventual destruction.  The historiography, much like that of the Wermacht as a whole, places most of the blame for these errors on Hitler and Hermann Goring, chief of the Luftwaffe.  First, by engaging on multiple fronts, the Nazi hierarchy ensured that what strength it did have would be divided into several parts.  Second, by stubbornly insisting on the continued development and production of offensive weapons despite the Third Reich’s clearly declining fortunes, Hitler ensured that the Jagdwaffe fought at a constant numerical disadvantage from mid-1943 on.  Finally, and most importantly, the aerial equivalent of Hitler’s “not one step backward” philosophy is consistently cited in the historiography as an unmitigated disaster for the Reich’s fighter pilots.

This last point is so central to the historiographical trend that it requires detailed examination.  According to surviving senior Jagdwaffe officers, in 1942 Hitler and Goring decreed that all American bombers would be subject to continuous attack from ingress into the airspace of occupied Europe.  This was directly contrary to Galland’s suggestion, which was a more prudent strategy of concentrated Luftwaffe fighter attacks for a single large interception near the borders of Germany.[66]  The initial effect of the Fuhrer’s directive was the frittering away of the Jagdwaffe’s strength in a series of attritional battles through late 1943.  It is true that the relentless attacks inflicted painful losses on the USAAF’s bomber units, and the historiography is quite clear that from January to October 1943 the Jagdwaffe won “a series of substantial tactical victories,” forcing the Eighth Air Force to temporarily halt deep penetrations into Germany.[67] However, American production and manpower meant that these losses were replaceable.  In contrast, the steady toll taken by bomber gunners, accidents, and occasional clash with escorting fighters initiated a slow, steady seeping away of the German fighter arm’s effectiveness.[68]  The cost in both Experten (aces) and neophytes was quite high, and it made those victories achieved  both transitory and Pyrrhic.  From January to April 1944, the introduction of larger drop-tanks, longer-ranged fighters, and far more aggressive American tactics transformed the constant hemorrhaging of 1943 into full-scale arterial bleeding that proved ultimately fatal.[69]  Despite the introduction of advanced jet fighters, themselves arguably delayed by Hitler’s intransigence, those works focusing on the Jagdwaffe are clear that the battles of 1944 ensured the German fighter arm was a spent force.

This focus on the interference of the Nazi High Command, differences in production outcomes, and sheer numbers of Allied fighters results in several critical gaps.  First, there is an overemphasis on the potential impact of the Me-262 at the expense of other, more viable aircraft. Galland is the first to propagate this myth, as the last portion of his autobiography concentrates heavily on the “lost opportunities” this fighter provided as well as his own experiences operating it.[70]  Although Galland’s thoughts are heartfelt, they are also disproved rather readily.  Spick provides the most concise detailing of the Me-262’s many flaws, namely that it required a long runway, accelerated poorly, had extremely poor fuel economy, and was critically vulnerable on takeoff and landing.[71]  In addition to these tactical concerns, the Me-262’s airframe itself required an excessive amount of strategic materials, the powerplant was unreliable, and it required a level of skill that was quite beyond that being turned out by the German flight schools by 1944.[72]  Combined, these factors would likely have prevented the Me-262 from being the war winner Galland and others have proclaimed it would have been.

This overemphasis obscures the fact that the Jagdwaffe had many alternatives at hand that, with a more forceful effort by Galland, may have actually had reasonable impact during the critical period of the American Bombing Campaign.  The Focke-Wulf 190, an excellent successor to the Bf-109, was never given priority of production over that “much older and less attractive design [that had] many shortcomings.”[73]  Although its initial variants were not well-suited for combat over 24,000 feet, later models were quite capable of holding their own against even the most modern Allied aircraft.  In addition, various other airframes that would have been better suited to indifferently trained neophytes reached the prototype stage yet were never produced in favor of continuously updating the 109.  Even given the 109’s sterling combat record, it is a clear indicator of Galland’s and Goring’s misunderstanding of technological progress that they believed an airframe first flown in 1935 was still a viable contender in 1943.  The latter is rightfully pilloried for his hand in this travesty—the former is not.

Galland is similarly excused in the historiography for failing to vigorously examine his likely need for more pilots prior to the crisis of 1944.  In this he is not alone, as the historiography is generally unclear on what individual or individuals was largely responsible for the development of a fighter pilot training program.  Also left unexplained is the reasoning for the non-inclusion of combat veterans in such a program.  Throughout World War II, the RAF, USAAF, and Red Air Force each had a rotational policy that gave their pilots a rest after a certain operational period.  These policies paid great dividends in allowing the passage of lessons learned from combat veterans to trainees during their advanced flight courses, ensuring that these individuals then arrived at their commands with at least a theory of how aerial combat should unfold.

The Jagdwaffe’s rotational policy, on the other hand, was virtually non-existent.  Almost invariably, Experten flew until seriously injured, imprisoned, or killed in combat.  Generally, the historiography gives a pass to Galland on this issue, noting that Germany’s strategic situation precluded the rotation of trained leaders to training commands.  Such statements, given the greater efficiency numerous veterans’ imparted to Allied training programs, are only tenuously supportable.  Although it is true that Germany was hard-pressed by December 1943, this does not sufficiently explain what the Luftwaffe’s fighter command was doing from September 1939 until that date.  The historiography gives little indication that Galland, upon assuming command of the Jagdwaffe in November 1941, did little to correct the errors of his predecessors in this regard.  It is apparent that Galland was an extremely brave man placed in a rather untenable position by Hitler and Goring.  Unfortunately, the works on the Jagdwaffe make clear that Galland’s focus on the day-to-day operation of his fighter groups, their tactics, and his pilots’ well-being prevented him from engaging long-term concerns with the same vigor he applied to attacking his aerial opponents.

A large part of Galland’s inaction may be attributed to combat fatigue, the final gap in the historiography of the Jagdwaffe.  There are limited references to demoralization and fatigue among the German defenders in secondary sources, and the overwhelming strain of the Allied assault is even more prevalent in the available primary sources. [74]  The high concentration and technical skills required for World War II aerial combat are extensively recognized, as are the effects of extended psychological stress on the mental, physical functions which are necessary to efficiently execute these tasks.  Yet, despite the two factors, no readily-available English language psychological study has been made of Jagdwaffe (and flak) personnel to date, an inexplicable gap.  With the high casualties suffered by the Jagdflieger as well as the passing of many World War II veterans in the intervening years since the end of that conflict, it may be impossible to ever completely fill this gap, but unit and oral histories may provide a necessary foundation for an attempt to be made.

Unit, Airframe and Oral Histories

            Such histories form a large part of fourth part of the historiography, that of subject-specific histories.  On the Allied side, such histories tend to be myopic, sacrificing a greater understanding of the war’s strategic context in favor of a narrow examination of a particular organization’s experience in the air war.  The majority of these histories focus on the Eighth Air Force, with the two most common examples being the nearly identically-titled The Mighty Eighth: Units, Men, and Machines (A History of the US 8th Army Air Force) by British aviation author Roger A. Freeman and military historian Gerald Astor’s The Mighty Eighth: The Air War in Europe as Told by the Men Who Fought It.[75]  Although most of the World War II press and subsequent histories seem to support the subtitle of Astor’s work, the 15th Air Force was decisively engaged in attacking the southern portion of the Reich from November 1943.  Despite the importance of their attacks, especially those against Nazi Germany’s oil supply, there are no commonly available histories solely devoted to the 15th’s exploits.  Nor is this lack of representation unique to the 15th, as it occurs for most of the Eighth’s subordinate commands.  There are few widely published bomber group unit histories, reducing the men and machines that constituted the Eighth’s primary reason for being to relatively anonymity.  In contrast, the 56th, 4th, and 364th Fighter Groups alone are each the subject of at least one book, while the 8th’s myriad aces are the subject of numerous autobiographies and composite works.

This overrepresentation of fighter pilots skews their relative importance to the overall conduct of the American Bombing Campaign.  Similarly skewed is the importance of the B-17 Flying Fortress, as it is the airframe that is most commonly represented in print and pictures that discuss the 8th Air Force.  Martin Caidin’s Flying Forts, Jablonski’s Flying Fortress, and Freeman’s B-17 Fortress at War are but a small sample of the large number of books devoted to the Boeing bomber.[76]  The B-24 Liberator, on the other hand, has had few books written on it, with Stephen Ambrose’s The Wild Blue being the most recent.[77]  A similar situation, however, does not exist with regards to the American fighters, however, as each of the primary escort fighters (P-38, P-47, and P-51) each have a similar number of works devoted to their operational use.

The number of Jagdwaffe general histories is relatively small.  To date, there is only one comprehensive, English language history in existence, the rarity of which makes its acquisition fiscally prohibitive for libraries and private individuals alike.  Likewise, there are few in-depth unit histories that cover the entire operational life of a single Jagdwaffe unit from the beginning to the end of the Second World War.  Aviation author Donald L. Caldwell’s JG 26 is the best example of all these, being both extensively researched and well written, and the dearth of Luftwaffe war records and rapidly declining number of veterans makes it unlikely to be equaled.[78]  However, the Jagdwaffe’s chaotic personnel policies make this less of a historical gap than it would first appear.  Experten were regularly transferred between units due to their own injuries or to fill command positions left vacant by a fellow pilot’s relief, disablement, or death.  Units, in turn, were often detached for service on another front, resulting in some Jagdeschwader having subordinate Gruppen simultaneously located on all three major German war fronts.  Consequently, books on the Jagdwaffe, unlike the overwhelming majority of those on their Allied counterparts, are often forced to explain the larger strategic picture in order to avoid confusing readers.

Unfortunately, concentration on the Experten has led to the lionization of their primary mount, the Bf-109, at the expense of the Fw-190 and its pilots.  The majority of these books also fail to mention the Bf-109’s creeping obsolescence.  In addition, there remains little information on the various anonymous pilots that composed the bulk of the Jagdwaffe.  Although large numbers of these pilots did not survive their first missions, there is likely a significant number of them whose scores would have made them quite famous had they been born in one of the Allied nations.  Lastly, there are few sources which detail the training methodology, pilot equipment, or daily operations of the Jagdwaffe as a whole.  The early success, decline, and ultimate failure of the Luftwaffe in its entirety is clearly connected to the fate of its fighter arm, and it is a subject that deserves further study.

Conclusion

            Such further study is outside the scope of this paper, which has focused on the available rather than potential historiography and its gaps.  As the examination has shown, the USAAF campaign can be defined in many ways.  Those works sympathetic to its conduct portray it as a limited success whose achievements far outweigh the collateral damage it caused.  Its opponents decry it as a clear violation of just war theory that was brought about by various base desires for revenge, an independent Air Force, and/or cold-blooded indifference to the civilians it fell upon or the young men forced to carry it out.  Such a debate will fruitlessly continue until one or more of the faults currently inherent in the historiography is addressed.  Historians from both sides must agree on a common degree of metrics, as a discussion of the relative merits inherent in oranges’ and apples’ can only be resolved on personal bias.  Although the complete elimination of such bias is, of course, impossible, by relying on these established measurements much of the current moral reproach and polemic speech would be removed from what should be dispassionate analysis.  In addition, such statistics would allow the examination of both defenders and attackers and allow for an all-encompassing examination of the campaign’s effect on the Wermacht’s conduct of the war, with emphasis on the Luftwaffe in general and Jagdwaffe in particular.  Finally, all of these steps would allow professional historians from both sides to actually hear and digest opposing viewpoints, thus allowing for a greater understanding of the Allied Bombing Campaign and Second World War as a whole.  With active participants disappearing at prodigious rates, the importance of accomplishing this has never been greater even as the time to do so grows ever shorter.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

(Books in Bold were not used in text preparation but are included for information purposes.)

Ambrose, Stephen E.. The Wild Blue. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2001.

 

Astor, Gerald.  The Mighty Eighth: The Air War in Europe as Told by the Men Who Fought It. New York: Dell Books, 1997.

Biddle, Tami Davis.  Rhetoric and Reality in Air Warfare. Princeton, NJ: Princeton             University Press, 2002.

Boyne, Walter J.  Clash of Wings: Air Power in World War II.  New York: Simon and Schuster, 1994.

Budiansky, Stephen.  Air Power: The Men, Machines, and Ideas That Revolutionized War, From Kitty Hawk to Gulf War II.  New York: Viking Books, 2004.

Caidin, Martin.  Flying Forts: The B-17 in World War II.  New York: Ballantine Books, 1969.

________.  Me-109: Willy Messerschmitt’s Peerless Fighter.  New York: Ballantine Books,  1968.

Caldwell, Donald L.. JG26.  New York: Orion Books, 1991.

Christopher, Paul.  The Ethics of War and Peace: An Introduction to Legal and Moral Issues. Englewood, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1994.

Constable, Trevor J. and Raymond F. Toliver, Colonel, USAF (ret.).  Horrido!: Fighter Aces of the Luftwaffe.  New York: Ballantine Books, 1968.

Crane, Conrad C.  Bombs, Cities, and Civilians: American Airpower Strategy in World War II.Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1993.

Dunnigan, James and Albert A. Nofi.  Dirty Little Secrets of World War II: Military Information No One Told You About the Greatest, Most Terrible War In History.  New York:  Quill, 1994.

Ethell, Jeffrey and Dr. Alfred Price.  Target Berlin: Mission 250, 6 March, 1944.  London:      Jane’s, 1981.  Reprint, Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2002.

Freeman, Roger A.  The Mighty Eighth: Units, Men, and Machines (A History of the US 8th             Army Air Force.  Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1970.

________.  B-17 Fortress At War.  New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1977.

Galland, Adolf.  The First and the Last.  Bantam War Book Ed., 3rd Printing.  New York: Bantam  Books, 1982.

Grayling, A.C.  Among the Dead Cities: The History and Moral Legacy of WWII Bombing of             Civilians in Germany and Japan. (Advance Reading Copy) New York: Walker &             Company, 2006.

Gunston, Bill and Tony Wood.  Hitler’s Luftwaffe: A Pictorial History and Technical             Encyclopedia of Hitler’s Air Power in World War II.  London: Salamander Books, 1977.           Reprint, New York: Crescent Books, 1979.

Hammel, Eric.  Aces Against Germany.  New York: Pocket Books, 1993.

Hinchliffe, Peter.  The Other Battle: Luftwaffe Night Fighter Aces Versus Bomber CommandEdison, N.J.: Castle Books, 2001.

Isby, David C., ed..  Fighting the Bombers: The Luftwaffe’s Struggle Against the Allied Bomber Offensive.  Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2003.

Jablonski, Edward.  Airwar: Tragic Victories.  Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1971.

________.  Airwar: Terror From the Sky.  Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company,             Inc., 1971.

________.  Airwar: Wings of Fire.  Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1971.

________.  Flying Fortress.  Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1965.

Jacobs, W.A..  “Operation Overlord.”  In Case Studies in the Achievement of Air Superiority, Benjamin Franklin Cooling, 270-322. Washington, D.C.: Center For Air Force History, 1994.

Johnson, Robert S., with Martin Caidin.  Thunderbolt!.  New York: Ballantine Books,             1958.

Knell, Herman.  To Destroy a City: Strategic Bombing and Its Human Consequences in World War II. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Books Group, 2003.

Macksey, Kenneth.  Military Errors of World War II.  London: Arms and Armour, 1987.              Reprint, Edison, NJ: Castle Books, 2003.

McFarland, Stephen L. and Wesley Phillips Newton.  “The American Strategic Air Offensive Against Germany in World War Two.”  In Case Studies in Strategic Bombardment, ed. R. Cargill Hill, 183-252.  Washington, D.C.: Center For Air Force History, 1998.

Mondey, David.  The Hamlyn Concise Guide to British Aircraft of World War II.  London: The Hamlyn Publishing Group Limited, 1982.

________.  American Aircraft of World War II.  London: The Hamlyn Publishing Group Limited, Reprint, London: Chancellor Press, 1996.

Musciano, Walter A.  Messerschmitt Aces.  New York: Arco Publishing, Inc., 1982.

Nalty, Bernard C., John F. Shiner, and George M. Watson.  With Courage: The U.S. Army Air Forces in World War II.  Washington, D.C.: Air Force History & Museums Program,        1994.

Neilland, Robert.  The Bomber War: The Allied Air Offensive Against Nazi Germany.  New             York: The Overlook Press, 2001.

Overy, Richard J.  Why the Allies Won.  New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1995.

Perrett, Geoffrey.  Winged Victory: The Army Air Forces in World War II. New York: Random House, 1993.

Richard, Denis.  The Hardest Victory: RAF Bomber Command in the Second World WarLondon: W.W. Norton & Company, 1994.

Ross, Stewart Halsey.  Strategic Bombing by the United States in World War II: The Myths and the Facts. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2003.

Sims, Edward H..  American Aces.  New York: Ballantine Books, 1958.

________.  The Greatest Aces.  New York: Ballantine Books, 1967.

Spick, Michael.  The Luftwaffe Fighter Aces: The Jagdflieger and Their Combat Tactics and             Techniques. New York: Ballantine Books, 1996.

________.  The Ace Factor.  New York: Avon Books, 1988.

________.  Allied Fighter Aces of World War II.  Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books,             1997.

Steinhoff, Johanne.  Messerschmitts Over Sicily.  Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2004.

Stokesbury, James L..  A Short History of World War II.  New York: William Morrow and             Company, Inc., 1980.

Taylor, Frederick.  Dresden: Tuesday, February 13, 1945.  New York: HarperCollins, 2004.

United States Army.  “Strategic Air Victory in Europe Special Issue (July 1945).”  In Impact: The      Army Air Force’s “Confidential” Picture History of World      War II in Eight Books, Vol. 7. Harrisburg, PA: Historical Times, Inc., 1980.

Westermann, Edward B..  Flak: German Anti-Aircraft Defenses, 1914-1945.  Lawrence, KS:             University Press of Kansas, 2001.

Williamson, Murray.  Strategy For Defeat: The Luftwaffe 1933-1945. Maxwell AFB, AL: Air             University Press, 1983.

               [1] James F. Dunnigan and Albert A. Nofi, Dirty Little Secrets of World War II: Military Information No One Told You About the Greatest, Most Terrible War in History (New York: Quill, 1994), 11.

               [2] There are several excellent single-volume works that discuss the RAF’s campaign, such as Denis Richards’s The Hardest Victory: RAF Bomber Command in the Second World War (London: W.W. Norton & Company, 1994) and Peter Hinchliffe’s The Other Battle: Luftwaffe Night Aces Versus Bomber Command (Edison, NJ: Castle Books, 2001).

               [3] Geoffrey Perrett, Winged Victory: The Army Air Forces in World War II (New York: Random House, 1993), 15-32, 50-52, and 121-132.

               [4] David Mondey, The Hamlyn Concise Guide to British Aircraft of World War II (London: The Hamlyn Publishing Group Limited, 1982), 28-32 (Lancaster), 127-131 (Halifax), and 189-192 (Stirling).

               [5] David Mondey, American Aircraft of World War II (London: The Hamlyn Publishing Group Limited, 1982; reprint, London: Chancellor Press, 1996), 20-27 (Fortress) and 48-55 (Liberator).

               [6] Dunnigan and Nofi, Dirty Little Secrets, 192-209.

               [7] Robin Neillans, The Bomber War: The Allied Air Offensive Against Nazi Germany (New York: The Overlook Press, 2001), 379.

               [8] Impact: The Army Air Force’s “Confidential” Picture History of World War II In Eight Books, vol. 7, “Strategic Air Victory In Europe Special Issue”, July 1945 (Harrisburg, PA: Historical Times, Inc., 1980), 57 and 60.

               [9] Stewart Halsey Ross, Strategic Bombing by the United States in World War II: The Myths and the Facts (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2003) and Walter J. Boyne Clash of Wings: Air Power in World War II (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994).

               [10] Herman Knell, To Destroy a City: Strategic Bombing and Its Human Consequences in World War II (Cambridge, MA: Perseus Books Group, 2003) and A.C. Grayling, Among the Dead Cities: The History and Moral Legacy of the WWII Bombing of Civilians in Germany and Japan, Advance Reading Copy (New York: Walker & Company, 2006).

               [11] Michael Spick, The Luftwaffe Fighter Aces: The Jagdflieger and Their Combat Tactics and Techniques (New York: Ballantine Books, 1996) and Trevor J. Constable and Raymond F. Toliver, Colonel, USAF (ret.) Horrido! (New York: Ballantine Books, 1968).

               [12] Edward B. Westermann, Flak: German Anti-Aircraft Defenses, 1914-1945 (Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2001).

               [13] “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

               [14] Edward Jablonski, Airwar: Tragic Victories (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1971).

               [15] Ibid., vi.

               [16] Kenneth Macksey, Military Errors of World War (London: Arms and Armour, 1987; reprint, Edison, NJ: Castle Books, 2003), 162-166.

               [17] Jablonski, Airwar: Tragic Victories, 182.

               [18] Edward Jablonski, Airwar: Terror From the Sky (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1971).

               [19] Ibid., 17.

               [20] Ibid., 115; and Edward Jablonski, Airwar: Wings of Fire (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1971), 41.

               [21] Jablonski, Airwar: Terror From the Sky, 148 and Airwar: Wings of Fire, 36-46.

               [22] Richard Overy, Why the Allies Won (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1995), 122.

               [23] Stephen Budiansky, Air Power: The Men, Machines, and Ideas That Revolutionized War, From Kitty Hawk to Gulf War II (New York: Viking Books, 2004), 324.

               [24] Ibid., 325-330.

               [25] Budiansky, Air Power, 327-329

               [26] Overy, Why the Allies Won, 127-133.

               [27] Budiansky, Air Power, 319.

               [28] Overy, Why the Allies Won, 131-133.

               [29] James L. Stokesbury, A Short History of World War II (New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1980), 284-287.

               [30] Conrad C. Crane, Bombs, Cities, and Civilians: American Airpower Strategy in World War II (Lawrence, KS:  University Press of Kansas, 1993), 43.

               [31] Ibid..

               [32] Ibid., 46.

               [33] Ross, Strategic Bombing, 32.

               [34] Ibid., 30.

               [35] Knell, To Destroy A City, 1-2.

               [36] Ibid., 1.

               [37] Ibid., 13 and 69.

               [38] Ibid, 70.

               [39] Ibid., 304-306.

               [40] Ibid., 220.

               [41] Ibid..

               [42] Mondey, British Aircraft, 79.

               [43] Grayling, Among the Dead Cities, 2.

               [44] Ibid., 1-2.

               [45] Ibid., 6.

               [46] Ibid., 7-8.

               [47] Ibid., 9-10.

               [48] Ibid., 209-229.

               [49] Ibid., 229.

               [50] Ibid., 234.  Grayling’s comments refer to the 1949 Geneva Convention.

               [51] Ibid., 278.

               [52] Ibid., 259.

               [53] Ibid., 260-265.

               [54] Frederick Taylor, Dresden: Tuesday, February 13, 1945 (New York, HarperCollins, 2004), 391-392.

               [55] Ibid., 265.

               [56] Overy, Why the Allies Won, 303.

               [57] Dunnigan and Nofi, Dirty Little Secrets, 51.

               [58] Grayling, Among the Dead Cities, 280.

               [59] Paul Christopher, The Ethics of War and Peace: An Introduction to Legal and Moral Issues (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1994), 89.  This version of the work is that used for Military Philosophy at the United States Military Academy, West Point, NY.

               [60] Dunnigan and Nofi, Dirty Little Secrets, 49.

               [61] Ibid., 54.

               [62] Spick, Luftwaffe Fighter Aces, 2.

               [63] Ibid., 141-143.

               [64] Adolf Galland, The First and the Last, Bantam War Book Edition, 3rd Printing, (New York: Bantam Books, 1982), 151.

               [65] Spick, Luftwaffe Fighter Aces, 143.

               [66] Generalmajor Hans-Detlef Herhuth von Rohden, “Reich Air Defense in World War II: A Strategic-Tactical Survey,” Fighting the Bombers: The Luftwaffe’s Struggle Against the Allied Bomber Offensive, David C. Isby, ed., (Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2003), 26-27.

               [67] Williamson Murray, Strategy For Defeat: The Lutwaffe 1933-1945 (Maxwell AFB, AL: Air University Press, 1983), 225.

               [68] W.A. Jacobs, “Operation Overlord,” Case Studies in the Achievement of Air Superiority, Benjamin Franklin Cooling, ed., (Washington, D.C.: Center for Air Force History, 1994), 297-299.

               [69] Stephen L. McFarland and Wesley Phillips Newton, “The American Strategic Air Offensive Against Germany in World War Two,” Case Studies in Strategic Bombardment, R. Cargill Hill, ed., (Washington, D.C.: Center for Air Force History, 1998), 209-215.

               [70] Galland, First, 272-291.

               [71] Spick, Luftwaffe Fighter Aces, 208-209.

               [72] Budiansky, Air Power, 358.

               [73] Bill Gunston and Tony Wood, Hitler’s Luftwaffe: A Pictorial History and Technical Encyclopedia of Hitler’s Air Power in World War II (London: Salamander Books, 1977; reprint, New York: Crescent Books, 1979), 166.

               [74] An example of the former can be found on pg. 99 of  Jeffrey Ethell and Dr. Alfred Price’s Target Berlin: Mission 250, 6 March 1944 (London: Jane’s, 1981; reprint, Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2002), while a good primary source for the latter phenomenon is Johannes Steinhoff’s Messerschmitts Over Sicily (Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2004).

               [75] Gerald Astor, The Mighty Eighth: The Air War in Europe as Told by the Men Who Fought It (New York: Dell Books, 1997) and Roger A. Freeman, The Mighty Eighth: Units, Men, and Machines (A History of the US 8th Army Air Force) (Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1970).

               [76] Martin Caidin, Flying Forts: The B-17 in World War II (New York: Ballantine Books, 1969), Roger A. Freeman, B-17 Fortress At War (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1977), and Edward Jablonski, Flying Fortress (Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1965).

               [77] Stephen E. Ambrose, The Wild Blue (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2001).

               [78] Donald L. Caldwell, JG 26 (New York: Orion Books, 1991).

On Being a Shaman, Part II

I was surfing YouTube Tannerite videos. (Don’t ask.) In one of them, some farmers were using Tannerite to thin the local wild boar herd. That got me thinking…

“Y’all keep laying with that Tannerite, you’re going to cause some messed up stuff! You better quit it!”

“What the hell are you talking about? We’re taking care of our hog problem in a humane, thorough manner.”

“Okay, and how many times have you heard your Mom say, ‘When pigs fly’? I’m a shaman, not a rocket scientist, but judging from the stench of burnt bacon and raining pork parts, I’m pretty you just made a whole bunch of pigs fly.”

“Okay, and?”

“The universe has a rhythm to it, you idiots. You say something will happen when pigs fly, it’s almost like you’re making a pyschic pact.”

“That’s stupid as hell.”

“Fine, fine, just remember we had this discussion later. Like when you’re bailing your mother out of jail in a week because she attempted to have conjugal relations with the happily married and very rich former captain of the chess club.”

“WHAT?!”

“Come on, even your Mom admits she was a stuck up know it all in high school who liked breaking people’s hearts.”

“I’m not following how that means I’ll be bailing her out of jail.”

“Oh?”

*shaman mimes catatonic older woman*

“I swear officer, I just don’t know what happened. One moment I was surfing classmates…next thing I know, I’ve tossed some security guy off the helipad and I’m ripping ol’ Horatio’s clothes off in front of an interview crew.”

*long pause*

“The damn hogs are getting out of control.”

“I got it, I got it. I’m just saying, put a roof on the damn drop pen before you shoot, okay? They’ll be just as dead if the blast goes _out_ rather than _up_. Slap some ball bearings around the bait drum and things will still be right as rain.”

Sergeant Pepper Bombs Mr. Adolph–The Strategic Bombing Campaign I

So, remember way back when I said I was going to do fighter history and bombing history separate?  Yeah, I refreshed my memory on bombing during World War I.

*insert yawn here*

I mean, it happened.  There were even a few times it was effective in the “we made a big mess” kind of way.  But compared to fighter combat, there’s not a whole lot of there, there.  So, I’m making a command decision and we’re just going to go with general air warfare from here on out.

I have no idea how many parts this is going to be.  Remember the Battle of Britain?  Remember us hitting the 2,000 word limit so quick I didn’t even get to talk about Czechs, Poles, and other foreign pilots?  We’re going to try to skip that this time around.  Well, that’s probably going to happen again…so some things are going to get short shrift, as things don’t get really exciting until 1943.

“But wait a second!  You were just talking about the Battle of Britain, now suddenly we’re in 1943?  What the Hell happened in between?”

Look, I’m not saying there wasn’t important fighting.  I’m just saying that most of November 1940 through, oh, January 1943 in Western Europe consisted of RAF Fighter Command creating squadron and wing commander openings via ill-considered fighter sweeps.  Followed shortly by the United States, after Pearl Harbor, deciding they wanted to jump on that bandwagon with largely symbolic raids through most of 1942.  We’ll get to most of that fun in the next installment.

The sum effect of this on the war?  Well, it created a lot of  German aces…but not nearly as many as the Luftwaffe’s attack into Russia (Eastern Front is coming later in this series). It also provided convincing evidence that maaaaaaybe the Spitfire was not all that good of an escort fighter.  Oh, and that home field advantage was a real thing when you added radar (also known as, “Were you bloody idiots paying attention to what you did to the Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain?!!”).  Finally, it drove home that there’s not a whole lot you can bomb in France when you’re fighting Germany.

However, I’m getting ahead of myself.  That little problem about German factories being in, surprisingly, Germany had the Brits good and vexed as 1940 became 1941.  First off, nothing like someone wailing on your country for several months during the day then continuing to do so at night to get the Vengeance Band warming up and looking for a lead singer.  Indeed, some guy named Arthur Harris, while watching London burn one night in 1941 from the roof of the Air Ministry one night, started quoting scripture about “sowing wind” and “reaping whirlwinds.”  Normally a bloke from Rhodesia muttering things from the Bible isn’t remarked upon by history.  (Spoiler alert: This guy becomes important to our story in about 500 words.)  In any case, Harris wasn’t alone, and as a matter of fact the RAF felt they had just the thing to get retribution: Bomber Command.

Now, some of you may be saying, in your best rendition of “The Bride’s”-voice: “And what, pray tell, is Bomber Command?”  Well, you can read the Wiki here, or go with the short hand explanation of Bomber Command as the manifestation of 1930s aerial warfare theory put into practical use.  In the 1930s, air planners assumed several things:

  1. The primary mission of a country’s air force was to drive home bomber attacks rather than support tactical ground operations.
    ***
  2. Bomber attacks were intended to destroy the enemy’s means of war production.  In other words, rather than killing an enemy’s tanks, artillery, ships, etc., by the bushel in direct combat, a prudent nation would kill them by the gross (and incidentally a whole bunch of civilians, but “Shhhhh!”) in the factory.
    ***
  3. No escort fighter would ever be able to compete with a country’s interceptors due to the long ranges involved for the attacking air force.
    ***
  4. However, due to contemporary aeronautical engineering, multi-engined aircraft would always be faster, fly higher, and be more heavily armed than possible with single-engined interceptors.

 

 

The British, having formed the first independent air force, proceeded to double down by forming the first independent command designed to attack based on these theories.  They then expended a great amount of research developing long-ranged, heavy bombers to equip it.  Unfortunately, as you may recall, I’ve spent two blog posts detailing how the war had not gone according to Douhet up to this point for either side.  The folks making the decision to bomb Germany lived through it in real time, and had practical experience from 1939-1941.

Despite this, the British still seriously tried to knock Germany out of the war via strategic bombardment once the Battle of Britain was truly over.

Operations started going poorly right from the beginning.  Funny thing about bombing a strange, blacked out country at night while under threat of immediate violent death: It tends to make you miss.  As in, the average British bomber crew was missing entire cities by over five miles.  Nor were they doing so maliciously–I mean, Cologne probably looks like Wiesbaden when you’ve got anti-aircraft artillery fire bursting around you and some crazy guy in a night fighters is looking to impress the local Fraulein by turning your bomber into a blazing comet.

Dying Wellington
“Bloody Hell, I think we just got that Kraut bastard a second date!”

It did not help that the Germans, like the RAF, quickly started figuring out things like interceptor control and ways to mount radar on twin-engined fighters.  Remember the Bf-110 squadrons and how they were sitting ducks during daylight?  Well, turned out it just needed someone to turn out the lights to really shine, as the large airframe and heavy armament made it an excellent night fighter.  Things started getting kind of bloody over Germany.  Even worse, folks like the British Army and Coastal Command started pointing out that it was kind of wasteful digging German irrigation ditches with 500-lb. bombs when there were plenty of other things those aircraft could be doing.

Uboat Sinking Merchantman
“You know, someday we’re going to have to start watching the skies.  Someday.”

Just as it seemed like Bomber Command was going to get sharply reduced, two things happened.  First, in typical government agency fashion, Bomber Command decided to “rebrand” itself.  Its leaders accepted that it was not going to win the war by attempting to encourage the union of a British ordnance with German machine tools in the middle of the night.  No, in typical gentlemanly fashion the RAF was going to merely “dehouse” Germany’s population in a humane fashion using rather potent high explosives followed by incendiaries.

*We’ll pause while those unfamiliar with this story wait for me to explain how one blows up civilian houses without blowing up civilians only to realize that I’d just type Coventry about 10,000 times.  In other words, this was all sophistry, the British sooooooo did not have any f*cks left to give*

The second thing that made this all work was that the Air Ministry put a fellow in charge of Bomber Command that they knew could get the job done.  Someone who would not blanche in the face of heavy losses, would merrily bomb Germany from Konigsberg to Cologne, and yet could subvert his inner Visigoth long enough to seem semi-sane on the newsreels or sit in the pew next to Allied senior officials. A God-fearing man, the chosen flag officer also had an amazing ability to quote all the good Hellfire and Damnation parts of the Old Testament at will.  Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Sir Arthur “Bomber” / “Butch” Harris, the man who replaced Peter Gabriel as singer of the Vengeance Band who took over RAF Bomber Command in February 1942:

Sir Arthur Harris

“Wait a second, JY.  This guy looks like someone’s genial grandfather.  You’re making him sound like some crazed lunatic.”

You’re right, he does look like someone’s elder relative who always has the sweets, doesn’t he?  But I assure you, behind that kind-looking exterior was a man who felt about Nazi Germany’s population about the way Mad Max felt about the man who murdered his family:

I mean, technically Max didn’t set the guy on fire himself, right?  He was just “decarring” him.

When Harris took over, his command was equipped mainly with obsolescent twin-engine aircraft that did not carry much of a workable bomb load any appreciable distance.  His crews could not navigate, tended to crash a lot, and they had few feasible electronic aids to help them see through the darkness.  In short, your average bomber crew was just as dangerous to themselves as they were to the Germans.  As in, “rednecks with a fridge full of tannerite” dangerous to themselves.

Three months later, Bomber Command was doing things like launching 1,000-aircraft raids.  A couple months after that, it had replaced its obsolescent bombers with Handley Halifaxes, Short Stirlings and, the best of them all, Avro Lancasters. in large numbers.  In order to better find targets, the RAF not only developed better radio aids, but also fielded a Pathfinder force to better mark the targets.  Finally, in equipping their aircraft with ground mapping radar, Bomber Command proved serious about making sure the right Germans got bombed on any given night.

From the German perspective, the proverbial fecal matter was making sweet, sweet love to der lüfter as 1942 came to a close.  While the Jagdflieger were more than holding their own in daylight, all of the above meant things were getting a little out of hand at night.  Already tapped out fighting against the Soviets, dealing with the invasion of North Africa, and with the Battle of the Atlantic swinging like a pendulum, the last thing the Germans needed was to be dealing with a resurgent Bomber Command.

With this in mind, the Luftwaffe began to take things seriously after Operation Millenium and began shifting more resources to the Nachtjagdgeschwader.  In addition to upgraded Bf-110s, the Germans fielded the Ju-88C, which was basically an excellent day bomber with a nose full of cannons.  Realizing that the RAF had decided bombloads were more important than belly turrets, they also developed “Schräge Musik” weapons kits that allowed a Bf-110 or Ju-88 to fire upwards.

BF110 Slanted Music
Schräge Musik, which loosely translated to “slanted music” in English, was the German slang for jazz.  However, as many a Lancaster crew could tell you, there was nothing smooth or mellow about two cannon dropping high explosive and armor piercing rounds upwards into a fully loaded bomb bay or unsealed fuel tanks:

 

Slanted Music
“Which of you bastards radioed for a Duke Ellington session?!”

Still, despite all these innovations and the ability to occasionally inflict severe losses on Bomber Command raids, at best 1942 ended with the Reich Defense Forces and Bomber Command at a draw.  Which, given all the other crazy stuff that was going on for the Reich around that time, probably made Adolf Galland, now General of Fighters, breathe a sigh of relief.  Indeed, in my minds eye, I see him laying next to some beautiful actress, smoking a post-“sortie” cigar, and thinking:

Ja, things are bad.  I mean, my brothers keep getting whacked, the Russians are starting to figure out how to fly and shoot at the same time, and it’d be nice if the Fuhrer would stop declaring war on industrial nation after industrial nation.

*slow puff of cigar and pat of shapely behind off screen*

But hey, it’s not like anyone else is coming to the fight, right?  I mean, what kind of idiot would attempt to bomb heavily defended German targets after how bad we kicked the RAF’s ass in 1939?

*completely apocryphal, utterly non-historical camera cut to General Ira C. Eaker, commander of the United States Eighth Air Force, turning his head as if Adolf’s thoughts are projected into his mind*

“Hey Butch, hold a brother’s pint for a second.”

*theatrical rolling up of sleeves*

“I think some Nazi just inquired about the Uncle Sam Special…”

Tune In Next Time For “Around the Clock,” a.k.a., Can’t tell Sam’s boys a damn thing.”

 

A Little Gallows Humor

So there was a discussion of World War II on a friend’s FB page.  Specifically, we were discussing the Red Army’s rampage through Eastern Germany in mid-1945.  This, of course, got me thinking about how history has…evolved when discussing certain events.  Perhaps a sliding scale is in order:

Young’s Ascending Levels of War Crime Severity

  1. “My opponents can’t cry to the refs, so they’re crying to the Hague. Thank goodness we mailed in our funding check last week.”
  2. “Mildly uncomfortable discussing in polite company, but still good cricket, ol’ boy.”
  3. “They did it first, we’re doing it last, and by God we’re going to be running the damn tribunals when this is over…”
  4. “Okay, so one more time: Our story when the JAG interviews us is…”
  5. “Thank God for the modern chemical industry, flammable evidence, and CNN budget cuts.”
  6. “Well yeah we took scalps, but it’s not like we took their ears. Okay, fine, we didn’t take the ears of anyone under 15.”
  7. “Action Jackson?  No, I’m Andrew Jackson…”
  8. “Bad news, Honey:  Your Hague appointed attorney is not sure if they will have more luck arguing you did not receive enough mandatory training, were born 5 centuries too late, or are experiencing a persistent spiritual possession by Simon De Montfort…”
  9. “We’re going to spend the next “x” years shrugging our shoulders and going, ‘Meh, it was a different era…’ when asked about this.”
  10. *somber narrator voice* “Genghis Khan looked down upon their acts from Valhalla.  He proceeded to giggle like a blushing school girl.”

Rogue Angels’ Interview

So I’m in the midst of doing a blog tour through Goddess Fish.  I intend to do a rundown of things, but I thought I’d catch everyone up with what blogs I’ve been doing.  This post was done for Rogue Angels in support of On Seas So Crimson:

  1. What or who inspired you to start writing?

I’ve always been an avid reader from when I was little.  Growing up on a small farm that was miles to the nearest neighbor, I used to sometimes act out things that I read in books.  (John Carter was a favorite…darn Earth gravity.)  Eventually I also started writing things long hand, and the rest is history.

 

  1. What elements are necessary components for your genres?

I think the biggest components for any genre, not just sci-fi or alternate history, is that you have to have a compelling set of characters.  In the case of the former, that is followed by some aspect of escapism that will allow readers to separate from their daily drudgery into a different universe.  The reasons why Star Trek and Star Wars have been so successful is we’ve come to care about the individuals involved.

Alternate history is a bit different in that the main compulsion lies in the historical pivot.  Most of the “characters” are already known to the readers, but the changing situations are not.  For instance, in my Usurper’s War series, most World War II historians are familiar with Heinrich Himmler as the head of the SS.  However, knock off Adolf Hitler and Hermann Goering, and suddenly he’s in a vastly different role as Fuhrer.  That what if transitioning to what now is the genre’s foundation in my opinion.

  1. How did you come up with the ideas for your novels?

A lot of time it’s a combination of what I’ve read and random inspiration.  For On Seas So Crimson, it was a discussion back in the ‘90s about how World War II could have been different.  For An Unproven Concept, it was being a fan of the old Robotech novels, Star Wars, and the old school Battlestar Galactica.

  1. What expertise did you bring to your writing?

I’m actually getting my doctorate in U.S. History and majored in Military History from West Point.  I’ve placed in historical essay contests and have been published in both Proceedings (the United States Navy and Coast Guard’s professional journal) and the Journal of Military History.  So in the alternate history arena, it could be said that “I’m a professional.”

Alas, I have no experience with commanding a starship or flying mecha in real time.  If any travelers from the future or distant galaxies want to change that…

  1. What would you want your readers to know about you that might not be in your bio?

I’m blessed to be part of a community of writers in Kansas.  Everything from Star Trek to Sherlock Holmes through zombies, I’ve got people who can hook you up.

  1. As far as your writing goes, what are your future plans?

At the moment, I’m working on Though Our Hulls Burn…, the sequel to An Unproven Concept.  I should have my dissertation done by the end of the year, so that will give me more time to work on the third book in the Usurper’s War as well.

  1. If you could be one of the characters from your books, who would it be and why?

This is the point I see a few of my local writer’s group chuckling, as I have a reputation for being a little brutal to my characters.  I’d have to say Jason Owderkirk, the Commander Air Group (CAG) for the C.S.S. Constitution.  Mainly because he has it relatively easy (so far) in the Vergassy Universe.

  1. Do you belong to a critique group? If so how does this help or hinder your writing?

Yes and no.  My local library is incredibly supportive of local authors, with one of the librarians being the Municipal Liaison for Nanowrimo.  This has created a strong community of writers, and we’ll help people out if asked.  So yes, I’d say that finding a critique group is definitely a fruitful exercise.

  1. When did you first decide to submit your work? Please tell us what or who encouraged you to take this big step?

If we’re talking originally, I submitted my work to agents and publishers back when I was in high school.  Looking back, I think the main impetus was that I had no idea how publishing worked, so I figured there was no harm, no foul in submitting.

  1. Do you outline your books or just start writing?

A little of both.  I’ll often have a scene just come to me while I’m driving to work or doing something else.  For example, the ballroom scene from An Unproven Concept just popped into my head.  I was fortunate enough to find a great concept artist, Justin Adams, who was able to convert words to picture (see below).

FB, Promo, and the Etiquette Dance

This blog was inspired by a recent column on FB and author posts. I’ll be honest–I thought the author was a little too self-reverential at times, but the basic underpinnings were sound. In this blog post I’ll amplify some of his points:

Word count and editing:

I don’t think this is a hard full stop on either. I think the problem most folks have is that they do it all…the…time. To me, I liken it to telling your friends you’re on a trip. Telling someone every mile marker you pass between Los Angeles and Cleveland? Almost guaranteed to have someone arranging for the Hell’s Angels to meet you just north of Vegas. (“Just the phone and his fingers.” “Got it, got it. You just make sure that PayPal clears before then or we’ll be discussing a ransom payment.”)

On the other hand: “Hey, I just passed (beautiful landmark). Here’s why it was awesome…”? Much better, and it helps to build excitement about the trip.

Similarly, the blog author is right about some things are just baked into the writing cake. If you’re writing a book, guess what? You’re going to have to edit the damn thing. Not saying you can’t be pissed about it, but that’s what your _friend_ are for. Your fans? Well they’re probably wondering what’s taking you so damn long. By and large, I’d only mention editing to give a shout out to your editors (like the always helpful Mallie Rust for me) or relate a funny anecdote about a gaff you made. Like, you know, raising a minor character back from the dead after tragically electrocuting her previously.

*pause* Why would you think I was speaking from experience? I am nothing but peace and light to my characters. Now let’s move along before I catch fire.

Vaguebooking

You know how vaguebooking is annoying when your first cousin does it while talking about your favorite aunt/uncle’s health? Yeaaaahhh, unlike crazy Cousin Esther who you know is a drama queen, your readers come to expect you to clearly communicate information. In general, one should write their posts in a manner that someone who has never met you can understand 80% of what you’re talking about. (I would type 90%, but I have visions of at least two of my friends having a “orcas in the seal breeding grounds” field day with that.)

–Hating on other authors / genres

This pretty much falls under my “don’t be a jerk on the internet”-rule. You should not want to be a jerk just because that’s bad form. But, even if innate humanity doesn’t motivate you, reptilian survival sense should at least make you rethink a post that proceeds to rip on a fellow author or their work. No matter how successful you are today, that doesn’t guarantee success tomorrow. When you’re down and out, why let your spite cut you off from a potential avenue that may be the difference between paying your bills another month or not?  To having that person who could, with a mere whisper of your name, improve your sales 300% remember you went ad hominem extremo in a FB group?  You think authors who may have ridiculed J.K. Rowling once or twice are now silently wishing they were still on her good side?  Best way to avoid that sinking feeling?  Don’t go there in the first place.

Also a little survival tip you’ll hear me repeat over and over again: Friends come and go, but enemies accumulate. Given how internet flame wars spiral out of control, it’s not too hard to get to the point people remember your name for all the wrong reasons.  Don’t pick fights nor let your friends pick them for you.  You know who gets to pick fights with other authors without worry?  Authors at the point where people will pay $50 for their grocery list because A. it would still be an excellent short story and / or B. you can probably summon something from an alternate dimension with it.  Not that I’m thinking about anyone in particular…

Plugs

I’ll put this bluntly: Unless it is a site that explicitly encourages self-promotion, don’t do it. Don’t obliquely do it either. Indeed, even when you are encouraged to promote, the phrase “too much of a good thing” definitely applies to doing so.  Everyone remembers “that guy / gal” who the only time you saw them in a group was when they were plugging their book.  Do you think anyone in the FB group bought their book?  Probably not.  Is it maybe more likely everyone in the group noted their name as “Person who is about to live the lyrics from Phil Collins’ “In The Air Tonight” concerning drowning…and not from the protagonist’s viewpoint.”?

Also–if you’ve been fortunate to be befriended by a more experienced mentor, do not tag them while trying to plug your book. This is annoying in the extreme, and it also blows up their notifications. Best selling authors know how to help you. If they’re not doing so, it could be everything from they’re restricted by their press to simply being too beaten down with actually, you know, trying to write their universes. Respect their time even more so than your own.

That’s about it from my end. I’ll try to put more up about promotion later.

 

Writing Tips: Lines and Characters

I got asked to do a guest blog by Cedar Sanderson for her website.  After reading it, she decided to promote this to The Mad Genius Club, where it is now crossposted.  So, without further ado:

 

Lines of Departure

This blog post actually got started in a conversation about wasp spray.  Yes, that’s right, my expressing dissatisfaction with the fact that the nerve foam was taking twelve hours to kill some of the wasps somehow led to my friend (and fellow blogger) Lisa (henceforth Prolific Trek) asking on FB “Hey James, weren’t you just talking about torturing characters?”  Cedar, ever the opportunist, immediately asked for more explanation…which led to me revealing the illustrious Holly Messinger (author of The Curse of Jacob Tracy) had been asked the following question in her Writing 101 panel:

“Y’all talk about torturing your characters… are there any lines you won’t cross?”

Well…you’d have thought I’d been handing out briefcases of cash with complimentary free passes to Big Bob’s Gigolo Shack (“Big, Small, Bob Screws Them All”) from the way Cedar lit up.  After a little back and forth, here I am…and I have a confession to make:

I am among the worst people to ask about this subject there is.

I’m not saying I go out of my way to torture my characters.  But ever since Holly told me about that question getting asked, I have been quietly cataloguing things that I have done to main POV characters since I first started writing.  In no particular order:

*A main character received a posthumous note from his fiancée…that he had basically sent to her death.

*In my first post-apocalyptic novel, the protagonist returned from a six month journey to find his hometown burned mostly to the ground and almost all the inhabitants murdered.  The sole “survivors”?  His tortured best friend and brutally raped significant other, both of whom he subsequently shoots in the head as they are beyond medical help.

*Said rather perturbed protagonist goes on what The Bride called “a roaring rampage of revenge.”  First stop?  Executing another POV character’s wife and twin kindergarteners in front of him, then dropping a thermite grenade in the man’s crotch ala The Crow.

*In my alternate history universe,  there is a POV character that readers may get attached to.  He gets shot down over the Pacific, but manages to bail out.  Oh the ocean.  I mean, it’s so full of life, so bright with sunlight, so utterly expansive that a single pilot can get lost in its rea…oh, sorry, I forgot myself there for a second.

The list could go on, but I think you get the point.  Asking me “Is there anything you won’t do to your characters?” is like Simon de Montfort asking Genghis Khan if the sack of Beziers was a bit excessive.  Is there any doubt what that response is going to be?

Dearest Simon,

     I received your letter with great humor and admiration for your pithy guidance.  While a godless barbarian myself, I can acknowledge ‘Kill them all, for the Lord will know his own…’ is a pretty succinct set of instructions.  The chroniclers tell me that you did not have many problems with towns after that.  I’ll have to remember this when I go on my “From the Steppes to the Wall” tour of Jin next year.  Please ask the minstrels accompanying my messenger to play our latest hit, “Your Son Ran Like Your Mother and Screams Like Your Wife”

   I won’t keep you, but to quell any misgivings you might have: Were the townsfolk buried in accordance with your religious rites in consecrated ground?  Putting them to the sword?  Cool.  Having them roam this plain as disembodied spirits wailing in the agony they died?  A little harsh.  I don’t know how this whole Christianity thing works, but I figure as long as your guys didn’t pack the women and children like cordwood, build a dance hall over them, then kill them by moshing the night away their souls still went to haven, hoven, heaven, whatever, right? (BTW, have you heard of this new minstrel, John Davis?)  Ergo, you followed your instructions and it’s all good in the hood my friend.    

Your Obedient Servant,

G. Khan. 

P.S. I’m having a bit of trouble with some guy named Sultan Muhammed.  Do you have any tips?

All that being said, from beta readers and observation of issues other authors wrestle with, I can give ten general tips an author may want to consider with regards to character distress.  Why ten?  Because Clemenceau’s response to Wilson’s Fourteen Points (“The Lord God only expected us to remember ten!”) is a pretty good standard for everything.  These aren’t so much “Don’t venture beyond these lines…” but “Before you cross the streams, erm, lines, have these things in the back of your head.”  So…:

#1—Demand Satisfaction

Whoops!  Wrong list!

#1–No puppies, no kids

In the movie The Professional, Leon the Hitman observes the rule “No Women, No Kids” with regards to people he won’t kill.  Well, given we are in the 21st Century, the first half of that rule is only followed by chauvinists and idiots.  However, I can tell you first hand that people tend to get mad as hell when you kill an animal.  This anger is followed closely by the rage you’ll get to suffer after putting Little Timmy to the sword.  Pull the equivalent of having little Timmy and Lassie walking on the Aioi bridge around 8:13 on August 6, 1945?  (“Look Lassie, a four-engined symbol of America’s massive industrial might!  Oh, hey, a parachute!  Man, I’m so glad that weird wizard neighbor sent us back in time…”)  Well, let’s just say that people are going to have words with you.  Four letter words, many of them involving unnatural acts of copulation and questions about your parentage.

Trust me when I speak of this.  Not even the bonds of matrimony will redeem you if you cross this line.  Indeed, the better half stopped reading my novel An Unproven Concept when I didn’t even downshift driving over it.  She was totally okay with the fact I’d splattered, battered, and stirred a couple thousand innocent passengers.  But the following passage?:

A great hound the size of a small adult whining piteously as it furiously licked its master’s face, the animal’s back as clearly broken as the dead human’s. 

Yep, that was it, I was officially Satan incarnate and out my First Reader for that book.  Similarly, one of my beta readers for the aforementioned post-apocalyptic novel basically bowed out after my protagonist went on his revenge spree.  “I can see no purpose in shooting a 6-year old.  Can’t tell the difference between the good and the bad guys at this point, I’m done.”  Which leads to my next point…

#2—When you leave that way you can never go back

 

Confederate Railroad for the win.  (“Um, James, we don’t talk about Confed…”  “Shut it.”)  Understand that if you want your main character to be sympathetic, you must take care not to have him or her do something that is beyond the pale.  It will not matter if this is a reasonable response to their tribulations, readers will be pissed.  To think of one example, I’m always struck of the people who are sympathetic to Jaime Lannister either as his toned down HBO version or the unrepentant asshat in the Game of Thrones books.  I’m sorry, but even I lack sympathy for a man who shoves a 10-year-old out a window because the child saw him giving the business to his sister.  Add in the fact that this set in motion a chain of events that results in half of a kingdom getting turned to wasteland, and I’m thinking the wrong POV character got his “pillar and stones” turned into a SNL skit.

I’m not being hypocritical on this one.  In response to the negative feedback, I rewrote the post-apocalyptic revenge sequence.  Instead of my MC wiping out the other POV character, he will instead have a serious crisis of conscience but not kill the family. I’ll admit, the adjustment was very grudging, but I stopped to consider that my MC was not a lone wolf.  Indeed, he was surrounded by several other professionals…and it was very unlikely they were going to be down with the sweet genocidal cleansing called for.  Which segues nicely into my next point…

#3—Secondary characters have a breaking point

Even if your MC is stoically taking the kicks to the groin and chairs to the back of the head, other characters won’t. The following is not intended to pick on David Weber, but I got to wonder at what point do people stop being friends with Honor Harrington?  Seriously—ever notice “The Salamander” neglects to sprinkle some of her good luck fairy dust on those around her?   Being one of her guards is deadlier than being Mack Bolan’s girlfriend (RIP April Rose).  Yet, despite this, you never see anyone say “Eff this shit, I’m out…”.  Unfortunately, if your secondary characters have their own desires, goals, plans that require them to still be breathing, they’re not going to keep hanging around a MC whose associates drop like flies.  Or at least, not without very good reason.  Just remember that your hero is called a hero for a reason.  Short of Imperial Japanese Army or Waffen-SS levels of conditioning, secondary characters should start having to make morale checks when the fecal matter starts to hit the air circulator.

#4—Gratuitous evil is gratuitous

“The villain is the protagonist in his own version of the story.”  I have heard various versions of this advice, and I try to take it to heart.  Basically, unless your antagonist is a psychopath (which, there’s a place for that—see Heath Ledger’s Joker or Ramsay Bolton), they should be torturing the main character for a reason, not because they’re evil.  Contrary to his caricature, Darth Vader doesn’t just run around choking people because that’s how Palpatine programmed the suit to stimulate his pleasure centers.  No, generally if Darth Vader is doing the Trachea Tango with an unwitting partner, it’s either because they got mouthy or had it coming.  (“What part of ‘don’t bring the fleet out of hyperspace so close the rebels have time to crap themselves’ was in Swahili?” = dialogue selections that should be available in all Lucasarts games.)  Don’t cheapen your otherwise logical antagonists by having them drop Willie Pete all over that orphanage because they want to make some s’mores.  (“But, but I like the way the singed formula gives a sweet aftertaste to the marshmallows.”ßBad example, as even this is logical. Twisted, but logical.)

Note that this also applies to extraterrestrial antagonists.  While viewers don’t necessarily like the Queen in Aliens, in general Ripley Scott does a good job of explaining she’s in it for the procreation.  Similarly, Timothy Zahn’s Conquerors and Cobra-series also explain why sentient beings might decide to go oops upside Humanity’s head.

(“Hey, wait a second, we’ve read your books!  You’re a jerk who never explains the aliens’ motivations!”  “Yeah, well, wait for the sequel.”  “You mean the damn sequel you’ve been promising us for like 3 years, then told us is going to go backwards?!!”  “Excuse me, writing a blog post here!”)

#5—Psychological trauma needs to be addressed

Ever had someone tie you up and beat the bejeebus out of you?  Been helpless as your family was made to suffer before your very eyes?  I know I haven’t (thank goodness), but I’ve talked to folks who have suffered through both.  Despite what Hollywood would like you to believe, this is not something most people get over.  PTSD is not trivial, and it is the kind of thing that can build with time.  Before you decide to put a character through the wringer, might want to figure out the plan to make them functional on the far side.  People don’t just watch their loved ones’ throats get slit, narrowly escape themselves, then make breakfast the next morning.  No, your character doesn’t need to be a psychological wreck who is crying every other chapter.  However, they should be sort of like Daniel Craig’s James Bond, i.e. you’re starting to see the accumulated toll of losing Vesper, friends, getting shot at M’s orders, etc. by the middle of Skyfall.

#6—Physical trauma also needs to be addressed

Raise your hand if you’ve ever had surgery, broken a bone, or had a concussion.  Have that trick knee that decides to kick out at the most inopportune time.  Can usually tell the weather is going to change thanks to that broken pelvis you got when the mechanical bull malfunctioned at your favorite watering hole.  The point here is simple—if you’re going to have your characters get tortured physically, you better either have a doctor on site (yes, that’s another Hamilton reference), a magical way of healing, or budget recovery time into your larger story arc.  If your environment is in any way austere, i.e. post-apocalyptic, you better not have someone getting willy nilly beat about the head and shoulders yet just shrugging things off.  Lastly, the Joy of Beating is not a bestseller for a reason.  Most people don’t enjoy seeing a major secondary character, nevermind a MC, slowly and laboriously pummeled.  There better be a reason you subject your reader to the crunch, crunch, pop! of a favorite character’s skull getting beat in with a barbwire-wrapped baseball bat (some of you know what I’m talking about and are nodding sagely, some of you will find out soon enough).  Oh, hey, look…speaking of which:

#7—Dead characters = angry fans

Who here remembers Jadzia Dax from Deep Space Nine?  How about Andrea Harrison from The Walking Dead? Arthur Fonzarelli from Happy Days?  *muttered whispering from off stage*  “Well, yeah, but think how much better things would have been if Fonzie had gotten whacked by the shark?”  See, the point of this is, both of the first two characters are usually remembered for their cheap deaths.  Unlike producer actor feuds, the #1 killers of TV stars, often times authors go to whack a significant others to “shake things up” or in a cheap bid to cause emotion.  This is a bad idea.  Consider how mad everyone was after “The Red Wedding.”  Now think about the fact that those deaths served a purpose.  As I can tell you from dealing with Prolific Trek on a regular basis, kill a strong character like Jadzia for no good reason, you will earn your fans’ enmity for all eternity. Similarly, having a character like Andrea go out because you apparently don’t know what to do with her will similarly get your pilloried by reviewers.

“But wait, I totally had a reason for that character death, so my fans will forgive me, right?” Wrong.  To go back to “The Red Wedding,” George R.R. Martin set it up beautifully and whacked Robb Stark for a good reason.  I can tell you that there are people (First Reader included) who basically decided they were done with that franchise after that point.  So, if you’re going to spend two or three books in a series doing character development, especially with major POV characters, understand you’re going to take a hit when said individual catches the Last Train West.

#8—Rape is not a gimmick

One of the standby things that would happen in old ‘70s and ‘80s men’s action adventure novels would be either someone close to the MC or the “damsel of the week” getting viciously violated by the main villain.  Said woman would then be magically healed within the next 100 or so pages, and hop right in bed with the MC prior to said villain getting his just desserts.

The real world does not work this way.  Let me quote from FM 22-102, the “official manual for wall-to-wall counseling”:

Rape 
No offense is as damaging to the victim as rape. Murder does not come close, since the victim is dead and knows nothing. A raped soldier will have psychological scars for the rest of his or her life. A male soldier who is the victim of a homosexual rape is especially damaged, and many commit suicide rather than live with this burden.

Fake manual, real shit.  Reach towards this line with caution, as the reason every freakin’ hair on your body is standing up is this is like playing Russian roulette with five rounds in the chamber and twenty million dollars on the table.  In other words, this better be a “high risk, high reward” situation, not a “Oh, people will think this is edgy!” or “Hmm, I need to do something interesting to the main character’s significant other.”  The character who was raped is going to be messed up, and before you open this can you better figure out how they’re going to react.

Also check out the above with regards to male rape.  In most societies, this is a topic that is not dealt with.  That’s not “dealt with well,” it’s not dealt with.  If your society has high machismo coupled with patriarchy, there will likely be nowhere for a raped male character to turn for help.  So, no, don’t go there unless you’re ready to do it right, lest you end up the “other guy” in a Rihanna song.

Bottom line: If you have someone getting raped, it should be written in a manner that’s going to make your skin crawl, as that’s what will be happening to your readers.  One of the best rape scenes (*record skritches, bystanders gasp*), erm most well-written rape scenes I remember is from Laurell K. Hamilton’s Blue Moon.  Suffice to say, Hamilton was sure to stress that the character who was raped needs, seeks, and gets therapy, along with his mother who was a near witness to the crime.  It’s powerful, and some of the best writing in the series before Anita Blake became a…well, let’s just say the series sometimes ends up in the paranormal erotica section.

#9—The “Grandma Rule” is in effect

Remember that if you’re even semi-successful, you will have no control over who sees your work.  The most chilling words an author can hear from someone important to them are, “So, I read your book.”  I call this “The Grandma Rule,” i.e. always remember that your grandmother just might find your novel no matter how well you try to hide it.  Say you tuckerized a good friend, and she’s the person you had the MC have to mercy kill?  You’ll hear about it for decades.  No really, decades. If you are in a community that frowns upon certain activities like a MC lovingly spending ten hours flaying the villain with a knife? Express ticket to social pariah status.  I mean, sure this well-deserved comeuppance will have your readers needing the rhetorical cigarette and change of clothes, but is that payoff worth having to drive two hours for milk?  Similarly, if your grandmother is going to have a heart attack when she reads what her favorite grandchild has written about a MC trading two innocent bystanders to a pack of cannibals in exchange for a couple crates of ammo, Thanksgiving is going to be a little awkward.  (But hey, you’ll be able to afford one hell of a turkey with your chunk of the inheritance.)  Last but not least, if your employer will look dimly on you raining nuclear hellfire down on certain nations, cities, or regions, don’t do it. Why yes, your helpful narrator can tell you exactly what a JAG looks like as his mental intel processor is trying to process the hypothetical of “So, say I published a story where ______________________ happens.  Would that be a terminating offense?”  While his answer wasn’t “FOR F___K’S SAKE, YES!”, it was close enough that story has only seen limited release to a few friends.  I’m all about pressing the envelope for my art, but I’ve got a mortgage.

#10—Editors are interested in selling, not your “art”

Speaking of people with mortgages, editors are notoriously risk averse.  I know, there’s probably a couple hundred examples of stuff that got greenlit where all manner of bad things happened.  I’d go to Vegas with the odds for every example you can name, if we got an experienced editor drunk enough they could give me another dozen that got stamped “NO! GET THERAPY!”  It is hard enough to break through with a major publishing house.  No need to make things more difficult by opening the book with the main villain saying, “This youngling is dry.  Pass the Worcestshire sauce…”.  Save the crazy stuff for book two if you’re going traditional publishing, as your editor will almost always be thinking “Do I want to explain this on a special news segment?” Think of it like a relationship: If you just met someone off a dating service, you wouldn’t let them know “I crush civilizations beneath my heel and make people scream in anguish…” right off the bat, would you?  No, of course not—that’s for after they’ve already moved in with you and signed a two year lease.  (“Wait…wait…you’re that guy?!”ßFiled under “I’ll take conversations that are about to go horribly right or wrong in the next 30 seconds for $1000, Alex.”)

*takes deep breath*  Okay then, that about covers it.  I think Cedar has now officially taken me off the guest bloggers list, but dammit it was worth it.

Random Confessions: 25 Things

S0 on FB there’s always these “lists” that are bouncing around.  Given I did one of them, I thought it’d be funny to go back and see how the answers changed and provide a little commentary.

1.) I was a German citizen for over 17 years.

Still true.  I was born in what was then West Germany just north of Frankfurt.  My father used to threaten he was going to report me to the German draft board if I kept making a nuisance of myself.


2.) I have finished three books.

Uh, yeah, this has changed just a little bit.  At the time there was the book that is The Vladivostok Thing on here, Returns and Cataclysms (where we first meet Will Colfax), and An Unproven Concept.  Think just maybe we’ve added a few things, no?


3.) Of the three, one was deleted by my sister / lost by a friend and two are in the process of being fixed.

Obviously also not true.  R & C will eventually become at least two books.  I mean, it’s still technically done, but there’s a lot of surgery to do there, plus I have to bridge from After the Scythe to where R&C begins.  Why yes, I to can hear Anita C. Young screaming “FINISH A BLOODY SERIES!”

4.) I am scared of snakes–and I’m not talking a little bit.

No really.  Not a fan of the legless lizard clan.


5.) I have been bitten by a brown recluse spider.

Still have the hole in my back, yes.


6.) When I was young I used to have a stuffed tiger that I took everywhere.

Seriously.  As in, when my sister and I went on a cross country trip with my Uncle Bruce and Aunt Delores, I was once inconsolable when I thought we’d left “Tiger” at a rest stop.  Mysteriously, Tiger showed up about the point we were about to turn around because I was staging a one child mutiny.

7.) At age three I was nearly killed by a drunk driver, with the only thing saving me being my knee catching the dashboard.

Ever want to know why I lack remorse on drunk driving?  This would be part of the reason.


8.) Around age seven I drove a truck through an apple tree, nearly hit a shed, then ran over a barbwire fence.

It’s not important how the truck got into drive or neutral.  What is important is that the only reason I am typing this for you today is I went full octopus on my mother when she ran down the hill and got the truck door open.  “You were so pitiful and scared that I just didn’t have it in me to get an arm free and beat your behind…” I believe is the exact quote.  Also note that I did all of this without the truck being left on.  Gravity, thou art a heartless wench.

9.) Two years later, I saw a tornado about a half mile away. As I was known to think every cloud was a tornado, no one believed me until after the neighbors told my parents it had taken out their shed.

“Well, I don’t care what you people do, I’m going to the basement.”  Note that this refrain was repeated at least one more time in my life.

10.) I am allergic to shell fish–and found out about the allergy the hard way.

Pro tip–when your child tells you he’s not going to get sick, he’s lying.  Trust your instincts, and make him stand on the side of the road another five minutes.  It’ll change your life…and prevent you having to clean the van.

11.) I had to take Chinese for a year in college.

What’s worse?  I tried to use it to woo a young lady from Taiwan at an all girls college.  Yeaaahhh, that wasn’t the plan I should have gone with… (to paraphrase a certain musical). All’s well that ends well.

12.) I have shaken a President’s hand.

Bill Clinton was holding my diploma in his other one.  Funny story–several years later, a classmate was my brother-in-law’s superior.  Said BIL never mentioned he was related to me.  Classmate is coming over for his farewell dinner, sees the 8.5 by 11 picture of me shaking President Clinton’s hand, and asks, “Why do you have a picture of JY on your mantle?!” 


13.) People have a crazy habit of giving me nicknames.

None of which I’m putting on this blog.  Nor will other individuals.  *displays delete button*


14.) For my 21st birthday unsavory individuals, aided and abetted by my classmates, ambushed me, covered me in shaving cream, and tied me to a laundry rack.  There are photos.

15.) I have lived outside of the United States for 3+ years of my life.

First nine months of my life in Germany, one year in Korea, then two years in Germany (the second time).


16.) Went to Hawaii twice. Wasn’t impressed.

Glad I crossed that off the bucket list on someone else’s dime.  Expensive, with atrocious traffic.  Pass!

17.) Sometimes when I travel bad things happen at the places I visit. You know, like floods, heat waves, etc.

True story.  It’s not as bad as it was, but there was serious discussion about taking me off the traveling team at work.

18.) I have been the manager for a women’s basketball team.

Army Women’s basketball, 1993-1994.  There are pictures.  Friends have put them on FB.


19.) I once crossed the New Jersey turnpike on foot.

Because everything’s legal in New Jersey.

20.) I watched the movie The Crow three times when it was in theaters–and only the first time was planned.

Yeah, I’m a bit of a fan of The Crow.  I wish they’d make a sequel.  (“But James, they made a…” “SILENCE!  Like Highlander, there are no sequels!”)

21.) Malt balls are a guilty pleasure.

Not Whoppers.  Malt balls.  I can live with Whoppers in a pinch, but I love malt balls.


22.) I used to have an overdeveloped competitive streak.

“How cute you say this in the past ten…”  “SILENCE! When I run into a brick wall trying to beat you in something, we can talk about how it’s still overdeveloped.”

23.) When I was young I thought my father was Japanese.

No really.  Convinced he was going to get in trouble for World War II and interned.  Whee bit of trouble placing things historically as a young lad.

24.) In my defense, the man was fluent and did nothing disabuse me of this notion.  That is, until one of my teachers commented on how brave he and my mom were as an interracial couple.

“I just think it’s really brave what you two are doing.  You know, being of different countries and all.”

“Still think it’s funny now, Jim?!”–Mama Shark

25.) I laugh inappropriately (i.e., when really mad or really upset).

“I’m the kind of guy who laughs at a funeral…”<–Song lyric I nodded sympathetically to.  I blame my gallows humor.

Castle Takes Wayne

My muses are annoying.  They like to do things like wait until I’m sleeping, then prod me:

“Hey!  Hey!  We know you want to go to sleep, but we just came up with this neat idea!”

“Freakin” Muses!  What?!”

“What if Batman and Punisher suddenly ended up switching places through some crazy cross continuum magic spell or something?  You know, Harley Quinn and Joker got a little too freaky robbing some gypsy shop and ended up cursed Angelus style.”

 “Um, how many universes would that ro…”

“Just bear with me.  Watch this shit…”

***scene***

[Providence Hospital, New York City]

“Whatcha got for me, detective?”

*sound of life support machines*

“Chief, you won’t believe this shit.  So the Five Families were having a meeting down at Luigi’s over on 42nd.  We heard about it, but every time we tried to get a bug in there either we’d end up with a statement of charges or our “bug” man ended up with a belly full of cockroaches down at the morgue…”

“Get to the point.”

“Anyway…”

*loudspeaker*  “Code Blue, Code Blue Room 121 ICU!”

“Shit.  That’s Don Martel’s room.  Don’t look like he’s going to make it, being shot twenty times and all.”

“Who did this?  The Punisher?!”

“Weirdest thing, Chief.  Only person talking is some guy in the wait staff.  Said they had just sat down for the canoli when some ninja fucker drops down from the ceiling onto the table.  Anyway, total bedlam for about ten minutes, as everyone starts screaming ‘Punisher’ this and ‘Executioner’ that…and we’s all know they’re the same person, right?”

“The damn point Murphy!”

“Anywho, apparently Don Martel stops everyone and they look at this cat standing on the table.  ‘Who the hell are you?’ Don Martel asks, and next thing you know this guy is growling, ‘I’m Batman.'”

“I’m who?”

“Yeah, that’s what Don Martel said.  That’s when the freakin’ boomerangs started flyin’ and the smoke bombs started going off.  Anyway, long story short, near as forensics can tell this cat didn’t use a single gun himself.  Everyone who is shot got done by someone else’s bodyguard, which means tomorrow’s probably going to be really interesting for the Vice Squad.  Best we can tell, this ‘Batman’ beat the living shit out of the other four Dons, the Maitre ‘D, and some hero wannabe down in the washroom.  Didn’t kill anybody though…almost as if he didn’t want to.”

**scene cuts to a Gotham penthouse**

[Sound of glass being broken up, footsteps across a hardwood floor]

“What the…”

“Whoa, stop right there Commissioner.  You don’t want to go any further.  I’ve already got Ms. Quinn’s dying confession on the digital recorder, no point on you coming in.”

“Dying confession?!  Oh sweet Jesus, what is that smell?!”

*Commissioner Gordon gags*

“Near as we can tell, that’s what happens when twenty layers of clown paint and a purple suit that hasn’t been washed in a year gets hit with white phosphorus.”

“White phosphorus?!  Has Batman lost his mind?!”

“That’s why I called you boss.  According to Ms. Quinn, it was not Batman.  I quote, ‘Some big bastard with a skull on his chest and a gun bigger than Joker’s…’, end quote.”

“Skull on his chest?”

“Yeah, and her version of events is backed up by the security cameras.  Kicked the door in and shot Mr. Dent dead square between the eyes over there in the corner.  The Penguin was getting a beer out of the fridge–he’s over there with a trench knife stuck in his throat.  Apparently the Joker tried to pull a gun and got shot in both kneecaps, then had the white phosphorus grenade dropped in his crotch.  About that time it appears the Riddler tried to do his thing and got garroted for his trouble.  Ms. Quinn thought it’d be a good idea to grab her usual hammer and…well, that which has been seen cannot be unseen, so I suggest you stay out here.”

“My God, what did he do to her?”

“Let’s just say when she said, ‘Wait!  Wait! Vigilantes don’t kill people in Gotham!’ his response was, ‘I’m not going to kill you, I’m going to PUNISH you.  The loss of blood, on the other hand…'”

“I want everyone looking for this crazy bastard…”

“Oh, no you don’t.  He Skyped Bane, told him to meet him at Arkham Asylum in about five min…”

*low rumble of explosions is heard from direction of Arkham Asylum*

“So, anyway, I told SWAT to just hold everyone about ten block south and let those guys settle their differences alone.  Or with the League of Shadows, depending on whether Ra’s al Ghul got Poison Ivy’s text.”

“Poison Ivy’s text?”

“Don’t ask.  Let’s just say you don’t want to know what Roundup and thermite smell like when mixed together.  Or what a scarecrow looks like nailgunned to the Gotham River Bridge.”

Young’s Ten Tips

Susanne Lambdin and I do a regular panel we call “Strategy and Tactics of Novel Writing.”  Inevitably we figure some poor sods come in thinking we’re going to talk military stuff.  For you folks, we are sorry.  For everyone else, don’t be fooled–we really do talk about how to write a novel.  We usually start of with talking about Elmore Leonard’s Ten Tips for Writers (most of which we disagree with).  Susanne then does her ten tips for writers (which I will get from her later), while I have mine:

Young’s Ten Tips For Writing

1.) Butt in seat, words on screen. You will not get writing done unless you actually sit down to do it.

2.) Yes someone has “done it before.”  Do it anyway.  Every story, when you get down to it, has been done by someone, somewhere.  You have an original spin on the “same old story”—tell it.

3.) Develop your own style of “write fu.  There are things you will do that make sense to no one else but work for you.  There will be things that work exceedingly well for others that will have your muses abandon you like rats from a sinking ship.  Figure these things out early, stick with those that work.

4.) The Shining is a cautionary tale.  All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.  All work and no play also makes Jack batspit crazy, cranky, and increasingly likely to be a homicide victim.  Take a break from writing every once in a while in order to stay fresh.

5.) Research or experience.  You do not get many chances to convince a reader you are competent.  There are boundless opportunities to persuade them you are an idiot.  Check something before committing it to paper unless you experienced it firsthand or are well-versed in it academically.

6.) Have fun.  Self-explanatory.  If you do not like your writing, your readers will not either.

7.) Join a writing group.  A good writing group is worth its weight in gold, both for critiques and for friendships.

8.) Series Bible.  You can do it early, or you can do it when you’re trying to write the sequel to the first book.  Guess which one hurts less.

9.) Nanowrimo.  It is good to get in the habit of attempting to write quickly, and Nanowrimo helps you do this.  It can also help develop good daily habits that will carry over going forward.  Finally, we’re all lab rats and reward oriented—so it’s great getting to 50,000 with your friends.

10.) Learn to find the good in every criticism.  This is not “develop a thick skin.”  Likely by this point in life you have whatever skin you’re going to get whether it’s tissue paper or ablative armor.  Instead, even if something crushes you, go have a good cry, smash a dinner plate, or burn a building down (okay, that’s excessive)…then figure out what you can learn from the shot you just took.  Odds are you’ll find something useful even in the most banal criticism someone gives you.