Adolf Hitler, Aviation, Belgrade, Bombings, conflict, Coventry, Detroit, Ford, German-occupied Europe, Hermann Goering, history, Leaflet, London, Luftwaffe, Marshall Plan, Nazi Germany, Nazis, Nazism, peace, Plymouth, Rotterdam, Royal Air Force, Sir Arthur Harris, Third Reich, War, Warsaw, Wehrmacht, Willow Run, World War Two
In the Spring of 1942, printing presses around Britain began pumping out 20 tons worth of a leaflet that would later be dropped from the skies over German-occupied Europe. This pamphlet, which was written and signed by the Marshal of the Royal Air Force, Sir Arthur Harris, is a riveting historical fragment that displays the Brits’ stiff and gritty dignity as well as their ironclad confidence, a few months after Pearl Harbor, in the forthcoming support from their ally across the Atlantic. This document, which cannot be found in full anywhere else on the internet, is reproduced below exactly as the Wehrmacht would have read it.
“We in Britain know quite enough about air raids. For ten months your Luftwaffe bombed us. First you bombed us by day. When we made this impossible, they came by night. Then you had a big fleet of bombers. Your airmen fought well. They bombed London for ninety-two nights running. They made heavy raids on Coventry, Plymouth, Liverpool, and other British cities. They did a lot of damage. Forty-three thousand British men, women and children lost their lives; Many of our most cherished historical buildings were destroyed.
You thought, and Goering promised you, that you would be safe from bombs. And indeed, during all that time we could only send over a small number of aircraft in return. But now it is just the other way. Now you send only a few aircraft against us. And we are bombing Germany heavily.
Why are we doing so? It is not revenge — though we do not forget Warsaw, Belgrade, Rotterdam, London, Plymouth and Coventry. We are bombing Germany, city by city, and even more terribly, in order to make it impossible for you to go on with the war. That is our object. We shall pursue it remorselessly. City by city; Liibeck, Rostock, Cologne, Emden, Bremen; Wilhelmshaven, Duisburg, Hamburg — and the list will grow longer and longer. Let the Nazis drag you down to disaster with them if you will. That is for you to decide.
It is true that your defenses inflict losses on our bombers. Your leaders try to comfort you by telling you that our losses are so heavy that we shall not be able to go on bombing you very much longer. Whoever believes that will be bitterly disappointed.
America has only just entered the fight in Europe. The squadrons, forerunners of a whole air fleet, have arrived in England from the United States of America. Do you realize what it will mean to you when they bomb Germany also? In one American factory alone, the new Ford plant at Willow Run, Detroit, they are already turning out one four-engined bomber able to carry four tons of bombs to any part of the Reich every two hours. There are scores of other such factories in the United States of America. You cannot bomb those factories. Your submarines cannot even try to prevent those Atlantic bombers from getting here; for they fly across the Atlantic.
Soon we shall be coming every night and every day, rain, blow or snow — we and the Americans. I have just spent eight months in America, so I know exactly what is coming. We are going to scourge the Third Reich from end to end, if you make it necessary for us to do so. You cannot stop it, and you know it.
You have no chance. You could not defeat us in 1940, when we were almost unarmed and stood alone. Your leaders were crazy to attack Russia as well as America (but then your leaders are crazy; the whole world thinks so except Italy).
How can you hope to win now that we are getting even stronger, having both Russia and America as allies, while you are getting more and more exhausted?
Remember this: no matter how far your armies march they can never get to England. They could not get here when we were unarmed. Whatever their victories, you will still have to settle the air war with us and America. You can never win that. But we are doing so already now.
One final thing: it is up to you to end the war and the bombing. You can overthrow the Nazis and make peace. It is not true that we plan a peace of revenge. That is a German propaganda lie. But we shall certainly make it impossible for any German Government to start a total war again. And is not that as necessary in your own interests as in ours?”
The leaflet penned by Sir Arthur Harris and dropped over Nazi Europe in the late Spring of 1942.
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Below: Dresden, capital of German Saxony, Spring 1945.