Bomber Harris (1989) - full transcript

The history of one of the key commanders of WW2, the head of RAF Bomber Command, Air Chief Marshall Sir Arthur "Bomber" Harris.

The Royal family, and Churchill.

Momentous hour.

Never in the field of human conflict,
was so much owed by so many to so few.

It is right and natural
that we should extol

the virtues and glorious services of
our own most famous commanders:

Alexander and Montgomery.

Neither of whom was ever defeated
since they began together at Alamein.

At the same time, we know how
great is our debt

to the combining and
unifying command and high

strategic direction of General Eisenhower.

And here is the moment when I must
pay my personal tribute to the

British piece of the Stars.

Field Marshall Brooks.
Admiral Andrew Cunningham.

And Marshall of the Air - Portal.

I wish I could tell you that all
our toils and troubles were over.

But on the contrary, I must warn
you that there is still a lot to do.

On the continent of Europe, we have yet to
make sure that the simple and honourable...


Magnus Spence. Our weatherman, sir.

Hello, Spence. I hope
you're gonna give me better weather

than you gave my predecessor.

I'll do my best, sir.

Wing Commander Weldon Sir has just
been posted to you. Personal staff Officer.

You're Dean of Magdalen College, Oxford.

Yes, sir. I'm a philosopher.

In your spare time.

Come to dinner tonight.

Your group commanders, sir.

Yes, I think I know them.

What's more, they know me.

Some of you were here when the war began.

Your first directive was
to attack German shipping.

But not to drop bombs if there
was any danger to civilians.

You had to bring your bombs back.

Usually you were shot
down for gentlemanly conduct.

Policy has changed. We're no longer
in the export and import business.

We're not playing games any more.

We're going on the offensive. We're going
to consign the Third Reich to oblivion.

We are going to win this war,

not the Army or Navy or Fighter Command,

but us, Bomber Command.

Progressively and systematically, we are
going to take apart every industrial city,

street by street and block by
block until the Bosch surrenders.

You'll tell your men we're no
longer going on Ops, but into battle.

And it isn't the Battle of Britain

or the battle of the Atlantic.

It's the Battle of Germany.

The only battle that will win this war.

The Bosch have sown the wind.

They'll reap the whirlwind.

Air Ministry directive #39
14th February 1942

to C in C Bomber Command.

Henceforward you are
authorised to employ your forces

against the industrial areas
of Germany without restriction.

Primary targets: Essen
Duisburg Dusseldorf Cologne.

Secondary targets: Lubeck
Rostock, Bremen, Teel,

Hanover, Frankfurt, Mannheim,
Stuttgart, Schweinfurt.

Operations should now be focused upon

the morale of the enemy civil population
and in particular, industrial workers.

Did you know the air Marshall has an ulcer?

Yes, ma'am. He'll want plenty of
milk. No greasy or fried foods.

That means no chips.

Right. You want boiled
fish. Boiled vegetables,

no stews, no pickles,
nor anything irritating.

He'll be home for lunch at
1300 hours each day and

back for dinner at 1930
hours each evening.

Glass of milk by his bedside every
night and on the table at every meal.

Evening darling. Everything alright?

Yes - Darling, you know, Air Vice
Marshall Saunby. Sandy. You've met Jillie.

Delighted to see you again, Jill.

This is Flight Lieutenant Maze
my new ADC.

How do you do?
- How do you do, Mrs Harris?

Evening flight.
- Evening, sir.

Bert was saying he hoped
he might be working with you again.

When was the first time?


Oh, you were flying
with him in Mesopotamia.


No, he wasn't.
He was in another aircraft.

Here. Smoke yourself to
death - from Yankee land.

Ta very much, sir.

The Army only recognises a
tank if it eats hay and defecates.

You were army in the trenches.
How do you feel about bombing?

Oh, we philosophers are more interested
in Descartes than 500 pounders, sir.

So, what would Descartes
have thought of 500 pounders?

Ah, he was only concerned
with primary truths.

He believed philosophers
should keep out of war.

Yes. Unless they're
Personal Staff officers.

I see Bertrand Russell has
given us his blessing this time.

Yes, he sees no alternative to force.
It's no longer a moral issue.

And what do you think?

I agree, sir.

Beware the Greeks bearing gifts.

Would Russell go over
the Ruhr with my boys?

Well, if you don't
condemn it, you back it.

If you back it, have you
got the guts to do it?

Could he knowingly kill innocent people?

That's the issue.

Yes, that is a moral issue, sir.

So you do have reservations
then about the conduct of war?

The conduct of war?

Yes, how it's done.

May I let you know that
when I've witnessed it?

I'll tell you my philosophy.

I did so much foot slogging in the last war

that I got into the air as fast as I could.

It's far more comfortable.
- Oh, that's not philosophy.

Isn't it?
- No sir, that's just common sense.

Jillie, how about these
two moving in with us?

Yes, of course. We've got spare rooms.

That's very kind,
very kind of you both.

It isn't kind at all.

I'm fighting this war
round the clock.

It'll save me ringing you
at 2:00 in the morning.

Plenty of moths and
butterflies round here, Sandy.

You'll be in your element.

I lied to the Groups.

Only 20% of aircraft have got within 5
miles of their target since the war began.

And only a small fraction of the
20% have actually hit the targets.

The truth is, we're a total failure.

Oh, we've got mostly bloody awful aircraft.

And what we have got is
being pinched from us

by Beaverbrook for Coastal
Command, the Navy, the Middle East.

What do we do?

See Beaverbrook.

At 09:00 this morning,
Saunby reported to me that

he had only 69 heavy
bombers in the front line.

I'm here to ask why.

Bomber Command won't get its 4000 aircraft.

I'm asking for 10.
- No good Harris.

We all have directives.

Yours was to produce, by now,
41 heavy squadrons.

We've got 17.

Yours is not the only service with a
claim to bomber aircraft.

I'm the only commander
worth giving them to.

No. Original policy has been altered.

Facts. I'm talking about half
trained lads going into battle

of which half are lost in accidents
because they haven't got decent aircraft.

I have been trying to get you as
many Lancasters as I can, Harris.

With your Production Ministry hat on.
- What?

With your war cabinet hat
on, you've been sabotaging me.

You've been telling Churchill that they
should go to the middle and Far East.

To coastal command.
Everywhere except where the war is.

I can understand your personal
interest. Yes, that's quite understandable.

My what?

Well, after all,

you were responsible for
the design of the Lancaster.

I suggested mods to the Manchester,
which produced the Lancaster.

My interest is in saving lives and
the Stirling is a bloody death trap.

When I attack the
Bosch, I want my air crews

to go at a reasonable
height and speed.

I don't want them
picked off at 12,000 feet.

Last Autumn, Bomber Command lost
almost its entire front line in 16 weeks.

Every aircraft you had
ready for action was lost.

That was an Air Force disaster

the equivalent of the Somme.

That was under Peirse,
the last chief. Not me.

Exactly. And what have
you done to prove yourself?

I can't without decent aircraft,

but they've gotta be thousands.
A few hundred's useless.

Your force was wiped out and now
you want to take them over the top again,

this time taking with you the entire
industrial output of this country?

I've spent 20 years developing
the theory and practise of bombing.

I developed it with
Saunby. Night bombing,

navigation target marking.
Nobody else gave a damn.

I was fighting for decent bomber
aircraft when everybody else

was obsessed with sea plane racing.
Not for my personal interest,

but because I knew a
properly equipped and trained

bomber force would save
this island from blockade

and was the only means of taking
the war to the enemy, should it happen.

And now it's happened.

And if I'm going over the top, as you say,

I would like to go with something slightly
more effective than a swagger stick.

How long is it since these
men have had a hot meal?

Well, they've no time, sir,
They're trying to get GEE functioning.

I said how long is it since
they had a hot bloody meal?

How long has it since they went to bed?

Three nights, sir.

Get to bed, all of you.
- Sir. - NOW!!!

I don't want heroes.
I want this device

in my aircraft working,
so we can find the targets.

That comes from fresh minds.
- Yes, sir.

Wing Commander Weldon said you wanted help

selling Bomber Command.

Why? Do you want to buy it?
What's that load of bumph?

Leaflets for dropping on Germany.

Political warfare, not your province?

Looks lethal. What does it say?

It tells the Germans they're
not getting their Volkswagens.

Well, they put their money down in
trust, so how can they be expected

to believe in Goebbels.

Right, I've approved them.

What's that?
- The Hansard report you wanted, sir.

Urgent, sir. The Prime Minister
requests you at dinner tomorrow night.

Thank the Prime Minister and say yes.
- Yes, sir.

A growing body of opinion in this
country considers the indiscriminate

bombing of civilian centres both
morally wrong and strategic lunacy.

Richard Stokes MP.

Good man, Stokes. Decorated in the last.

The Russians, you know, want me to
help them by starting a second front.

If I told them that you
were my second front,

would you do it?

Give me 4000 aircraft and
we wouldn't need the Russians.

Cherwell believes that you
can break the enemy's will.

I don't know about will. Could break
their industry with 4000 Lancasters.

You'd attack the Ruhr?

The Ruhr, then Berlin.

Can you reach Berlin?

With Lancasters, with better
navigational equipment, yes, sir.

I'd also help the Russians.
I'd force Hitler to bring back

his fighter aircraft from the
Eastern Front against me.

You'll lose how many
over Essen tonight?

- 8 out of 200 it's 4%.

Well, what's 4% of 4000?

- 160?

But it won't work like
that. It works the opposite.

Massive forces would overwhelm the flak.

The searchlights wouldn't
cone single aircraft.

And over the targets our
bomb loads would saturate

and make up the loss of precision bombing.

How soon would you win the war?

July next year.

Without a land invasion? Bombing alone?

With 4000 aircraft and
the American 8th,

with them, I could bomb round the clock,
maybe win in half the time.

You're a fanatic.

We've had them in the army.

Desert visionaries. Missionaries.

Now Lord Trenchard was the
air maniac, but you're worse.

I shall have to call you "bomber".

You've drunk precious
little, so I'll tell you.

The Bosch are working on new and
terrible weapons. One of them is a bomb.

Now I don't understand how
one may split an atom,

but it scares the daylights out of me.

It could perhaps
disintegrate the globe itself.

I want you to devastate those cities.

Above all, I want you
to keep the war mobile.

I want no more trench warfare.

Cut them back, Bomber. Slow them down.

First, you gotta help me save
Bomber Command.

You've gotta prove something.
Do something. Stop them getting rid of you.

Can you do that?
Can you perform a miracle?

So, out of a total of 211 aircraft
dispatched, 177 attacked Essen.

294.8 tonnes of bombs were dropped.

The reconnaissance photographs
were taken at 0630 hours.

By which time visibility was good.

As you will see sir,
the Krupps works were untouched.

A number of aircraft were lured
away from the primary target

by the enemy lighting decoy
fires at Reinberg, 20 miles away.

At the same time,
a Stirling was hit and

jettisoned its
incendiaries, causing fires

at Hamborn, 8 miles from the target.
This also led to aircraft being lured away.

Clearly, the intention of exploiting GEE
as a blind bombing marker has failed.

What went wrong? We don't
know, sir. We are investigating.

We can navigate on the intersecting
beams from the home stations, but... finding and
hitting looks a different matter.

We still need moonlight.

Alright, Spence, give me the worst.

The forecast at 0800 hours.

Tonight, the whole of northern
Europe will be covered by cloud,

much of it's cumulonimbus.
That will clear tomorrow,

but behind it there's an intense
depression moving in from the West.

With regard to landings visibility,
particularly in four group area

should improve by dawn
but then deteriorate later in the day.

When can I see Germany again?

Not in the foreseeable future, sir.

Here endeth morning prayers.

We're spitting in the wind. Miracle.
Every Lancaster we get's a bloody miracle.

Never mind moonlight. I don't
need "a" miracle. I need half a dozen.

With everything, all aircraft at 0800
this morning, operational, training,

conversion, flying and non flying we have


What's the Daily Express
going to make of 921 aircraft?

How do you grab headlines, Harry?

You need a magic number.

What's that? 999?

No. 1,000.

Aim - to cause severe industrial
disruption to a major city of the Ruhr.

Secondly, to assist the
Russians by forcing the enemy

to withdraw men and anti aircraft
weapons from the Eastern Front.

Method? - By dispatching
1000 aircraft over the city

in a space of 90 minutes,
thereby saturating the defences.

Risk of collision over the target?

My statisticians say
2 aircraft will collide.

General Joffre made a decision

to hold the right bank at Verdun.
They told him it was highly dangerous,

that he bore
a great responsibility. He said

I've borne others.

You'll either be famous or disgraced.

As will I.

But in the latter case,
we could lose the war.

We have 15 days in which to strike a

blow at the enemy which will resound

throughout the world.

It will be the start of winning the war.

1000 aircraft will attack either Hamburg

or Cologne.

One of them will be completely destroyed.

Will I live?
- Oh, you'll live,

but you must...


I'll tell Mrs. Harris, if I may.

Coastal command's withdrawn their aircraft.

- They say they need them.

Who is it this time?
- The Admiral.

What about aircrew?
- We're still 95 crews short

I suggest we pull in the reserve
crews let them rest when it's over.

Oh and we can't have Millennium.

The army wants it for
the land invasion when it comes

Tell them we've got it.

They suggest we have Overlord.

Tell them we are now
fighting this war.

They're not lording it over us.

Tell them they probably won't need

an invasion if Millennium works out.

Sandy. Listen.

I want every airframe.
Anything that has wings.

Send every fitter, every grease monkey.

Leave it to me.

Your butterfly collection.
- They can't fly. They're dead.

Then put a pin through the Red Admiral.

He really should go away for six months.

He's not well... at all.
- Did you tell him that?

No. I thought it better if you did.

1046, all told.

Yes? - The depression
over the British Isles

has now moved Northwest bringing

wet and windy weather
to much of the continent.

I'm afraid there's little

chance a full moon light over either

Hamburg or Cologne.
- No point in prayers this morning, then.

We've got one more go.

Come up with some weather Spence.

Bomber Command depends on you.
- Yes, sir. here from the
Political Warfare Ministry.

Send him in.

What's political warfare, Harry?
- Conservative versus Labour?

Good morning sir.
I won't take up your valuable time.

I'll come straight to the point.

My executive is launching a major

offensive against German morale

much more devastating than
the leaflet about Goebbels.

These are actual dead German civilians

killed by your bombs.

We aim to produce millions of them.

We're in the process
of producing 50 different

leaflets of a similar nature.

We hope by next year you'll have
dropped at least 50 million.

What are their names?

Names, sir?
- Yes, who were they?

I have no idea, sir. How do you mean?

Herr Gross, an innocent German civilian

killed by the brutal RAF.
How does that sound?

I'd say that would get their backs up, sir.

Be more counter-productive...
- If you'll excuse me!

I'm very busy.

Thank you, sir.

Yes, sir?
- Get me C in C Fighter Command.

Strange what some people
think of as war.

That's the danger - thinking.

- C in C Fighter Command, sir.

Hello Sholto... Millennium.

Weather's defeated us.

Last chance tomorrow
night. I want you to lay on

a fighter sweep to
end all fighter sweeps.

Don't tell me you haven't got the aircraft.

All right Spence, it's our last chance.

Give it me.

The forecast for tonight
was prepared at 07:30.

The prospects for both landings
and target areas are mixed.

Over northern Germany
there is much thundery cloud

some breaks in the northwest

decreasing southwards
and dispersing gradually

in the middle Rhineland.

With regard to home bases,
returning crews in all group areas

can expect convection cloud decreasing
with some thundery showers.

Any chance of a full moon
over the target areas?

I may be able to answer that
in a later forecast due any minute sir.

Thank you Spence.

The Prime Minister, sir.

Yes, sir.

We are waiting
for a late weather forecast.

I'll let you know my decision
as soon as I've made it.

Thank you.

Sir, the latest is

that it remains much the same except

the thundery cloud may
disperse to relatively

small amounts over the
Rhineland by late evening.

But there's still doubt about
the prospect for a full moon.

The thousand plan. Cologne. Tonight.

Let's wipe it out.

So last night the entire force
of Bomber Command,

including its reserves, attacked Cologne.

There was brilliant moonlight
over the target area.

1 and 3 groups commenced
the attack at 0038 hours

within incendiaries aimed at
the old centre of the town.

Aircraft of the operational
training units followed

aiming at the fires
created by the first wave.

The third wave
4 and 5 group aircraft completed

the attack with high
explosives and incendiaries.

The final bomb was dropped at 0318 hours.

The first
reports indicate that 898 aircraft

claimed to have reached
and attacked the target

and dropping a total of 1455 tons.

40 aircraft are missing representing

3.8 percent of the total force dispatched.

Only one collision
was reported over the target area.

The reconnaissance
photographs were taken at 0530 hours.

You'll see sir from numbers 1 to 10 that

total damage has been caused to a large

proportion of the built-up area.

As witnessed by the huge
pall of smoke rising to 15,000 feet.

We shall be in a better position

to assess the damage
when the smoke has cleared.

Good. Get me the Prime Minister.

This boffin Barnes Wallis, what did you

make of him, Harry?
- I found him impressive.

So did I. Don't think much
for his targets though.

Requires a special squadron.

It's precision bombing
and it won't win the war.

What did you make of him Sandy?

Oh, I'd say a successful
breach of the Ruhr dams

would make quite a splash.

I feel like a damned impresario.

Another set of headlines like that
and Portal can't refuse us Berlin.

The Air Ministry maybe.
What about the politicians?

You mean Churchill?
- Yes.

Yes, he writes headlines, doesn't he!

...Guy Gibson VC. The man who led the

Lancasters in the devastating attack on
the Ruhr dams.

Every member of the crews who
took part in this tremendous and

most successful air operation was

presented to their Majesties when they
visited the station.

It's probably true to say that the

19 Lancasters which breached the
Mohne and Eder dams caused more havoc

to the enemy than any other air raid

since the war began. It was a stroke of
genius on the part of Bomber Command.

We've got Churchill and the nation

behind us and they send us this,

a new directive. The latest panacea.

Stop going deeper into Germany
and go for the Luftwaffe.

Attack enemy fighters and

their factories. Forget the enemy's

weakening capacity. There's a war on

and we've got to send thousands of

ground troops across and you've got to
protect them from air attack.

We're nearly there.

We've got Berlin in our sights and they

want to weaken the momentum.

Except that the original
directive still remains.

The industrial system
which includes Berlin.

No, the primary objective...
- The primary objective remaining primary.

Primary objectives come before priorities?
- Hmmm.

Priorities can be delegated.

The Americans are only

equipped for daylight bombing and aircraft
factories require daylight.

The road to Berlin.

Well we've had water,

now let's have fire.

There's been no rain for a fortnight, sir.
The weather will remain

hot and dry for at least 24 hours.

Vegetation, timber
buildings will be like tinder.

Temperatures in the Hamburg area
will be in the 80s.

Operation Gomorrah.
Hamburg. Tonight. Let's burn it.

I've got the chaplain here sir.

He'd like to see you.
- Is it important?

He says it is, sir.

Sir, I'd be failing my conscience

if I didn't come to protest.
- What about?

The destruction of Hamburg.

I'm sorry I had no choice.

Neither had I.

I realize this is not
a popular thing I'm doing.

Say what you've got to say.

We began the war in the
defense of humanity, with God on our side.

Did he tell you that?

He didn't tell me.
- I think it, sir.

You're privileged, Collins.
I was just told to win the war with every

means at my disposal, but not God.

Was it necessary?
- What, killing people? Barbarism?


If you're going to win a war, yes.

No, but there are
moral limits surely?

You want me to admit
it was a terrible thing

we did to Hamburg.

Right, it was bloody terrible.

It was ghastly.

Feel better now?

Unless you can offer me
alternative targets that

will win the war quicker, shut up.

You return to your conscience
and let me get back to the war. Okay?

I hear you've ignored the

point-blank directive. You're not going

for the aircraft factories and you

refused to bomb
the submarine pens at Bordeaux.

I wouldn't destroy them but I'd
destroy a lot of Bordeaux.

Portal and Bottomley at
the Air Ministry want to get rid of you.

They've seen the minute
you sent me about Berlin.

At the cost of 500
aircraft you'd win the war.

They think you're dangerously obsessed.

How long will you take to destroy Berlin?

With the American aid possibly a month.

Without it, six months.
- Fourth of April -April 1st.

Well we certainly can't mount a
seaborne invasion of France before April.

But we wouldn't need
to invade, you'd do it for us.

Do I have your backing, sir?

I can't get you the Americans.

Anyway, they choose their own targets.

I doubt that you can win
the war for us by bombing alone.

But if you fail, I wouldn't want
it to be April 1st. April 2nd, yes.

But I do want Berlin. I think
you better go and see Portal

at the Air Ministry, see what
he says... then let me know.

You may have forced the Germans to bring

back fighter aircraft
from the Russian front.

You may have forced them to build

anti aircraft guns instead of tanks,

but you also forced them to build more

fighter aircraft, which are going to be

deployed against our
ground forces on D-day.

Forget D-day. It's unnecessary.

It's a boating expedition.

Alright, you knock out
Berlin, let the Russians in,

they sweep across Europe. We haven't

got any troops there because you've done

the job for them. Stalin occupies the

whole of Germany. What then?

They wouldn't be our allies,
Peter, if they did that.

Anyway I wouldn't let them.

Why just Berlin? What is it,
8 hours flying? You're sending a

force deep behind the enemy lines with

no backup and no guarantee of success.

You want the aircraft factories.

There are some in Berlin.

Churchill has wanted me to go
there for two years and so have you.

The war changes Bert. It wasn't about a

campaign lasting the whole of the winter

running up to D-day. Eisenhower's gonna

take overall command. He wants you in

support of his ground invasion,
but he won't want Berlin.

No, he'll want precision
targets in France and I'll be going

backwards instead of bloody forwards.

Give me the American 8th Division.

I promise I'll knock out
Berlin by the new year.

Then I can switch to precision
bombing and Eisenhower. How's that?

The Americans won't go to Berlin.

They want Schweinfurt,
the ball bearing factories

doing exactly what you should be doing,

destroying the aircraft industry.

War is a battle between heavyweights.

The winner is the one that
clobbers hardest with the maximum

effort in the minimum time.
That means Berlin.

I'll say this, Bert, if single-mindedness
was a virtue you'd be canonized.

Saint Bert?

No, you be St.Peter.

It's only the devil that wins wars.

Schweinfurt. Berlin. Both a hell of a
way but who'd go through most flak?

We can divert, but you can't.

The two largest Air Forces ever
assembled and what do they want?

You risking your neck in daylight

for a load of balls and me playing
bows and arrows at Agincourt.

We could lose a million men on D-day.
That's what I'm fighting against, Ira.

American marines land on the beaches.

That's what they want back home.

Is that what you want?
Dead heroes? To Hell with them.

Come with me to Berlin by night.

You've got Churchill behind you
if anything goes wrong.

Do you believe in it?

Believe what Bert?
- Do you really believe

that attacking a couple of ball bearing

factories in Schweinfurt
is going to win the war?

I'm just part of an overall strategy, Bert.

The wrong strategy.
- I can't go to Berlin.

We're not equipped.
We're not trained for it

And don't forget, we are Army Air Force.

Not a cat in hell's chance.

You know what? We've just extended the war,

and it could cost a million lives.

You know what Bert?
The difference between you

and me your heart's right so is mine,

But the real difference is that you don't
give a damn about yourself.

For a commander
with a real big ego...

that's quite an unease.

Quite extraordinary.

The temperatures over
Northern and Eastern

Germany will be
below freezing, but clear.

Similarly skies should
be clear in all group landing areas.

Berlin tonight.

Harry, I don't normally go for bullshit,

but this time I think it's called for.

I want an Order of the Day
read out at all briefings.

Tonight you are going to the big city.

You will have the opportunity to light a

fire in the belly of the enemy
that will burn his black heart out.

The attack by a large number of
American aircraft was directed

at the major ball bearing factories
at Schweinfurt, on the Rhine.

Considerable damage was caused.

As yet there are no reports of any
American casualties or missing aircraft.

We went this morning at 10:00.

Got caught first over Holland.

Most of the enemy waited
for our fighter escort to turn back.

When they'd gone, they fell on us

all the way there and all the way back.

Sitting ducks.

I sent out 291 aircraft.

Some of them got back ok.

We lost 60.

They don't want it public.

We're not releasing any figures.

Bad for morale.

I'm sorry, Ira.
- Sorry, no.

It's me who should be sorry.

Oh to Hell with it.

You were right... 100%.

The minister of aircraft
production is here.

Sir Stafford Cripps.
- Really?

Must be good news else he wouldn't
dare show his face. Show him in, Harry.

No, he's in the mess hall.

The Padre's with him.
- What?

It was the Padre who invited him.

The Reverend Collins has asked me here

today to talk to you about the

individual in war. Is God my co-pilot

might seem more
in the way of his type of sermon

than a talk by a minister of the Crown.

But perhaps I can introduce myself

as someone who feels that war is never

the be-all and end-all of things,

even at the time of fighting.

I'm not in the business of
moralizing or preaching but

when one is killing people and seeing

one's friends and countrymen killed by

the same process, we do have to look

beyond that savagery to a moment when

peace reigns once more and justice and
fairness is restored to the world.

Of course, we cannot fight a war without

being savage, without adopting
the bestiality of the aggressor.

But at the same time, we do each of us,

have individual consciences
and I don't think

and I must stress here that this is my

own opinion. I don't think there is any

situation, even in war, when that

individual conscience should be taken away.

Otherwise we are taking God away
from the copilot's seat.

Let me give you an example of what I mean.

Let's say there is a bomb aimer

over Germany who
suddenly sees, as in a vision,

the horrific casualties that he's

causing on the ground. He cannot press

that bomb release trigger because of
that knowledge.

Now, should he be court-martialled
for refusing to obey orders

or should he be allowed the
freedom of conscience as an individual?

Can we in all honesty say
that that bomb aimer is wrong?

Are we, by refusing him that conscience,

taking God away not from the copilot seat

but from our cause as an
allied nation committed to civilization.

Surely there is some difference between

what we are prepared to do and what the
enemy is prepared to do.

Otherwise we are in danger
of losing the moral ground we stood on

at the outset of the war.

Minister of Aircraft Production!
What the Hell's going on?

It won't happen again.

What the Hell does
he think he's playing at?

Sack the Padre.

What, and admit defeat?
No, he's only doing his God job

but Stifford Crapps

Minister of aircraft production comes here
moralizing about war.

Alright Harry, he's sown the wind

you give him a lecture,
a Dean of Magdalen special,

unless of course you're in sympathy.

What do you want me to talk about?

About the ethics of bombing?
- Are there any?

Not in my book. What about yours?
You're keeping a diary.

What am I wasting my time for?

Forget it, we're here
to win a bloody war.

Sit down Bert, you don't look well.
- I'm fine.

Five months now.
How much longer can you carry on?

As long as it takes.

I've had reports of some of your crews
ditching their 4000 pounders.

They only do that when they
need height and speed to get to Berlin.

Operational loss is now
exceeding 5.5%.

I'm sorry Bert, you've had your chance.

Eisenhower takes over your
direction a fortnight today.

Berlin is over.
- Then what? Back to

the French coast?
Bombing beaches so that

the Americans could read in their papers
about the successful landings?

It's madness. There's
no need for conventional

warfare any more.
We've got the means to end it.

We can't. We're still trapped
by romance and narrow-mindedness.

Bert, where's the whirlwind you promised?

Show me the photographs.

You're defeated Bert.
You won't admit it.

Until the invasion is over you take your
orders from Ike at Supreme Headquarters.

How many?

Well the groups
haven't all reported back yet.

How many?
- 90.

Over 90 of our aircraft lost.

The diversion over the
North Sea didn't work

so their night fighters got...

They picked us up early
and there was moonlight all the way.

Sir, the principal medical officer has

been waiting to see you.
He says it's very important.

Send him in.

Please come in, sir.

Morning, sir.
- Do you know what day it is today?

Yes sir, April 1st.
- What do you want?

I believe the director of medical

services tried to see you but you
wouldn't see him.

Too busy. Go on then.

It's about VD, sir.

I haven't got VD.

No, but the incidence in your command
is the highest in the RAF.

We're very worried that you're
gonna have fatalities on your hands.

I have them every night.

Do you how many men I've lost?

Yes, sir.

Well then, my old lags are more likely to

die from a dose of flak over Germany

than a dose of clap in the back of
pubs in Lincolnshire.

Yes, sir.

How about you, sir?

Oh I'm more likely
to die by firing squad.

Yes? - General Spaatz has arrived, sir.
- Send him in.

Hello Bert.
- Hello Carl.

Oh Ira Eaker sends his regards.

You didn't come here just to tell me that.
- No, you and I are gonna win the war.

We're both against Overlord

and we command, you and I, the most

powerful combination
of air power ever seen on this planet.

You were right Bert. We should have

gotten together and bombed Germany night

and day but we didn't
and that's history

and now we're in trouble.

If we follow Ike
and give the Luftwaffe time to rebuild

in Germany they could
knock Overlord backwards.

Well I've got the answer,

No, not Berlin. Oil.
Not ordinary oil.

Synthetic. If we hit every oil plant

in Germany, no tank or aircraft can move.

Did you know the last year Germany produced

six and a half million
tons of it from coal?

6.6 to be exact.

Bert, this is no panacea.
- It's the biggest

panacea since we suggested
burning down the Black Forest.

Do you know what
percentage of our bombing

effort has been aimed
at synthetic oil so far?

Yes, 1%.
- 1.2% to be exact.

It won't win the war, Carl.
- Do you want to stop Ike or don't you?

My old lags have given everything.

I am not letting them
die any more for nothing.

There's only one way
to win and that's the cities.

We've got you and Carl Spaatz

behaving like schoolboys. He wants the

synthetic oil. You want the cities.

We are trying to launch
the biggest invasion in history

and the two leading
Air Force commanders aren't interested.

But which of us is right?

Right? Neither of you is right.

The only way to win is to support Overlord

and that means first
hitting the French railways.

We all know how to win a war.
- Do we?

You've failed so far.
- Because I haven't

had the Americans. If we can get Ike...

How can you mount an invasion when both
Bomber Commands are trying to wreck it?!

You've both got to cooperate.

Will we both be treated the same?
- Yes.

Then why has Ike let Spaatz go
for synthetic oil and not me the cities?

It's experimental.

I thought you were only
interested in winning a war.

You're just like everybody else,

Empire minded.

I'm disappointed Bert.
- So am I, Peter... So am I.

Tomorrow morning you'll get a
directive on a teleprinter.

Obey it, Bert.

37 perfectly good railways
in the region Nord.

Wipe them out!

Railways, molybdenum factories,

aircraft factories, ball bearing factories.

Yes, I even went to Schweinfurt.

I've had rubber tyres, bridges,

marshalling yards, dams and canals,
crude oil, synthetic oil

and now your oil, Peter. Everybody down

this corner has got the perfect answer

to ending the war. I've had it up to here

seeing my own lads shot
up, burnt and drowned.

I want to get it over.

No more recipes for instant success.

No more shadow. I want the
substance and the substance is Berlin.

You're being disloyal Bert.
- Then sack me!

Stalin keeps pressing me
to bomb the eastern cities.

I told him you were unavailable.

You were in clink. Ike's prisoner.

Tell him I'm out of prison.
- Who got you in? Portal. And why?

Because he wants me to bomb the oil plants.

His new panacea.

And what does your staff
advise you about that?

I don't think much of it.

I'm not so sure that winning a war
shouldn't be by dictator.

How are we gonna persuade
Portal to change his mind

or is he too far afflicted?
- Panacea-itis.

Then there's the atomic bomb.

What if they get it before we do?

All the more reason to finish it quickly.

All the more
reason to help Stalin.

We need to bomb those Eastern cities.

Okay gentlemen let's consider this

Berlin, Chemnitz, Leipzig, Dresden.

Which are the primary targets?

Where the synthetic oil is.
- Yeah all right.

I think so.
Well come on beat that.

The overall picture
with regard to the Russians

is what concerns the Chiefs of Staff
and should really concern us.

The Red Army has reached the Oder here.

The British and American
armies are here on the Rhine.

According to the Chiefs of Staff,

coordination is now essential
between those two fronts.

General Antonov suggests
Berlin and Leipzig should be

the primary targets to
help the Russian advance.

We favor Berlin alone and your
ministry directive wants Dresden as well.

It's a waste of time.
- We don't suggest Dresden.

Well Ike does and he's backing
the Chiefs of Staff so you'll get it.

He wants to make a main thrust from the

West along this axis.
Leipzig through Dresden.

He wants to join up with the Russians
about there.

All we need is Berlin.

I'm shortly seeing Stalin and Roosevelt.

I promised Stalin my full support.

He's losing a lot of troops. It's critical.

He wants certain targets hit... Smashed.

I believe they're on your list.

What are they?

Berlin, Chemnitz, Dresden, Leipzig.

Berlin, yes.
I'm not so sure about the others.

He is. He's damn sure of those four.

He wants some sort of
Gotterdammerung to befall them.

Something to cause
a mass exodus from the city

to hamper German troop
reinforcements from the West.

Forget Portal. Ignore him.

Concentrate on the cities.

What's untouched? Dresden?
Let's have Dresden first.

Bert why haven't you attacked Dresden?

Soon it's gonna be too late.

Weather's been bad. I'm trying now.

Well try hard.
I've got the Prime Minister on my back.

He says the Russians are kicking up a fuss.

A single red marker will be released
by the mark leader over the Sports Stadium,

and then the leader will order in the

remaining Mosquito force
to mark with more red indicators.

Then the marker leader
will give the call sign "Plate rack"

and the main force will come in squadron

by squadron and drop their bombs

around this sector, near the stadium,

to a maximum radius of 2,400 yards.

Being the old wooden city,
the area should burn effectively

and serve as a beacon for the
second wave of attack. Zero hour is 22:15.

Why "Plate rack"?

Oh... Dresden china.

Here is the news for 14th February.

Last night a large force
from Bomber Command

attacked the city of
Dresden in Eastern Germany.

Large scale damage was caused.

The Air Ministry stressed
the vital importance

of Dresden as a centre of communication

as well as the centre of a railway
network serving a large part of Germany.

Though known for its chinaware output

Dresden is an industrial city of some
considerable size containing large

munition workshops in the old Arsenal

and a great number of light engineering

works engaged in war
production of all kinds.

There are other important

factories in Dresden making electric
motors and precision

and optical instruments
as well as chemicals.

Get me the director of public
relations, Air Ministry.

What the Hell are they playing at?

I'm being briefed by a long load
of bullshit on the wireless.

Did you supply it?

What are they trying to do make
excuses for the raid?

Supreme Headquarters have
just given a press conference.

According to the AP correspondent they've
admitted making a terror raid on Dresden.

- General Spaatz, sir.

Put him on.

Hello, Carl.

Yes, I heard.

What warning?

As far as I'm concerned, they can say
what the hell they like.

Spaatz. He says Ike and Arnold are denying

the Yanks bombed
anything but a military target.

They've made a public announcement.

What's going on?
- Politics.

Don't worry, Churchill will stand by us.

Bert. Peter here. Bad news I'm afraid.

The Prime Minister's
written to us asking us

when we're going to
stop the terror bombings.

Yes, he called the Dresden raid
just that... terror.

It's in your interests
to demand he withdraws it.

If it becomes public it'll look as if
you're entirely responsible.

After all, Ike, Arnold, Spaatz convinced
their public they're whiter than white.

And you are on public record as
having advocated blitzing cities.

I think in this case you should do
what Ike and his Generals have done.

Put out a disclaimer.

Prime Minister to General Ismay.

It's marked for
the attention of the Chiefs of Staff.

Just tell me what it says.

He says you're bombing simply for the
sake of increasing terror.

He doesn't think
there will be enough of Germany

left to get materials
for our own housing needs.

We should concentrate
on military targets

rather than indulging
in wanton destruction.

He says that?


He says that.

Still working?
- Just writing up my diary.

Tell me, did you give that lecture?

Which one was that?
- On the ethics of bombing.

No, you told me not to.
- Want to give it now?

So therefore it's not a question of
ethics at all.

War is not the opposite of peace.
Nor is it a corollary of it.

War is a complete
breakdown in civilization.

So it shouldn't have ethics thrust upon it,

because that way lies danger.

That way war becomes acceptable.

The means of death
and destruction are immaterial.

War was always war.
The only difference today

is the scale of it.
So when this war is finally over

the world should accept
that there is no limit.

There are no...
no Hague rules of combat any more.

The worse war is,
the more savage it becomes.

When people understand this
and stop trying to limit it,

then perhaps
we shall achieve lasting peace.

May I say I find the lecture on its head.

It's not the ethics of bombing I'd call it,
but the bombing of ethics.

I'm just wondering if
the C in C might care to say something.

Or can we defend
wholesale slaughter by silence?

We've been accused of murder.

What would we have
been accused of had we left

Hitler and his
bloody gang to win the bloody war?

As for Dresden, it's simple,
any psychiatrist will explain it.

It's all to do with German
brass bands and Dresden shepherdesses.

All I can say is that
all the German towns put together

aren't worth
the bones of a British grenadier.

When you're the commander in the field,
you take life and you save life.

Go on then Harry say
what you've got to say.

I really would beg you to retract that

statement before it
gets into all the papers.

- Because you didn't mean it.

Didn't I?
- No.

- Very.

Well, the war's almost over.

Tell me about morality.

I wouldn't presume.

You once told me there were
limits to the conduct of war.

The war's almost
over, you can tell me.

I don't think the word conduct applies.

Far too civilized a word.

Intention? Yes. Purpose? Yes

and I would say that you aimed
to end the war as quickly

as possible in order to save
as many lives as possible.

That all?
- There isn't anything else.

Harry, you're a bloody sycophant.

What did you say? One
bird doesn't make a summer.


Well it's over,
all over bar the shouting.

Bar Japan.

If the atomic bomb works

be a damn sight worse than Dresden.

It's a bomb.

I don't know so much.

What's the difference
between one bomb and 500?

They're all meant to kill.

I may have the
job of dropping it...

Sure, it's a bomb.

How do you moralize
about bombs for God's sake?

By the number of lives it saves.

If it works out, could save between
two, three million Allied troops

and half their lot.


The only thing that matters is you win,

you bloody well win,

and then the Hell with it.