World War II Battle of Britain--RAF Berlin Raid (August 25-26, 1940)

RAF retalitory raid on Berlin
Figure 1.--The Germans after killing large numbers of civilians in Luftwaffe attacks on Polish cities, were outraged when German civilians were harmed. This wire service photograph with the heading, "War strikes close to Beliners" appeared in American newspapers On September 9, 1940. American journalists were still in Germany at the time, but this photograph was supllied by Goebbels propaganda machine with a caption. The German caption read, "This photo shows a mother ahd two childrenwho were injured during recent R.A.F. raids upon Berlin." The [German] caption went on to excoriate what it described 'British air pirates' who waged death and destruction upon 'innocent civilians'. The American newspaper added, "This was in all probability part of the press campaign which preceeeded Chacellor Hitler's speech announcing retalitory bombings upon British cities."

After the errant Luftwaffe attack on London (August 23-24), the British immediately ordered a reprisal attack. This was not, however, as is sometimes portrayed, the first British raid on Berlin or other German cties. Attacking Germany at this stage of the War was a very difficult undertaking. The Luftwaffe was attacking Britain from air bases in occupied France close to England. Berlin was deep in Germany and on the outer limit of the range of existing RAF bombers. In addition, because of the German fighter defenses and the slowcspeed of the existing bombers, the British were forced to bomb at night. This meant that they could not target specific military targets, but could only bomb cities. Sometimes they could not even find the targetted cities. But it meant that when the cities were hit, the casualties would be mostly civilians. RAF Bomber Command directed a small reprisal raid against Berlin (August 25-26). The attack was of no military significance, but it enraged Hitler and Goering and embarassed Goebbels. Churchill writes, "The War Cabinent was much in the mood to hit back, to raise the stakes, and to defy the enemy. I was sure they were right, and believed that nothing impressed or disturbed Hitler so much as his realization of British wrath and will-power. In his heart he was one of our admirers." [Churchill, Finest, p. 342.] Chanberlain had at first ordered the the dropping of leaflets, the British were now prepared to fight the War with all the tools at their disposal. At the time they were limited. The NAZIs who had bombed Warsaw and other Polish cities without concern for civilian casualties were outraged that German cities were targetted and civilans harmed. Goebelles approved the released of images showing German civilian casualties. At this point in the War, thev Luftwaffe had not yet suffered a defeat and Hitler still believe he could wage war without his adversaries effectively striking back.

Sources

Churchill, Winston. Their Finest Hour (Houghton Mifflin: Boston, 1949), 751p.






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Created: 5:35 AM 10/1/2010
Last updated: 5:35 AM 10/1/2010