18 April 2007

More Caption Controversy

The Canadian War Museum's exhibition on the work of the RCAF in Bomber Command has come in for some complaints from veterans. Unfortunately, the article doesn't quote the offending text at any length, so one must be more circumspect in taking sides. However, in this case my sympathies lie with the museum. The grim fact of strategic bombing operations during the war is that they killed many German civilians who for one reason or another found themselves in the vicinity of legitimate war targets. (Although at some point I believe Bomber Command regarding housing as a legitimate war target.) In the same way that chemical and biological weapons have been effectively criminalized by international institutions, I personally feel that the killing of civilians by military action should also be viewed with a jaundiced eye, no matter what military (or naval, in the case of the Lusitania) logic can be seen to justify their deaths. In that sense, I'd argue that the burden of proof rests on the Bomber Command personnel, and not the museum.

1 comment:

Canadi-anna said...

The question was never whether the actions of Bomber Command should be reported on with accuracy. The question is whether 21st Century, armchair-quarterbacking is appropriate when placing a value judgment on this aspect of the air war.

A museum is supposed to present facts and allow its visitors to draw conclusions based on those facts. We all know that the tactics used in WWII would not be used today, but to call them immoral and ineffective as the museum has done, is to impugn the character and morality of the fliers.

The Vets are right. How easy it is for the War Museum to second guess the need or morality 65 years later, but these men -- at great personal risk and with slim chance of survival -- did what was necessary given the technology and intelligence available and the intractability of the enemy.

You can find more about the actual display at the War Museum's website -- I don't have the url offhand, but it is like a backgrounder page that sets out their argument supporting their own handling of the display.