Here's a quote from Cliff Chadderton, chairman of the National Council of Veterans' Associations, published in the Ottawa Citizen:
To see (the exhibit) cheapened by terrible errors, which cast our most heroic people in a most unflattering light ... it was just patently wrong.
Now, I'm not arguing about heroism. It took heroic people to fly bombers against the Germans. But to say that the exhibit was cheapened by errors is wrongheaded. The news report focused on one particular panel. Let's see how many errors it had:
The value and morality of the strategic bomber offensive against Germany remains bitterly contested.
Well, I think it remains contested, although perhaps now it is no longer bitter. I can assure people it was a lot more bitter in the middle 1980s, when I first encountered it. The last paragraph of this little summary for students concerning Air Marshall (sic) Harris, illustrates the continuing controversy.
Bomber Command's aim was to crush civilian morale and force Germany to surrender by destroying its cities and industrial installations.
This, I think, is where the 'error' creeps in. The Bomber Command lobby prefers to regard all these targets as military ones, and to regard any effects on civilians as the tragic collateral of living in the wrong place at the wrong time. However, I quote from the official history itself quoting from a memo prepared by Air Marshal Arthur Harris for the Air Ministry: 'It is not possible to dogmatise on the degree of destruction necessary to cause the enemy to capitulate, but there can be little doubt that the necessary conditions would be brought about by the destruction of between 40 percent and 50 percent of the principal German towns.' Well, that sounds like destroying cities and crushing morale to me.
Although Bomber Command and American attacks left 600,000 Germans dead and more than five million homeless, the raids resulted in only small reductions of German war production until late in the war.
The only 'error' I note in this passage is the vague term 'late in the war'. But here's an indisuputable fact. In the week ending 19 August 1944, there 899,091 railroad car loadings in the Reich, and that ending 23 December only 547,309. I don't know what they were before August 1944, but prior to March 1944, German rail transport was not a major target of Allied bombing. (Figures from John Ellis's excellent book Brute Force.)
Mr Chadderton has a track record of vigorously opposing anything that doesn't agree with his own interpretation of the historical record concerning the operations of Bomber Command. The Ottawa Citizen article indicates that a panel of historians did not find the panel 'in error'. When the pressure of private interest groups sets aside the consensus view of historians, it's difficult not to wonder if this is a victory for propaganda, and that truth is not only the first casualty in war, but a constant victim buried together with the dead.