Harris, Arthur



Arthur Harrisí name is indelibly associated with the bomber war. He led Bomber Command from February 1942 until the end of the war against Germany. During the war he was regarded as one of the greatest allied commanders, who had taken over the Command at a critical point and moved it into higher gear. But he became the target of much criticism in the last stages, especially after the bombing of Dresden. Controversies and deep differences of view still run deep, in the United Kingdom as well as abroad. Some people, especially Bomber Command veterans, think of Harris as a war hero who was badly treated by his country after the war. Others have been sharply critical about Harris carrying out the strategy of area bombing until the end of the war. When the plans for a statue in London were made public in 1991 this gave rise to a storm of protest as well as support. The Mayor of Cologne even wrote Queen Elisabeth appealing to her not to take part in the unveiling ceremony. It makes Arthur Harris no doubt one of the most controversial figures of the Second World War.


area bombing
Aerial bombardment targeted indiscriminately at a large area. Prohibited since 1977 by the Geneva Convention. Also known as carpet bombing, obliteration bombing and moral bombing.
Bomber Command
RAF unit which controlled strategic and sometimes tactical bombing (as in Normandy)
Art of warfare, the way in which war should be conducted in general.

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Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Arthur Harris
(Source: National Portrait Gallery)


Article by:
Pieter Schlebaum
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