The Combined Bomber Offensive: Classical and Revolutionary,
Combined and Divided, Planned and Fortuitous
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Reply to General Eaker

Robin Higham

A very brief rebuttal is in order because General Eaker has raised a number of issues which need clarifying.

In the first place, let me say that I have nothing but admiration for the gallantry of the crews concerned. However, the issue before us was not that of personal bravery but of command. Any assessment of this factor must be coloured by the outlook of those involved. General Eaker was directly involved at a time when I was still coming through the training pipeline. Since then he has retired while I have gone on to be a professional historian. This gives us a different point of view.

My argument is not that the crews should not have been trained by operations, nor that the equipment should not have been developed; it is that this work could more effectively have been done elsewhere with greater effect on behalf of the overall war effort. Moreover, I have gone further and suggested, as did Webster and Frankland, that Mosquitoes could have been used for guerrilla warfare with equal effect against German home defences and at a much smaller price. Beyond this, it will no doubt remain a point of argument whether the slow and ineffective development of the Allied air attack on Germany before 1944 did not in fact stimulate rather than depress German war production.

I would fully agree with General Eaker that if we are going to employ our air power to the best advantage in the future, we must understand how it operated in the past and what were its limitations-—military, political, diplomatic, economic, social, and ideological. Just as General Eaker strove honestly as a commander to exercise the command of air power as he felt it should be used, so we professional historians try after careful study and much reflection to examine, explain, and judge its use in the past in such a way that those gallant men who fought our wars in the past shall not have died in vain.