Letter: The huge debt that we owe to Harris

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The Independent Online
Sir: My father was a bomber pilot who flew two tours of duty in Bomber Command over Germany. Losses among aircrew were so high that my parents delayed their marriage until 1945 because he was not prepared to risk leaving a widow and children behind if he failed to survive. I am enormously proud of the part he and his fellow airmen played in the campaigns which Harris led.

As I grew up, there was never any doubt in my family that the bombing campaigns were a necessary part of the effort to win the war. Certainly, there was deep regret for the loss of life on the ground in Germany, just as there was for the loss of life on the ground in our own country when German bombs fell on London and Coventry.

Much stronger, however, was the admiration for the courage of the young men who nightly risked their lives in the defence of freedom. There was similar respect for the airmen of the Luftwaffe, with whom they had so much in common.

Fifty years after the events took place, we are fortunate to be able to enjoy the freedom won in part by the sacrifices of the tens of thousands of airmen who failed to return from these missions. This freedom gives us a privilege they never had, to analyse the events and decisions of that time with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight.

Any discussion of the morality of the individual campaigns of the war, whether on land, at sea or in the air, must be seen in the context of the overriding importance of preventing the spread of Nazism.

Yours faithfully,

C. G. HOLMES

Tervuren, Belgium

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