View the H-War Discussion Logs by month
View the Prior Message in H-War's March 2010 logs by: [date] [author] [thread]
View the Next Message in H-War's March 2010 logs by: [date] [author] [thread]
Visit the H-War home page.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Re: REPLY: Weapons--Napalm/Flamethrowers Date: March 5, 2010 5:40:34 PM EST To: H-NET Military History Discussion List <H-WAR@H-NET.MSU.EDU> James Ward wrote of "reservations some RAF and 8th AAF flyers held knowing that their payloads would incinerate civilians in ghastly ways" There have always been people in war who thought about the nastier consequences of their actions against not just civilians, but even the uniformed enemy. I had a friend who was an artilleryman in Viet Nam who was haunted by the feeling that some of the shells he sent hurtling through the air might fall on civilians, even children. It's a natural consequence of growing up in a culture with a Judao-Christian heritage to worry about inadvertently doing harm to others. (Not to imply that no one from other cultures may have the same reservations.) Others accept the idea that the most moral thing to do in a war is fight hard and accept collateral damage, to get the war over as quickly as possibly. Col. Tibbetts, who dropped the first atomic bomb, was never apologetic about it even when confronted with mention of the horrors it caused in Hiroshima. I would have to say that in my experience the further one is from actual day to day, down and dirty combat, the more likely it is to have such worries. Those at the tip of the spear, who watch friends suffer and die, tend to become much more sanguine (at least) about things. And those who have witnessed atrocities committed by the enemy really lose most capacity to worry about how they take out the enemy. The line from the movie "The Guns of Navarone" in a way sums up what is really justifiable worry. The character says "To beat the Germans we have to be just as tough and nasty as they are, but I worry that we might wake up some day and realize we are even nastier." Actually, that's an overstatement, because we in the West absolutely do not want to be just as nasty as some of those with whom we fight, we need to retain our own standards rather than adopt those of the enemy. It is, however, a thorny moral problem as to just how far to go. For instance, if the enemy is firing at you and hitting your men while hiding behind a civilian, do you regretfully fire at him even though it means killing the civilian? Some say no, you withdraw (present ROE in Afghanistan), others will say the responsibility for that civilian's death is not yours, it belongs to the enemy hiding behind them. There is a well known incident of a SEAL team in Iraq that was observed by two sheepherders, and the team leader decided they could not kill them to safeguard their mission. As a result, 7 of the 8 men on the mission died, and 8 more died trying to save them. Was the team leader right or wrong in his decision? There is no way to prove what is right in that case, it is too emotional and individual a subject. Persons of the old school that says the mission and your men come first will say he was wrong. Others will say he was right, no matter what it cost. I will admit to being of the old school. R J Del Vecchio ----- For subscription help, go to: http://www.h-net.org/lists/help/ To change your subscription settings, go to http://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/wa?SUBED1=h-war -----