ACM Harris' area bombing of Germany with questionable effectiveness demonstrates the limitations to single-mindedness.


‘The bomber will always get through’ was a phrase used by British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin in 1932. Baldwin advocated a belief among early air power enthusiasts that, regardless of air defences, sufficient bomber aircraft would survive to destroy cities and deliver attrition warfare from the skies. In February 1942 Harris was appointed to Bomber Command to address the Command’s poor bombing accuracy and he ruthlessly pursued the area bombing of German cities resulting in huge numbers of civilian casualties. Post war, the effectiveness of the campaign was questioned and a cloud of controversy was attached to Harris. Although written some time ago, the article is useful in exploring mindsets like Harris'. The official record claims 'Harris made a habit of seeing only one side of a question and then of exaggerating it. He had a tendency to confuse advice with interference, criticism with sabotage and evidence with propaganda.’ Harris consistently refused to release Bomber Command assets to support other Allied campaigns. As Harris' example demonstrates, single-mindedness arguably results in single outcomes suited to a linear system of events. Today's non-linear geopolitical system, interconnected social and economic systems cannot sustain single-minded approaches in warfare. If the contemporary Air Force leader is to influence the judicious application of expensive air power assets they must think in terms of joint effects, press on in the face of failed attempts, and develop a similar culture in subordinates to carry the mantle into the interconnected future.