Arthur Harris

(1892—1984) air force officer

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(b. 13 Apr. 1892, d. 5 Apr. 1984).

Head of British Bomber Command 1942–5 Born in Cheltenham, he joined the Royal Flying Corps in 1915, after having fought as a soldier in South‐West Africa. He rose through the service to become Commander of 5 Group (Bomber Command) in 1939, when World War II broke out. Harris consistently advocated the value of area bombing, believing that the total destruction of Germany would force the surviving Germans to surrender without the necessity of a full‐scale invasion. Although this strategy received the support of Churchill, it remained controversial. It has since been shown that the bombing of selected targets such as transport systems, industrial installations, and oil refineries proved far more effective in hindering the German war effort. He has also been criticized over his role in the bombing of Dresden in February 1945, in which 100,000 civilians were killed and a city with a rare historical heritage was flattened.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).

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