War, now and Then

If you want to see how attitudes to war have changed, I would point you at this move, Command Decision, that I saw some months ago.

In it, a general is sending bombers deep into Germany, far beyond the range of any fighter escorts. The missions are risky, and casualties are very high, and as the movie progresses, we learn that they are about to jump, and become, much much higher.

The press is having a field day, attacking the decision as sacrificing lives.

The reporter in question visits headquarters and demands answers. In response, one of the generals hands the reporter a top secret report, shows him into the next room with the words “read this then forget you ever saw it”.

“This” is a report on the new German jet fighter, and the operation is known as “Stitch” – as in “Stitch in time”. The point made is that if these factories are not destroyed, even at the cost of one hundred airmen, then soon all airmen will be defenceless as planes twice the speed of any allied fighter attack them.

The reporter emerges from the room and apologises for his reports, and promises to do whatever he can.


There’s a few things I’d note:

  1. There was press coverage and criticism of command decisions during WWII. (I have other sources on this point too)
  2. Reporters in the old days cared about the big picture, rather than scrambling over everyone else to get their story. Too much reporting from Iraq has been the latter.
  3. While they occasionally did go overboard, they supported their own side when push came to shove.
  4. The generals knew full well what they were doing. They knew it only too well that they were sending good men to their deaths. (Particularly when bombing the last factory, when the Germans put up a massive defence.) But they had to, or they would end up sending many more.
Categorized as War
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