Foreword to the
original edition of David Irving's famous bestseller: The
Destruction of Dresden
MARSHAL SIR ROBERT SAUNDBY
K.B.E., M.C., D.F.C., A.F.C.
is at right of this jacket image of US Bantam Books
WHEN the author of this book invited me to write a
foreword to it, my first reaction was that I had been too
closely concerned with the story. But though closely
concerned I was not in any way responsible for the
decision to make a full-scale air attack on Dresden. Nor
was my Commander-in-Chief, Sir Arthur Harris. Our
part was to carry out, to the best of our ability, the
instructions we received from the Air Ministry. And, in
this case, the Air Ministry was merely passing on
instructions received from those responsible for the
higher direction of the war.
This book is an impressive piece of work. The story is
a highly dramatic and complex one, which still holds an
element of mystery. I am still not satisfied that I fully
understand why it happened. The author has, with immense
industry and patience, gathered together all the
evidence, separated fact from fiction, and given us a
detailed account as near to the truth, perhaps, as we
shall ever get.
That the bombing of Dresden was a great tragedy none
can deny. That it was really a military necessity few,
after reading this book, will believe. It was one of
those terrible things that sometimes happen in wartime,
brought about by an unfortunate combination of
circumstances. Those who approved it were neither wicked
nor cruel, though it may well be that they were too
remote from the harsh realities of war to understand
fully the appalling destructive power of air bombardment
in the spring of 1945.
The advocates of nuclear disarmament seem to believe
that, if they could achieve their aim, war would become
tolerable and decent. They would do well to read this
book and ponder the fate of Dresden, where 135,000 people
died as the result of an air attack with conventional
weapons. On the night of March 9-10, 1945, an air attack
on Tokyo by American heavy bombers, using incendiary and
high explosive bombs, caused the death of 83,793 people.
The atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima killed 71,379
weapons are, of course, far more powerful nowadays, but
it is a mistake to suppose that, if they were abolished,
great cities could not be reduced to dust and ashes, and
frightful massacres brought about, by aircraft using
conventional weapons. And the removal of the fear of
nuclear retaliation -- which makes modern full-scale war
amount to mutual annihilation -- might once again make
resort to war attractive to an aggressor.
It is not so much this or the other means of making
war that is immoral or inhumane. What is immoral is war
itself. Once full-scale war has broken out it can never
be humanized or civilized, and if one side attempted to
do so it would be most likely to be defeated. So long as
we resort to war to settle differences between nations,
so long will we have to endure the horrors, barbarities
and excesses that war brings with it. That, to me, is the
lesson of Dresden.
Nuclear power has at last brought us within sight of
the end of full-scale war. It is now too violent to be a
practicable means of solving anything. No war aim, no
conceivable gain that war could bring, would be worth a
straw when balanced against the fearful destruction and
loss of life that would be suffered by both sides.
There has never been the slightest hope of abolishing
war by agreement or disarmament, or for reasons of
morality and humanity. If it disappears it will be
because it has become so appallingly destructive that it
can no longer serve any useful purpose.
This book tells, dispassionately and honestly, the
story of a deeply tragic example, in time of war, of
man's inhumanity to man. Let us hope that the horrors of
Dresden and Tokyo, Hiroshima and Hamburg, may drive home
to the whole human race the futility, savagery, and utter
uselessness of modern warfare.
We must not make the fatal mistake, however, of
believing that war can be avoided by unilateral
disarmament, by resort to pacifism, or by striving for an
unattainable neutrality. It is the balance of nuclear
power that will keep the peace until mankind, as some day
it must, comes to its senses.