Did Winston Churchill have any influence in the decision to bomb German cities so badly at end of World War II? What influence did he have in the decision to appoint “Bomber” Harris to lead Bomber Command, and did he give a secret order to “bomb the hell out of them”? Did he exhibit this attitude in his speeches?
General Harris was a military appointment, but his efforts were supported by Churchill, who considered strategic bombing the only “second front” Britain could offer the Soviets in 1942, when the Allies were losing everywhere and Stalin was clamoring for the Anglo-Americans to attack. These efforts continued through early 1945. See Christopher Sterling, “Marriage of Convenience: Churchill and Bomber Harris,” in the Winter 2012-13 issue of Finest Hour, available to Churchill Centre members in a .pdf file. Click here.
I can find no reference to the quotation, “bomb the hell out of them.” He felt entirely within rights to bomb them back after the attacks on London, Coventry and other cities.
On the other hand, alone among Allied leaders, Churchill said, after being showed the results of one particularly gruesome raid, “Are we beasts? Are we taking this too far?” Neither Roosevelt nor Stalin ever expressed any qualms about the practice.
It is important to remember that the bombing of Dresden, and several other targets, was requested by the Soviet high command. The Dresden raid was authorised by Deputy Prime Minister Attlee, while Churchill was en route to Yalta in February 1945. The first question Churchill was asked by Stalin upon arrival in Yalta was, “Why haven’t you bombed Dresden?”