Harris reaps the whirlwind

Trenchard’s foundations for Bomber Command, which are described in more detail in the post below, found a willing and determined disciple in Sir Arthur Harris. Harris was appointed C-in-C of Bomber Command in 1942.

The seeds of failure had been sown before Harris even took command: Trenchard’s theories were not correct ( it wasn’t possible to destroy a country with air power alone and the morale of the Germans did not break); and Bomber Command did not possess the technology to carry out their missions. Ill-equipped Blenheims limped across the channel as they struggled to find their targets through dense cloud ,heavy flak and nimble ME 109s.

“The Nazis entered this war under the rather childish delusion that they were going to bomb everyone else, and nobody was going to bomb them. At Rotterdam, London, Warsaw, and half a hundred other places, they put their rather naive theory into operation. They sowed the wind, and now they are going to reap the whirlwind.”

-Sir Arthur Harris


2 responses to “Harris reaps the whirlwind

  • Amy Scott

    What is striking is the derision with which Harris speaks of the Germans. When we discussed what makes a good pilot, you mentioned that a truly good pilot recognizes his/her limitations and vulnerabilities. Harris absolutely fails on this score at the same time that he underestimates the opposition. Surely this is a terrible combination!

    Finally I know where the phrase “reap the whirlwind” comes from. Was that not a title in Dad’s library? It is a rhetorically powerful turn of phrase!

  • Angels 14

    You are quite right- the singleminded nature of his personality seems to be one of his greatest downfalls. I’ll try to post up some various pieces on this.

    I also remember a book called Reap The Whirlwind. We’ll have to paw through the collection and see whether it exists. Harris used the phrase to great effect, but it is (as so many things are) a passage from the Bible. Here it is in context:

    Hosea 8:1-14

    Israel’s Apostasy

    Set the trumpet to your lips!
    One like a vulture is over the house of the Lord,
    because they have broken my covenant,
    and transgressed my law.
    Israel cries to me,
    ‘My God, we—Israel—know you!’
    Israel has spurned the good;
    the enemy shall pursue him.

    They made kings, but not through me;
    they set up princes, but without my knowledge.
    With their silver and gold they made idols
    for their own destruction.
    Your calf is rejected, O Samaria.
    My anger burns against them.
    How long will they be incapable of innocence?
    For it is from Israel,
    an artisan made it;
    it is not God.
    The calf of Samaria
    shall be broken to pieces.

    For they sow the wind,
    and they shall reap the whirlwind.
    The standing grain has no heads,
    it shall yield no meal;
    if it were to yield,
    foreigners would devour it.
    Israel is swallowed up;
    now they are among the nations
    as a useless vessel.
    For they have gone up to Assyria,
    a wild ass wandering alone;
    Ephraim has bargained for lovers.
    Though they bargain with the nations,
    I will now gather them up.
    They shall soon writhe
    under the burden of kings and princes.

    When Ephraim multiplied altars to expiate sin,
    they became to him altars for sinning.
    Though I write for him the multitude of my instructions,
    they are regarded as a strange thing.
    Though they offer choice sacrifices,
    though they eat flesh,
    the Lord does not accept them.
    Now he will remember their iniquity,
    and punish their sins;
    they shall return to Egypt.
    Israel has forgotten his Maker,
    and built palaces;
    and Judah has multiplied fortified cities;
    but I will send a fire upon his cities,
    and it shall devour his strongholds.

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