Words diminish achievement
Calgarian Art Smith is a genuine war hero and true patriot of our country, so it’s easy to see why he gets miffed when someone suggests he and his compatriots were not.
After all, the 87-year-old Smith flew 34 missions with Bomber Command over Germany during the Second World War, and ended up as a squadron leader and being awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
It was edge-of-the-seat stuff all the time with only a few pilots equalling Smith’s sorties. Most pilots and crew went down after just a handful of missions.
But, says Smith, who later went on to become an alderman, MLA and member of Parliament, the job had to be done to halt Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler’s mad dreams.
And now Smith has a new mission on his hands.
At a display at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, which ironically Smith raised funds for, a plaque questions not only the value of Bomber Command’s role in bringing Nazi Germany to its heels, but on the very morality of the raids.
Under the plaque’s title of ‘Strategic Bombing’ and subhead ‘Mass bombing raid against Germany resulted in vast destruction and heavy loss of life’ it goes on to read:
“The value and morality of the strategic offensive against Germany remains bitterly contested. Bomber Command’s aim was to crush civilian morale and force Germany to surrender by destroying its cities and industrial installations.
Although Bomber Command and American attacks left 600,000 Germans dead, and more than five-million homeless, the raids resulted in only small reductions in German war production until late in the war.”
Says Smith: “The plaque purports to sum up the contribution of Allied Command Bomber squadrons and as a former pilot with the Royal Air Force, I take strong exception to the description of our mission’s objective, and I do so for the 10,000 airmen who never made it home.”
He says with the exception of Berlin itself, not once was he ever ordered to bomb civilian targets.
“Let me make it clear that I know there were many civilian causalities during our bombing attacks on German targets, but with the exception of Berlin, all of my other 34 engagements were military or war strategic objectives. I have made the effort to survey other Canadian and British squadrons and they also confirm this historical fact.”
Smith says a campaign to have the plaque’s inscription changed is gathering steam with the Royal Canadian Legion and the Air Crew Association of Canada and its chapters putting their weight behind it.
He has also written to Beverly Oda, the federal heritage minister, to take action, and to a number of MPs urging them to put forward private member’s bills.
“The statement our attacks left 600,000 German dead is a grossly unfair assessment of the air force’s contribution to the war, and in particular I am offended when I remember I was subjected to German bombing in several British cities.”
He adds: “The final statement that our raids resulted in only small reductions in German war production is an absolute falsehood, and to be displayed in our war museum makes it abundantly clear I was wrong to assist in the financial campaign to build the project.”
Friends, let’s get behind Smith and his gallant compatriots all the way on this one, and I’ll bet 1,000-to-1 the person who drew up that plaque never sweated blood on a bombing raid over Nazi Germany.