web analytics
July 1, 2015 / 14 Tammuz, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Peacenik McGovern: We Should Have Bombed Auschwitz


George McGovern received the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1944

George McGovern received the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1944

George McGovern is widely remembered for advocating immediate American withdrawal from Vietnam and sharp reductions in defense spending. Yet despite his reputation as a pacifist, the former U.S. senator and 1972 presidential candidate, who died Sunday at 90, did believe there were times when America should use military force abroad.

Case in point: the Allies’ failure to bomb Auschwitz, an episode with which McGovern had a little-known personal connection.

In June 1944, the Roosevelt administration received a detailed report about Auschwitz from two escapees who described the mass-murder process and drew diagrams pinpointing the gas chambers and crematoria. Jewish organizations repeatedly asked U.S. officials to order the bombing of Auschwitz and the railroad lines leading to the camp. The proposal was rejected on the grounds that it would require “considerable diversion” of planes that were needed elsewhere for the war effort.

One U.S. official claimed that bombing Auschwitz “might provoke even more vindictive action by the Germans.”

Enter McGovern. In World War II, the 22-year-old son of a South Dakota pastor piloted a B-24 “Liberator” bomber. Among his targets: German synthetic oil factories in occupied Poland – some of them fewer than five miles from the Auschwitz gas chambers.

In 2004, McGovern spoke on camera for the first time about those experiences in a meeting organized by the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies with Holocaust survivor and philanthropist Sigmund Rolat and filmmakers Stuart Erdheim and Chaim Hecht.

McGovern dismissed the Roosevelt administration’s claims about the diversion of planes. The argument was just “a rationalization,” he said, noting that no diversions would have been needed when he and other U.S pilots already were flying over that area.

Ironically, the Allies did divert military resources for other reasons. For example, FDR in 1943 ordered the Army to divert money and manpower to rescue artwork and historic monuments in Europe’s battle zones. The British provided ships to bring 20,000 Muslims on a religious pilgrimage from Egypt to Mecca in the middle of the war. Gen. George Patton even diverted U.S. troops in Austria to save 150 of the famous Lipizzaner dancing horses.

“There is no question we should have attempted…to go after Auschwitz,” McGovern said in the interview. “There was a pretty good chance we could have blasted those rail lines off the face of the earth, which would have interrupted the flow of people to those death chambers, and we had a pretty good chance of knocking out those gas ovens.”

Even if there was a danger of accidentally harming some of the prisoners, “it was certainly worth the effort, despite all the risks,” McGovern said, because the prisoners were already “doomed to death” and an Allied bombing attack might have slowed down the mass-murder process, thus saving many more lives.

At the time, 16-year-old Elie Wiesel was part of a slave labor battalion stationed just outside the main camp of Auschwitz. Many years later, in his bestselling book Night, Wiesel described a U.S. bombing raid on the oil factories that he witnessed.

“[I]f a bomb had fallen on the blocks [the prisoners’ barracks], it alone would have claimed hundreds of victims on the spot. But we were no longer afraid of death; at any rate, not of that death,” Wiesel wrote. “Every bomb that exploded filled us with joy and gave us new confidence in life. The raid lasted over an hour. If it could only have lasted ten times ten hours!”

At the time, McGovern and his fellow pilots had no idea what was happening in Auschwitz.

“I attended every briefing that the air force gave to us,” he said. “I heard everyone, from generals on down. I never heard once mentioned the possibility that the United States air force might interdict against the gas chambers.”

Ironically, in one raid, several stray bombs from McGovern’s squadron missed the oil factory they were targeting and accidentally struck an SS sick bay, killing five SS men.

McGovern said that if his commanders had asked for volunteers to bomb the death camp, “whole crews would have volunteered.” Most soldiers understood that the war against the Nazis was not just a military struggle but a moral one, as well. In his view they would have recognized the importance of trying to interrupt the mass-murder process, even if it meant endangering their own lives in a risky bombing raid.

Indeed, the Allies’ air drops of supplies to the Polish Home Army rebels in Warsaw in August 1944 were carried out by volunteers, who agreed to undertake the missions despite the hazards of flying their planes to areas outside their normal range.

McGovern noted that he remained an ardent admirer of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

“Franklin Roosevelt was a great man and he was my political hero,” he said in the interview. “But I think he made two great mistakes in World War II.” One was the internment of Japanese Americans; the other was the decision “not to go after Auschwitz…. God forgive us for that tragic miscalculation.”

In contrast with his pacifist image, McGovern emphasized that for him, the central lesson of the U.S. failure to bomb Auschwitz was the need for “a determination that never again will we fail to exercise the full capacity of our strength in that direction.”

He added, “We should have gone all out [against Auschwitz], and we must never again permit genocide.”

(JTA)

Rafael Medoff is founding director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies and the author or editor of 15 books about the Holocaust and American Jewish history.

About the Author: Dr. Rafael Medoff is founding director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, in Washington, D.C., and author of 14 books about the Holocaust, Zionism, and American Jewish history. His latest book is 'FDR and the Holocaust: A Breach of Faith,' available from Amazon.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

2 Responses to “Peacenik McGovern: We Should Have Bombed Auschwitz”

  1. Charlie Hall says:

    McGovern was a good man.

    It is not clear that the blame for failing to bomb Auschwitz falls on Roosevelt. One reason that the allies won the war was that Roosevelt did not micromanage his field commanders. The decisions as to what targets to bomb were in the hands of Gens. Carl Spatz, Jimmy Doolittle, and Dwight Eisenhower.

  2. Charlie Hall says:

    McGovern was a good man.

    It is not clear that the blame for failing to bomb Auschwitz falls on Roosevelt. One reason that the allies won the war was that Roosevelt did not micromanage his field commanders. The decisions as to what targets to bomb were in the hands of Gens. Carl Spatz, Jimmy Doolittle, and Dwight Eisenhower.

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY)
Pro-Israel Group: Tell Chuck Schumer Not to Cave [video]
Latest Indepth Stories
Matan Katzman. regional executive at the StandWithUs

No longer will delegitimization efforts go unchallenged. That’s a silence we will continue to break.

Flag of Sweden

Increasingly, Sweden is becoming a country where anti-Semitism & supporting terrorism is acceptable.

Community-Jewels-logo

Rabbi Pfeffer points out that at his site, there are no one-line answers. “We want to show the people we’re interested in their questions,” he says.

Menachem Zivotofsky sued the U.S. government because the U.S. refused to include "Israel" alongside "Jerusalem" as the place of his birth on his passport. So far the courts have sided with the government.

The problem with US treatment of Israel did not start with Obama but with birth of Jewish State

The pathetic failure of the Marianne to reach Gaza is the best thing that has happened to Israel since Hamas mis-fired a rocket on its own civilians.

Wonder why Israel has the world’s most insane rules of engagement imposed on its military? Read on..

Think political Islam’s a problem now just wait until an Islamist nuclear umbrella covers the region

Fiorina’s wrong about Islam which embraces our death&destruction confusing pc theories for hard fact

Bangladesh PM Hasina is fighting terror not only for her nation but for the entire civilized world.

No necessity to redefine marriage, just address equal rights for couples in non-nuclear families

PM Netanyahu has pledged the nation won’t rest until the hero Eli Cohen is returned home to Israel

“Palestinian armed groups” & “local authorities” are named in the report; Hamas’ absence stands out

Dating apps have really changed the way many young Jews approach dating.

The families of those slain even publicly forgave the murderer. Charleston was serene and at peace.

Changing plans needn’t be a frustrating experience. Sometimes the new path proves far more rewarding

More Articles from Dr. Rafael Medoff
Medoff-050815

An estimated 1.5-million Jewish men/women served in US, British, Soviet & Allied armies in WWII

Bibi0303.jpg

Israeli history now has its version of “Dewey Defeats Truman” with headlines from 2 anti-Bibi papers

Prominent Jewish leaders acknowledged that their predecessors had mistreated the Bergson Group.

The long ordeal of the Armenian Orphan Rug, held hostage to fears of angering Turkey, has finally ended. Or has it?

Carter developed a fondness for Arafat believing “they were both ordained to be peacemakers by God”

With generous support from the Egyptian Jewish community, the exiled family built a new life for itself in the Mafruza and Gabbari refugee camps near Alexandria.

While grateful not to be returned to Germany, the passengers understood they were still in the middle of a danger zone.

These “Jewish Amazons” were living proof of the failure of the enemies of the Jewish people.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/peacenik-mcgovern-we-should-have-bombed-auschwitz/2012/10/24/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: