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Murder in the Cathedral: Terrorizing the Innocent

Joe Wall

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Joe Wall is a veteran of World War II, and is now retired. He writes: "I have a close personal interest in this since my older brother, Eddie, had been a B-17 combat crewman in the 95th Bomb Group that led the October 10, 1943, attack on the city and the people of Münster, Germany. He did not take part in this mission, having completed his required 25 missions on September 27. He was one of the 23 percent of all those who had flown over Germany via England with him the previous April to survive combat.

My brother told me a number of times that all his targets were strictly military ones. He was a soldier and a brave one (two Distinguished Flying Crosses and five Air Medals), not a murderer of women and children. Partly as a result of his example, I enlisted in the Army Air Force Combat Crew Training Program in September 1944, just a couple of months past my 17th birthday." This article is adapted with permission from the November 2000 issue of Voices for the Unborn (P.O. Box 617, Feasterville PA 19053; 215-355-5292; voicesfortheunborn.com).

How did we get here, anyway? "Here" being defined as the present sad -- no, the dreadful -- state of our country, of these United States. All we need do is look around to see how low America has sunk, morally, spiritually, politically, in every way, except materially.

Those of us who have attained the status of what is now called "senior citizen" can recall a far different time when most of the manifest evils of our time -- abortion, sexual promiscuity, homosexuality, drug addiction, pornography, political corruption -- were, if not completely absent, at least known to be evil, and so were vigorously fought by individual citizens, by civic groups, and by the various levels of government.

Today these hideous sins have not only become an integral part of our national life and culture but are defended and upheld by those who formerly fought against them. Indeed, people, such as prolifers, who still fight against them, are subject to arrests, beatings, and imprisonment.

How did the American people come to make this almost complete turnaround from those beliefs they had so firmly held, a scant half-century before?

There is an emerging body of literature that endeavors to explain this phenomenon; to supply reasons as to why it occurred, delving back into history for answers.

However, so far as I know, no one has considered the rejection, during World War II by the U.S. government and its military high command, of the Universal Moral Law in order to achieve certain pragmatic political goals (i.e., to win the war). Once this bill of goods (that you could ignore the Universal Moral Law to achieve your ends) was sold to the American people, it became increasingly easier for them to justify the acceptance of other manifestly evil policies.

Thus, we now have abortion, justified for all sorts of pragmatic reasons. The same is also true of homosexuality, promiscuity, divorce, drugs, etc. Once the principle is adopted that you can ignore the Universal Moral Law for pragmatic reasons, the door is wide open for all types of evils to enter. And, as we can see by simply reading the daily newspaper, from looking at the television, listening to the radio, this is exactly what has happened.

This kind of amoral pragmatism is, to a large extent, the source of the unholy moral cesspool we live in today.

Having said this, where did it get its start?

A good case can be made for the decision by the U.S. government and its military high command during World War II to adopt the British policy of mass terror bombings of German cities.

The British Royal Air Force (RAF) found that when it attempted daylight bombings, its planes were simply wiped out by the Luftwaffe; they then adopted the far safer strategy of night bombings. Unfortunately, it was impossible to hit specific military targets at night. Therefore, they decided to target entire cities with the goal of killing large numbers of civilians and thereby terrorize Germany into submission. This was absolutely contrary to the Rules of War adhered to before by all civilized nations, but the British did it anyway.

By the end of the war, RAF bombers managed to slaughter some 600,000 innocent civilians, including 400,000 women and 120,000 children (most men were away in the army) according to an analysis by Sir John Keegan, the leading British historian of World War II.

When the American Eighth Air Force began its daylight precision bombing, utilizing the famed Norden bombsight in the summer of 1942, it struck only military targets -- airfields, submarine pens, military equipment factories, oil refineries. It strictly avoided bombing civilian targets. However, there was a problem. The heavy cloud cover over northern Europe on many days prevented them from using their bomber force when they could not see the target clearly enough to use this Norden bombsight. On these days, a growing number of American bombers were forced to sit idle on their British airfields.

Eventually, a crude form of radar bombsight was developed which enabled bombardiers to visualize, through the clouds, entire cities, but not individual military targets. With this capability, in November 1943, the Eighth Air Force joined the British RAF in bombing the German civilian population. From then on the Eighth Air Force enthusiastically took part in the slaughter of German civilians.

However, even before the beginning of the Eighth Air Force complicity in the British terror bombing campaign there was another raid (on October 10, 1943), in broad daylight using the precision Norden bombsight. It was deliberately designed to hit the center of a large German city, not because it was a military target, but solely to kill the large numbers of innocent civilians who lived there.

This raid by 15 bomb groups of the First and Third Air Divisions of the Eighth Air Force was aimed at the very center of the city of Münster in western Germany. The strike force was lead by the 95th Bomb Group (H), operating out of Horham, England.

According to the pre-raid briefing by the 95th's intelligence officer, Major F.J. Donohue: "Münster is a vital rail junction between Germany's northern ports and the heavy industries and the munition plants of the Ruhr Valley ... . However, unlike all previous targets attacked to date by the Eighth Air Force, today it will be different -- very different -- because you will hit the center of the city, the homes of the working people of those marshaling yards. You will disrupt their lives so completely [by killing them] that their morale will be seriously affected and their will to work will be substantially reduced [especially if they and their families are dead]."

One of the 95th's officers, lead navigator Captain (later Lt. Col.) Ellis B. Scripture, had serious reservations on hearing this briefing. As he explained: "I'd been raised in a strict Protestant home. My parents were God-oriented people and were quite active church members. I was shocked to learn that we were to bomb civilians as our primary target for the first time in the war and that our aiming point was to be the front steps of the Münster Cathedral at noon on Sunday, just as Mass was completed. I was very reluctant to fly this mission; in fact I had a hard time realizing that we would have such a target. I approached Colonel John Gerhart (95th Group Commander) and told him I didn't think I could fly this particular raid and I explained my reasons.

"He said something like this: 'Look, Captain, this is war -- spelled W-A-R. We're in an all-out fight; the Germans have been killing people all over Europe for years. We're here to beat the hell out of them and we're going to do it. We have to date been very diligent and concentrated all our efforts on U-boat yards, aircraft plants, oil installations, and other industrial targets connected with the German war machine. We have astutely avoided the possibility of bombing civilians. This decision [to bomb the Münster Catholic Cathedral] has only been reached after great consideration. It has become apparent to the Allied leaders that we must now carry the war to the German people to make them realize that there is a war going on and that they are the victims of their own military leadership in Germany. People are beginning to have real doubts about the Nazis' capability of winning this war. All of us are well aware of the countless atrocities committed by the Nazis in the name of the German people. Now, I'm leading this mission and you're my navigator. You're leading this mission also; this could be an important turning point in the war. You have no option! If you do not fly, I'll have to court martial you. Any questions?'

"I said, 'No sir,' and that ended the incident."

Unfortunately, Ellis Scripture (and others in the 95th) accepted this sophistry of Colonel Gerhart and so took part in this bombing mission that was deliberately aimed, not against military targets, but at killing large numbers of German civilians in complete defiance of the Rules of War agreed to by the Americans and British under the Geneva Convention.

Further, this was in violation, not only of the rules of civilized war, but also of the teachings of the Catholic Church, which (according to her Catechism) spells out that "every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation" (#2314). Of course, as we know, this has always been the teaching of the Catholic Faith.

Once the rule against waging war against innocent civilians had been breached, the Eighth Air Force went on to join the British RAF in its ongoing massacre of the innocents. As we have noted, by the end of the war, 600,000 German civilians were destroyed by our British-American bombing holocaust. Later, as we know, America conducted its own bombing holocaust against the Japanese. In the course of our American 20th Air Force's fire bombing campaign in 1945, some 67 Japanese cities were torched.

The 95th Bomb Group's Colonel John Gerhart described this bombing mission against the women and children of Münster as "an important turning point in the war."

Perhaps it was more than that.

It may well have marked a kind of watershed whereby the leadership of the American people turned away from the Catholic/Christian morality and adopted the secular-humanist rubric (the same as that of their Nazi foes) that "the end, winning the war, justifies the means."

What a pity it was that even our own American Catholic leaders, along with most of the rest of us, were so caught up in this "win the war" hysteria that we failed to understand the evil of the "means" being used and so endorsed a philosophy that is now being used to destroy us (that is, our Catholic people, our Catholic Faith).


There is an irony in this massacre of the innocent people of the City of Münster. As a whole, German Catholics were strongly opposed to Hitler and Nazism. In the 1933 election that brought Hitler to power, the Catholic one-third of the German people voted heavily against the Nazi Party. The City of Münster was in the heart of the anti-Nazi, Catholic Rhineland. Its brave Archbishop, Count von Gallen, was known as the "Lion of Münster." He had preached against Nazism from the very pulpit of the Münster Cathedral while Gestapo agents wrote down his every word. The American military high command, in their ignorance (one hopes), slaughtered just those people who were potentially our strongest allies in Germany.

Read the entire article on the New Oxford Review website (new window will open).

Posted: 05-Sep-06

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