- Historic Sites
The 36th Mission
He spent his tour of duty bombing German cities and made it home only to discover he could never leave the war behind him. Then, a lifetime later, he found a way to make peace.
May/June 1995 | Volume 46, Issue 3
You are asking for forgiveness of past wrongs. I do not think that there are any resentments or hostile feelings with people in our country or in this town against those who carried out their duty as soldiers. People have seen and see the raids as events of fate or as rewards of National Socialist hubris. I can understand your personal feeling of responsibility. I do not know your creed. Let me say from the point of view of mine that it is this remaining feeling of responsibility, our redeemer died for.
With all best wishes
Yours faithfully Ministerialrat Lambrecht
Der Bürgermeister der Stadt Minden 25 June 1987
Dear Mr. Clark,
Thank you for your letter from May 16. I received it by the way over the British HQ in our town.
Reading your letter I was deeply impressed and reminded to a lot of actions in the Second World War. . . .
You remember the bombing of Minden at the 14th of March 1945. But this was one of the smaller operation of the Allied Air Force against our town. The most serious air raid was a fortnight later at the 28th of March, and in this action the center of the city was totally damaged—six days before the Canadian parachutists occupied Minden.
But that’s history now; we accept your apology as we need forgiveness from the people in other countries. . . .
Yours sincerely Röthemeier
Stadt Paderborn Der Bürgermeister 14 July 1987
Dear Mr. Clark,
Thank you very much for your letter dated 26 May 1987. I read it to the council during an open meeting. After the first sentences there was absolute silence in the council chamber.
The local press reported on your letter and printed it. It has met with a positive response both among the citizens and within the town council. . . .
We accept your apology and think about what German soldiers were ordered to do to other nations.
After the attack on 17 Jan. 1945 our town was completely, i.e., 85 percent, destroyed in March.
The population of Paderborn, despite great suffering and destruction, plucked up courage and rebuilt the town. Before 1945 our town had 40,000 inhabitants, and today the figure has risen to 120,000. . . .
Should you have the possibility to come to Germany we would be pleased to see you in Paderborn.
Yours very sincerely Herbert Schwiete
Dear Mr. Clark,
I was deeply moved to read your letter in which you ask forgiveness for your participation in the bombing of Dortmund. Not only do I wish to express my own personal thanks but also those of the inhabitants of Dortmund. . . .
I myself—like almost all of those belonging to our generation—was as a young man a member of the armed forces and thus unwillingly drawn into those tragic circumstances.
You can be sure that your letter reached someone who personally understands what you have to say.
“Reconciliation is achieved not by forgetting but by remembering”—this statement was recently uttered by our head of state, Federal President Richard Weizsäcker.
I believe this is a statement with which we can both concur. I would also like to add that this act of remembering cannot be solely fixed on the past. It must be a remembering that also entails the firm commitment to build a peaceful future with all the peoples of this world—a future of freedom, tolerance, friendship, and harmony. It is a road that our nations have been taking for the past forty years.
That you ask for forgiveness honors you greatly.
Allow me to say in reply that we Germans have to ask forgiveness of other peoples. I am always prepared to do this, and I do it now: I ask forgiveness of you and of the people of the United States of America. . . .
Mr. Clark, you will certainly be interested to learn what has become of Dortmund in recent years. As a sign of our esteem for you, I would like to present you with a book of illustrations about the town of Dortmund today.
Please accept this present as a symbolic expression of the sincere solidarity that the town of Dortmund extends to yourself and the citizens of the United States. As friends and architects of a happier future you are always welcome here.