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WW2 Bombing of Dresden & Hamburg - Ruins

The highly controversial Allied bombing of Dresden & Hamburg - Facts, opinions and points of view.
Latest hand-picked WWII news. See also: Bomber Pilots, Allied dark side, World War II Tours, Battlefields.

Dresden: The World War Two bombing 75 years on
On 13 February 1945, British aircraft launched an attack on the German city of Dresden. In the days that followed, they and their US allies would drop 4,000 tons of bombs in the assault. The ensuing firestorm killed 25,000 people, ravaging the city centre, sucking the oxygen from the air and suffocating people. Dresden was not unique. Allied bombers killed tens of thousands and destroyed large areas with attacks on Cologne, Hamburg and Berlin, and the Japanese cities of Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But the bombing has become one of the most controversial Allied acts of WW2. Some have questioned the military value of Dresden. Even Churchill expressed doubts immediately after the attack.

Dresden 1945 - Total war amid the war
Dresden thought it was safe, protected by its architectural beauty. But 73 years ago, the city paid an enormous price for Hitler's war, suffering bombing attacks of a ferocity unparalleled in Germany.

Victor Gregg, the only Briton who was on Dresden soil during the Allied bombings, believes Churchill "should have been shot"
The enviably vital old gentleman wearing shirt and tie and sitting in the office of the London publishing house Bloomsbury seems so even-keeled that it's difficult to imagine him as a psychopath. But Victor Gregg had become a very "dangerous and even violent" man after World War II. "What I saw in Dresden transformed me into a psychopath," he explains, referring to the Allied bombings on the German city toward the end of the war. But he says later that "the hatred just runs out eventually." A lot of time has passed since Dresden, after all.

Official report after 5 years of research: Allied bombing of Dresden killed 25,000
Up to 25,000 people were killed in the Allied bombing of Dresden during World War 2 an official commission stated. After 5 years of research, the Dresden Historians' Commission published its final report on the firestorm unleashed by British and American bombers February 13-15, 1945, only 3 months before the end of the war. The study is meant to settle a debate that has continued for decades, with far-right groups claiming that 500,000 people were killed in the "criminal" air assault on the Baroque city known as "Florence on the Elbe." Conservative estimates had put the number of deaths at 20,000.

Head of air intelligence at Bletchley Park criticized the bombing of Dresden: Allied knew the SS Panzer army would not return that way
Peter Calvocoressi had a career as a WW2 codebreaker, historian, publisher and author. As head of air intelligence at Station X - the top secret HQs at Bletchley Park of the codebreakers who cracked Nazi Germany's Enigma cipher - he had a central role in the operation to intercept high-level German orders. Calvocoressi was critical of the Allied bombing of Dresden, saying that Ultra had informed the Allies that the SS Panzer army would not be travelling back through the city after the battle of the Ardennes. His account of his work at Bletchley Park is entitled "Top Secret Ultra".

British air strategy in WWII: The focus of attacks must be the people in their homes and factories
Unpublished papers Leo McKinstry have discovered for his book (Lancaster: The Second World War's Greatest Bomber) reveal that the mass, indiscriminate killing of Germany's population was the key goal of the RAF's bombing campaign. Typical was one paper from the Air Ministry (August 1941) urging that the focus of attacks must be "the people in their homes and factories". At the same time the RAF's chief Sir Charles Portal privately promised Winston Churchill that a big expansion in the heavy bomber force would result "the destruction of six million homes" and "civilian casualties estimated at 900,000".

The logic behind the destruction of Dresden - Postwar myths
For years, the anniversary of the World War 2 bombing of Dresden has been a rallying point for neo-Nazis eager to accuse the Allies of war crimes. But, British historian Frederick Taylor explains, there was a clear military logic behind the attack. --- Spiegel: The death toll from the July 27, 1943 bombing of Hamburg was likely even higher. Why is more attention paid to Dresden? Frederick Taylor: Dresden was a fine city, a well known tourist center where the arts prospered amidst architecturally distinguished milieu. This created the myth that it was of no military or industrial importance - but in reality Dresden was a major transport and communication center.

Death toll in World War II Dresden bombing was 25,000 - says commission
The death toll in the Allied firebombing of Dresden in 1945 wiped out 25,000 (far less than previously estimated) a commission has calculated. Since the end of WW2, scholars have disagreed on the number of people killed by British and US bombers. The Nazis in 1945 put the figure at 200,000, communists said 35,000 and some even suggest a figure over 500,000. But a team of professors, military historians and archivists has so far confirmed 18,000 deaths during a 4-year project. The team has browsed the Dresden state archives, questioned witnesses, consulted studies on aerial attacks, rescue operations, firefighting and archaeological evidence.

Dresden Bombings - The US military argued the city was not "undefended"
The destruction of Dresden bombing made a great impact on neutral countries at that time. AP war correspondent Howard Cowan filed a story claiming that the Allies had resorted to terror bombing. The destruction of this cultural centre ("Florence on the Elbe") provoked unease in informed circles in Britain. The US military argued the military units and anti-aircraft defenses were close enough to the city and it's not valid to regard the city was "undefended". The US also pointed out the raid accomplished the military objective without "excessive" loss of civilian life.

Bomber Command's mission: Efficient bombing stopped Nazi production
Some claim the resources expended by Bomber Command were wasted. But Richard Overy maintains the resources used by Bomber Command were modest: "Measured against the totals for the entire war effort, bombing absorbed 7%, rising to 12% in 1944-1945." The bombing destroyed all of Nazi Germany's coke, ferroalloy and synthetic rubber industries, 95% of its fuel, hard coal and rubber capacity, 75% of its truck producing, and 70% of its tire production. It also generated huge aircraft and armoured vehicle production losses. Because of bombing oil targets German pilot training suffered, and eventually there was no fuel to power aircrafts or battle tanks.

Canadian War Museum to rephrase the wording of WWII War display
The Canadian War Museum has agreed to rephrase the wording of World War II display that has outraged Air-force veterans, who have complained that the small panel paints them as war criminals. The issue has pitted the veterans and the Royal Canadian Legion against the museum. The 18-month fight ended with the latter agreeing to change description of the bombing campaign against Nazi Germany. "...the strategic bomber offensive against Germany remains bitterly contested... Although Bomber Command and American attacks left 600,000 Germans dead and more than 5 million homeless, the raids resulted in only small reductions in German war production until late in the war."

Kurt Vonnegut, author of Slaughterhouse Five, WWII PoW, dies at 84
Kurt Vonnegut wrote the classic anti-war novel, Slaughterhouse Five, detailing his experiences of the Allied bombing of Dresden in 1945. Captured by German troops in Dec 1944 during the Battle of the Bulge, he spent the rest of the war imprisoned in a Dresden slaughterhouse. On the night of 13 Feb 1945, Allied bombing raids flattened the city, creating a firestorm that killed 35,000 citizens in two hours. Vonnegut was saved by his incarceration in a cold meat locker 3 storeys beneath ground. When they ventured out, nothing was left of the city, and their task was to uncover the rotting corpses.

War veteran defends World War II bombing: It was pure retaliation
WWII veteran has defended the Bomber Command after a historian Jorg Friedrich fired an attack on the British organisation in his book The Fire. It is a fierce critique of the bombing offensive against Nazi Germany. The historian criticised Bomber Command for the 1943 raid of the Ruhr and the attacks on Dresden in 1945, saying the ferocity was unnecessary. Flight Lieutenant Max Chivers disagreed: "They started it by bombing London so our aim was to bomb factories and half were in towns so people were going to get hurt. They can't complain we gave them a good hiding. It was pure retaliation and they didn't like the fact we did it bigger and better."

Operation Gomorrah: 1943 Hamburg bombing shook Nazi regime
RAF Bomber Command all but annihilated Hamburg at the close of July 1943. In the view of Air Chief Marshal Arthur T. Harris, the attacks on the "second city of the Reich" were "incomparably more terrible" than any Germany had suffered to that point. "Bomber" Harris was right. His Bomber Command threw 2,355 sorties at Hamburg in 3 massive nighttime raids. July 28 firestorm killed more than 40,000 persons in and around Hamburg. The Hamburg raid was a shock to the Fuehrer Adolf Hitler, and his Luftwaffe chief Hermann Goering. Reichsminister Albert Speer wrote: "Hamburg had suffered the fate Hitler and Goering conceived for London in 1940."

Arguing over the World War II bombings of Dresden and London
Dec. 29, 1940, Arthur Harris looked on from the Air Ministry roof in London as Luftwaffe bombers set the city ablaze. "Well, they have sown the wind." Four years later Dresden reaped the whirlwind. London survived the Luftwaffe's onslaught. Dresden's destruction often is cited as proof that the Allies, too, committed war crimes, and that Germans, too, were victims. "Bomber" Harris, who ran the Royal Air Force's Bomber Command 1942-1945, was untroubled by second thoughts. Had he not done worse to Hamburg? Besides, the Germans started the war; they had fire-bombed British cities; and they still were attacking London with V-1 buzz-bombs and V-2 ballistic missiles.

1945 destruction of Dresden - Churchill, Harris and war crimes
The 1945 destruction of Dresden has been criticised before, but a German bestseller accuses Churchill and Harris of war crimes. Beneath Dresden lay the catacombs. The authorities decided that these cellars could provide cover from British air raids. But, writes Jorg Friedrich in The Fire: the Bombing of Germany 1940-45, "this tightly meshed underground construction was a landscape of insanity". Such was the impact of the bombing that heat, gases, flames and smoke whipped through the labyrinth. In one corridor, 50 people got so wedged that their bodies were found fused together from the heat. Book is thick with such horror stories.

From the blitz of London to the over-the-top ruin of Dresden
Are some evils so unmitigated that any measure is justified to defeat them? The Anglo-American attack on Dresden in Feb 1945 forced some in the Allied camp to wonder. Winston Churchill: "It seems to me, the moment has come when the question of bombing German cities simply for the sake of increasing the terror, though under other pretexts, should be reviewed." Marshall De Bruhl's book "Firestorm: Allied Airpower and the Destruction of Dresden" is powerful when describing the destruction. Pummeled by Lancasters and B-17's Dresden's "streets and alleys became rivulets of fire that coalesced into rivers of fire that converged until they formed an ocean of fire..."

Allied World War II bomber raid airmen were war criminals?
Veterans groups like Royal Canadian Legion may call a public boycott of the Canadian War Museum if it refuses to change a display which is accusing World War II airmen of being "war criminals." The exhibit describes the "enduring controversy" over the role of bombing squadrons in attacking Nazi Germany's infrastructure as part of Allied strategy to cripple the Nazi war machine. "Mass bomber raids against Germany resulted in vast destruction and heavy loss of life... Although Bomber Command and American attacks left 600,000 Germans dead, and more than 5 million homeless, the raids resulted in only small reductions in German war production until late in the war."

Among the Dead Cities - Bombing Third Reich
Among many Germans the bombing campaign waged against the Third Reich by the RAF in 1942-45 is regarded as a war crime. Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur "Bomber" Harris insisted that his bombers could not hit targets accurately without suffering heavy losses. Yet, the American air force used precision bombing. When it wanted to the RAF could hit "pinpoint" targets. Surely bombing tied up German military resources and damaged production. Not so, says Grayling. He claims that the same resources would have been diverted if the British had bombed industrial, fuel or transport targets. Nazi Germany collapsed only after US targeted fuel and transport.

With the aim of wiping Hamburg from the map of Europe
In the summer of 1943, the Bomber Command of Britain's Royal Air Force began Operation Gomorrah, "5 major and several minor" aerial attacks on the city of Hamburg, "with the aim of wiping Hamburg from the map of Europe." Most of the bombs it dropped were incendiaries, "small bombs filled with highly flammable chemicals." The result was "the first ever firestorm created by bombing, and it caused terrible destruction and loss of life," almost entirely among civilians. At least 45,000 human corpses were found in the ruins, and more than 30,000 buildings were destroyed. Air Marshall Sir Arthur Harris "wanted to make a tremendous show" (the words are his own) in Hamburg.

Was the Allied Bombing of Civilians in WWII a Necessity or a Crime?
Was the deliberate targeting of German cities by the Royal Air Force in the last three years of the second world war justified by the threat to Britain and its allies, and by the moral depravity of the Nazi regime? From the start, the Third Reich had unleashed terror and repression upon most European states not allied with it. And all this came before the tally of the Holocaust - little was known about it or admitted until the end of the war, so it cannot stand as an a priori justification for the bombing strategy.

First German fictional film on Dresden bombing confronts taboos   (Article no longer available from the original source)
Germany's first fictional film about the Allied bombing of Dresden was screened on the 61st anniversary of the firestorm, in a fresh sign the country is finally confronting its own wartime suffering. "Dresden -- The Inferno" tells the story of how the architectural jewel in eastern Germany known as Florence on the Elbe was reduced to rubble within hours in the British and US bombing of February 13-14, 1945. At least 35,000 people perished, including hundreds of refugees who had fled the horrors of the Eastern front.

Cathedral hit by RAF is rebuilt
It was regarded as the finest baroque building north of the Alps. But on the night of February 13 1945, the RAF reduced Dresden's 18th-century cathedral to rubble in an air raid that killed at least 35,000 people. For the next 45 years, Dresden residents knew the church as a huge mound of rubble flanked by two jagged walls. It was only with the fall of the Berlin Wall that locals began a campaign to get it reconstructed culminating, after a decade of building, in a ceremony yesterday to mark its reopening.

German ruling says Dresden was a holocaust
German prosecutors have created outrage by ruling that the 1945 RAF bombing of Dresden can legally be termed a "holocaust". Attitudes towards the Allied bombing campaign, which killed hundreds of thousands of civilians, are changing. Estimates of the death toll in Dresden in February 1945 hover at 35,000. All the same, some military historians claim that as many as 500,000 people were killed in the raids.

Remembering the Dresden bombing - The 60th anniversary
The Dresden bombing is one of the most controversial Allied operations of the Second World War. British forces were ordered to bomb the German town, but were later condemned for their actions. An RAF veteran and a survivor of the bombings recall their experiences. "We were briefed to bomb Dresden. When we got to the target we found a limited number of anti-aircraft fire and few search lights, so it was very easy to bomb. We bombed the town and then came back home. But a few weeks later some MPs voiced opposition, that it shouldn't have been done in the first place. Then Churchill said we shouldn't have done it."

The day Dresden died - 1945 fire-bombing of Dresden
The weather on the flight across Germany had been cloudy. But when the first wave of Lancasters arrived over Dresden, there was a gap in the cloud cover. There were no fighters to oppose them and no flak. Each bomber fanned out on a slightly different heading, so that the target was completely covered. The first bombs fell at 10.13pm on that Shrove Tuesday night. The last fell at 10.28. In those 15 minutes, just over 880 tons of high explosive, parachute mines and incendiaries went down. 'Good work, that's nice bombing,' said the master bomber over his radio.