Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Fire Bombing Of Dresden

The ruins of Dresden

War is cruelty. There is no use trying to reform it. The crueler it is, the sooner it will be over.

War is the remedy that our enemies have chosen, and I say let us give them all they want.

I am tired and sick of war. Its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, for vengeance, for desolation. War is hell.

William Tecumseh Sherman

  I begin this article with three quotes from W.T.Sherman to illustrate the fact that war is truly hell and there was no war in history more hellish than World War II. To America's credit we sacrificed many American lives in daylight bombing of Germany with a strategy of pinpoint bombing using the Norden bombsight. We sent in bombers unescorted by fighters until the P-51 came on line late in the war. This resulted in heavy American losses. Our goal was a dual one of taking out strategic German War industries like aircraft plants, ball bearing plants, and any plants producing war materials. Due to the brilliance of Albert Speer, Hitlers Minister of Armaments and War Production, German war production actually increased despite the bombings. Another reason America used pinpoint bombing was an attempt to avoid civilian casualties.

  The English on the other hand preferred area bombing at night over precision bombing. Sir Arthur Travers Harris aka (Bomber) Harris and (Butcher) Harris was the commander-in-chief of the Royal Air Force. This strategy was safer for British aircrews but it was hell on German civilians. Some could even say it was terror bombing because it was indiscriminate. In their defense Germany used area bombing on England, Rotterdam, Poland, Russia and other countries. For England the war was personal. Eventually America shifted it's priorities from bombing war munitions to the German oil and refining industry. This was much more effective and by 1944 and 45 the German war machine was experiencing critical oil shortages. By mid 1944 the german Air force was nearly destroyed with the advent of the American P-51. American airmen were suffering fewer casualties as a result. Late in the war American and English bombers firebombed the historic city of Dresden Germany.

  The following paragraph is from On the night of February 13, hundreds of RAF bombers descended on Dresden in two waves, dropping their lethal cargo indiscriminately over the city. The city’s air defenses were so weak that only six Lancaster bombers were shot down. By the morning, some 800 British bombers had dropped more than 1,400 tons of high-explosive bombs and more than 1,100 tons of incendiaries on Dresden, creating a great firestorm that destroyed most of the city and killed numerous civilians. Later that day, as survivors made their way out of the smoldering city, more than 300 U.S. bombers began bombing Dresden’s railways, bridges and transportation facilities, killing thousands more. On February 15, another 200 U.S. bombers continued their assault on the city’s infrastructure. All told, the bombers of the U.S. Eighth Air Force dropped more than 950 tons of high-explosive bombs and more than 290 tons of incendiaries on Dresden. Later, the Eighth Air Force would drop 2,800 more tons of bombs on Dresden in three other attacks before the war’s end.

  Historians cannot agree on how many civilians died at Dresden but anywhere from 40,000 to 130,000 people died in these bombings. No one will ever really know. The Americans tried pinpoint bombing of Japan but because of severe crosswinds they were forced to switch to firebombing which was probably even more destructive because most Japanese structures were made of paper and wood. The firebombing of Dresden was an attempt to force the war to a conclusion because of the desperate German resistance in the final months of the war. The book Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut is about the bombing of Dresden.

Piles of dead Germans waiting to be cremated

The bodies of a mother and her children

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