The Bombing of Dresden - Justified or War Crime?
This episode has been a real eyeopener for me. I knew going in that it would be a tough one to research and that very few facts are agreed upon. I did not know how heated social media can get lol. This was my first run-in with the kind of angry, acidic (often silly and factless) vitriol the internet is home to. Moving forward I will continue to delve into these controversial moments in history but I will do my best to keep the conversation focused. The Red Army was battering the Wehrmacht in the Eats, daily gaining ground. It looked like there was a chance the Russians would be in Berlin by April. To speed up the Axis collapse RAF Bomber Command and the USAAF planned on destroying Germany's industry. Due to this, they used massive strikes of heavy bombers delivering thousands of tons of bombs. Targeting the war industries, transportation, and communications first, large cities were also hit. The British, having suffered through the Blitz, knew first hand the psychological effect bombing had on large cities. This chaos and confusion was a side effect that only helped quicken the German defeat. By the early months of 1945, the Allies had unloaded on most German cities and began seeking out new targets. The city of Dresden had made it through the war mostly unmolested and with over 100 factories and a large rail hub,
On the night of February 13th over 250, British Lancaster bombers hung over Dresden long enough to drop 800 tons of explosives. The bombs dropped were a mix of high explosive and incendiary. This one-two punch was perfect for creating a massive conflagration and Dresden's wooden buildings only feed the fire. Only hours later, while the city's people tried to recover, the second wave of British bombers struck Dresden. Building on the destruction of the first wave, the second wave heightened the chaos. A massive vortex sucked the superheated air right out of the sky, suffocating or air-frying its victims. The Altstadt or Old Town was obliterated and most of the city burned.
The next day, February 15th, saw a massive daytime bombing raid by the USAAF. B-17 Flying Fortresses flew in force, targetting specific military installations around Dresden. A huge fighter escort would deal with the tiny German fighter wing. By the day's end, Dresden had been through another ordeal of death and destruction. When the fires stopped and the smoke cleared the city of Dresden was unrecognizable. 1,600 acres of the city’s center had been demolished. 75,000 homes were destroyed and almost all of the city’s famous medieval wooden structures reduced to ash. The final death toll is heavily debated to this day!