Dresden Bombings

By: Katelin Green & Hunter Trusty

The Dresden bombings

The Bombing of Dresden was an attack on the city of Dresden, the capital of the German state of Saxony, that took place in the final months of the Second World War in the European Theater. In four raids between the 13th and 15th of February 1945. 722 heavy bombers of the British Royal Air Force (RAF) and 527 of the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) dropped more than 3,900 tons of high-explosive bombs and incendiary devices on the city.The bombing and the resulting firestorm destroyed over 1,600 acres (6.5 km2) of the city centre.Between 22,700 and 25,000 people were killed. Three more USAAF air raids followed, two occurring on 2 March and 17 April aimed at the city's Marshaling yard and one small raid on 17 April aimed at industrial areas.

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Was the bombing controversial?

From February 13 to February 15, 1945, during the final months of World War II (1939-45), Allied forces bombed the historic city of Dresden, located in eastern Germany. The bombing was controversial because Dresden was neither important to German wartime production nor a major industrial center, and before the massive air raid of February 1945 it had not suffered a major Allied attack. By February 15, the city was a smoldering ruin and an unknown number of civilians—estimated at somewhere between 35,000 and 135,000–were dead.

United States Air Force report defended the operation as the justified bombing

A 1953 United States Air force report defended the operation as the justified bombing of a military and industrial target, which was a major rail transport and communication centre, housing 110 factories and 50,000 workers in support of the German war effort. Several researchers have claimed that not all of the communications infrastructure, such as the bridges, were targeted, nor were the extensive industrial areas outside the city centre Critics of the bombing argue that Dresden—sometimes referred to as "Florence on the Elbe" (Elbflorenz)—was a cultural landmark of little or no military significance, and that the attacks were indiscriminate area bombing and not proportionate to the commensurate military gains.

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On the ground

It is not possible to describe! Explosion after explosion. It was beyond belief, worse than the blackest nightmare. So many people were horribly burnt and injured. It became more and more difficult to breathe. It was dark and all of us tried to leave this cellar with inconceivable panic. Dead and dying people were trampled upon, luggage was left or snatched up out of our hands by rescuers. The basket with our twins covered with wet cloths was snatched up out of my mother's hands and we were pushed upstairs by the people behind us. We saw the burning street, the falling ruins and the terrible firestorm. My mother covered us with wet blankets and coats she found in a water tub.

We saw terrible things: cremated adults shrunk to the size of small children, pieces of arms and legs, dead people, whole families burnt to death, burning people ran to and fro, burnt coaches filled with civilian refugees, dead rescuers and soldiers, many were calling and looking for their children and families, and fire everywhere, everywhere fire, and all the time the hot wind of the firestorm threw people back into the burning houses they were trying to escape from.

I cannot forget these terrible details. I can never forget them.

— Lothar Metzger, survivor.

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On the ground

To my left I suddenly see a woman. I can see her to this day and shall never forget it. She carries a bundle in her arms. It is a baby. She runs, she falls, and the child flies in an arc into the fire.

Suddenly, I saw people again, right in front of me. They scream and gesticulate with their hands, and then—to my utter horror and amazement—I see how one after the other they simply seem to let themselves drop to the ground. (Today I know that these unfortunate people were the victims of lack of oxygen). They fainted and then burnt to cinders.

Insane fear grips me and from then on I repeat one simple sentence to myself continuously: "I don't want to burn to death". I do not know how many people I fell over. I know only one thing: that I must not burn.

— Margaret Freyer, survivor.

1945 Dresden Bombing Newsreel