The Bombing of Dresden
“The destruction of German cities, the killing of German workers, and the disruption of civilized community life throughout Germany [is the goal]. … It should be emphasized that the destruction of houses, public utilities, transport and lives; the creation of a refugee problem on an unprecedented scale; and the breakdown of morale both at home and at the battle fronts by fear of extended and intensified bombing are accepted and intended aims of our bombing policy. They are not by-products of attempts to hit factories.” – Air Marshall Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris.
Dresden is well known as quite possibly the most controversial British offensive in the second world war. 80-90% of the city was flattened:
*The attack was to be centred on the Ostragehege sports stadium, next to the city’s medieval Altstadt (old town), with its congested, and highly combustible, timbered buildings
*The main bomber force, called “Plate Rack”, took off shortly after the Pathfinders. This was a group of 254 Lancasters carrying 500 tons of high explosives and 375 tons of incendiaries, or fire bombs….The high explosives were intended to rupture water mains, and blow off roofs, doors, and windows, creating an air flow that would feed the fires caused by the incendiaries that followed
*The mix of bombs to be used on the Dresden raid was about 40% incendiaries, much closer to the RAF city busting mix than that usually used by the USAAF in precision bombardments
*The Pathfinders therefore decided to expand the target, dropping flares on either side of the firestorm, including the Hauptbahnhof, the main train station, and the Großer Garten, a large park, both of which had escaped damage during the first raid. ( surviving people starting fleeing in the part away from buring houses, the second wave then targeted the park. THE PARK !)
•in which a second wave of bombers would attack three hours after the first, just as the rescue teams were trying to put out the fires
*The historian Alexander McKee has cast doubt on the meaningfulness of the list of targets mentioned in 1953 USAAF report and point out that the military barracks listed as a target were a long way out of town and not in fact targeted during the raid
*It is also pointed out that the important Autobahn bridge to the west of the city was not targeted or attacked and that no railway stations were on the British target maps, nor were the bridges, such as the railway bridge spanning the Elbe River
*Commenting on this Alexander McKee stated that: “The standard whitewash gambit, both British and American, is to mention that Dresden contained targets X, Y and Z, and to let the innocent reader assume that these targets were attacked, whereas in fact the bombing plan totally omitted them and thus, except for one or two mere accidents, they escaped”
*it is difficult to find any evidence in German documents that the destruction of Dresden had any consequences worth mentioning on the Eastern Front. The industrial plants of Dresden played no significant role in Germany industry at this stage in the war”
*During his post-war interrogation, Albert Speer, Minister of Armaments and War Production for the Third Reich, indicated that Dresden’s industrial recovery from the bombings was rapid
*In the north of Dresden there were remarkable military facilities in the Albertstadt which were not hit by the bombings. Today they are still there, used as officer education buildings for the German Bundeswehr and hosting Germany’s military-historic museum (from stone-age to modern times).
*In diesen 15 Minuten wurden drei Viertel der Dresdner Altstadt in Brand gesetzt. Gezielte Treffer einzelner Gebäude waren bei diesen Nachtangriffen der RAF weder beabsichtigt noch möglich. Vielmehr sollte ein Bombenteppich die gesamte Innenstadt großflächig zerstören ( in this 15 minutee 75% of the old city were bruning . aimed hits on buildings were neither planed nor possible by night raids. Planed was to destroy the entire inner city)
Ethics on the Bombing of Dresden:
Was Dresden a legitimate target? My answer is yes, Dresden was a legitimate target. It was at the time the major rail cross-roads for German troops heading to the Eastern Front (In the briefings, many RAF crews were told that the bombing was at the behest of the Russians) as well as one potential north-south escape route that may be utilized as a part of a guerilla campaign. Dresden was also known to have an industry revolving around high-precision glass, such as that used in telescopic sights (e.g. sniper rifles) and bomb sights for aircraft. I have also heard some rumors that Dresden was linked to making ceramic parts in furnaces, like those used in death camps… So Dresden was a legitimate target.
Having determined that it was a legitimate target, there was no reason to not attack it. In terms of tactics, you have to keep in mind that the best way to protect bomber crews from flak was to put as many aircraft over the target as possible, which make it impossible to hit an individual building, so it was more common for an industrial area of a city to be targeted. In order to maximise damage, the aircraft involved were loaded with a combination of 4000lb “cookie” bombs (high blast) and incendiary bombs. This was to ensure that the target was destroyed by burning it.
In terms of targeting morale, Operation Thunderclap (as the bombing of Dresden was called) was arranged so that the civilian population would see the might of the Allied airforces. The USAAF was supposed to attack in daylight on Feb. 13th, targeting the rail yards, with the RAF coming back that night to hit the same target; whilst the USAAF and RAF were due to come back the next day to finish the job. Churchill has been quite vocal about such a heavy attack for quite a while, although he was very quick to back off his support when voices were raised in protest.
Dresden was a military target attacked for mainly military means. Churchill called for such an attack only to back away and condemn the attack only after public opinion swung against it.