From British and Commonwealth Forces FB Page
On the night of 13-14 February 1945, the RAF’s Bomber Command launched 855 aircraft to attack the German city of Dresden. Seven hundred and eighty-six ‘planes reached their targets and dropped 2,600 tons of bombs. On each of the next two days the USAAF’s Eighth Air Force bombed Dresden with 521 Bombers. Massive fires erupted into a firestorm that burned out the center of the city and killed between 35,000 and 60,000 people.
Another firestorm erupted as a result of the bombing of Dresden, but this one was among the critics of the Area Bombing tactics of Bomber Command. Dresden has since come to symbolize “overkill” in the war’s final months. From Kurt Vonnegut in Slaughterhouse Five to a plethora of distortionist historians, the decision to bomb the German city has been – rather ironically – incessantly attacked.
Sir Arthur Harris, head of Bomber Command, quickly became the scapegoat of choice. He was equally quick to point out the Combined Chiefs of Staff had notified his own Air Staff on 27 January 1945, that Berlin, Dresden, Leipzig, and Chemnitz were designated as priority targets for both the Eighth Air Force [USAAF] and Bomber Command. Dresden was important because it was a major transportation center. Harris also noted that the bombing of Dresden was supported officially by Stalin, Roosevelt, Churchill, and Eisenhower.
One must recall that psychology of the time. Germany was a dreaded enemy; so far Hitler’s war had killed some 30,000,000 people – soldiers and civilians. Even as Germany lay in ruins, with the Allied armies closing in, The Fuhrer still commanded the loyalty, respect, and even affection of his nation, plus the absolute obedience of his soldiers to the day he died – and in some cases even beyond.
In February of 1945, even though it was clear who would win the war, it remained unclear just how much longer it would take, or how many more civilians and servicemen would die. Germany had lost air supremacy and was short of fuel and hardware; all that remained was the seemingly unlimited courage of her people and the tactical skill of her soldiers. The German Army fought on, defending every inch of ground.
“The Nazis entered this war under the rather childish delusion that they were going to bomb everyone else, and nobody was going to bomb them. At Rotterdam, London, Warsaw, and half a hundred other places, they put their rather naive theory into operation. They sowed the wind, and now they are going to reap the whirlwind.” – Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris,1942
“Warfare is the struggle to break your enemy’s Ability to wage war, and his Will to wage war.” – Major Gordon Corrigan, 2003
Dresden was a military target because of its Rail, Governmental, and Industrial infrastructure, and the Soviets specifically asked for it to be bombed, to clear the way for the advance of its armies and correspondingly weaken the Wehrmact.