Terror Bombing

The Directive No 22 of the Allied Air Command did not go unnoticed. On the eve of the New Year, December 31, 1943, Goebbels in his address to the German people presented his view of the war waged by the Anglo-American Allies:

<<… the state of things requires that he [Germany’s Anglo-American enemy] take dangerous risks in the West, which until now he has successfully avoided. He tried to replace them by an air offensive, which everyone knows, and which the enemy even openly admits, is directed more against our war morale than our war potential. I speak of an air offensive, which is a very polite and restrained circumlocution for a completely unsoldierly way of fighting that has no historical parallel in its coarseness and brutality. Through the centuries, it will remain the second great shame of the English and the Americans. During the First World War they tried starvation against women and children. Now they are using phosphorus… [1]>>

Text Box:  

Dresden: one of the “before – and – after” photographs reflecting 
The devastation of the bombing

Dr. Goebbels lied. His Anglo-American enemy did not invent the “total war,” Nazis pioneered the concept long before Dr. Goebbels “rallied the nation” behind the “total war” in 1943; However, as to the massive scale of bombing the innocent civilian populations, it remains the Anglo-American trademark by a significant margin, supersized in the atomic bombing of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the conventional firebombing air raids on Tokyo, just one of which resulting in at least 100,000 civilian deaths, 1 million injured and one million rendered homeless.[2] International law and “war crimes” are funny this way: The “heroic deeds” of the victor could easily become “war crimes” should he ultimately lose the armed conflict.


The Destruction of Dresden

On the night of February 13-14 1945, a two-wave attack by the RAF Bomber Command Lancaster bombers, 772 in total, set the center of the medieval city of Dresden on fire. “The second wave [some 3 hours later] carried a larger proportion of high explosives to kill firefighters and disrupt fire-control efforts… a technically perfect fire-raising attack on the city.”[3] The hellfire of the burning city could be seen more than 60 miles (97 km) away on the ground and as far as 500 miles (800 km) from the air, with smoke rising to 15,000 feet.[4]

Dresden was almost defenseless: most of its heavy FlaK 88-mm anti-aircraft guns had been re-deployed to the Eastern front against Soviet tanks. By January 1945 Nazi Germany ran out of fuel and Luftwaffe was practically grounded, except on the Eastern front.

Americans were scheduled to bomb Dresden next, in broad daylight of Ash Wednesday, February 14, 1945, on the heels of the nightly raid by the British. By then a firestorm engulfed the center of Dresden, the city obscured from view by clouds and smoke from the two waves of the nightly raids, so the American daytime bombing was by radar only, scattering bombs all over. No particular military target was or could be identified. Nor can it be argued that any specific military or industrial installations were targeted to begin with.

Out of 431 US heavy bombers scheduled to bomb Dresden, 316 B-17 Flying Fortresses bombed Dresden. [5]; [6] The rest got lost, strayed into Czechoslovakia and bombed its towns, instead. They had to unload their bombs somewhere, anyway. “In their zeal to complete the mission, they misidentified several Czech cities as their targets. Sixty B-17s dropped 153 tons into the center of Prague while 25 attacked Brux and 12 struck Pilsen. Bombers of the 3d Air Division also wandered into Czechoslovakia. Thirty-eight of its B-17s attacked the town of Eger, and 24 more hit Tachau. In all the Eighth dropped 397 tons on Czech territory.[7]” – Oops!  Sorry, folks, we got a little lost here and made a minor mistake. Yet, there was nothing extraordinary about this military operation; it was the business of war as usual – killing civilians in the densely populated cities.

In 2008, and again in 2010, an independent investigation commissioned by the city council of Dresden reported a minimum of 22,700 victims with a maximum total number of fatalities of 25,000,[8] or just 10% of the mythological number of 250,000, still a fraction of the British air command intelligence assessment of 40,000, made on the heels of the air attack.  The former mayor of Dresden, Ingold Rossberg, commissioned the 11-strong team of historians… to try to establish a clear figure. The results were presented at Dresden's annual Conference of Historians in 2008. “The commission of 11 historians remained adamant that there was “no proof or serious indication” that the death toll could have greatly varied from the 25,000 that it has suggested.”[9]

Despite all the talk about military targets, most revealing of the true reasons for the raid was a memo issued by RAF to the bomber crews just before the raid:

<<Dresden, the seventh largest city in Germany and not much smaller than Manchester is also the largest unbombed builtup area the enemy has got. In the midst of winter with refugees pouring westward and troops to be rested, roofs are at a premium, not only to give shelter to workers, refugees, and troops alike, but to house the administrative services displaced from other areas. At one time well known for its china, Dresden has developed into an industrial city of first-class importance.... The intentions of the attack are to hit the enemy where he will feel it most, behind an already partially collapsed front... and incidentally to show the Russians when they arrive what Bomber Command can do.>>[10]

Boeing B-17 Flying FortressRussians, their national psychic and economy badly wounded by the German occupation and destruction of WW-II, took the hint very seriously – especially when reinforced by the US nuclear bombing of Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – and made a point of developing 120 megaton nuclear warheads arming their numerous ICBMs in response to America’s 1 megaton. This response is continued through today to the Russian “Father of all vacuum bombs” responding to the US “Mother of all vacuum bombs” in the never-ending competition for who has a better technology to scorch the globe of the Earth hundreds of times over… True to the form, Russian “Father” annihilates targets within an area 20 times greater than the American “Mother of All Vacuum Bombs,” while being twice smaller. God forbid we elect an official who’d want “to show them,” as there is always a percentage of the US population who seem to want nothing but to “bomb them into the stone age,” apparently lacking foresight that the US may never rise again from the ashes of a major conflict.  

There are no documents that directly link Winston Churchill to the air raid on Dresden, although many people have opined that it was ultimately his decision, or that he even secretly ordered it to oblige the Russians, who had asked him at Yalta conference on 4th of February to bomb tank factories and to disrupt German communications and supplies to the Eastern Front. Yalta transcripts contain no requests to bomb Dresden or any city, for that matter. These claims, propagandist in nature, were made during Cold War to whitewash the actions of the “western democracies.” The Soviet official position from the start, as well as propaganda has always steadfastly maintained that the destruction of Dresden was an unjustified act of terror against civilians, and used it as a bugaboo for its citizens, as an example of atrocities committed by the “capitalists,” always ready to sacrifice “regular people.”

It is quite amazing that even today the USAF academy continues to brainwash its cadets with cheap propaganda of the “cold war” era: the s.c. “ ‘historical analysis’ of the 14-15 February 1945 bombings of Dresden” Prepared by USAF Historical Division, Research Studies Institute of US Air University, writes a heading (in bold thick font) “The Russian Request for Allied Bombing of Communications in the Dresden Area” and “explains” it by the Russians’ specific request received from Stalin: “By air action on communications hinder the enemy from carrying out the shifting of his troops to the East from the Western Front, from Norway, and from Italy (In particular, to paralyze the junctions of Berlin and Leipzig).[11]  Since when “communications” (meaning railroad junctions) in the Russian request, translates into bombing the hell out of the city Dresden? The direct order by the Anglo-American strategic bomber command issued to the RAF and USAAF crews right before the take-off does not even mention any “communications” – it goes directly to the crux of the issue, “In the midst of winter with refugees pouring westward and troops to be rested, roofs are at a premium [see full text above],” clearly directing the crews to bomb residential areas of the city of Dresden.

In reaction to a sudden shift in the public opinion in the independent press of the neutral nations against area bombings, Churchill tried to distance himself  from it, a half-hearted political move reflecting his moral ambivalence in the face of war. The raid on Dresden, after all, was not much different from dozens of other raids.

Thus, six weeks after the raid, in his memo of March 28 sent by telegram to General Ismay, for the British Chiefs of Staff and the Chief of Air Staff, he noted: “The Foreign Secretary has spoken to me on this subject, and I feel the need for more precise concentration upon military objectives such as oil and communications behind the immediate battle-zone, rather than on mere acts of terror and wanton destruction, however impressive[12] , [13] .

For whatever reasons – emotional, military, strategic, political or propagandist or – all of the above, but Dresden, a V1-20040830.jpgbeautiful city of baroque architecture, was wiped out, as were thousands of innocent civilians among its population. In one of the most brutal air assaults against civilians, the allied air force (RAF and USAAF) set Dresden ablaze in one night of four waves of air raids, conducted by the total of 3,600 airplanes, of which 1,300 were heavy bombers. [14] You wouldn’t wish to be on the receiving end of this Armageddon. The flying armada turned 13 square miles of the city streets into a burning inferno, inhabitants sucked into the vacuum of the burning streets, suffocated by the lack of oxygen before being burned to ashes – a grim reminder that once the faucets of violence are opened, there is no stopping the hellfire unleashed, a reminder that civilian “targets” were and remain a fair game, that veneer of civility is very thin, and that political cynicism towards the expendable masses is, indeed, extreme, and must be kept in check as a matter of survival.

Although the destruction of Dresden was much publicized, what the public does not seem to know is that it was a minor operation, when compared to other air-raids or bombing campaigns:

<<   Shown in the following chart are the total tonnages of bombs that were expanded by the Allies against the six cities in Germany that were larger in population than Dresden:


Population in 1939

Total Bomb Tonnages






















The United States Strategic Bombing Survey estimated that 305,000 persons were killed and 780,000 were wounded as the consequence of all Allied bombings against Germany in World War II…  It may therefore be presumed that the estimates of 25,000 dead and 30,000 wounded, as presented in most of the latest available German estimates of the Dresden bombings, are reasonable and acceptable.   [15] >> [sic – original spelling preserved.]

I doubt any numbers are “reasonable” or “acceptable” to the relatives of those civilians who died, albeit they might be termed “statistically reliable.”

Dresden affair pales in comparison with just one raid on Tokyo, the most destructive of all. On the night of 9–10 March, 1945, 335 B-29 bombers dropped around 1,700 tons of bombs. Fourteen B-29s were lost.[16] Approximately 16 square miles (41 km²) of the city were destroyed and some 100,000 people died in the resulting firestorm, more than the immediate deaths of either the Hiroshima or Nagasaki atomic bombs.[17] [18]  Historian Richard Rhodes adds to that about a million injured, with a million people who became homeless.[19]

Ironically, Franklin D. Roosevelt described the 1940 Nazi blitzkrieg of British cities as “inhuman barbarism.”[20] It was, indeed,… except it was on a miniscule scale when compared to the magnitude of destruction by the Allied air-raids.

At the time of the bombing of Tokyo, Robert McNamara (the Future Secretary of Defense during the Vietnam War) was running statistical analysis for Gen. Curtis LeMay of US Army Air force.  In the 2003 documentary “The Fog of War,” McNamara recalled that “LeMay said, ‘If we’d lost the war, we’d all have been prosecuted as war criminals.’ And I think he’s right. He — and I’d say I — were behaving as war criminals… “What makes it immoral if you lose and not immoral if you win?” he asked. McNamara found the question impossible to answer.[21] I think he knew the answer but preferred to confuse or obfuscate the legal (or rather, historic) definition for moral definition, which are as much apart as “law” and “justice.” Thus, Nazi law disenfranchised Jews, but was it “justice?” Look at the situation with the US family law, which disenfranchised Fathers, turning them into financial slaves of their former wives, presumably for the good of the children; being unable to earn even a fraction of  incomes “imputed” to them in the environment of the economic depression worst since the Great Depression of 1929-1941, they commit suicides at the rate as high as 24,000 a year, and at least 4500 a year, according to estimates, a few times more than all allied losses in Iraq and Afghanistan combined in the worst year of war there. The war on fatherhood in the US is legal, in fact – encouraged and incentivized by the “public policy” created by the world’s most corrupt political functionaries, such as Vice President Joseph Biden. But it is neither “just” nor “moral.”

In all honesty, we in the so called Western Democracies, are engaged in sanctimonious posturing about the “war on terror” when we used terror against civilians on a grandest of scales, both in WW-II and after. As recently as 1999, Pres. William J. Clinton raised a media campaign dehumanizing Serbs, while killing over 2,500 civilians in a cowardly air bombing campaign just to redirect the public’s attention from the Monicagate, his affair with Monica Lewinsky, the White House intern his daughter’s age, and to score loyalty points with the Saudis.  With many countries in possession of anti-aircraft-carrier missiles, China and Russia in possession of hellish super-weapons, any yahoo in Washington may bring a sudden escalation with catastrophic consequences for the US population, which never before experienced genocide applied to itself. The dimwit neocon Jim McCain is one of them.

V-2 on MeilerwagenBritish philosopher A. C. Grayling described British area bombardment of WW-II as a “moral crime” because “destroying everything ... contravenes every moral and humanitarian principle debated in connection with the just conduct of war”, but “it is not strictly correct to describe area bombing as a ‘war crime’.”[22] American novelist Kurt Vonnegut's wrote Slaughterhouse-Five or The Children's Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death (1969) from his experiences as an American prisoner of war in Dresden at the time of the bombing. Vonnegut described it as “carnage unfathomable.” In the special introduction to the 1976 edition of his novel, he wrote:

“The Dresden atrocity, tremendously expensive and meticulously planned, was so meaningless; finally, that only one person on the entire planet got any benefit from it. I am that person. I wrote this book, which earned a lot of money for me and made my reputation, such as it is. One way or another, I got two or three dollars for every person killed. Some business I'm in.” 

Kurt Vonnegut was a victim of the bombing, an anti-war writer, not a historian. In his opinion, there was no rhyme or reason, no cause or consequence in this barbaric slaughter, which is neither true historically or accurate militarily.

In the American 1964 edition of the Apocalypse 1945: The Destruction of Dresden (Editions: 1963, 1964, 2005), by David Irving, the British Air Marshal Sir Robert Saundby, wrote in his Foreword:

“I think it would have been well for Mr. Irving to have remembered, when he was drawing the frightful picture of the civilians killed at Dresden, that V-1's and V-2's were at that very time failing on England, killing civilian men, women and children indiscriminately, as they were designed and launched to do. It might be well to remember Buchenwald and Coventry, too.

David Irving was permitted to visit Churchill’s office, preserved exactly as it was when the legendary PM left office in July 1945. He noted a panoramic picture viewer and turned it on: the stereo pictures the prime minister left on display were those of the destruction of Dresden. None of Londoners, whom I interviewed among those who remember first-hand the bombings of London, blamed Sir Winston Churchill.  As one of them put it, “When you see your neighbors and family members blown to bits, and photos of Russian villages burned to the ground, you're not going to be sympathetic towards people with a German accent.” Not only were British civilians subjected to conventional air raids by Luftwaffe, they were also targeted by Germany’s formidable new weapons, V-1 and V-2 rockets, indiscriminately falling from the skies on residential neighborhoods.

5, 4, 3, 2, 1V-1’s were the first in the world mass-produced guided missiles.  They inflicted tremendous damage and casualties on Great Britain.  The air blitz on London with unmanned flying bombs, the V-1 winged rockets, started on 13 June 1944, the first V-1 striking next to the railway bridge on Grove Road, Mile End. For an eighty-day period, a nonstop rain of V-1 “flying bombs” damaged or destroyed nearly 1 million buildings.

 Germany produced about 30,000 of V-1’s. At a cost of just 4% of a V-2, V-1 delivered an equally deadly payload, but was a much cheaper weapon of mass terror. Approximately 10,000 V-1’s were fired at England; mostly due to malfunction only 2,419 of them reached London, killing 6,184 people and injuring 17,981.[23] The greatest density of hits were received by Croydon, the southeast of London. Antwerp, Belgium was hit by 2,448 V-1’s from October 1944 through March 1945.[24] While British civilians learned to take cover once the buzz of the buzz-bomb (V-1) stopped, signifying its engine turned off and it was about to crash, the ballistic missiles, V-2’s, would strike instantly, with no advance warning of any kind.

Germans mass-produced the first sub-orbital ballistic missiles, and deployed them against allies’ cities. Exactly 6,048 V-2 ballistic missiles were built in Germany at the cost of 100,000 RM each.  Over 3000 were launched, targeting London and later Antwerp. Among the forced laborers manufacturing the V-2 system, about 12,000 were killed. [25] The only effective defense against V-2’s was to push into Germany, to occupy it as soon as possible.

Countermeasures against V-2, let alone interception, were almost impossible at the time: 20 seconds after the launch, a V2 was already in the stratosphere and out of reach of aircraft and projectiles; the time from launch to impact in London was merely 3 minutes, making any air defense systems of the period totally ineffective.

While a number of the jet-propelled V-1 flying bombs were downed by allied fighter pilots, only one V-2 was ever shot down. Serendipitously observed at launch from an American B-24 Liberator heavy bomber, which happened to be in the area, it was in the range and shot down by .50 caliber machine-gun fire.[26] V-2’s were deadly, creating a crater 20 m wide and 8 m deep, tossing up 3,000 tons of bricks and earth into the air. Some of the V-2 missile strikes were devastating —160 killed and 108 seriously injured in one explosion on 25 November 1944 in mid-afternoon, striking a Woolworth's department store in New Cross, south-east London, and 567 deaths in a cinema in Antwerp, Belgium, other hits causing significant damage to Antwerp docks.[27]

Allies’ leaders had plenty to worry about. From a well-developed German jet-plane program, which began in 1930’s and had 8 different working models, some prototypes so advanced, they were produced many years later, to A-9/A-10 Inter Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM), under Wernher von Braun Projekt Amerika, which began in 1940, with the purpose of striking New York and Eastern United States and the futuristic orbital rocket bomber program of Dr. Eugen Sänger’s SilverVogel, incarnated nowadays in NASA’s Space Shuttle[28]. Projekt Amerika was ready to go, just waiting for a spy team to install a radio beacon atop the Empire States Building. This operation failed because one of the two German agents who arrived by a U-boat, turned himself in.  Plan “B” was a suicide piloted mission of A-9, the second stage of the rocket. Had it not been for the Soviets’ resolve to finish the war as soon as possible, or had they been eliminated by a twist of fate, there is little doubt that the US would have dropped an atomic bomb on Germany.

Several thousands of V-2 ballistic missile strikes upon England and Belgium, combined with intelligence on Germany’s atomic bomb program[29] and America’s own success with making the first two atomic bombs, only hardened the will of allies to finish the war as soon as possible, even if they had to level all of Germany’s cities, and sacrifice hundreds of thousands of their own soldiers, as did Stalin, in order to achieve victory as soon as possible (and capture as much as possible of German advanced technology.)


All rights reserved ● Copyright ©  2011, Eric Ross, Ph.D.






[1] Goebbels’ Speech on New Year’s Eve, 31 December 1943  http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/goeb63.htm

[2] Rhodes, Richard. "The Making of the Atomic Bomb". p 599; Simon & Schuster Paperbacks (1984); ISBN 0-684-81378-5.

[3] Davis, Richard G (2006). Bombing the European Axis Powers. A Historical Digest of the Combined Bomber Offensive 1939–1945. Air University Press. Maxwell Air Force Base, p.503.

[4] "14 February 1945: Thousands of bombs destroy Dresden", BBC On this Day, 14 February 194. http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/february/14/newsid_3549000/3549905.stm

[5] Addison, Paul & Crang, Jeremy A. (eds.). Firestorm: The Bombing of Dresden. Pimlico, 2006. ISBN 1-84413-928-X, p. 65

[6] Davis, Richard G (2006). Bombing the European Axis Powers. A Historical Digest of the Combined Bomber Offensive 1939–1945 PDF. Alabama: Air University Press. Davis (2006), p.504

[7] Davis, Richard G (2006). Bombing the European Axis Powers. A Historical Digest of the Combined Bomber Offensive 1939–1945. Alabama: Air University Press. P.504

[8] Landeshauptstadt Dresden (1 October 2008). "Erklärung der Dresdner Historikerkommission zur Ermittlung der Opferzahlen der Luftangriffe auf die Stadt Dresden am 13./14. Februar 1945". Landeshauptstadt Dresden.


[9] Kate Connolly in Berlin; The Guardian, Friday 3 October 2008. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/oct/03/secondworldwar.germany

[10] Ross (2003). Strategic Bombing by the United States in World War II: The Myths and the Facts. McFarland & Company, ISBN 978-0-7864-1412-3 (2003), p. 180.

[11] historical analysis’ of the 14-15 February 1945 bombings of Dresden” Prepared by USAF Historical Division, Research Studies Institute of US Air University



[12] Siebert, Detlef. "British Bombing Strategy in World War Two", 1 August 2001, BBC, last retrieved May 27, 2011; http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/wwtwo/area_bombing_01.shtml

[13] Taylor, Frederick (2005). Dresden: Tuesday 13 February 1945. London: Bloomsbury, ISBN 0-7475-7084-1, p. 430.

[14] Triple Raid on Dresden. Blows by Over 3,600 R.A.F. & U.S. 'Planes Ahead of the Red Army. Guardian. UK. Thursday 15 February 1945. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/1945/feb/15/secondworldwar.fromthearchive

[15] US Air Force Historical Studies Office http://www.airforcehistory.hq.af.mil/PopTopics/dresden.htm


[16] U.S. Army Air Forces in World War II: Combat Chronology; March 1945; http://www.airforcehistory.hq.af.mil/PopTopics/chron/45mar.htm


[18] David McNeill. The night hell fell from the sky. Japan Focus, March 10 2005. See, e.g. http://english.ohmynews.com/articleview/article_view.asp?no=214769&rel_no=1


[19] Rhodes, Richard. "The Making of the Atomic Bomb". p 599. Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 1984; ISBN 0-684-81378-5.

[20] The Night Hell Fell From the Sky; Sixty years ago, Tokyo was firebombed by B-29s and 100,000 perished. David McNeill remembers;




[21] Robert S. McNamara, Architect of a Futile War, Dies at 93; By TIM WEINER, July 6, 2009; http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/07/us/07mcnamara.html


[22] Grayling, A.C. (2006). Among the Dead Cities. Walker Publishing Company Inc. ISBN 0-8027-1471-4, pp. 245-6, and 272-5.

[23]    Air Raid Precautions - Deaths and injuries (information collected by a U.K. school teacher turned Historian)        http://myweb.tiscali.co.uk/homefront/arp/arp4a.html

[24] “Impact points of V-1 and V-2 around Antwerp.” v2rocket.com.


[25] Am Anfang war die V2. Vom Beginn der Weltraumschifffahrt in Deutschland. In: Utz Thimm (Hrsg.): Warum ist es nachts dunkel? Was wir vom Weltall wirklich wissen. Kosmos, 2006, S. 158, ISBN 3-440-10719-1

[26] Stocker, Jeremy (Nov/Dec 2004). "Missile Defence – Then and Now". The Officer Magazine: 34–37.

[27] http://www.v2rocket.com/

[29] Despite the intelligence reports and several books published in the after-WW-II period on the subject of Germany’s successful tests of prototype Atomic weapons, none were produced or successfully tested.