The bombing of Dresde

Decembrist

Ad Honorem
Mar 2013
2,664
the Nile to the Euphrates
#21
It means nothing of the sort. You're telling me some unhealthy, elderly, geriatric from Dresden with no money or job skills is a Nazi loyalist or sympathizer because they can't get out of Germany? How about the baby German who hasn't even started teething yet? They're just unfortunate actors in a play much greater then themselves. Sucks to be them, just like it sucks getting the Spanish Flu in 1918 and sucks drowning in the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsumani. Being a death statistic is rarely fair, but its part of life.
Well, 'probably' is a keyword in my post. Just thinking out loud.
 

redcoat

Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
7,559
Stockport Cheshire UK
#22
By 1945 even the USAAF had "come around" to accepting terror bombing as a method of heavy bombing by the British who'd been using it predominately since 1941. Not because it worked (they had no proof it did), but because other methods proved to absolutely not work. When the mission is to hit a factor complex, and hundreds of bombers fail to hit it, that mission is a clear failure. When the mission is to bomb the residential section of Berlin, and the post bombing reconnaissance flights bring back pictures of block after block destroyed, they can at least state they killed a lot of workers, which is a quantifiable data point they can use when talking up the effects they will have on breaking German morale. Firebombing was the direct evolutionary step to high explosive bombing designed to destroy urban structures and kill people, the stated goals of area bombing.
What a lot of people overlook is the fact that the British were themselves the victims of a large scale terror bombing campaign earlier in the war. During 1940/1 British cities were subjected to an area bombing campaign targeted on city centres which made use of mass incendiaries in an effort to cause widespread damage, and what they discovered through their own experiences was that targeting the workers living areas was far more effective at causing long term disruption to production than targeting the factories themselves.
What they found was that damage to public utilities and the workers housing caused a greater fall in long term production due of the disruption it caused to the lives of the workers and the need to sort out arrangements for their families. The goal of the British in attacking these areas was not to kill civilians in order to break their morale, but to disrupt the workers and their families lives so much they didn’t turn into work for the next few days/ weeks .
The problem was the 6th Panzer Army had already made it East long before the bombing, as did most others. To make matters worse, by the time the British actually got around to raiding Dresden, .
The February raid on Dresden was a joint RAF/ USAF attack, and while the RAF only bombed Dresden once, the USAF bombed it several times, the last in April 1945 when 800 US bombers targeted the city
 
Last edited:
Jul 2016
8,170
USA
#23
What a lot of people overlook is the fact that the British were themselves the victims of a large scale terror bombing campaign earlier in the war. During 1940/1 British cities were subjected to an area bombing campaign targeted on city centres which made use of mass incendiaries in an effort to cause widespread damage, and what they discovered through their own experiences was that targeting the workers living areas was far more effective at causing long term disruption to production than targeting the factories themselves, because what they found was the damage to public utilities and the workers housing caused a greater fall in long term production because of the disruption it caused to the lives of the workers and the need to sort out arrangements for their families. The goal of the British in attacking these areas was not to just kill civilians, but to disrupt their families lives so much they didn’t turn into work for the next few days/ weeks.
First things first. Did the terror bombing of the UK work in the slightest in breaking British morale? No. So why did specific members of the British govt and RAF (not all of them by far) concentrate so much and rely so much on that method to defeat Germany? There is a really simple reason. Because Churchill and Bomber Harris were running things and that was what they believed worked, despite all evidence to the contrary.

Interwar bombing theory promoted the effectiveness of terror bombing as the most effective means of defeating an enemy on the cheap. Besides theory there was some evidence to support it. The panic in London following the Zeppelin Raids, but most noticeable was the 1921 Iraq revolution, when British heavy bombers targeted Arab civilians in populated areas with area bombing to crush their morale and end the revolt. And guess who was the British Secretary of State for the Colonies/head of a Middle East Department, who oversaw the terror bombing and use of chemical weapons? Winston Churchill. Guess who the RAF bomber commander was who ran the squadron that participated in the 1921 bombing campaign against the Arab tribes? Arthur Harris. Its not a coincidence as to how they acted in WW2, it was just their modus operandi. World wide, those two men, probably more than any other two individuals, through terror bombing worked and was justified.

Some might try later to further break the technique down by suggesting additional quantifiable data points like worker absentism, disruption, etc., but it comes down to the same thing, a flawed technique that didn't actually work. WW2 proved that besides atomic bombs, even massive firebombing raids does not break morale of those who matter (govt leaders), let alone even civilian population who actually have a tendency to harden resolve and increase morale (see MacCurdy's The Structure of Morale). They most certainly didn't win the war, which is what they swore they'd do from the very start of and throughout the war.

In 1941, when Harris was appointed as head of Bomber Command, the RAF bombing results on Germany were atrocious, not the least because it took some time just to get organized and they weren't ready to be bombing Berlin once the Luftwaffe took steps to prevent it. They didn't have fighter cover nor accurate means of dropping bombs at high altitude during the day (not that the Norden bomb sighte was much useful either), so they switched technique to nighttime bombing for the simple reason that it was the only way they could even be used without it being suicide. Area bombing became the tactic of choice because it was the only means to drop bombs they had when conducting nighttime bombing, early terrain mapping radar didn't exist yet. Born out of desperation, it still worked into the favor Churchill both because now they had justification to pursue the technique they thought was the most useful.

Sad was that as the war progressed RAF nighttime bombing actually became more dangerous then daylight as the Germans got better at countering it. Once the US and British formally teamed up and started Point Blank, the US was doing "precision" bombing during days (not very precise or effective at all) and were getting hammered initially. It wasn't until the P-51 was pushed into service, who had the fuel load to get to Germany and back with the bombers, that casualties became lower/acceptable. But the opposite happened to the British, only in the late war when Germany's defenses were shattered did the RAF have higher survivability rates.

The absolute "best" feature of terror bombing, and why it became the prevailing method for not only the RAF but also the USAAF in Europe and the Pacific, was that it provided actual quantifiable/trackable proof as to the physical effects of a raid to declare success. For example, if the USAAF launches a single day precision bombing raid is to destroy the MAN tank factory in Nürnberg, success and failure both are easy to verify. Is there any photographic evidence from a surveillance flight that shows the factory destroyed or seriously disrupted? And if so, how long afterwards was it knocked out until operational again? For colonels trying to impress generals, and generals trying to impress other senior generals, to appear like they're team players contributing to the win, to be the main instrument to beat the Germans or the Japanese as the marshals and five star generals are telling the civilian leadership, that they alone are going to be responsible for beating the enemy and that's why they need more money and manpower, those officers need to bring positive results to your boss. Its far easier to claim effectiveness when going after an untangible goal like morale while they can demonstrate it by showing pictures of devastated neighborhoods, then include summaries cooked up by their statistician nerds who can calculate, based on damage shown in the pictures, a rough calculation of how many German factory worker lives were lost and how many man hours of lost labor were suffered by local industry, and how both factor into larger statistical equations relating to the defeat of the enemy. Sure looks better then handing a folder full of pictures of an intact tank factory still pumping out Panzer MK V tanks, with the comment of "Sure, we lost 1/4 of bombers to miss them, but we'll get them next time!"

Discounting nuclear weapons, strategic bombing in WW2 was one of the most expensive failures in military history, if not the most.

The February raid on Dresden was a joint RAF/ USAF attack, and while the RAF only bombed Dresden once, the USAF bombed it several times, the last in April 1945 when 800 US bombers targeted the city
USAAF was bombing everything they could in the later months, to the point they were just pounding rubble. They were at their strongest and most organized point in the entire war, German industry was essentially gone or underground and they couldn't just sit on their thumbs while they were getting the most money and quality personnel out of every branch of the US Army, while campaigning for the need of a separate air force branch based on strategic bombing and the claim they'd be the ones to end the war.
 
Jul 2016
8,170
USA
#25
Hello everybody and thank you very much.Please,can we know if there were military objectives in Dresden ?
Late '44 and early '45, the combined bomber commands were looking to expand their bombing campaign into Eastern Germany and Eastern Europe, their own branches were growing in effectiveness, with more bombers and bombs then ever before and they wanted targets to bomb. In January 1945 the Soviets were launching a massive offensive starting in mid-Poland and aiming at getting to within artillery range of Berlin (the Vistula-Oder Offensive), they asked the Allies to use strategic bombers for operational role to bomb key eastern cities in Germany to curtain reinforcements being movement eastward from inside Germany and from OB West (where they were defending the western German border). Justified, the RAF and USAAF cooked up a multi-day day-night raid, including incendiaries, to cause massive chaos and confusion. Dresden was a major transportation hub, especially for heading east-west from Poland into Germany. The Vistula Oder Offensive had millions of Germans fleeing west while millions of German soldiers were trying to move east to stop the Soviets, they were all planning on moving through Dresden (among other cities also attacked, just none so spectacularly as Dresden).

So the best description of the military objectives: Create as much pandemonium, chaos, confusion, destruction of life in the city to force the Germans to divert train and road traffic to alternate and less effective/lengthier routes.
 
Jun 2012
781
#26
First things first. Did the terror bombing of the UK work in the slightest in breaking British morale? No.
That depends on what you mean by "breaking" morale. It didn't cause the UK to surrender, it did harm the British war effort.

This is part of a letter written by Herschel Johnson, a US diplomat, to the US Secretary of State, following the bombing of Coventry (which was the first German raid to deliberately target housing, I believe):


The big raid on Coventry took place during the night of November
14-15, 1940. Since that time some weeks have elapsed and great
strides have been made in the direction of make-shift repairs
to damaged working-class residences. But there is not a sizeable
industrial enterprise in the whole of Coventry whose production
is not still being adversely affected by raiding has wrought
in the lives of Coventry working people. There hovers over that
city an apprehensiveness which has lingered since the raid took
place. This apprehensiveness is born of a realization that the
Germans can at will again do to Coventry what they did to it
during that one horrible night in November.


Intricate, costly, and heavy machine tools can be extricated
from the cellars of demolished manufacturing plants. Many of
them can be repaired and installed in new plant. But the workers
who man these machines, so long as they live as they do today,
can never attain the efficiency which, before the events in question
took place, they maintained as a mere matter of course.


And this is from a briefing to Churchill's War Cabinet on aircraft production:

We are also having difficulties about machine tools. These do not spring
from the actual damage done to the tools. On the contrary, it has been found
that the machine tool stands up to the blast of the bomb remarkably well.
In the attack on Coventry, where 50,000 machine tools were concentrated,
only 700 were destroyed. In Birmingham, where as many as 70,000 were
assembled, 700 were destroyed. , ,
But while the machine tools in our possession might give very good results
when the men worked them by night as well as by day, it is now very hard to
persuade staffs in some centres to do night duty.
The general effect has been to cut down the proportion of men employed on
night work. In many directions night shifts have been abandoned.


And further on in the same report:

Magneto capacity at present damages and soon may cripple engine
production.
Over one-half of all magnetos were produced by British Thomson-Houston.
This wqrks, at Coventry, was damaged by bombs. Much labour disappeared
and could not be attracted to Coventry again.


So why did specific members of the British govt and RAF (not all of them by far) concentrate so much and rely so much on that method to defeat Germany?
Well, the theory was that if German bombing of Britain had damaged morale and reduced production, much heavier bombing would have an even greater effect on Germany. To some extent, it did. Hamburg lost half its workforce after the firestorm raid. Absenteeism in large parts of the Ruhr reached very high levels.

There is a really simple reason. Because Churchill and Bomber Harris were running things and that was what they believed worked, despite all evidence to the contrary.
Harris never believed in the effects of bombing on morale. He called it a "counsel of despair" and said it would never work in a country where the concentration camp awaited dissent.

Harris believed in the effect of destruction on war production. He measured success in the number of acres of built up area he could destroy.

Some might try later to further break the technique down by suggesting additional quantifiable data points like worker absentism, disruption, etc., but it comes down to the same thing, a flawed technique that didn't actually work.
The measure of success wasn't binary. Just because Germany didn't collapse immediately doesn't mean its war effort wasn't heavily damaged. In reality, Germany was facing collapse from the bombing effort, and would have collapsed in 1945 even if the allied armies hadn't occupied it.

They most certainly didn't win the war, which is what they swore they'd do from the very start of and throughout the war.
It would be surprising if the relatively modest resources devoted to bombing had won the war on their own. Bomber Command absorbed about 10% of the British war effort. USAAF bombing in Europe was on a similar scale to BC's efforts. 20% of the British war effort would have been around 10% of Germany's, it's a bit much to expect complete victory from that.
 

redcoat

Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
7,559
Stockport Cheshire UK
#27
First things first. Did the terror bombing of the UK work in the slightest in breaking British morale? No. So why did specific members of the British govt and RAF (not all of them by far) concentrate so much and rely so much on that method to defeat Germany?.
In my post I pointed out the purpose of area bombing, which was to disrupt German industrial production, not just break their morale.
There is little doubt the advocates of this policy oversold the effects of this campaign, but to claim it was a failure is also wrong, Albert Speer and his advisors calculated in the last months of the war that in 1944 the air campaign had reduced production by around a quarter of the planned amount.
 
Jul 2016
8,170
USA
#28
That depends on what you mean by "breaking" morale. It didn't cause the UK to surrender, it did harm the British war effort.

This is part of a letter written by Herschel Johnson, a US diplomat, to the US Secretary of State, following the bombing of Coventry (which was the first German raid to deliberately target housing, I believe):


The big raid on Coventry took place during the night of November
14-15, 1940. Since that time some weeks have elapsed and great
strides have been made in the direction of make-shift repairs
to damaged working-class residences. But there is not a sizeable
industrial enterprise in the whole of Coventry whose production
is not still being adversely affected by raiding has wrought
in the lives of Coventry working people. There hovers over that
city an apprehensiveness which has lingered since the raid took
place. This apprehensiveness is born of a realization that the
Germans can at will again do to Coventry what they did to it
during that one horrible night in November.



Intricate, costly, and heavy machine tools can be extricated
from the cellars of demolished manufacturing plants. Many of
them can be repaired and installed in new plant. But the workers
who man these machines, so long as they live as they do today,
can never attain the efficiency which, before the events in question
took place, they maintained as a mere matter of course.


And this is from a briefing to Churchill's War Cabinet on aircraft production:

We are also having difficulties about machine tools. These do not spring
from the actual damage done to the tools. On the contrary, it has been found
that the machine tool stands up to the blast of the bomb remarkably well.
In the attack on Coventry, where 50,000 machine tools were concentrated,
only 700 were destroyed. In Birmingham, where as many as 70,000 were
assembled, 700 were destroyed. , ,
But while the machine tools in our possession might give very good results
when the men worked them by night as well as by day, it is now very hard to
persuade staffs in some centres to do night duty.
The general effect has been to cut down the proportion of men employed on
night work. In many directions night shifts have been abandoned.


And further on in the same report:

Magneto capacity at present damages and soon may cripple engine
production.
Over one-half of all magnetos were produced by British Thomson-Houston.
This wqrks, at Coventry, was damaged by bombs. Much labour disappeared
and could not be attracted to Coventry again.




Well, the theory was that if German bombing of Britain had damaged morale and reduced production, much heavier bombing would have an even greater effect on Germany. To some extent, it did. Hamburg lost half its workforce after the firestorm raid. Absenteeism in large parts of the Ruhr reached very high levels.



Harris never believed in the effects of bombing on morale. He called it a "counsel of despair" and said it would never work in a country where the concentration camp awaited dissent.

Harris believed in the effect of destruction on war production. He measured success in the number of acres of built up area he could destroy.



The measure of success wasn't binary. Just because Germany didn't collapse immediately doesn't mean its war effort wasn't heavily damaged. In reality, Germany was facing collapse from the bombing effort, and would have collapsed in 1945 even if the allied armies hadn't occupied it.



It would be surprising if the relatively modest resources devoted to bombing had won the war on their own. Bomber Command absorbed about 10% of the British war effort. USAAF bombing in Europe was on a similar scale to BC's efforts. 20% of the British war effort would have been around 10% of Germany's, it's a bit much to expect complete victory from that.
Please read this. Direct Hit, Near Miss or Remote
 

Belgarion

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,572
Australia
#29
........By 1945 even the USAAF had "come around" to accepting terror bombing as a method of heavy bombing by the British who'd been using it predominately since 1941. Not because it worked (they had no proof it did), but because other methods proved to absolutely not work. When the mission is to hit a factor complex, and hundreds of bombers fail to hit it, that mission is a clear failure. When the mission is to bomb the residential section of Berlin, and the post bombing reconnaissance flights bring back pictures of block after block destroyed, they can at least state they killed a lot of workers, which is a quantifiable data point they can use when talking up the effects they will have on breaking German morale. Firebombing was the direct evolutionary step to high explosive bombing designed to destroy urban structures and kill people, the stated goals of area bombing...........
The use of the term 'terror bombing' indicates a lack of objectivity. An interesting appraisal of the Dresden bombing can be found here: The WWII Bombing of Dresden: Propaganda and Mythology. By: Michael W. Kramer
 
May 2017
655
France
#30
In 1976,the professor Wolfgang Baumfelder,survivor of the bombing operation of Dresden, has told his 400 french students that Dresden was a town without DCA (artillery anti planes).There were there only some batallions of reservists (Landsturm) waiting for their march in the direction of the broken front.
 

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