Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Dresden Bombing

We just watched the DVD of the mini series "Dresden," a joint venture by Koch Vision and the BBC. It's a very powerful story and has won awards for accuracy and cinematography. George recommended it and he provided some other information on the Dresden bombing, which occurred about two weeks after our fathers marched from SLIII to Spremberg. (Caution: there is one love scene in the hospital that parents may want to fast forward through, and the realistic portrayal of the death and destruction in the city may be too much for some children.) Read on to learn more details about Dresden from George...

Dresden was bombed on the night of February 13/14, by over 800 British Lancasters in two waves of attack, approximately three hours apart. The first wave dropped high explosives to blow holes in the roofs and walls of the buildings to expose the flamable inner wooden structures. The second wave dropped incindiaries to ignite the inner structures. The firestorm that resulted was 1,000 degrees centigrade with winds of 100mph. 90% of the city was destroyed, and the death toll was between 80,000 and 250,000. The actual number will never be known, as there were thousands of refugees in the city at the time.

The following afternoon, 1,300 B-17's from the 1st and 3rd air divisions of the U.S. 8th Air Force bombed the railway marshalling yards at Dresden with a mixture of high explosive bombs and incindiaries. Due to poor visibility from the smoke hanging over the city, the B-17's had to bomb by radar, and some of the bombs fell in the city center. A few days later, the 8th Air Force was supposed to bomb Chemnitz, but due to solid cloud cover, they were forced to bomb their alternate, which was Dresden. (Chemnitz was eventually bombed later.)

The Dresden bombing is significant to our fathers' stories because it both promised a quicker end to the war and contributed to the scarcity of food and provisions available for the German public and, therefore, to prisoners of the Third Reich.


MBW said...

It was NOT about a "quicker end to the war", but a message from Roosevelt and Churchill to Stalin. That message was considered of such importance that commiting a heinous war crime was deemed regretable but necessary to convey it. The message being that though Soviet troops were on the ground and capturing territory his troops were no match for the might of the allies in the air. Therefore he should not consider keeping control of the soviet gained territory.
The burning to death of so many innocent non-combatan civilian citizens and refugees in Dresden was considered a worthy sacrifice to get that message across.

BetweenTheClouds (Miriam) said...

You make a good point. I think, however, that George's comment about a "quicker end to the war" was in relation to how the bombing impacted our POW fathers, and not referencing or justifying the bombing. The Dresden bombing was a horrific event, and when we reenacted the march, we talked to a man who saw the destruction first hand. It was clear that it had had a lasting (negative) effect on him, and I'm sure that is true for many, many others.