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Dresden 75 Years On


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#1 BansheeOne

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Posted 15 February 2020 - 0614 AM

I considered posting this in the FFZ due to current politics attached to the event, but all things considered, it's probably better placed here.

 

Dresden: The World War Two bombing 75 years on

 
By Toby Luckhurst
BBC News
 
13 February 2020
 

"The firestorm is incredible... Insane fear grips me and from then on I repeat one simple sentence to myself continuously: 'I don't want to burn to death'. I do not know how many people I fell over. I know only one thing: that I must not burn."

 

On 13 February 1945, British aircraft launched an attack on the eastern German city of Dresden. In the days that followed, they and their US allies would drop nearly 4,000 tons of bombs in the assault.

 

The ensuing firestorm killed 25,000 people, ravaging the city centre, sucking the oxygen from the air and suffocating people trying to escape the flames.

 

Dresden was not unique. Allied bombers killed tens of thousands and destroyed large areas with attacks on Cologne, Hamburg and Berlin, and the Japanese cities of Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

 

But the bombing has become one of the most controversial Allied acts of World War Two. Some have questioned the military value of Dresden. Even British Prime Minister Winston Churchill expressed doubts immediately after the attack.

 

"It seems to me that the moment has come when the question of bombing of German cities simply for the sake of increasing the terror, though under other pretexts, should be reviewed," he wrote in a memo.

 

"The destruction of Dresden remains a serious query against the conduct of Allied bombing."

 

Dresden is the capital of the state of Saxony. Before the bombing it was referred to as the Florence on the Elbe or the Jewel Box, for its climate and its architecture.

 

By February 1945, Dresden was only about 250km (155 miles) from the Eastern Front, where Nazi Germany was defending against the advancing armies of the Soviet Union in the final months of the war.

 

The city was a major industrial and transportation hub. Scores of factories provided munitions, aircraft parts and other supplies for the Nazi war effort. Troops, tanks and artillery travelled through Dresden by train and by road. Hundreds of thousands of German refugees fleeing the fighting had also arrived in the city.

 

At the time, the UK's Royal Air Force (RAF) said it was the largest German city yet to be bombed. Air chiefs decided an attack on Dresden could help their Soviet allies - by stopping Nazi troop movements but also by disrupting the German evacuations from the east.

 

RAF bomber raids on German cities had increased in size and power after more than five years of war.

 

Planes carried a mix of high explosive and incendiary bombs: the explosives would blast buildings apart, while the incendiaries would set the remains on fire, causing further destruction.

 

Previous attacks had annihilated entire German cities. In July 1943, hundreds of RAF bombers took part in a mission against Hamburg, named Operation Gomorrah. The resulting assault and unusually dry and hot weather caused a firestorm - a blaze so great it creates its own weather system, sucking winds in to feed the flames - which destroyed almost the whole city.

 

The attack on Dresden began on 13 February 1945. Close to 800 RAF aircraft - led by pathfinders, who dropped flares marking out the bombing area centred on the Ostragehege sports stadium - flew to Dresden that night. In the space of just 25 minutes, British planes dropped more than 1,800 tons of bombs.

 

As was common practice during the war, US aircraft followed up the attack with day-time raids. More than 520 USAAF bombers flew to Dresden over two days, aiming for the city's railway marshalling yards but in reality hitting a large area across the city.

 

[...]

 

https://www.bbc.com/...europe-51448486

 

Dresden's Destruction

 

The Misappropriation of a Tragedy

 
For years, the right wing in Germany has been trying to instrumentalize the World War II destruction of Dresden. With the 75th anniversary of the bombing now here, many in the city are fed up with the debate.
 
 

12.02.2020, 17:38 Uhr

 

Rubble. Everywhere. And the remnants of bombed-out buildings, as far as the eye can see. Only the corner towers remain of the once-majestic cathedral known as the Frauenkirche. Smoke, both black and white, is rising from the destruction, with a few fires still burning here and there. There’s a destroyed streetcar and, if you look closely enough, you can see people wandering through the rubble, most with their shoulders slumped. A mother dragging her two sons behind her passes a bench on which a dead couple is slumped. Two swastika flags hang from a building.

 

The music is atmospheric and the sound of the wind can be heard. Night falls, before then once again giving way to daylight - a blood-red sun, as though mortally wounded.

 

The images are from an overpowering representation of Dresden following the bombing raids on the city that took place on Feb. 13-15, 1945. It is a trip back in time on 3,000 square meters of polyester, created by the artist Yadegar Asisi. The circular, dark panorama is 107 meters long, 27 meters high and can be seen in the old Dresden gasometer.

 

According to the artist, the panorama shows a city "at its nadir, at a moment of paralysis, the zero hour." Asisi assembled his depiction of destroyed Dresden using old photos and film clips after having sent out an appeal to the population to send him material.

 

The panorama was inaugurated five years ago, on the 70th anniversary of Dresden’s annihilation. It was, from today’s perspective, a different era.

 

The fight for the city's memory is not over yet.

 

Back then, it seemed as though the vast majority of Germans had found a way to remember the Nazi era and the vast carnage of World War II their ancestors had triggered. It looked like they had managed to internalize the pain of Germany’s guilt and to recognize that Dresden’s destruction was a consequence of that culpability. The logical conclusion born from that approach to the city’s World War II history was clear: Never again. No Nazis. No war.

 

Even then, though, the anniversary of the bombing of Dresden, was consistently misappropriated by right-wing extremists to portray the residents of Dresden as the victims of Anglo-American "terror,” just as the Nazi propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, did in the final months of the war. After the initial waves of British bombers, the Americans then showed up on Feb. 14 and 15. Around the turn of the millennium, a right-wing group called for a march on behalf of the victims, a protest that became something of an annual tradition. Indeed, according to German domestic security officials, the demonstrations developed into "one of the most important right-wing extremist events in Germany." In 2009, there were 6,500 participants, making it one of the largest gatherings of Nazis in all of Europe.

 

But a self-assured Dresden populace pushed back and made sure that the whole story was told on the day of commemoration – namely that Dresden wasn’t quite as innocent as the right-wing extremists wanted to believe.

 

[...]

 

 

https://www.spiegel....1c-5349832f75b9

 

Propaganda battle overshadows Dresden fire-bombing memorial

 
Derek Scally in Berlin
 

German president Frank Walter Steinmeier has urged his country to challenge efforts by political extremists to hollow out democracy and relativise Nazi war crimes.

 

His intervention in an unfurling political crisis, triggered last week by the far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), came as Dresden remembered the fire bombing of the city 75 years previously.

 

Some 800 British bombers dropped 1,400 tonnes of explosives and phosphorous bombs over the Saxon capital that night, and the city once known as “Florence on the river Elbe” – previously spared bombing – was engulfed in a firestorm.

 

About 25,000 people died, many asphyxiated as the flames sucked up all available oxygen.

 

Mr Steinmeier said the obligation to remember Dresden’s suffering and dead must never be separated from the obligation to recall the suffering Nazi Germany caused millions of others across Europe.

 

“We must contradict, loudly and decisively, those who try to offset the dead of Dresden with the dead of Auschwitz, and who falsify facts against their better judgment,” said Mr Steinmeier. It was a pointed reference to the latest flare-up in a 75 year-old propaganda war over Dresden.

 

Death toll inflated
 

In 1945, while the city still smouldered and the Red Army approached from the east, historians say the National Socialists exploited the tragedy by inflating the death toll tenfold.

 

Later the supposedly “anti-Fascist” East German authorities adopted the Nazi numbers and narrative of the firebombing of Dresden as a cultural and humanitarian war crime.

 

Modern historians concede that city was filled with refugees, raising troubling questions about civilian targets, but flag how more people were killed in lesser-known fire bombings, such as Hamburg.

 

And while architectural and cultural riches beyond measure were destroyed 75 years ago in Dresden, historians point out how the city was a rail and industry hub and thus crucial to the Nazi war effort.

 

In recent decades, neo-Nazi groups have challenged what they see as revisionist attempts to minimise Allied war guilt. At annual events they inflate the death toll and have invited former SS men to speak.

 

AfD distortion

 

This year’s anniversary of February 13th, 1945, in Dresden was co-opted for the fourth time when the far-right AfD party weighed in. It suggests the death toll was four times the 25,000 victims estimated by a recent historical commission – prompting protest from local politicians and historians.

 

[...]

 

https://www.irishtim...orial-1.4173034


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#2 Markus Becker

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Posted 15 February 2020 - 0656 AM

The third article is definitely better placed in the FFZ as it deals modern German politics, the historic events are but a means to an end.
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#3 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted 15 February 2020 - 0928 AM

No, I can see the point keeping it out of there. Any discussion gets poisoned as soon as it gets dropped.

 

The origin of the 100000 figure seems to be David Irving who in his (otherwise remarkably restrained) book on the Dresden Raid took a figure from Goebbels which obviously ought to be treated with suspicion. As it is, he has still increased the figure with every edition of his book.

 

For all that, its worth a read. It was written at a time in the 1960's when Irving was not the Nazi apologist he later became. He also put the blame for the raid on the allied political leaders, and off the shoulders of Harris. He apparently found some evidence that Harris the day before the raid went to the air ministry to get it cancelled, but was overruled. He didnt care about the city, he just didnt see it was worth going on a raid that distance for little return. But it WAS a railroad junction, so there was some justification for it.

 

 

I have to say, all these historians banging on about a beautiful city being destroyed, I have to say, who cares? A lot of nice cities got smashed up in WW2. I have to regret 25000 Germans dying with the end of the war in sight, but im still not sure anything could have been done differently. Thats how strategic bombing worked in those days. Unfortunately, Bomber Command was really very good at it.

 

 

Has anyone else got any good books to reccomend on the raid in English?


Edited by Stuart Galbraith, 15 February 2020 - 0929 AM.

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#4 Markus Becker

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Posted 15 February 2020 - 1024 AM

It is not about the 100k dead.

Ever since the CDU and FDP have run away from responsibility in Thüringen and the utterly foreseeable trick of the AfD mainstay media and politicians go mad on steroids. So much that even climate change is put on the back burner.
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#5 sunday

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Posted 15 February 2020 - 1035 AM

It is not about the 100k dead.

Ever since the CDU and FDP have run away from responsibility in Thüringen and the utterly foreseeable trick of the AfD mainstay media and politicians go mad on steroids. So much that even climate change is put on the back burner.


Kinda see what you did there.
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#6 BansheeOne

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Posted 15 February 2020 - 1039 AM

There's a section on the numbers game about victims in the "Spiegel" article:

[...]

Thousands of civilians died in the hail of bombs, that is undeniable. And it also makes remembrance so challenging legitimate pain combined with deep culpability. The result is an equally complex approach to mourning.

That complexity can be illustrated using two examples: That of a politician from the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party and that of a poet.

For AfD co-leader Tino Chrupalla, 44, Feb. 13 is an important day. "I dont need to put it in my calendar. The appointment is inside me," he says, briefly pressing his right hand to his heart. Both his grandmother and father experienced the bombardment in person and spoke of it frequently, he says. Chrupalla says his family had fled to Dresden from Silesia, which is today part of Poland, and they spent the night of the bombardment cowering under a bridge. And they survived. His father was just five years old at the time, but still had memories of that night.

Chrupalla would like more to be done to remember the destruction of Dresden. "A special place of remembrance in Dresden is needed to commemorate the victims," he says. Thus far, there is merely a plaque in the ground. "I dont think thats enough, Chrupalla says, adding that he isnt planning on going to the event at which Steinmeier is speaking. He suspects the German president will use the ceremony to attack the AfD. "I would like to be allowed to speak so I could present our view of things."

Chrupalla says he's surprised that the number of victims has been adjusted downward in the past decades, with experts now believing that 25,000 people died in the bombings. He thinks that number is way off. "I believe there were around 100,000 victims," he says. The Red Cross wrote of 278,000 dead in 1948, he says. "My grandmother, my father and other witnesses told me that the streets were full before the attack and that there were mountains of corpses after that night," Chrupalla says. None of them believe the newer number of 25,000 dead, he says, which is why he has his doubts as well.

[...]

But how many people actually died in the bombing raids? Arriving at a number in Dresden is just as difficult as agreeing on the proper form of commemoration. The numbers are subject to manipulation just as they have been from the very beginning.

On March 15, 1945, the SS in Dresden reported to Berlin that 18,375 victims had been counted up to that point and that the final number was likely to rise to 25,000. A short time later, though, the Propaganda Ministry released new numbers to back up the idea of a "monstrous terror attack on civilians, as the Nazi newspaper Völkischer Beobachter would have it. Correspondents from neutral countries were not allowed to visit Dresden, but just days after the air raids, fantastical numbers, likely from Goebbels team, began making the rounds.

Citing trusted sources in Berlin, the Svenska Morgonbladet in Stockholm reported 100,000 deaths on Feb. 17, with the Svenska Dagbladet reporting eight days later that the number was "closer to 200,000 than 100,000, citing official "Third Reich sources.

The success of the propaganda campaign was astounding, as historian Matthias Neutzner has determined. By summer 1945, a significant share of both the German and Western public believed that there had been "several hundred thousand victims. That would have meant that more people were killed in Dresden than in the detonation of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima, where 80,000 lost their lives in the initial blast.

A falsified document was even in circulation, Daily Order No. 47 from the SS in Dresden, issued on March 22, 1945. It stated that there had been 202,040 victims, with the final total expected to rise to 250,000. Later, though, it was found that someone had added an extra zero to both numbers.

But the debate continued nonetheless. A number of theories were offered up to explain how so many people could have died in a city with a population of less than 600,000. Dresden was full of refugees from the east; the fire was so hot that many people were incinerated without a trace; in the chaos following the firestorm, huge numbers of bodies were secretly buried or interned in the ruins.

Dresden, though, was misappropriated by both the left and the right. Those seeking to criticize the U.S. for its reliance on air power, whether in Vietnam in the late 1960s or in Iraq in 2003, were more than happy to refer to Dresden as an example. The peace movement was likewise fond of citing the Dresden inferno in their Cold War protests against the nuclear arms race.

To others, meanwhile, Dresden seemed perfectly suited to counter Allied efforts at passing judgment on the crimes committed by Germany in postwar courtrooms. Others saw it as a way of relativizing German guilt for the Holocaust. The firestorm could be cited to show that the victors of World War II were no better than the losers. In 1964, the influential German weekly Die Zeit wrote that the attack on Dresden was "probably the largest mass murder in the history of humanity.

A Monument to the Future

DER SPIEGEL also jumped into the Dresden debate and in 1963, promoted the ideas of historical revisionist David Irving, who was later revealed to be a Holocaust denier. He called the bombing of Dresden a "senseless act of terror and DER SPIEGEL also printed the inaccurate numbers he provided. Such absurd statistics found their way into the newsmagazine on several occasions, with the victim total of 200,000 still being printed as late as 2003. Other media outlets did the same.

By 2004, the mayor of Dresden, Ingolf Roßberg, had had enough of the debate over the victim numbers and the way the right-wing was increasingly using the uncertainty for its own purposes. He put together a commission of historians under the leadership of Rolf-Dieter Müller, with the groups final report being issued six years later. The academics had followed every possible lead in their effort to find the truth and had even tracked down the names of most of the victims. Their verdict: Up to 25,000 people had died in the Dresden air raids from Feb. 13-15, 1945. It is that number that the AfD politician Chrupalla contests.

[...]


As late as ca. 1980, I read in a thoroughly respectable West German history book about "the criminal air raid on Dresden for which there was no military justification", which being a kid I accepted as fact without question. Dresden also serves me as a prime example for the unreliability of eyewitness testimony. Lots of people who sought refuge in the Elbe meadows, the only area in the City not ablaze, swore they were strafed there by allied fighters for good measure, though unit reports show none were present at that time. It's possible that among the general chaos and aircraft noise overhead, some were hit by dropping flak ammunition or debris, and mass suggestion ensued.
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#7 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted 15 February 2020 - 1049 AM

Martin Middlebrook in his Peenemunde Raid book (which is first rate btw) had survivors there claiming allied bombers were deliberately strafing civilians on the ground. That seems very unreliable testiomny, but there WAS at least one allied bomber crew I read in another book that claimed they were at low level (I think they had taken evasive action) and decided to take the opportunity to have a go. So it did happen occasionally, it certainly wasnt policy, and seems unlikely in the context of Bomber Command. I think that particular claim was about someone in daylight, strafing the bank of the river where the survivors gathered IIRC? Dont know what to make about that.

 

It wasnt flak ammunition, or at least, not heavy flak anyway. There simply wasnt any at Dresden, it had been pulled out about 2 weeks before and sent to the eastern front. You cant see any sign of any of it in any of the raid film, though there is a 'scarecrow' at 0.26. There is no evidence the Germans ever fired such a thing, and that is almost certainly an aircraft exploding. Possibly a collision, or a bomb hitting an aircraft in the stream which sometimes happened.


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#8 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted 15 February 2020 - 1055 AM

Made a nice job of putting it back together. Post Reunification Germany clearly wasnt cursed by postwar British Urban planners.


Edited by Stuart Galbraith, 15 February 2020 - 1056 AM.

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#9 Markus Becker

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Posted 15 February 2020 - 1223 PM

 

It is not about the 100k dead.

Ever since the CDU and FDP have run away from responsibility in Thüringen and the utterly foreseeable trick of the AfD mainstay media and politicians go mad on steroids. So much that even climate change is put on the back burner.


Kinda see what you did there.

 

 

 

?...I can do politically incorrect puns without even trying?! Hurray to me, Netflix and the beer! 

 

 

Jokes aside, you could think it is January 29th, 1933 ever since February 5th. The 2nd coming of the 3rd Reich is upon us, the MSM wants us to panik. 


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#10 Tim the Tank Nut

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Posted 15 February 2020 - 1241 PM

so Third Reich to the second power?

3-squared

I don't know how to make a little 2 up above the 3


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#11 seahawk

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Posted 15 February 2020 - 1325 PM

Dresden was a legitimate target for allied bombings. There is no need to discuss this and every dead German was a good German. It still had a garrison, rail depot and so on. It a as good a target as any German city.


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#12 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted 15 February 2020 - 1353 PM

It wasnt even a particularly heavy deathtoll as firestorms went.  Operation Gomorrah, the bombing of Hamburg, killed 42000 and wounded 37000 more.

 

I THINK the reason why is that Dresden was well known, the war was coming to an end and the publicity to the raid set entirely the wrong note, and latterly it was seen it wasnt even defended. Which are reasons, but not really any that stand up. Yes, It was a tragedy, but no worse than the bloody war had been giving for years.


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#13 seahawk

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Posted 15 February 2020 - 1357 PM

No, it mostly became a thing, because the GDR commemorated the barbaric attack by Western air pirates on the peaceful city of Dresden. There are many cities which suffered way worse than Dresden.


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#14 Redbeard

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Posted 15 February 2020 - 1446 PM

No, it mostly became a thing, because the GDR commemorated the barbaric attack by Western air pirates on the peaceful city of Dresden. There are many cities which suffered way worse than Dresden.

Exactly! Dresden was utilised for decades by Soviet propaganda to inflict som guilt on the western powers and cover up their own crimes. As usual the left-wing populists played along with Soviet propaganda as long as the target was the hated western powers. 

 

Now right wing populists are utilising the Dresden bombing for their purposes and the "truth" about Dresden needs to be changed. Truth indeed is a very relative thing.

 

When all that is said however I find it 100% legitimate for the Germans to feel sad about the fate of Dresden and proud about its rebirth. Very impressive!

 

I even welcome my German brothers and sisters going to football games painted in black-red-yellow. Consensus about being proud of Germany is probably the best defence against right wing populism. Denying a people their identity is fuel on any right wing populism. 


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#15 Nobu

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Posted 15 February 2020 - 1520 PM

Instances of Allied aircraft strafing German civilians were probably isolated. For bomber crew, the desire to take potshots at civilians might be tempered by the possibility of meeting them face to face on the ground later. For fighter crew, it just was not that kind of war. 

 

The same cannot be said of bomber crew at least in the air war over the Emperor's Japan. They may as well have strafed.


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#16 MiloMorai

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Posted 15 February 2020 - 1720 PM

Why is it that Bomber Command gets the bad rep for Dresden when the first raid (cancelled) was American as was the third raid?


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#17 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted 16 February 2020 - 0247 AM

Because it seemed to continue the form of Bomber Command earlier in the war, no least the destruction of Hamburg, and a continuation of Harris's stated intent to reduce all the German Cities to ashes. Also you have the Air Ministry and Government finding it highly convenient to dump it all on Harris's shoulders, and hence Bomber Command's. You also had a conspiracy (and I dont think that is being ridiculous) to maintain the fiction that the US 8th Airforce was 'only' hitting pinpoint targets, because the senior USAAF Generals knew how bad it looked after all their vaunted claims of accuracy in the California skies didnt add up over Germany, anymore than they worked out in the skies over Japan.

 

Ok, so Harris probably should have been moved onto other duties in 1944, not because he did anything wrong, but because it was a normal tour of about 2 years. Cochrane, a man who preferred to work on precision targets, would have been the ideal choice to take over, not least because Bomber Command increasingly was becoming more accurate. I think by keeping Harris on they knew he was target fixated, and that fulfilled what a number of people wanted in Government, the cultural destruction of Germany. I also think that Churchill, and Attlee for that matter, cravenly ducked the responsibility for the raid for decades afterwards. So did Eisenhower, so did the Soviets who asked for it to be bombed. Basically it suited everyone for Bomber Command to take all the blame.

 

The only mistake Bomber Command made IMHO, was doing the job properly, possibly because it was Ralph Cochranes 5 Group and they got the markers on target, and the bombing was well concentrated. Who knows, if it was another group, there might not have been a firestorm at all.

 

 

Incidentally MM, have you ever seen a fully complete copy of the US Strategic Bomb survey? Ive seen copies of the abridged version, never the complete one. Has anyone ever published it?


Edited by Stuart Galbraith, 16 February 2020 - 0251 AM.

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#18 MiloMorai

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Posted 16 February 2020 - 0913 AM

No Stuart have never seen a full copy. This is the most complete summary of the ETO I have found, https://archive.org/...e/n131/mode/2up

​

Full copies, https://www.loc.gov/...bingsurvey.html

​

Supposidly the rail yard was the target of the Americans but didn't have much damage from the 'pickle in a barrel'  bombing.


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#19 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted 17 February 2020 - 0235 AM

I cannot believe that after all these years that has never been published. its the lynchpin in the 'Americans only bombed targets, British only bombed cities' myth. That myth. really needs to be demolished once and for all. Thanks for that anyway.

 

If the David Irving book is to be be believed (and it was highly regarded when published) the Americans killed something like 300 refugees hiding under the platform at Dresden station. Hey thats war, but its an illustration of how successfully the US disengaged itself from the stink of Dresden.


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#20 Markus Becker

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Posted 17 February 2020 - 0642 AM

Why is it that Bomber Command gets the bad rep for Dresden when the first raid (cancelled) was American as was the third raid?

 

The bombing of Dresden is synomimous with the firestorm, thus the daylight raid after the firestorm is barely a blip on the radar. 


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