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Nonetheless, such mass bombing raises moral questions, since civilian casualties were inevitable. Even when only military objectives are targeted, civilian casualties occur. When those waging war identify themselves as standing on higher moral ground than their opponents, they risk slipping into a moral quagmire if the means they use to prosecute their cause begins to shed doubt on whether it is being justly pursued.

A war that is just also has to be justly prosecuted.

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Alongside the Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki , the bombing of Dresden is said to have compromised the just cause of World War II , which otherwise for many appeared to have been without question a war in which the champions of democracy and freedom were pitted against oppression and evil.

The plan was to bomb Berlin and several other eastern cities in conjunction with the Soviet advance. In the summer of , plans for a large and intense offensive targeting these cities had been discussed under the code name Operation Thunderclap, then shelved on August Sir Charles Portal, the chief of the air staff, noted on January 26, , that "a severe blitz will not only cause confusion in the evacuation from the East, but will also hamper the movement of troops from the West.

Sir Norman Bottomley, deputy chief of the air staff, requested Arthur "Bomber" Harris, commander-in-chief of RAF Bomber Command and an ardent supporter of area bombing, to undertake attacks on Berlin, Dresden, Leipzig, and Chemnitz as soon as moon and weather conditions allowed, "with the particular object of exploiting the confused conditions which are likely to exist in the above mentioned cities during the successful Russian advance.

Pray report to me tomorrow what is going to be done. The Air Staff have now arranged that, subject to the overriding claims of attacks on enemy oil production and other approved target systems within the current directive, available effort should be directed against Berlin, Dresden, Chemnitz and Leipzig or against other cities where severe bombing would not only destroy communications vital to the evacuation from the east, but would also hamper the movement of troops from the west.

They thought that the Germans could complete the reinforcement by March The Soviets had several discussions with the Allies on how the strategic bomber force could help their ground offensives once the eastern front line approached Germany.

Tedder in January , when he explained how the strategic bomber could support the Soviet attack as Germany began to shuffle forces between the fronts. On January 31, after studying the JIC recommendation which was contained in a document entitled "Strategic Bombing in Relation to the Present Russian Offensive" and consulting with the Soviets, Tedder and his air staff concurred and issued a recommendation that Berlin, Leipzig, Dresden, and associated cities should be attacked.

The intention to use the strategic bomber forces in a tactical air-support role was similar to that for which Eisenhower had employed them before the Battle of Normandy in He was counting on strategic airpower in to "prevent the enemy from switching forces back and forth at will" from one front to the other.

The deputy chief of the Soviet general staff, General Aleksei Antonov, raised two issues at the conference relating to the Western Allied strategic bomber force. The first was the demarcation of a bomb-line running north to south where to avoid accidentally bombing Soviet forces; Western Allied aircraft would not bomb east of the line without specific Soviet permission. The second was to hamper the movement of troops from the western front, Norway and Italy, in particular by paralyzing the junctions of Berlin and Leipzig with aerial bombardment.

In response to the Soviet requests, Portal who was in Yalta sent a request to Bottomley to send him a list of objectives which could be discussed with the Soviets. The list sent back to him included oil plants, tank and aircraft factories and the cities of Berlin and Dresden.

In the discussions which followed, the Western Allies pointed out that unless Dresden was bombed as well, the Germans could route rail traffic through Dresden to compensate for any damage caused to Berlin and Leipzig.

Antonov agreed and requested that Dresden be added to his list of requests. RAF Air Staff documents state that it was their intention to use RAF bomber command to "destroy communications" to hinder the eastward deployment of German troops, and to hamper evacuation, not to kill the evacuees. The priority list drafted by Bottomley for Portal, so that he could discuss targets with the Soviets at Yalta, included only two eastern cities with a high enough priority to fit into the RAF targeting list as both transportation and industrial areas.

These were Berlin and Dresden. Both were bombed after Yalta. Soviet military intelligence asserted that trains stuck in the main station were troop trains passing through Dresden to the front. This proved incorrect, as they were trains evacuating refugees from the east [10]. RAF briefing notes mentioned a desire to show "the Russians, when they arrive, what Bomber Command can do. The first attack was carried out entirely by No. This last Lancaster bomber of No.

The weather was now clear and Lancasters dropped more than 1, tons of bombs with great accuracy [between Later on the February 14 from Part of the American Mustang-fighter escort was ordered to strafe traffic on the roads around Dresden to increase the chaos. Some rounds may have struck the ground and been mistaken for strafing fire. During these four raids a total of around 3, tons of bombs were dropped.

The firebombing consisted of by-then standard methods; dropping large amounts of high-explosive to blow off the roofs to expose the timbers within buildings, followed by incendiary devices fire-sticks to ignite them and then more high-explosives to hamper the efforts of the fire services.

After the area caught fire, the air above the bombed area became extremely hot and rose rapidly. Cold air then rushed in at ground level from the outside and people were sucked into the fire. After the main firebombing campaign between 13th and 15th, there were two further raids on the Dresden railway yards by the USAAF.

The first was on March 2 by Bs which dropped tons of high-explosive bombs and tons of incendiaries. The second was on April 17 when Bs dropped 1, tons of high-explosive bombs and tons of incendiaries.

Out of 28, houses in the inner city of Dresden, 24, were destroyed. An area of 15 square kilometers was totally destroyed, among that 14, homes, 72 schools, 22 hospitals, 18 churches, 5 theatres, 50 banks and insurance companies, 31 department stores, 31 large hotels, 62 administration buildings, and factories. In total there were , apartments in the city. The bombing affected more than 80 percent of them with 75, of them being totally destroyed, 11, severely damaged, 7, damaged, and 81, slightly damaged.

The size of the city was more than square kilometers in area at the time. Although bombing destroyed the main railway station completely, the railway was working again within a few days.

The precise number of dead is difficult to ascertain and is not known. Estimates are made difficult by the fact that the city and surrounding suburbs which had a population of , in [8] was crowded at that time with up to , refugees [15] and thousands of wounded soldiers. The fate of some of the refugees is not known as they may have been killed and incinerated beyond recognition in the fire-storm, or they may have left Dresden for other places without informing the authorities.

Earlier reputable estimates varied from 25, to more than 60,, but historians now view around 25,, as the likely range, [12] [13] with the latest research by the Dresden historian Friedrich Reichert pointing toward the lower part of this range. None were found during , even though there was a lot of construction and excavation during that period. The number of people registered with the authorities as missing was 35,; around 10, of those were later found to be alive.

The Nazis made use of Dresden in their propaganda efforts and promised swift retaliation. The Soviets also made propaganda use of the Dresden bombing in the early years of the Cold War to alienate the East Germans from the Americans and British. The destruction of Dresden was comparable to that of many other German cities, with the tonnage of bombs dropped lower than in many other areas.

For these reasons the loss of life in Dresden was higher than many other bombing raids during World War II. For example, Coventry, the English city which is now twinned with Dresden and is often compared and contrasted with it, lost 1, in two separate raids in Overall, Anglo-American bombing of German cities claimed between , and , civilian lives. Responses to the bombing German Development of a German political response to the raid took several turns. Initially some of the leadership, especially Robert Ley and Joseph Goebbels, wanted to use it as a pretext for abandonment of the Geneva Conventions on the Western Front.

Bombing of Dresden in World War II - New World Encyclopedia

In the end, the only political action the German government took was to exploit it for propaganda purposes. By coincidence, the day before the Dresden raid, a German foreign affairs paper had been circulated to neutral countries describing Arthur Harris as "the arch enemy of Europe" and a leading proponent of "Terror Bombing.

Dresden had no war industries, it was a place of culture and clinics. Since no official estimate had yet been developed, the numbers were speculative, but foreign journals such as the Stockholm Svenska Morgonbladet used phrases like "privately from Berlin. Howard Cowan, an Associated Press war correspondent, subsequently filed a story saying that the Allies had resorted to terror bombing. There were follow up newspaper editorials on the issue and a long time opponent of strategic bombing, Richard Stokes, member of Parliament, asked questions in the House of Commons.

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He suggested that enough damage had already been done to Germany, which the Allies would have to cope with once Germany capitulated. The military viewpoint was that munitions works were scattered throughout Dresden, which made it a legitimate target.

Points of view Was the bombing a war crime? The Altmarkt old market square before its destruction The nature of the bombing of Dresden has made it a unique point of contention and debate. Critics of the attack come from across the political spectrum, from far left to far right. Stanton, president of Genocide Watch, wrote: They promote the term Bombing Holocaust for the Allied aerial bombings, especially for the Dresden raids. By using this term in a speech to the parliament of Saxony on January 22, , Udo Voigt, the chairman of the National Democratic Party of Germany, sparked a new public discussion about how to deal with the right wing extremists.

Many German mainstream politicians consider their use of firebombing as an attempt to advance neo-Nazi causes by exploiting the intense sentiment surrounding the bombing: The case for the bombing as a war crime It is widely considered that the bombing of Dresden was excessive or at the very least regrettable.

There is less support for the view that the bombing was a war crime or a crime against humanity. Before the bombing, Dresden was regarded as a beautiful city and a cultural center, and was sometimes known as Elbflorenz, or Florence on the Elbe.

British historian Anthony Beevor wrote that Dresden was considered relatively safe, having been spared previous RAF night attacks, and that at the time of the raids there were up to , refugees in the city seeking sanctuary from the fighting on the Eastern Front. According to Friedrich, this is the case: German forces were in full retreat by February , and the impact on civilians was out of all proportion to the military goal.

He argues that the bombing was a war crime even under the legal standards of the time, because the Allies intended to cause as many civilian casualties as possible. Friedrich also contends that the outcome of previous bombing attacks demonstrate that the Allied forces were aware of the destruction caused by incendiary bombs, and that due to the collapse of German air defense and improvements in bombing accuracy, future attacks were likely to cause ever increasing numbers of civilian deaths.

Der Brand also documents in detail the oral history of local people as to what happened and how they felt, along with city records from the time. Friedrich is careful to distance himself from neo-Nazi sympathizers, saying that the use of the word "holocaust" to describe the bombing is wrong because it blurs the distinction between total warfare and outright genocide. Specifically, they dispute the crucial part of his case—the state of the German army in February —and his willingness to place credibility on the post-war narrative of Dresdeners as to their level of complicity in the Nazi government.

The case against the bombing as a war crime Ruins of the Frauenkirche in The United States military made the case that bombing of Dresden did not constitute a war crime, based on the following points: The raid had legitimate military ends, brought about by exigent military circumstances. Military units and anti-aircraft defenses were sufficiently close that it was valid not to consider the city "undefended. The raid was carried out through the normal chain of command, pursuant to directives and agreements then in force.

The raid achieved the military objective, without "excessive" loss of civilian life. In reference to the first claim, an inquiry conducted at the behest of the U. Secretary of War, General George C. Marshall , concluded that the raid was justified by the available intelligence. As Dresden had been largely untouched during the war, it was one of the few remaining functional rail and communications centers.