Left for later
For most of the war, the city of Dresden existed rather calmly. It can be said in “resort” conditions – while the Allied aircraft devastated Hamburg and bombed Berlin, the capital of Saxony lived peacefully.
Dresden, of course, was bombed several times, but as if casually and not very seriously. The attitude to the bombing in the city was so frivolous, and the losses so moderate, that there was an active trade in bomb fragments in Dresden – they say, there will be a souvenir, as well as something to tell grandchildren. The city was “touched” so easily that entertaining excursions were arranged to the places of the bombings.
The reason for this was geography. Dresden is located in the depths of German territory – it is difficult to reach it both from England and from the Mediterranean Sea. No, it is possible to fly, of course, but not easy, especially in a large group. There is not enough fuel for long navigational hesitation, and along the way there are many large cities with impressive air defense – no, no, but someone else will be shot down along the way. Well, on the way back too.
As you can see, reaching Dresden is not so easy
But by the beginning of 1945, the situation had changed. Bombers received an order – in anticipation of demonstrating support for the Eastern Front. Sending hefty Lancaster and Flying Fortresses to bomb clusters of equipment and individual objects was stupid. And then they decided to influence something large – for example, a transport hub. And as yet not seriously attacked, Dresden was a pretty obvious choice here.
Hands from the right place
Fortunately, the order coincided with the growth of the capabilities of the bombers. At the very beginning of the war, the same British in the bombing business reigned complete confusion and vacillation. The situation when each crew was given a separate task, and he independently chose the route, was common. In such conditions, it was not easy to hit a target such as a “big city” with a bomb – after all, the British, unlike the Americans, flew at night, when there was less chance of being shot down.
In the arrows, in general, they recruited anyone – any aerodrome personnel, and almost civilians among the latter’s acquaintances.
After some time, the command grabbed their heads and streamlined the process of bombing. They began to select the best crews, which reached the target as accurately as possible, taking the rest there as well. To heighten the effect, they threw incendiary “marker bombs” indicating the area to be bombed.
The Germans, however, were quickly found, lighting up their markers somewhere outside the city to confuse the bombers. But this was answered with a whole system of signals – “pathfinders” (“pioneers”), dropping “markers”, closely watched the enemy’s initiative and marked false targets, firing missiles of different colors.
By the beginning of 1945, British aviation was at the peak of its form – it had the necessary materiel – that is, many four-engine Lancaster. And experience – the organization of raids during the war years did not even step, but simply flew over itself.
And the Germans, whom they had already managed to get rid of in many places, did not look good. The overwhelmed industry could no longer produce everything it needed, observation posts for warning of raids in some northern France were lost along with the latter. From a distant complex goal, Dresden turned into a very promising point of application of efforts.
Incendiary bombs, widely used in raids, were terrible weapons. They worked best, of course, in Japan, where cities were a jumble of wood and paper — the streets were narrow and the fires spread well.
But even in “stone” Germany, lighters had something to amaze. If you put them on a lot and tightly in many places at once, you could cause a real fire tornado. Many adjacent areas, where cold and hot air collided, caused a series of fire whirlwinds.
Sometimes people who inadvertently went out into the open space, for example, the center of a wide street, were simply caught up in the air stream and thrown into the fire. As if by a mighty invisible hand – the witnesses of this were hardly destined to forget it. In all this raging horror, it was absolutely impossible to save someone – all that remained was to hide in basements and pray that you are somewhere on the edge of the raging fires zone, and not in its center.
Dresden after a triple raid in February 1945
True, sometimes it was possible to save. There was one dangerous but effective way – the “water alley”. Firefighters pulled up many, many sleeves, and literally made their way through the fire. So it was possible to move along some wide street for kilometers. Everything depended on the uninterrupted supply of water – if something went wrong, firefighters moving through the fiery hell would fall into a trap and inevitably die.
I had to take risks for a reason. Firestorms did not occur very often (it was necessary to bomb very well and harmoniously), but when they did, it was a huge problem. First of all, for the people gathered in the bomb shelters – they slowly died from suffocation. And they could be saved only by punching the road with “water alleys”.
By the time of the Yalta Conference, they did not have time to smash Dresden – the weather prevented. But this did not save the city – the goal was really interesting, and the preparation for the operation was eating up resources, after all, it cannot be canceled.
The first wave of British “Lancaster” appeared over the city at 22:00 on February 13, 1945. The stars in the sky of the pilots converged perfectly, so that most of the bombs hit their targets – that is, fell within the city. Multiple fires spread across Dresden.
Hearing on the air the cries of “help, they are killing”, firefighters rushed into the city from almost all of Saxony. The roads in the Reich were good, the area was not that big, and it was possible to arrive quickly. Just in order to get hit by the second wave of Lancaster and get out of the game. Then the city burned on its own, without serious attempts to extinguish it, especially since the very fiery tornado began there, which put an end to any attempts to do at least something with limited forces.
And so as not to seem a little, at noon, a dozen hours later, the Americans arrived. Flying Fortresses congratulated the population of Dresden on Valentine’s Day by dropping bombs on the city. True, they were far from the success of the British – during the day there was disgusting foggy weather, and the lion’s share of the bombs fell anywhere. For all 3 waves, more than a thousand bombers took part in the case.
The year was 1945, and there was no reason to expect serious opposition from the German air defense – the British and Americans lost only 20 aircraft, 16 heavy bombers and 4 fighters.
The burning and littered city for several weeks lost its value as a transport hub – the supply of the Eastern Front, of course, did not stop, but became more complicated.
On the German side, many people died in Dresden. The account goes to at least tens of thousands. It is likely that it will never be possible to accurately calculate: in the capital of Saxony, by the beginning of the bombing, a horde of German refugees from the eastern lands of the Reich managed to accumulate. Estimates of losses among modern researchers fluctuate somewhere in the 25-35 thousand, although revisionist publicists can talk about several thousand.
The bombing is behind, the Germans burn the bodies of the dead to prevent an epidemic
The peaceful population of the city, of course, can and should be pitied. But it is worth understanding – the Germans themselves started this war, and did not differ in special humanism in it. The bombing of Stalingrad in August 1942 was no less terrible – and hardly anyone from the population of Dresden particularly grieved over it.
Sowing a storm, the Germans reaped the fiery tornado. And they paid for this with numerous stories like the Dresden bombing …