Bombing of Dresden

Dresden after the Allied firebombing campaign in 1945
Dresden after the Allied firebombing campaign in 1945

Historical Context

Few Allied actions during World War II are as controversial or as debated as the firebombing of Dresden, which began on February 13, 1945, lasting two more days. During that time more than 1,200 Allied aircraft dropped almost 4,000 tons of high explosive and incendiary devices on the German city, killing between 22,000 and 25,000 civilians and utterly destroying the city.

Allied planners justified the bombing by claiming Dresden was an important rail transport and communications hub for the German war effort, though not all of these sites were targeted for bombing. Others claim Dresden was a cultural center with no real military significance and the bombing campaign was unnecessary given the impending invasion of Germany by Allied forces (the war would end only a few months later.)

Winston Churchill was ultimately responsible for ordering the bombardment though he too attempted to distance himself from it later on. He referred to the campaign in Dresden as an "act of terror" which drew the ire of Arthur Harris, the man in charge of the RAF Bomber Command, and a proponent of area bombing.

Debate continues today over the military significance of Dresden and whether the act constituted a war crime.

Photo Info

Photographer: Richard Peter
Location taken: Dresden, Nazi Germany

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Related Events

  • 1945-02-13 Allied planes begin bombing Dresden, Germany; a firestorm results and over 22,000 die
  • 1945-02-14 Second day of the bombing of Dresden by Allied air forces
  • 1945-02-14 World War II: Prague is bombed probably due to a mistake in the orientation of the pilots bombing Dresden.

Historical Photos