On February 13, residents of Dresden, the main city of the federal state of Saxony, take to the streets to honor the memory of fellow countrymen who became victims of a terrible bombing attack by the Anglo-American aviation. What was the basis for the choice made of this goal based on the end of the war? There were no serious military facilities in the city. With some stretch to them can be attributed perhaps the railway junction. But the city was packed with hundreds of thousands of refugees from East Prussia and Saxony itself, partly already occupied by the Red Army: its advanced units stood 60 km from Dresden. Later, the British and Americans will claim that they attacked Dresden, fulfilling their allied duty to the USSR - supposedly at his request they wanted to facilitate the capture of the city by the Russians. There is no documented evidence of this, and the Soviet Union denies even its indirect involvement in the Dresden massacre, which has become one of the most tragic events of the Second World War for Germany. According to some historians, the purpose of the bombardment of Dresden and other German cities, departing to the Soviet zone of occupation, was not to help the Soviet troops, but to demonstrate military power to intimidate the ally - the USSR.
The first bomb from an English bomber fell on the city in 22 hours 13 February February 1945 year. The massive air attack lasted only 24 minutes, but that was enough to turn the city into a sea of fire. In 1: February 20 14 nights, the raid was repeated using mostly incendiary bombs. After 10 in the morning, the latest series of bombs hit the city, delivered this time by US bombers. This completed the murder of the city already lying in the ruins. Ironically, the railway junction was not affected. The quantitative data on the human victims of a fierce strike vary widely: from 25 ?? 000 to 135 ?? 000 and more. Accurate assessment does not allow for the lack of accounting for refugees who flooded the city before the attack. In any case, the number of victims is comparable (or even exceeds them) with the losses caused by the atomic bombing of Hiroshima (according to various sources - from 90 to 160 thousand people).
Theorists and practitioners
At the beginning of the 20th century, the newly emerging aviation immediately became the object of close attention of the military. In it, the generals saw the possibility of striking the heads and fortifications of the enemy, while remaining inaccessible to his bayonets and bullets. Already in the First World War, this idea found application on both sides of the European front. The first results were impressive. Many strategists were dizzy from the unlimited possibilities of the new kind of troops that had opened up. One of these was the Italian General Giulio Due (1869 − 1930). Back in 1915, he proposed to send an armada of 500 bombers to strike at cities hostile to Austria, believing that this would bring not only a military, but also a psychological, demoralizing effect. Duee thought that after such a shake-up Austria would have no choice but to surrender. He developed similar ideas in the so-called Douet Doctrine, which assigns the dominant role to bomber in a war. The general argued that the massive bombing of cities, in addition to the destruction of military-industrial facilities and the destruction of troops, are aimed at demoralizing the enemy and compelling him to surrender. Admirers of the Doye doctrine were the German Nazis - they were the first to put it into practice during the Spanish Civil War. 26 April 1937 was the victim of Guernica - a town in the Basque Country. Aces of the German elite bomber regiment "Condor" with the support of the Italians turned the city into ruins, killing more than 200 civilians.
The doctrine of General Douet born during the First World War for the first time found its technical embodiment on the eve of the Second World War. The methods of "carpet bombing" were used much later: in particular, the authorship of the phrase "bombed into the stone age" belongs to the American Air Force general Curtis Lemey. This is 1965 year.
Battle of Britain
14 May 1940, the Germans destroyed the Dutch Rotterdam. With the aim of seizing France, the Wehrmacht decided to bypass the well-fortified Maginot Line through Holland. Hitler gave only one day to capture this small and weakly armed country. But suddenly the Germans met stubborn resistance. To force the Dutch to capitulate, they needed shock measures. The commander of the German troops, General Schmidt, issued an ultimatum: either immediate surrender, or hundreds of bombers razed down the main seaport of Holland Rotterdam. The Dutch were forced to capitulate (the Douai doctrine worked). But the bombing took place all the same - ostensibly due to a misunderstanding, part of the squadrons prepared for the operation did not receive the last post signal. As a result of the bomb strike, the city center was almost completely destroyed, with up to 1000 people, mostly civilians, killed. England reacted immediately: the very next day the Royal Air Forces made a night raid on the Ruhr area. The Germans responded with the first "test" raid on London. Duel "carpet bombing" gained momentum. After a nightly and ineffective British bombers raid on Berlin, furious Goering, who had previously guaranteed the Fuhrer that no bomb would fall on Reich, ordered London to be equalized with the banks of the Thames. September 7 300 aircraft, and then another 250 crashed the English capital. But the British, prepared for an air war far better than the Dutch, did not flinch. Their losses were not so significant, and the destruction was quickly eliminated. The leader of the nation, Winston Churchill, called on his people to fight decisively against the Nazis. The Germans did not abandon attempts to bring the UK to its knees, destroying its large industrial centers, including London, with total bombardment. The first hit was Coventry, the largest defense, including aircraft manufacturing, center of Great Britain. 450 bombers "Heinkel-111", taking off from the territory of the already occupied France, the waves rolled over the city, turning it into burning ruins. 12 aircraft factories were destroyed, 1236 people died. Another 40 raids before the end of the war had to endure this city. The German pilots even had the term "Coventry raids." Then the targets were Liverpool, Birmingham, Belfast and other industrial centers. The British Air Force defended their country from the last forces. Respond to the Nazis oncoming powerful raids of England while it was not under force. By the beginning of the war, the Royal Air Forces numbered only 448 bombers, of which only the 60 new Vickers were able to reach Berlin and Hamburg. The rest could bomb at best the Ruhr areas. In addition, to fight on equal terms, the British lacked bombs of the appropriate caliber, night sights, etc.? The situation changed in 1942, when the United States joined the active fighting in Europe. By this time, the intensity of the German air strikes had visibly weakened: the Wehrmacht had great difficulties on the Eastern Front, a significant part of the aircraft had to be transferred there. It was these machines, under the command of the former Commander of the Condor, Wolfram von Richthofen, who received General's shoulder straps for Gernick, that 23 August 1942 of the year struck Stalingrad, destroying more than 40? 000 citizens in one raid. In all, about 220? 000 people died from the bombing during the Stalingrad battle.
The cover of a British weekly newspaper dedicated to the German bombing of Great Britain.
Tragedies of German cities
Since the beginning of 1943, the situation in the sky of Europe has changed dramatically. Unbroken England and the mighty United States, which turned the British Isles into an "unsinkable aircraft carrier", steadily increased the power of their air strikes against Nazi Germany, mercilessly destroying its industrial facilities, turning it into ruins of the city. The British, who initially adhered to the rules established by the Hague Conference, soon realized that they were alone in their gentlemanhood — the enemy and did not think to observe them. And then, on the basis of the principle “to live with wolves, howl like a wolf”, all the rules were discarded, the air war became truly total.
Since then, the term "carpet bombing" has finally come into use. They called it, frankly, the inhuman action so beautifully because the explosions of bombs, which were observed almost close to each other, observed from a height, the craters from them, the fire and smoke of the fires reminded the pilots of a kind of sinister carpet covering all living things. At the Allies conference in 21 in January 1943, the directive “On strengthening the joint air offensive against Germany” was adopted. She provided for the planned destruction by the strategic aviation forces of the military industry and the German economy, as well as undermining the morale of the German people (why not remember the old Doue!). The commander of the Royal Air Force's strategic aviation, General Arthur Harris, stated: "... the destruction of German workers, their families and housing is as effective as the destruction of the factories where they work," and signed an order to prepare Operation Gomorrah, probably recalling the biblical "... and the Lord shed rain from heaven on Sodom and Gomorrah on sulfur and fire ... ”
Hamburg was the first on the edge of the “Gomorrah”. The raid on him was thoroughly prepared, a special bombing tactic was developed: first heavy bomberings, the so-called blockbusters (“quarter destroyers”), were penetrating the houses, followed by incendiary fires to complete the defeat. The first attack of the British, in which participated almost 800 aircraft, began in 1 o'clock in the morning 25 July 1943 of the year. For 50 minutes was 2400 reset? t bombs. In the morning, the Americans came to replace the British. On the night of July 28, 787 bombers took part in the raid on Hamburg, and July 29 took part in 700. Before 30 July, more than 2500 sorties were flown to Hamburg, during which 250? 000 buildings were destroyed, at least 50? 000 people died, about 200? 000 was injured, more than a million citizens were deprived of their housing. The 28 night attack of July was the worst, when a firestorm appeared in the city. Because of the difference in temperature, the hot air, rushing up, created strong cravings and literally sucked people into the fire. In the resulting air flow, the speed reached 240 km / h, and the temperature 800 ° C. The city turned into a fiery underworld. Only that night about 40 died? 000 people. Earlier, a deadly carpet was covered with Cologne, tightly got to such large German cities as Stuttgart, Essen, Nuremberg, and many others. Only after that came the turn of Dresden.
A major role in the allied bombing of German cities was played by heavy US bombers. In the photo - "Flying Fortress" B-17.
Carpet bombing had their own tactics. Initially, heavy high-explosive bombs were used - “quarter destroyers”, “blockbusters”, then lighter incendiary bombs were poured into the breaches formed in the roofs, and the resulting fires completed the deadly work. Intensive attempts by the Luftwaffe to demoralize the British with massive bombardments and to take air supremacy were made from July to September of the 1940 year. This period was called the “Battle of Britain.” The results did not impress Hitler, and he abandoned plans for a naval landing in Britain (Operation Sea Lion). Winston Churchill inspects the cathedral bombed by the Luftwaffe. The speeches of the British Prime Minister during the “Battle of Britain” period became classics of political patriotic rhetoric.
Between the past and the future
In May, 1945 in Europe, and in September of the same year, the Second World War ended in the Pacific. They remembered the barbaric “carpet bombing,” and a scapegoat was immediately found. They made General A. Harris, accusing him of excessive cruelty. He was dismissed from his high position, but did not admit his guilt. Well - in war as in war. However, with the end of World War "carpet bombing" did not sink into oblivion. They repeated in Vietnam, where the Americans from the giant B-52 bombarded Hanoi and other cities. Not without such actions during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.