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The allied bombing of Hamburg during World War II included numerous attacks on civilians and civic infrastructure. As a large city and industrial centre, Hamburg's shipyards, U-boat pens, and the Hamburg-Harburg area oil refineries were attacked throughout the war.
The Allies of World War II, called the United Nations from the 1 January 1942 declaration, were the countries that together opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War (1939–1945). The Allies promoted the alliance as a means to control German, Japanese and Italian aggression.
Hamburg is the second-largest city in Germany with a population of over 1.8 million.
A shipyard is a place where ships are built and repaired. These can be yachts, military vessels, cruise liners or other cargo or passenger ships. Dockyards are sometimes more associated with maintenance and basing activities than shipyards, which are sometimes associated more with initial construction. The terms are routinely used interchangeably, in part because the evolution of dockyards and shipyards has often caused them to change or merge roles.
As part of a sustained campaign of strategic bombing during World War II, the attack during the last week of July 1943, code named Operation Gomorrah, created one of the largest firestorms raised by the Royal Air Force and United States Army Air Forces in World War II,killing 42,600 civilians and wounding 37,000 in Hamburg and virtually destroying most of the city. Before the development of the firestorm in Hamburg there had been no rain for some time and everything was very dry. The unusually warm weather and good conditions meant that the bombing was highly concentrated around the intended targets and also created a vortex and whirling updraft of super-heated air which created a 460 meter high tornado of fire. Various other previously used techniques and devices were instrumental as well, such as area bombing, Pathfinders, and H2S radar, which came together to work with particular effectiveness. An early form of chaff, code named 'Window', was successfully used for the first time by the RAF – clouds of tinfoil strips dropped by Pathfinders as well as the initial bomber stream – in order to completely cloud German radar. The raids inflicted severe damage to German armaments production in Hamburg.
Strategic bombing during World War II was the sustained aerial attack on railways, harbours, cities, workers' housing, and industrial districts in enemy territory during World War II. Strategic bombing is a military strategy which is distinct from both close air support of ground forces and tactical air power.
A firestorm is a conflagration which attains such intensity that it creates and sustains its own wind system. It is most commonly a natural phenomenon, created during some of the largest bushfires and wildfires. Although the term has been used to describe certain large fires, the phenomenon's determining characteristic is a fire with its own storm-force winds from every point of the compass. The Black Saturday bushfires and the Great Peshtigo Fire are possible examples of forest fires with some portion of combustion due to a firestorm, as is the Great Hinckley Fire. Firestorms have also occurred in cities, usually as a deliberate effect of targeted explosives, such as occurred as a result of the aerial firebombings of Hamburg, Dresden, firebombing of Tokyo and the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.
The Royal Air Force (RAF) is the United Kingdom's aerial warfare force. Formed towards the end of the First World War on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world. Following victory over the Central Powers in 1918 the RAF emerged as, at the time, the largest air force in the world. Since its formation, the RAF has taken a significant role in British military history. In particular, it played a large part in the Second World War where it fought its most famous campaign, the Battle of Britain.
The name Gomorrah comes from that of one of the two Canaanite cities of Sodom and Gomorrah whose destruction is recorded in the Bible: "Then the Lord rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the Lord out of the heavens." – Genesis 19:24
Sodom and Gomorrah were cities mentioned in the Book of Genesis and throughout the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, and in the deuterocanonical books, as well as in the Quran and the hadith.
The Bible is a collection of sacred texts or scriptures. Varying parts of the Bible are considered to be a product of divine inspiration and a record of the relationship between God and humans by Christians, Jews, Samaritans, and Rastafarians.
Fire and brimstone is an idiomatic expression referring to God's wrath in the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. In the Bible, it often appears in reference to the fate of the unfaithful. Brimstone, an archaic term synonymous with sulfur, evokes the acrid odor of sulphur dioxide given off by lightning strikes. Lightning was understood as divine punishment by many ancient religions; the association of sulphur with God's retribution is common in the Bible. The English phrase "fire and brimstone" originates in the King James Bible.
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The Battle of Hamburg, codenamed Operation Gomorrah, was a campaign of air raids which began on 24 July 1943 and lasted for 8 days and 7 nights. It was at the time the heaviest assault in the history of aerial warfare and was later called the Hiroshima of Germany by British officials.
The history of aerial warfare began in ancient times, with the use of kites in China. In the third century, it progressed to balloon warfare. Airplanes were put to use for war starting in 1911, initially for reconnaissance, and then for aerial combat to shoot down the recon planes. The use of planes for strategic bombing emerged during World War II. Also during World War II, Nazi Germany developed many missile and precision-guided munition systems, including the first cruise missile, the first short-range ballistic missile, the first guided surface-to-air missiles, and the first anti-ship missiles. Ballistic missiles became of key importance during the Cold War, were armed with nuclear warheads, and were stockpiled by the superpowers to deter each other from using them. The first military use of satellites was for reconnaissance in the 1950s, and their use has progressed to worldwide communication and information systems that support globally distributed military users with intelligence from orbit.
Until the focus of RAF Bomber Command switched to Hamburg it had been on the Ruhr industrial region which had been the target of a five-month-long campaign.
The Ruhr is a polycentric urban area in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. With a population density of 2,800/km2 and a population of over 5 million (2017), it is the largest urban area in Germany and the third-largest in the European Union. It consists of several large cities bordered by the rivers Ruhr to the south, Rhine to the west, and Lippe to the north. In the southwest it borders the Bergisches Land. It is considered part of the larger Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan region of more than 12 million people, which is among the largest in Europe.
The Battle of the Ruhr of 1943 was a 5-month British campaign of strategic bombing during the Second World War against the Nazi Germany Ruhr Area, which had coke plants, steelworks, and 10 synthetic oil plants. The campaign bombed 26 major Combined Bomber Offensive targets. The targets included the Krupp armament works (Essen), the Nordstern synthetic-oil plant (Gelsenkirchen), and the Rheinmetal–Borsig plant in Düsseldorf. The latter was safely evacuated during the Battle of the Ruhr.Although not strictly part of the Ruhr area, the battle of the Ruhr included other cities such as Cologne which were within the Rhine-Ruhr region and considered part of the same "industrial complex". Some targets were not sites of heavy industrial production but part of the production and movement of materiel.
The operation was conducted by RAF Bomber Command (including RCAF and RAAF and Polish Squadrons) and the USAAF Eighth Air Force. The British conducted night raids and the USAAF daylight raids.
RAF Bomber Command controlled the RAF's bomber forces from 1936 to 1968. Along with the United States Army Air Forces, it played the central role in the strategic bombing of Germany in World War II. From 1942 onward, the British bombing campaign against Germany became less restrictive and increasingly targeted industrial sites and the civilian manpower base essential for German war production. In total 364,514 operational sorties were flown, 1,030,500 tons of bombs were dropped and 8,325 aircraft lost in action. Bomber Command crews also suffered a high casualty rate: 55,573 were killed out of a total of 125,000 aircrew, a 44.4% death rate. A further 8,403 men were wounded in action, and 9,838 became prisoners of war.
The Polish Air Forces was the name of the Polish Air Forces formed in France and the United Kingdom during World War II. The core of the Polish air units fighting alongside the Allies were experienced veterans of the 1939 invasion of Poland. They contributed to the Allied victory in the Battle of Britain and most World War II air operations.
The Eighth Air Force is a numbered air force (NAF) of the United States Air Force's Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC). It is headquartered at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana. The command serves as Air Forces Strategic – Global Strike, one of the air components of United States Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM). The Eighth Air Force includes the heart of America's heavy bomber force: the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber, the B-1 Lancer supersonic bomber, and the B-52 Stratofortress heavy bomber aircraft.
The initial attack on Hamburg included two new introductions to the British planning: they used "Window", otherwise known as chaff, to confuse the German radar, while the Pathfinder Force aircraft, which normally kept radio silence, reported the winds they encountered, and this information was processed and relayed to the bomber force navigators.
No 35 Squadron led the target marking and, thanks to the clear weather and H2S radar navigation, accuracy was good, with markers falling close to the aiming point. On 24 July, at approximately 00:57, the first bombing started by the RAF and lasted for almost an hour. The confusion caused to German radar kept losses of aircraft low. While some 40,000 firemen were available to tackle fires, control of their resources was damaged when the telephone exchange caught fire and rubble blocked the passage of fire engines through the city streets;fires were still burning three days later.
A second, daylight raid, by the USAAF was conducted at 16:40. It had been intended for 300 aircraft to attack Hamburg and Hanover but problems with assembling the force in the air meant that only 90 B-17 Flying Fortresses reached Hamburg. The bombers attacked the Blohm and Voss shipyard and an aero-engine factory, with German flak damaging 78 aircraft. However the shipyard was not badly damaged and the aero-engine manufacturer could not be seen for smoke (a generating station was attacked instead). RAF Mosquitos of the Light Night Striking Force (LNSF) carried out nuisance raids to keep the city on a state of alert and delayed-action bombs from the night's raid exploded at intervals. Extra firemen were brought in from other cities including Hanover; as a result when the US bombers attacked, these firemen were in Hamburg and fires in Hanover burned unchecked.
Another attack by the RAF on Hamburg for that night was cancelled due to the problems the smoke would cause and 700 bombers raided Essen instead. Mosquitos carried out another nuisance raid.
A third raid was conducted on the morning of the 26th. The RAF night attack of 26 July at 00:20 was extremely light because of severe thunderstorms and high winds over the North Sea, during which a considerable number of bombers jettisoned the explosive part of their bomb loads (retaining just the incendiaries) with only two bomb drops reported. That attack is often not counted when the total number of Operation Gomorrah attacks is given. There was no day raid on the 27th.
On the night of 27 July, shortly before midnight, 240 kilometres per hour (150 mph) reaching temperatures of 800 °C (1,470 °F) and altitudes in excess of 300 metres (1,000 ft), incinerating more than 21 square kilometres (8 sq mi) of the city. Asphalt streets burst into flame, and fuel oil from damaged and destroyed ships, barges and storage tanks spilled into the water of the canals and the harbour, causing them to ignite as well. The majority of deaths attributed to Operation Gomorrah occurred on this night. A large number of those killed died seeking safety in bomb shelters and cellars, the firestorm consuming the oxygen in the burning city above. The furious winds created by the firestorm had the power to sweep people up off the streets like dry leaves:787 RAF aircraft—74 Wellingtons, 116 Stirlings, 244 Halifaxes and 353 Lancasters— bombed Hamburg. The unusually dry and warm weather, the concentration of the bombing in one area and firefighting limitations due to blockbuster bombs used in the early part of the raid — and the recall of Hanover's firecrews to their own city — culminated in a firestorm. The tornadic fire created a huge inferno with winds of up to
Some people who tried to walk along, they were pulled in by the fire, they all of the sudden disappeared right in front of you (...) You have to save yourself or try to get as far away from the fire, because the draught pulls you in.
On the night of 29 July, Hamburg was again attacked by over 700 RAF aircraft. A planned raid on 31 July was cancelled due to thunderstorms over the UK.The last raid of Operation Gomorrah was conducted on 3 August.
Operation Gomorrah killed 42,600 people, left 37,000 wounded and caused some one million German civilians to flee the city.The city's labour force was reduced by ten percent. Approximately 3,000 aircraft were employed, 9,000 tons of bombs were dropped and over 250,000 homes and houses were destroyed. No subsequent city raid shook Germany as did that on Hamburg; documents show that German officials were thoroughly alarmed and there is some indication from later Allied interrogations of Nazi officials that Hitler stated that further raids of similar weight would force Germany out of the war. The industrial losses were severe: Hamburg never recovered to full production, only doing so in essential armaments industries (in which maximum effort was made). Figures given by German sources indicate that 183 large factories were destroyed out of 524 in the city and 4,118 smaller factories out of 9,068 were destroyed. Other losses included damage to or destruction of 580 industrial concerns and armaments works, 299 of which were important enough to be listed by name. Local transport systems were completely disrupted and did not return to normal for some time. Dwellings destroyed amounted to 214,350 out of 414,500. Hamburg was hit by air raids another 69 times before the end of World War II. In total, the RAF dropped 22,580 long tons of bombs on Hamburg.
The totally destroyed quarter of Hammerbrook, in which mostly port workers lived, was not rebuilt as a housing area but as a commercial area. The adjoining quarter of Rothenburgsort shared the same fate, as only a small area of housing was rebuilt. The underground line which connected these areas with the central station was not rebuilt either.
In the destroyed residential areas many houses were rebuilt across the street and therefore do not form connected blocks anymore. The hills of the Öjendorfer Park are formed by the debris of destroyed houses.
In January 1946, Major Cortez F. Enloe, a surgeon in the USAAF who worked on the United States Strategic Bombing Survey (USSBS), said that the fire effects of the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki "were not nearly as bad as the effects of the R.A.F. raids on Hamburg on July 27th 1943". He estimated that more than 40,000 people died in Hamburg.
"It was quite a surprise to us when the first Hamburg raid took place because you used some new device which was preventing the anti-aircraft guns to find your bombers, so you had a great success and you repeated these attacks on Hamburg several times and each time the new success was greater and the depression was larger, and I have said, in those days, in a meeting of the Air Ministry, that if you would repeat this success on four or five other German towns, then we would collapse." – Albert Speer – The Secret War
Several memorials in Hamburg are reminders of the air raids during World War II:
|Date||Target/Type||Roundel and notes|
|night of 10/11 September 1939||leaflets|
|night 17/18 May 1940||oil installations|
|night 27/28 May 1940||oil refineries|
|night 30/31 May1940||oil refineries|
|night 20/21 October 1940|
|night 24/25 October 1940|
|nights of 15/16 November and 16/17 November 1940|
|night of 12/13 March 1941|
|The night of 13/14 March 1941|
|The night of 11/12 May 1941|
|The night of 27/28 June 1941|
|night of 14/15 January 1942|
|night of 15/16 January 1942|
|night of 17/18 January 1942|
|night of 16/17 February 1942|
|night of 8/9 April 1942|
|The night of 17/18 April 1942|
|The night of 3/4 May 1942|
|night of 26/27 July 1942|
|night of 28/29 July 1942|
|day of 3 August 1942|
|day of 18 August 1942||nuisance raid|
|day of 19 September 1942||nuisance raid|
|night of 13/14 October 1942|
|night of 9/10 November 1942|
|night of 30/31 January 1943|
|night of 3/4 February 1943|
|The night of 3/4 March 1943|
|13/14 April 1943||nuisance raid|
|25 June 1943||Blohm & Voss|
|night of 26/27 June 1943||nuisance raid|
|night of 28/29 June 1943||nuisance raid|
|night of 3/4 July 1943||nuisance raid|
|night of 5/6 July 1943||nuisance raid|
|night of 24/25 July 1943||large raid|
|25 July 1943 16:40||Blohm & Voss|
|26 July 1943||Blohm & Voss|
|The night of 26/27 July 1943||nuisance raid|
|night of 27/28 July 1943||Large raid|
|night of 28/29 July 1943||nuisance raid|
|night of 29/30 July 1943||Large raid|
|night of 2/3 August 1943|
|night of 22/23 August 1943||nuisance raid|
|night of 5/6 November 1943|
|night of 1/2 January 1944||diversionary raid (Berlin)|
|night of 11/12 March 1944||nuisance raid|
|night of 6/7 April 1944|
|night of 26/27 April 1944||diversionary raid|
|night of 28/29 April 1944|
|18 June 1944||oil refineries|
|20 June 1944||oil refineries|
|night of 22/23 June 1944||diversionary raid|
|night of 22/23 July 1944||diversionary raid|
|night of 26/27 July 1944||diversionary raid|
|night of 29/29 July 1944|
|4 August 1944||oil refineries|
|6 August 1944||oil refineries|
|night of 26/27 August 1944||diversionary nuisance raid|
|night of 29/30 August 1944||diversionary nuisance raid|
|night of 6/7 September 1944||nuisance raid|
|night of 26/27 September 1944||diversionary nuisance raid|
|night of 30/1 October 1944|
|6 October 1944||oil refinery (Harburg/Rhenania)|
|night of 12/13 October 1944|
|25 October 1944||oil refineries|
|30 October 1944||oil refineries|
|4 November 1944||oil refinery|
|5 November 1944||ordnance depots|
|6 November 1944||oil refineries|
|night of 11/12 November 1944||oil refineries|
|21 November 1944||oil refineries|
|night of 30/1 December 1944||diversionary raid|
|night of 11/12 December 1944|
|night of 27/28 December 1944||nuisance raid|
|31 December 1944||Blohm & Voss|
|night of 16/17 January 1945||diversionary nuisance raid|
|24 February 1945||Blohm & Voss|
|24 February 1945||oil refineries|
|5 March 1945||oil refinery|
|8/9 March 1945||Blohm & Voss|
|10 March 1945||Blohm & Voss|
|11 March 1945||oil refinery|
|20 March 1945||shipyards, docs and oil installations|
|night of 21/22 March 1945||oil refinery (Erdölwerke)|
|30 March 1945||oil depot|
|night of 30/31 March 1945|
|day of 31 March 1945||Blohm & Voss|
|night of 2/3 April 1945||nuisance raid|
|8 April 1945||U-boat yard|
|night of 8/9 April 1945||shipyard|
|day of 9 April 1945||oil storage|
|night of 9/10 April 1945||diversionary raid|
|The night of 13/14 April 1945||diversionary raid|
The bombing of Dresden was a British/American aerial city bombing attack on the city of Dresden, the capital of the German state of Saxony, during World War II in the European Theatre. In four raids between 13 and 15 February 1945, 722 heavy bombers of the British Royal Air Force (RAF) and 527 of the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) dropped more than 3,900 tons of high-explosive bombs and incendiary devices on the city. The bombing and the resulting firestorm destroyed over 1,600 acres (6.5 km2) of the city centre. An estimated 22,700 to 25,000 people were killed, although larger casualty figures have been claimed. Three more USAAF air raids followed, two occurring on 2 March aimed at the city's railway marshalling yard and one smaller raid on 17 April aimed at industrial areas.
Firebombing is a bombing technique designed to damage a target, generally an urban area, through the use of fire, caused by incendiary devices, rather than from the blast effect of large bombs.
The Baedeker Blitz or Baedeker raids were a series of attacks by the Luftwaffe on English cities during the Second World War.
Berlin, the capital of Nazi Germany, was subject to 363 air raids during the Second World War. It was bombed by the RAF Bomber Command between 1940 and 1945, by the USAAF Eighth Air Force between 1943 and 1945, and the French Air Force between 1944 and 1945 as part of the Allied campaign of strategic bombing of Germany. It was also attacked by aircraft of the Red Air Force, especially in 1945 as Soviet forces closed on the city. British bombers dropped 45,517 tons of bombs; the Americans dropped 23,000 tons. As the bombings continued more and more people moved out. By May 1945, 1.7 million people had fled.
The German city of Cologne was bombed in 262 separate air raids by the Allies during World War II, all by the Royal Air Force (RAF) but for a single failed post-capture test of a guided missile by the United States Army Air Forces. A total of 34,711 long tons of bombs were dropped on the city by the RAF. 20,000 people died during the war in Cologne due to aerial bombardments.
The Bombing of Würzburg in World War II was part of the strategic bombing campaign by the Allies against Nazi Germany. Würzburg, a city in Franconia. Although lacking major armaments industries and hosting around 40 hospitals at the time, Würzburg was targeted as a traffic hub and as part of the attempt by Bomber Command to break the spirit of the German people. The major raid occurred on March 16, 1945, when Royal Air Force bombers dropped incendiary bombs that set fire to much of the city, killing an estimated 5,000 people and almost completely obliterating the historic town. Almost 90% of the buildings were destroyed by a raid that lasted less than 20 minutes.
The Battle of Hamburg is a book by the British military historian Martin Middlebrook describing the combined RAF Bomber Command and USAAF 8th Air Force attacks on the German city of Hamburg in the Summer of 1943.
During World War II, Braunschweig was attacked by Allied aircraft in 42 bombing raids.
Operation Hurricane was a 24-hour bombing operation to "demonstrate to the enemy in Germany generally the overwhelming superiority of the Allied Air Forces in this theatre" and "cause mass panic and disorginazation [sic] in the Ruhr, disrupt frontline communications and demonstrate the futility of resistance".
Darmstadt was bombed a number of times during World War II. The most devastating air raid on Darmstadt occurred on the night of 11/12 September 1944 when No. 5 Group of the Royal Air Force (RAF) bombed the city. 66,000 of the 110,000 inhabitants of Darmstadt at the time became homeless. Darmstadt lost between 12,500 and 13,500 inhabitants during World War II. The calligraphic memorial Durmstädter Brandnamen lists about 4,000 names. Darmstadt had several major industrial targets including Merck and Rohm and Haas chemical works as well as military communications networks.
The Battle of Berlin was a series of attacks on Berlin by RAF Bomber Command. Other German cities were attacked to keep German defences dispersed. The campaign was commanded by Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris, AOC-in-C of Bomber Command, who believed that "We can wreck Berlin from end to end if the USAAF come in with us. It will cost us between 400 and 500 aircraft. It will cost Germany the war".
During the Second World War, the city of Wuppertal suffered numerous Allied air raids, primarily nighttime attacks from the Royal Air Force's Bomber Command during the British-waged Battle of the Ruhr bomber offensive. The largest raids were on the night of 29-30 May 1943, heavy enough to cause a firestorm, then on 24-25 June. The wartime-era German Feuerwehr fire brigades were ill-equipped to fight these fires. The RAF's airstrikes destroyed areas of Wuppertal's northeastern Barmen, central Elberfeld and southeastern Ronsdorf communities, mainly through incendiary area bombing, resulting in destructive firestorms. Other Allied aircraft also carried out numerous smaller air raids on Wuppertal. Overall, more than 6,500 people lost their lives during World War II in Wuppertal from such raids; 38 percent of the built-up urban area was destroyed.
The German city of Mannheim in the state of Baden-Württemberg saw bombing during World War II from December 1940 until the end of the war. Mannheim saw over 150 air raids.
During World War II, the city of Lübeck was the first German city to be attacked in substantial numbers by the Royal Air Force. The attack on the night of 28 March 1942 created a firestorm that caused severe damage to the historic centre, with bombs destroying three of the main churches and large parts of the built-up area. It led to the retaliatory "Baedeker" raids on historic British cities.
During World War II, Leipzig was repeatedly attacked by British as well as American air raids. The most severe attack was launched by the Royal Air Force in the early hours of 4 December 1943 and claimed more than 1,800 lives. Large parts of the city center were destroyed, while factories experienced temporary shortfalls in production, had to move production facilities or even were decentralized.
Events in the year 1943 in Germany.
While the Germans occupied the Netherlands during the Second World War (1940–1945), Allied air forces carried out a number of operations over Rotterdam and the surrounding region. These included bombing strategic installations, leaflet dropping, and during the last week of the war, the dropping of emergency food supplies.
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