Bombing of Warsaw in World War II

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Bombing of Warsaw
Part of the Invasion of Poland
Bundesarchiv Bild 141-0763, Warschau, Brande.jpg
An aerial view of Warsaw burning, September 1939
DateSeptember 1–27, 1939
Result German victory
Flag of Poland (1928-1980).svg Poland Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg Germany
Commanders and leaders
Wolfram von Richthofen
Units involved
PL air force flag IIIRP.svg  Polish Air Force
Flag of the Polish Land Forces.svg Polish Army anti-aircraft artillery units
Balkenkreuz fuselage underwing.svg Luftwaffe
Casualties and losses
6,000 - 7,000 [1] [2] 2 Ju 52 bombers lost

The Bombing of Warsaw in World War II refers to the aerial bombing campaign of Warsaw by the German Luftwaffe during the siege of Warsaw in the invasion of Poland in 1939. It also may refer to German bombing raids during the Warsaw Uprising in 1944. During the course of the war approximately 84% of the city was destroyed due to German mass bombings, heavy artillery fire and a planned demolition campaign. [3]

Aerial bombing of cities

The aerial bombing of cities in warfare is an optional element of strategic bombing which became widespread during World War I. The bombing of cities grew to a vast scale in World War II, and is still practiced today. The development of aerial bombardment marked an increased capacity of armed forces to deliver ordnance from the air against combatants, military bases, and factories, with a greatly reduced risk to its ground forces. Civilian and non-combatant casualties in bombed cities have variously been a purposeful result of the bombings, or unavoidable collateral damage depending on intent and technology. A number of multilateral efforts have been made to restrict the use of aerial bombardment so as to protect non-combatants.

Warsaw City metropolis in Masovia, Poland

Warsaw is the capital and largest city of Poland. The metropolis stands on the Vistula River in east-central Poland and its population is officially estimated at 1.780 million residents within a greater metropolitan area of 3.1 million residents, which makes Warsaw the 8th most-populous capital city in the European Union. The city limits cover 516.9 square kilometres (199.6 sq mi), while the metropolitan area covers 6,100.43 square kilometres (2,355.39 sq mi). Warsaw is an alpha global city, a major international tourist destination, and a significant cultural, political and economic hub. Its historical Old Town was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

<i>Luftwaffe</i> Aerial warfare branch of the German military forces during World War II

The Luftwaffe was the aerial warfare branch of the combined German Wehrmacht military forces during World War II. Germany's military air arms during World War I, the Luftstreitkräfte of the Army and the Marine-Fliegerabteilung of the Navy, had been disbanded in May 1920 as a result of the terms of the Treaty of Versailles which stated that Germany was forbidden to have any air force.


Siege of Warsaw by Julien Bryan

Siege of Warsaw

In 1939, the Luftwaffe opened the German attack on Poland with operation Wasserkante, an air attack on Warsaw on 1 September. This attack by four bomber groups was of limited effectiveness due to low-lying cloud cover and stout Polish resistance by the PZL P.11 fighters of the Pursuit Brigade, which shot down 16 German aircraft for the loss of 10 of their own. However, heavy losses in Polish fighter aircraft meant that by 6 September the air defense of Warsaw was in the hands of the 40 mm and 75 mm anti-aircraft guns of the Warsaw Defense Command. [4]

PZL P.11 PZL P.11 was a Polish fighter aircraft, designed in the early 1930s by PZL in Warsaw. The PZL P.11 served as Polands primary fighter defence in the Polish campaign of 1939

The PZL P.11 was a Polish fighter aircraft, designed and constructed during the early 1930s by Warsaw-based aircraft manufacturer PZL. Possessing an all-metal structure, metal-covering, and high-mounted gull wing, the type held the distinction of being widely considered to have briefly been the most advanced fighter aircraft of its kind in the world.

As the German Army approached Warsaw on 8 September 1939, 140 Junkers Ju 87 Stukas attacked the portions of the city on the east bank of the Vistula River and other bombers bombed the Polish Army positions in the western suburbs. On 13 September Luftwaffe level and dive bombers caused widespread fires. Further resistance was followed by propaganda leaflet drops.

Junkers Ju 87 German dive bomber and ground-attack aircraft

The Junkers Ju 87 or Stuka was a German dive bomber and ground-attack aircraft. Designed by Hermann Pohlmann, it first flew in 1935. The Ju 87 made its combat debut in 1937 with the Luftwaffe's Condor Legion during the Spanish Civil War and served the Axis forces in World War II.

Finally, starting at 0800 on 25 September, Luftwaffe bombers under the command of Major Wolfram Freiherr von Richthofen conducted the largest air raid ever seen by that time, dropping 560 tons of high explosive bombs and 72 tons of incendiary bombs, [5] in coordination with heavy artillery shelling by Army units. The center of Warsaw was badly damaged. Approximately 1,150 sorties were flown by a wide variety of aircraft, including obsolescent Junkers Ju 52/3m bombers, which dropped 13 percent of the incendiary bombs dropped on the day. Only two Ju 52 bombers were lost. [6]

Wolfram Freiherr von Richthofen German military officer and aviator

Wolfram "Ulf" Karl Ludwig Moritz Hermann Freiherr von Richthofen was a German field marshal of the Luftwaffe during World War II. Born in 1895 into a family of the Prussian nobility, Richthofen grew up in prosperous surroundings. At the age of eighteen, after leaving school, he opted to join the German Army rather than choose an academic career, and joined the army's cavalry arm in 1913.

Junkers Ju 52 airliner and military transport aircraft

The Junkers Ju 52/3m is a German transport aircraft manufactured from 1931 to 1952, initially designed with a single engine but subsequently produced as a trimotor. It had both civilian and military service during the 1930s and 1940s. In a civilian role, it flew with over 12 air carriers including Swissair and Deutsche Luft Hansa as an airliner and freight hauler. In a military role, it flew with the Luftwaffe as a troop and cargo transport and briefly as a medium bomber. The Ju 52 continued in postwar service with military and civilian air fleets well into the 1980s. The aircraft has continued to be used well beyond that date for purposes such as sightseeing.

Although commonly portrayed as being absolutely decisive, the Black Monday air attack was a mixed success. While the bombing lowered Polish morale, it did not cause the Polish surrender. [5] Smoke from fires and large amounts of dust obscured targets and greatly reduced accuracy. As a result, Luftwaffe bombers dropped a significant amount of their bomb loads on German infantry positions in the northwest suburbs of the city, leading to acrimonious discussions between Luftwaffe and Army commanders. The tonnage dropped combined with only approximate delivery on target and the short duration does not begin to approximate the intensity of attacks major European cities were subsequently to suffer.

However, on 26 September three key forts in the city defenses were captured, and the Polish garrison offered its surrender - on 27 September German troops entered the city. By estimates around 20,000 to 25,000 civilians were killed, [7] [8] 40 percent of the buildings in the city were damaged and 10 percent of the buildings destroyed. However, some of the damage was the result of ground artillery fire and not solely caused by aerial bombing—including intense street fighting between German infantry and armor units and Polish infantry and artillery.

The September 25 raid was an example of terror bombing, with the aim of breaking Polish morale and forcing a Polish surrender. However, according to the laws of war in 1939, Warsaw was a defended military target and the Luftwaffe raid could be construed as a legitimate military operation. [9]

See also


  1. Polskie Radio (25 Sep 2012) Czarny poniedziałek,Czarny-poniedzialek-i-630-ton-bomb
  2. Der Spiegel Wir warden sie ausradieren No. 3 vol. 13, 13 January 2003, p. 123.
  3. Bombardowania Warszawy z września 1939 (Bombing of Warsaw in September 1939) Polish Radio, 28 September 2007.
  4. Olga Tumińska, Obrona przeciwlotnicza Warszawy (Air-defence of Warsaw), Institute of National Remembrance
  5. 1 2 Corum 2013, p. 174.
  6. Corum 2013, pp. 173.
  7. Polskie Radio (25 Sep 2012) Czarny poniedziałek,Czarny-poniedzialek-i-630-ton-bomb
  8. Der Spiegel Wir warden sie ausradieren No. 3 vol. 13, 13 January 2003, p. 123.
  9. Corum 2013, p. 173-174.

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