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The bombing of Dresden

The Story

The firebombing of Dresden, Germany in February 1945 sets the city ablaze, and would become one of the most controversial attacks of the Second World War. But as we hear in these wartime reports from CBC Radio, at the time of the bombing Allied forces are simply glad to see another part of the German war machine crippled. In the first part of this report, which aired on Feb. 14, 1945, RCAF Squadron Leader Les Powell describes the logistics of the Dresden attack. In the second part, which aired two days later, Powell interviews Flight Sergeant Frank Bramley, a Lancaster gunner who participated in the Dresden bombings. He describes the aerial view of the fires raging along the Eastern Front as "the finest sight I've ever seen" - proof positive that victory is in sight at last.

Medium: Radio
Program: CBC War Recordings
Broadcast Date: Feb. 14, 1945
Guest: Frank Bramley
Reporter: Les Powell
Duration: 6:15
Photo: Associated Press file photo

Did You know?

• The bombing of Dresden was an Allied raid that saw over 1,000 British and American bombers drop nearly 4,000 tons of bombs on the city between February 13-15 of 1945. • Estimates of the death toll from the Allied bombing of Dresden have varied wildly over time, ranging from 18,000 to well over 100,000. Some neo-Nazi groups also claimed the death toll was closer to 500,000. A German special commission, formed specifically to counter those claims, concluded in 2008 that the actual death toll from the three-day bombing campaign was 25,000 people from an estimated population of over 600,000.


• The huge amounts of incendiary bombs dropped, coupled with dry weather conditions and the abundance of wooden architecture in the city helped create a massive firestorm that devastated the city. An analysis of the attack by the U.S. Air Force concluded that 85 per cent of the "fully built-up city area was destroyed," and that over 50 per cent of residential buildings were either demolished or heavily damaged.


• The Dresden firebombing was a tactic known as "strategic bombing," which reached unprecedented heights in the Second World War. The approach was meant to demoralize civilian populations, which would increase pressure on the governments to end the wars. This tactic resulted in notorious attacks including the London Blitz, Dresden and the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.




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