20th Century · Airplanes · Bavaria · England · Germany · Military · Second World War

January 2, 1945 – “Near-Perfect” Bombing of Nurnburg

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Nuremberg Castle
Image Source: Wikipedia

As I am writing this it is dark outside and there is a waning moon in the sky. Zero cloud cover  would make ideal conditions for 514 bombers to start raining death and destruction on my head.

Thankfully, I do not live in Germany during the Second World War where Strategic — Terror if you are on the receiving end — Bombing had become the norm. That is not to say that the “Logical Insanity” that lead to the bombing of civilian targets is a distant memory.

The United States Nuclear Arsenal is still a real thing. Fortunately, there are rules in place that keep the missiles far away from population centers to limit the civilian casualties of a nuclear conflict. That does not mean that they would not be used against population centers. The Mutually Assured Destruction doctrines of the Cold War pretty much meant that in the event of a nuclear war, no one walks away.

As a young Airman in the United States Air Force, I enjoyed war games. For me, once we were at war, our fight was over. If my missiles were launched it was pretty much assumed that we had 30 minutes to live. Just enough time to go home and say goodbye to the family.

On December 1, 1939 –during the Russia-Finnish war — United States’s President Franklin D. Roosevelt condemned the bombing of civilian targets and urged the world to do the same.

The ruthless bombing from the air of civilians in unfortified centers of population during the course of hostilities which have raged in various quarters of the earth during the past few years, which has resulted in the maiming and in the death of thousands of defenseless men, women and children, has sickened the hearts of every civilized man and woman, and has profoundly shocked the conscience of humanity.

If resort is had to this form of inhuman barbarism during the period of the tragic conflagration with which the world is now confronted, hundreds of thousands of innocent human beings who are not even remotely participating in hostilities, will lose their lives. I am therefore addressing this appeal to the Soviet Government [read Finnish Government in the message to Helsinki], as I have to Governments which have been engaged in general hostilities, publicly to affirm its determination that its armed forces shall in no event, and under no circumstances, undertake the bombardment from the air of civilian populations or of unfortified cities, upon the understanding that these same rules of warfare will be scrupulously observed by all of their opponents. I request an immediate reply.

The American Presidency Project

The belligerents of World War II decided not to heed the American President’s plea. By the end of 1944, the 900-year-old city of Nurnberg had already had 3000 bombs dropped on it.

On New Years day, 1945, the ground war in Europe had taken a major turn. The Geman offensive in the Ardennes had failed and Germany was now in the process of a Tactical Withdrawal on the Eastern and Western Fronts. For Germany, the war was lost. Allied Bomber Command knew this and changed their tactics. It was time to make Germany pay for the damage that they had done.

Winston Churchill referred to the policy of “de-housing” the German worker. If the British or American people knew what their leaders were planning they would have been appalled.

The Allies wanted an unconditional surrender from Germany, and they were going to ensure that the civilian population was demoralized.

The war objective remained, as President Roosevelt stated, “a policy of fighting hard on all fronts and ending the war as quickly as we can on the uncompromising terms of unconditional surrender.”

Strategic Bombing of World War II

The first target of this new doctrine of destroying the German morale was the most German of German towns, Nurnberg – English spelling – Nuremberg.

For centuries, Nurnberg had been one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The center of the German Renessanice, the unofficial capital of the Holy Roman Empire, and home to German culture. Many of the greatest  artists, scientists, musicians, and craftsmen were from Nurnberg including Johann Pachelbel.

The ancient city center of Nurnberg was famous for gingerbread and the making of toys. There was nothing of military significance in old town Nurnberg, just LOTS of historical buildings. Nurnberg was Hitler’s favorite city and was the center of Nazi ideology.

On the night of January 2, 1945, seven two-man RAF Mosquito fighter-bombers serving as pathfinders screamed over the Nurnberg city center marking targets for the 514 RAF Lancaster bombers following behind. 

On the night of January 2, 1945, seven two-man RAF Mosquito fighter-bombers serving as pathfinders screamed over the Nurnberg city center marking targets for the 514 RAF Lancaster bombers following behind. 

In the span of 53 horrifying minutes — of what I can only assume must have reminiscent of Hell — 6,000 high-explosive bombs, and over 1,000,000 firebombs were dropped on the Nurnberg city center. 1,800 civilians died that night and another 100,000 people left without a shelter.

“Centuries of culture and history were smashed into oblivion unnecessarily. When it was over, 90% of the city’s historic buildings were completely destroyed” – revisionist.net

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St. Sebald’s Church 1935 and 1945
Image Source: Revisionist.net

The world’s oldest organ built in 1440 and played by Pachelbel was in St. Sebald’s when it was destroyed.

This bombing raid was the most devastating destruction of civilian population and buildings of the war so far.  It was considered a resounding success by bomber command.

Nuremberg: 514 Lancasters and 7 Mosquitos of Nos 1, 3, 6 and 8 Groups. 4 Lancasters were lost and 2 crashed in France. Nuremberg, scene of so many disappointments for Bomber Command, finally succumbed to this attack. The Pathfinders produced good ground-marking in conditions of clear visibility and with the help of a rising full moon. The centre of the city, particularly the eastern half, was destroyed. The castle, the Rathaus, almost all the churches and about 2,000 preserved medieval houses went up in flames. The area of destruction also extended into the more modern north-eastern and southern city areas.The industrial area in the south, containing the important MAN and Siemens factories, and the railway areas were also severely damaged. 415 separate industrial buildings were destroyed. It was a near-perfect example of area bombing.

Allied bomb destruction of Nurnberg

The intentional bombing of civilian targets is a war crime. This was just a war crime in a war full of war crimes. The loss of human life is a tragedy. The loss of all of the culturally significant buildings, castles, and churches is a crime against humanity. It breaks my heart to think of the things that were destroyed just to make others suffer.

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