The Second World War left a dreadful scar on human history. The devastation, loss, death, sufferings; the entire 1939-1945 period was a nightmare. Even after so many years of the war some cities still bear the wound of the terrible battle. The human civilisation also witnessed the horrors of the bombing campaigns of WWII. Obviously, the most affected cities are the Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The atomic bombings totally destroyed the entire population of these two cities. But apart from these two cities, the bombing campaigns devastated the urban population of other cities.
Here are the 10 most horrifying bombing campaigns of WWII
Tokyo (November 1944-August 1945) – over 100,000 killed
The strategic bombing in Japan by USAAF started in November 1944 and continued until Japan surrendered on August 15, 1945. Previously on April 1942, the US did a minor bombing attack on Tokyo. After two years it did a full scale and continuous attack. America made full use of powerful B-29 Super Fortress bomber over Tokyo. B-29s dropped almost 90% of the bombs on the Japanese capital.
The most powerful bombing took place on March 9-10, 1945. It was termed as Operation Meetinghouse. This attack was believed as the single most destructive bombing campaign ever. Almost 1,700 tons of bombs were dropped in Tokyo. It killed more than 100,000 civilians and destroyed 286,358 buildings.
Hamburg (September 1939-April 1945) – 42,600 killed
Hamburg witnessed the extensive bombing raids throughout the Second World War. As the city was a chief port, industrial centre, site of various German shipyards of Germany, it was a significant attack point for the Allied Forces. The combined forces of the US and the British did the most intense bombing campaign in July 1943. The campaign named as Operation Gomorrah and it almost wiped out the entire city from the map.
The intense bombings continued for eight days and seven nights. It resulted to a feared firestorm that reduced over eight square miles of the city to ashes. Nearly, 3,000 aircraft joined in and about 9,000 bombs were used in the operation. The bombings left 42,600 people dead and about 37,000 injured. Also, almost 1,00,000 civilians fled from the city.
Dresden (October 1944-April 1945) – 25,000 killed
Dresden was the seventh biggest city at the time of WWII and was an extremely vital industrial centre. But the city also became the target of severe bombing attacks. The most powerful bombings over Dresden took place on February 13 to 15, 1945. The combined force of RAF and USAAF dropped at least 1300 bombers over 3,900 tons of firebombs and high explosives over the besieged city.
The firestorms completely destroyed about fifteen square miles of the city’s centre. The hot winds forced people to back in their homes to save their lives that were turned out to be their death trap. In 1945, Nazi-controlled German press released the death toll which was 200,000. But in 2010, the local authorities estimated the figure at 25,000.
Berlin (1940-1945) – 20,000 to 50,000 killed
The Allied Forces attacked the Germany’s capital throughout the Second World War. Between 1940-1945 Berlin became the target of 363 air raids from American, British and Soviet planes. The RAFOs policy of only bombing buildings of direct military importance was replaced by their new strategy of “area bombing” which include attacks against civilian centres and houses. 20,000-50,000 were killed during the WWII attacks and many people were left homeless.
London (September 1940-May 1941) – 20,000 killed
London had observed the horrible scene of the London Blitz from the German word “blitzkrieg” meaning “lightning war”. At the time of Second World War, German Luftwaffe carried out the strategic bombing campaign which lasted for the 76 nights. The bombings caused the death of 20,000 people. More than one million homes were damaged and poor areas of London like the East End suffered most.
Swinoujscie (March 12, 1945) – 5,000-20,000 killed
The US Air Force shattered the Polish city and port of Swinoujscie on just one day, 12th March, 1945. The German-controlled city which was numbered many refugees was heavily bombarded. A total of between 5,000 and 23,000 deaths was estimated although the exact number is not known until now as at that time the Eastern Europe was in total chaos.
Pforzheim (April 1944-March 1945) – 21,000 killed
Pforzheim, a town in the southwest corner of Germany was bombarded several times at the end of the WWII. According to a report dated 28 June, 1944, RAF attacked the town as it was a centre for the jeweller and watch-making trade, so it had the capability to make instruments which the Germans could use in their war machines.
But at first, the town was not on the RAF’s target list until November 1944. Historian Detlef Siebert suggested that the town as mainly targeted because it was easy to locate and it had a medieval town centre prone to fire. About 379 British aircraft took part in the February 23 attack which lasted for 22 minutes. Those terrible 22 minutes were enough to destroy the town’s 83% and killed 17,600 residents and injured thousands more. Pforzheim’s central city was depopulated and the entire town was destroyed as a result of the explosions and deadly burning phosphorus materials.
Darmstadt (September 1943-February 1944) – 12,300 killed
The German city Darmstadt suffered a series of bomb attacks during 1943 and 1944. The most destructive bombing campaign took place on September 11 and 12 in 1944. Unlike other German cities, Darmstadt was not a natural target as it was not an industrial town but a university one and it had the Merck chemical factory which was the only industry. In spite of this, a force of 226 Lancaster bombers and 14 Mosquitoes wiped out the city.
The force intentionally spread their bombs over an area as wide as possible. They targeted the medieval city centre where the houses were built from wood. Almost all the houses were destroyed by fire and an estimated 12,300 people were killed. The Germans held the raid as a primary example of RAF “terror bombing”.
Kassel (February 1942-March 1945) – 10,000 killed
The British targeted the city of Kassel in west-central Germany in early 1942. The bombing campaign ended almost at the end of the war, in 1945. The most destructive bombing was carried out on the night of October 22 to 23, 1943. The British Royal Air Force deployed 569 bombers over the city’s centre. The intense explosion of 1,800 tons of bombs caused a deadly firestorm. This caused the death of 10,000 people and the flames from the explosion were burning seven days after the explosion.
The city was targeted because it was an important military site. The Henschel tank-making facilities, Fieseler aircraft plant, railway works and engine works were all based there.
Osaka (March-August 1945) – 10,000 killed
Japan had suffered most throughout the WWII. Their clash against the US resulted tremendous violence and the worst example was Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But before that most terrible nightmare, Japanese cities were subjected to strategic bombing campaign; one of this was Osaka. The city was damaged worst. 10,000 civilians were dead in the months of March to August in 1945. The most intense raid was the first raid of 13 March and the early morning of 14 March.
A total of 274 American B-29 heavy bomber airplanes attacked Osaka on that night. On that day, Napalm and incendiary cluster bombs were released by the low-flying warplanes over the houses and the situation lasted for three-and-a-half hours. This single raid left 3,987 dead and 676 missing.