Strategic bombing during World War II

“’Fat Man’ was dropped from the B-29 bomber Bockscar, detonating at 11:02 AM, at an altitude of about 1,650 feet (500 m) above Nagasaki. An estimated 39,000 people were killed outright by the bombing a further 25,000 were injured.”

(USAF)

“A view taken from Dresden’s town hall of the destroyed Old Town after the allied bombings between February 13 and 15, 1945. Some 3,600 aircraft dropped more than 3,900 tons of high-explosive bombs and incendiary devices on the German city. The resulting firestorm destroyed 15 square miles of the city center, and killed more than 22,000.”

(Getty)

“A badly burned nuclear bomb victim lies in quarantine on the island of Ninoshima in Hiroshima, Japan, 9,000 meters from the hypocenter on August 7, 1945, one day after the bombing by the United States.”

(AP)

“On Monday, August 6, 1945, a mushroom cloud billows into the sky about one hour after an atomic bomb was dropped by American B-29 bomber, the Enola Gay, detonating above Hiroshima, Japan. Nearly 80,000 people are believed to have been killed immediately, with possibly another 60,000 survivors dying of injuries and radiation exposure by 1950.”

(AP)

“Only days after the bombing of Hiroshima, the second operational nuclear weapon was readied by the U.S. Called "Fat Man”, the unit is seen being placed on a trailer cradle in August of 1945. When the Japanese still refused to surrender after Hiroshima, U.S. President Truman issued a statement saying in part ‘If they do not now accept our terms, they may expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth.’“

(National Archives)

“A color photograph of the bombed-out historic city of Nuremberg, Germany in June of 1945, after the end of World War II. Nuremberg had been the host of huge Nazi Party conventions from 1927 to 1938. The last scheduled rally in 1939 was canceled at the last minute due to a scheduling conflict: the German invasion of Poland one day prior to the rally date. The city was also the birthplace of the Nuremberg Laws, a set of draconian antisemitic laws adopted by Nazi Germany. Allied bombings from 1943 until 1945 destroyed more than 90% of the city center, and killed more than 6,000 residents. Nuremberg would soon become famous one last time as the host of the Nuremberg Trials – a series of military tribunals set up to prosecute the surviving leaders of Nazi Germany. The war crimes these men were charged with included ‘Crimes Against Humanity’, the systematic murder of more than 10 million people, including some 6 million Jews. This genocide will be the subject of part 18 in this series, coming next week.”

(National Archives)

Fire Over Ploesti by Roy Grinnell

Badly damaged, Lieutenant Colonel Addison E. Baker and Major John L. Jerstad keep “Hell’s Wench” steady, leading their formation for the bombing run over the oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania. Both were posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for their efforts.

(National Guard)

“War-torn Cologne Cathedral stands out of the devastated area on the west bank of the Rhine, in Cologne, Germany, April 24, 1945. The railroad station and the Hohenzollern Bridge, at right, are completely destroyed after three years of Allied air raids.”

(AP)

The ruins of Pforzheim, Germany in 1947. The city’s jewelry industry was repurposed during World War II to make precision instruments for military equipment, making the city a prime target for Allied bombers, leading to a major raid by RAF Bomber Command on Feb. 23rd, 1945, destroying much of the city that had until then managed to survive the war mostly intact. In anger, citizens of Pforzheim lynched five British airmen captured after being shot down during the raid.

(Time-Life)

Swiss records showed precisely 6,501 violations of her airspace by both the Allied and Axis powers during the Second World War, several of which resulted in accidental bombings from navigation errors - and at least one purposeful raid when the RAF dropped bombs near a ball-bearing plant fulfilling an order for Germany to make a point. 

By far the most tragic incident however was when a flight of 20 American bombers, believing they were 21 miles away over Germany, mistakenly dropped their load on the Swiss town of Schaffhausen, killing or injuring 150 people and leveling several dozen buildings (above). The United States apologized for the incident and paid $62 million dollars to Switzerland, plus interest, as insisted by the Swiss.

(Time-Life)