1945 - Bombings of Dresden

B-17s from 8th Air Force were the other arm of the Dresden attacks.  B-17s used the new technology of radar guided bombing as well as the Norden Bomb Sight for their attacks.  Nearly 1,300 tons of bombs were dropped on the ancient city between the Royal Air Force and the U.S. Army Air Forces. (Courtesy photo)

B-17s from 8th Air Force were the other arm of the Dresden attacks. B-17s used the new technology of radar guided bombing as well as the Norden Bomb Sight for their attacks. Nearly 1,300 tons of bombs were dropped on the ancient city between the Royal Air Force and the U.S. Army Air Forces. (Courtesy photo)

The aftermath of the bombing shows an apocalyptic scene as the city residents attempt to pick through the rubble.  Despite the destruction, it’s key to remember the city was part of the Nazi war-production machine and “precision targeting” had a different definition in 1944 than it does today. (Courtesy photo)

The aftermath of the bombing shows an apocalyptic scene as the city residents attempt to pick through the rubble. Despite the destruction, it’s key to remember the city was part of the Nazi war-production machine and “precision targeting” had a different definition in 1944 than it does today. (Courtesy photo)

Dresden, after the attacks, is reduced to rubble.  The city has since been rebuilt but some of the ruins were left intact as monuments to the casualties and to remind future generations of the costs of war.  The casualties and destruction of Dresden, although a subject of historical debate, were actually on par with other attacks in World War II.  The fire bombings of Tokyo, for instance, produced 100,000 casualties.   (Courtesy photo)

Dresden, after the attacks, is reduced to rubble. The city has since been rebuilt but some of the ruins were left intact as monuments to the casualties and to remind future generations of the costs of war. The casualties and destruction of Dresden, although a subject of historical debate, were actually on par with other attacks in World War II. The fire bombings of Tokyo, for instance, produced 100,000 casualties. (Courtesy photo)


Between 13-15 February 1945, over a thousand heavy bombers of the Royal Air Force and the U.S. 8th Air Force struck the city of Dresden in eastern Germany. On the night of 13 February, the British bombers created a firestorm which engulfed the city's center. The 8th Air Force's B-17s, sent to Dresden to bomb its rail yards, attacked over the next two days. The two waves of American bombers restarted fires throughout the city and added to the destruction. Until this point, Dresden, renowned for its cultural and historical significance and known to be crowded with refugees fleeing the Soviet advance, had largely escaped bombing by the Allies. Shortly after the bombs had fallen, controversies about the military necessity of the attack arose, which continue to this day. The number of civilian casualties also came into question, with claims made of up to a quarter million killed. In 2008, an independent historical commission formed by the city of Dresden concluded that approximately 25,000 lost their lives in the attack.

For more background information on the bombing of Dresden, read the two reports below, which document the historical context and decisions that led to the raids, as well as the actions of the American bombers that flew in them.

Historical Analysis of the 14-15 February 1945 Bombings of Dresden, prepared by the USAF Historical Division, Research Studies Institute, 1945. 

Why Dresden Was Bombed, by Mr. Joseph P. Tustin, Chief Historian, USAF in Europe, 1954.

Dr. Christopher N. Koontz, Historian, AFHSO.