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.