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Dresden, February 1945

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INSIDER
76 years ago, Allied bombers obliterated one of Germany's most beautiful cities — here are 18 photos of the bombing of Dresden
Christopher Woody
Feb 15, 2019, 6:15 AM

Commuters board a tram in bomb-damaged Dresden, March 12, 1946. Fred Ramage/Keystone/Getty Images
World War II was more than three years old when Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, and other Allied leaders met at Casablanca in January 1943, but the decisions made there would shape the rest of the war in Europe.
During the conference, Allied leaders settled on a policy of unconditional surrender and agreed on a strategic bombing plan to bring the Axis to its knees.
Read more: What it was like in the room when Nazi Germany finally surrendered to end World War II in Europe
For the US, bombing would focus on daytime raids against strategically valuable targets — factories, ports, military bases, and other infrastructure involved in the war effort. For the British, who had suffered during the Battle of Britain and the Blitz, the air war would target German cities with nighttime raids.
In the following months, numerous German cities would crumble beneath the onslaught, but perhaps the most heinous destruction was in Dresden, a historic city in southeast Germany.

B-17 Flying Fortresses bomb German communication lines at Chemnitz, near Dresden, on February 6, 1945. (AP Photo)
Dresden had avoided the destruction wreaked on major urban centers like Berlin and Hamburg. But on February 13, 14, and 15, 1945, more than 1,200 British and US heavy bombers dropped nearly 4,000 tons of high-explosive and incendiary bombs on the city.
The intensity of the bombing devastated the city's historic center. The fire that raged during the bombing made superheated air rise with such force that it created a vacuum on the ground, ripping trees out of the ground, sucking people into the fires, and suffocating those spared the flames.
Read more: How Soviet troops taunted the Nazis during their final drive to Berlin in World War II
Roughly 25,000 people were killed, many of them civilians and refugees, and more than 75,000 buildings were destroyed. The scale and ferocity of the bombing, so late in the war, has led many to believe the attack was a war crime.
Below, you can see some of the devastation wrought by Allied forces 74 years ago:
Dresden was a cultural and architectural gem in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The city is located on the Elbe River, and the Dresden Frauenkirche, a Lutheran church, and the Katholische Hofkirche, the city's Roman Catholic Cathedral, can be seen below.

A view across the river Elbe, toward Augustus Bridge and Dresden Frauenkirche, on the left, and the Katholische Hofkirche, right, in Dresden, 1875. Hulton Archive/Getty Images
The interior of the city was just as stunning. Dresden, known as "the Florence of the Elbe" before the war because of its architecture and museums, had little involvement in the German war effort.

The State Opera House in Dresden, Germany, around 1930. Fox Photos/Getty Images
After nearly six years of brutal war, Nazi Germany was staggering in February 1945. Soviet armies had reached the Oder River, roughly 50 miles from Berlin. The US had recently won the Battle of the Bulge, defeating Hitler's last-ditch attempt to break out of the Ardennes forest. The Nazi Luftwaffe was a shell of itself, able to do little to contest Allied control of the air over Europe.

Smoke rises from fires still burning in Dresden, February 1945. The fires involved an engine roundhouse, the central goods depot, and many wagons in the heavily loaded yard. (AP Photo/British Official Photo)
Source: History.com, Business Insider
In the first days of February, Churchill, Roosevelt, and Soviet Premier Josef Stalin met in Yalta, then in the USSR. Their focus was dividing up Germany, but Western leaders did promise Stalin their air forces would continue bombing eastern Germany to help Soviet forces.

Bodies in the street after the allied fire-bombing of Dresden, Germany, February 1945. Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Source: History.com
Allied "area bombing" targeted all Germany industry, civilian and military alike. Civilian areas of cities were targeted as well as industrial and military ones.

Piles of corpses in front of destroyed buildings in Dresden after air raids on February 13 and 14, 1945. Deutsches Bundesarchiv/Wikimedia Commons
Source: History.com
The German military contingent there was minimal, as most of the remaining Nazi forces were defending Berlin to the north. Many refugees fleeing the Soviet advance also settled in Dresden.

A woman's corpse in an air-raid shelter in Dresden after the city was bombed in February 1945. Deutsche Fotothek/Wikimedia Commons
Source: History.com
Dresden's defenders put up little fight as the bombing began on the night of February 13. Of the hundreds of British bombers that swarmed the city, just six Lancaster bombers were downed. By the morning of February 14, some 800 RAF bombers had dropped over 2,500 tons of high-explosive and incendiary bombs.

Dresden after Allied air raids on February 13 and 14, 1945. The city was left in ruins over an area of 15 square kilometers; 85% of its houses and unique monuments of the city's Baroque architecture were destroyed. (AP Photo)
Source: History.com
Survivors of the first wave of attacks emerged from the city's ruins on February 14 and were greeted by hundreds of US bombers targeting the city's railways, bridges, and transportation infrastructure. The next day, more US bombers attacked the city.

The ruins of Dresden after the Allied bombing raid. Evening Standard/Getty Images
Source: History.com
The US Eighth Air Force dropped more than 1,200 tons of bombs, most of it high-explosives. Before the war in Europe ended with Germany's surrender in May, the Eighth Air Force would carry out three more raids on Dresden, dropping another 2,800 tons of bombs.

Dresden seen after Allied air raids on February 13 and 14, 1945. (AP Photo)
Source: History.com
Allied forces and other have argued the bombing was necessary to disrupt German communications and supply lines that could have hindered the Soviet advance. While the British did not tout their targeting of civilian infrastructure, some acknowledged it. "For a long time, the government, for excellent reasons, has preferred the world to think that we still held some scruples and attacked only what the humanitarians are pleased to call military targets," the head of Britain's bomber command said in November 1941. "I can assure you, gentlemen, that we tolerate no scruples."

Two wreaths mark where persons were last seen and are believed to lie buried beneath the pile of rubble that was once a house in Dresden, Germany, in 1945. Two mass raids by Allied bombers struck Dresden on February 13 and 14, 1945, killing 35,000 people. (AP Photo)
Source: History.com, The Telegraph
The legitimacy of the attack on the city continues to draw questions, in light of the scale of the destruction and nature of the targets. It has been condemned as a war crime by many, including Allied prisoners of war who were there.

The inner courtyard at the Zwinger art galleries in central Dresden lies in ruins slightly more than a year after the Allied firebombing that caused widespread death and destruction in the German cultural center, March 12, 1946. (AP Photo/James Pringle)
Source: The Atlantic, The Guardian
"As the incendiaries fell, the phosphorus clung to the bodies of those below, turning them into human torches. The screaming of those who were being burned alive was added to the cries of those not yet hit. There was no need for flares to lead the second wave of bombers to their target, as the whole city had become a gigantic torch," Victor Gregg, a British paratrooper held in the city during the bombing, said 68 years later. "Dresden had no defenses, no anti-aircraft guns, no searchlights, nothing."

Dresden volunteers continue to help clear the bomb damage debris, March 1946. Fred Ramage/Keystone Features/Getty Images
Gregg was captured at Arnhem in the Netherlands in 1944. He was sent near Dresden to work in a factory, which he was caught trying to sabotage. He was sent to Dresden to be executed on the day the bombing began.
Source: The Guardian
After the war, various estimates of the death toll in Dresden were often influenced by the politics of the assessors. An official German report in 2010 put the tally at 25,000 lives. For decades, the East German government refused to rebuild the Frauenkirche church, a dominant and historic feature of the city. It stood untouched and in ruins as a symbol and memorial for those killed. It was rebuilt after the Berlin Wall fell.

A group of volunteers working to rebuild Dresden. Two elderly Germans, Gustav and Alma Piltz, are assisting in the clearing of rubble. Fred Ramage/Getty Images
Source: The Washington Post, The Telegraph
The bombing and the war have had lasting effects on the city, which is now more than eight centuries old. In years past, neo-Nazis marched there on February 13 to mark the bombing. At times they have been met by a human wall of counterprotestors blocking the neo-Nazis from reaching the city center.

Women form a human chain to carry bricks used in the reconstruction of Dresden in March 1946 after allied bombing destroyed the city in February 1945. The steeple of the wrecked Roman Catholic cathedral can be seen in the background. Fred Ramage/Keystone Features/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Source: The Washington Post
"Witnesses who witnessed the inferno, still carry memories to places and people they never met again," German President Joachim Gauck said on the 70th anniversary of the bombing. "We know who started the murderous war. And that's why we want and will never forget the victims of German warfare when we recall here and now the German victims."

Women workers remove debris from the shell of the Hof Kirche, the Catholic cathedral in Dresden, Germany, February 1946. Fred Ramage/Keystone/Getty Images
Source: The Huffington Post
"I really did go back to Dresden with Guggenheim money (God love it) in 1967. It looked a lot like Dayton, Ohio, more open spaces than Dayton has," Kurt Vonnegut, a prisoner of war in the city, wrote in his novel "Slaughterhouse-Five," which depicted the bombing. "There must be tons of human bone meal in the ground."

Women in Dresden clear debris from the floor of the Zwinger art gallery during post-war rebuilding of the bomb-damaged city, March 1946. Fred Ramage/Getty Images
Source: "Slaughterhouse-Five"
A combination photo shows the statue of German religious reformer Martin Luther in front of the ruins of the Frauenkirche, or Church of Our Lady, in Dresden, Germany, in March 13, 1967, left, and a similar view of the statue in front of the restored building on February 9, 2005, right.

A combination photo shows the statue of German religious reformer Martin Luther in front of the ruins of the Frauenkirche, or Church of Our Lady, in Dresden, Germany, in a March 13, 1967 file picture, left, and a similar view of the statue in front of the restored building, on February 9, 2005, right. The church was destroyed when Allied bombers attacked Dresden on February 13, 1945, leaving the city in ruins. (AP Photo/Files, left/Matthias Rietschel, right)
A combination photo shows August Schreitmueller's sandstone sculpture "The Goodness" from the Rathausturm, or town-hall tower, overlooking Dresden in 1945, left, and on February 12, 2015, overlooking a parking lot.

A combination photo shows August Schreitmueller's sandstone sculpture "The Goodness" from the Rathausturm (Townhall Tower) overlooking the destroyed city of Dresden, eastern Germany, in 1945, left, and on February 12, 2015, above a parking lot. British and US bombers destroyed Dresden's centuries-old Baroque city center on February 13 and 14, 1945. AP Photo/ADN, Jens Meyer
 

Buck

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#3
and no one has stopped a coup?

i get mixed messages from looking at those photos, knowing the back-story as told by anyone who wants to write a book....

and to think, most of those reflected in those photos were just 'sheep', idk how many were patriots to the nazi way, no way to tell...but, if they were to be Zimbabwean Zombies in order to survive, i'm sure plenty would learn those ways...baaaaaahhhhh

doesn't mean they're expendable....

afraid we can't handle the truth?

Try Us!

:summer:
 

Buck

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#5
Truth does not seem to be a quality looked for in leaders.
and our leaders stoppped being chosen by quite a few of us, in many States, a few decades ago...

i'm fascinated with how many States are appearing to be outright Against Jo(e)

idk how true it all is, but some are opening up CC laws, telling jo(e) their State is going to take a different approach...

that's a good thing but, when we're brought to the 'edge' like this, it's really not our game...we're to be found under a pile of bricks one day
 

Someone_else

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#7
I seem to remember an international law that "collective punishment" is unlawful. I agree with the idea, but it seems that history disagrees very strongly.
 

the_shootist

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#8
I seem to remember an international law that "collective punishment" is unlawful. I agree with the idea, but it seems that history disagrees very strongly.
The good guys lost
 

the_shootist

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#9

Buck

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#11
to use a friends word: tolerate

today, i "tolerate" a lot, i still have my 'lines', otherwise, i think it's to 'ignore', to 'capitulate', don't take, just wait, they'll drop theirs...i've got nothing to prove to anyone

it's not to deprive, it's to, with-hold, to 'save'...

give 'em a smile, hello, good-morning, if i don't get that back, go piss in your cheerios, i'm fine and i don't have to adjust my attitude at all nor do i have to engage...

:beer:
 

dacrunch

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#12
I don't see it mentioned above (perhaps I missed it)... but Dresden had almost NO "War Industry Factories", and at that time was filled to the brim with CIVILIAN REFUGEES, on foot with wheelbarrows and no food, who had left other bombed areas, looking for a place that WOULDN'T get bombed... And EVERYBODY KNEW that the WAR WAS (almost) OVER.
This was a REVENGE KILLING.... and NOT a "Vital War Action".... (It deserved its own "Nuremberg Trial", AGAINST the "Allies")....
 

glockngold

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#13
Currently reading The Splendid and the Vile : A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz by Erik Larson

Targeting civilians was not something that the allies invented.
If Hitler could have wiped London off the map, he would have done so.
War sucked.
But it is pointless to feel bad about the suffering of the enemy.
Rather than salt their fields, we then rebuilt their means of self sufficiency.
I'm ok with that.
 

Buck

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#15
truthfully sad. eh?
we have no say
been thinking...
no, maybe...
if you're looking to own some responsibility towards 'their game', yeah, that's kinda sad if you have reasons Not to do that, and you do it anyway

no, maybe...if you miss the fictitious lives we lived where we the people believed in we the people and our leaders only saw cattle or sheep..or $$ (we made it work, they kept messing with it/us)
that chapter of my belief system was crushed one fine day, never to return, i can't unlearn it

however:
it's also Freeing

It's Not My Responsibility!
"Go Team, or not, Doesn't Matter but, i'll be over here watching..."

if the commotion i've been living is literally an illusion, the consequences of their DEMANDS, their edicts, their decrees, i'll learn to live a different life, i'll disconnect where / when i can, from their game, i'll avoid their traps, i'll keep my self honest to myself, and that'll be that

i'll watch it self-destruct, maybe even get caught up in it, get a Red Flag at sometime

not on my bucket list, so, i gotta keep my distance but, i'm going to watch....


perhaps 'the other team' will come back, the Alliance? or? Patriots?

I sure hope so, othewise, it should continue to be one interesting shit-show, at warp speed, even...
 
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917601

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#16
I don't see it mentioned above (perhaps I missed it)... but Dresden had almost NO "War Industry Factories", and at that time was filled to the brim with CIVILIAN REFUGEES, on foot with wheelbarrows and no food, who had left other bombed areas, looking for a place that WOULDN'T get bombed... And EVERYBODY KNEW that the WAR WAS (almost) OVER.
This was a REVENGE KILLING.... and NOT a "Vital War Action".... (It deserved its own "Nuremberg Trial", AGAINST the "Allies")....
Your post is validated by my mother‘s account. I do not know about it being a revenge killing, but she gave me her account as a young girl. She fled Lithuania as the Soviets were invading, along side the retreating German army. Somehow they arrived in Dresden around the summer of 1944 as it was rail center. They were trying to decide how to head west towards the US troops. Her father and mother found work in factories trying to raise money for a train ride westbound. Then came the bombings, then the Germans put them to work clearing rubble. They managed to get on a train south to Austria. DP camps till 1946 when they made it the US.
 

<SLV>

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#18
The love of money is the root of evil. Violence are its branches, and sorrow its fruit.
 

Buck

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#20
Now the kiddies are learning that USA is the war-mongering backwards country.
but,. are they being taught, it was our leadership who were the War-Mongering New World Order type or are they just being taught the rest of the world hates you, personally they hate you for all the wars you started?

such terror with no consequences...
 

Unca Walt

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#22
The friggin Brits are just pirates, always have been pirates! Still are pirates!
Eisenhower did not play fair AFTER the war. The surrendered German military were -- by his order -- NOT classified as POW's.

His order classified all German prisoners as "Surrendered Enemy Forces". <-- Wozzat mean? It means that the poor Kraut GI's were not in the least protected by the Geneva Convention.

They were left out in the open behind barbed wire. One and a half to two-million died of disease and starvation in Eisenhower's death camps. I was shattered when I learned this in my research. Ike had been a hero of mine.

Now he is an absolute equal to Heinrich Himmler. :mad:

If you want the staggering truth:

http://whale.to/b/starvation_of_germans.html

A quote about a cold fact which you're probably unaware:

"We are ceaselessly reminded of the Third Reich’s wartime concentration camps. But few Americans are aware that such infamous camps as Dachau, Buchenwald, Sachsenhausen and Auschwitz stayed in business after the end of the war, only now packed with German captives, many of whom perished miserably."

And:

"In Andernach about 50,000 prisoners of all ages were held in an open field surrounded by barbed wire. The women were kept in a separate enclosure that I did not see until later. The men I guarded had no shelter and no blankets. Many had no coats. They slept in the mud, wet and cold, with inadequate slit trenches for excrement. It was a cold, wet spring, and their misery from exposure alone was evident.

"Even more shocking was to see the prisoners throwing grass and weeds into a tin can containing a thin soup. They told me they did this to help ease their hunger pains. Quickly they grew emaciated. Dysentery raged, and soon they were sleeping in their own excrement, too weak and crowded to reach the slit trenches. Many were begging for food, sickening and dying before our eyes. We had ample food and supplies, but did nothing to help them, including no medical assistance."
 
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Unca Walt

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#23
I posted the above for clarity.

I am a patriotic American. My ideals are those espoused by the Constitution.

Therefore, while I have absolutely no guilt regarding USA post-War atrocities... I cannot be guilty of hiding the evil in all men -- including Eisenhower and US Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau (he wanted to starve, sterilize, or deport all Germans) TINS
 

glockngold

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#24
I posted the above for clarity.

I am a patriotic American. My ideals are those espoused by the Constitution.

Therefore, while I have absolutely no guilt regarding USA post-War atrocities... I cannot be guilty of hiding the evil in all men -- including Eisenhower and US Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau (he wanted to starve, sterilize, or deport all Germans) TINS
Walt,
Didn't really know that stuff. It's hard to see now.
But can't say that I would of handled it any differently.
If I watched thousands of my team being slaughtered, it would be hard to turn off the killing just because the white flag had been raised.
And with all food being short, my team would eat first.
 

Unca Walt

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Walt,
Didn't really know that stuff. It's hard to see now.
But can't say that I would of handled it any differently.
If I watched thousands of my team being slaughtered, it would be hard to turn off the killing just because the white flag had been raised.
And with all food being short, my team would eat first.
Think about what you just said. The CIVILIANS were also starved (see link above) to death by the MILLIONS. I recommend you "rethink" your apparent approval of the systematic murder of millions of people. There is simply no way it is other than an unconscionable and sub-human act.

I would not walk into an NVA ville and kill all the women and children. Nor would I put them in cages to starve and freeze.

Too many people do not make the connection between those running the show, and those stuck in the machine. Here's my bro, glockngold, drafted into the Wehrmacht in May of 1945. Just got his uniform on when the Amis took him prisoner, put him in a barbed-wire enclosure along the Rhine... and let him freeze, starve, get sick and die.

If you read what was quoted by a guard at one of the death camps:

"We had ample food and supplies, but did nothing to help them, including no medical assistance."

"And with all food being short, my team would eat first." <-- And do not give any to the women and children and German (drafted, dammit) GI's?

How do you reconcile your agreeing to starve those millions to death while you had AMPLE food and medicine??

It's only fair, right? The sumbitch (GI, child, girl, boy, grandma, grandpa...) was on the wrong "team". Right?
 
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hammerhead

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Think about what you just said. The CIVILIANS were also starved (see link above) to death by the MILLIONS. I recommend you "rethink" your apparent approval of the systematic murder of millions of people. There is simply no way it is other than an unconscionable and sub-human act.

I would not walk into an NVA ville and kill all the women and children. Nor would I put them in cages to starve and freeze.

Too many people do not make the connection between those running the show, and those stuck in the machine. Here's my bro, glockngold, drafted into the Wehrmacht in May of 1945. Just got his uniform on when the Amis took him prisoner, put him in a barbed-wire enclosure along the Rhine... and let him freeze, starve, get sick and die.

If you read what was quoted by a guard at one of the death camps:

"We had ample food and supplies, but did nothing to help them, including no medical assistance."

"And with all food being short, my team would eat first." <-- And do not give any to the women and children and German (drafted, dammit) GI's?

How do you reconcile your agreeing to starve those millions to death while you had AMPLE food and medicine??

It's only fair, right? The sumbitch (GI, child, girl, boy, grandma, grandpa...) was on the wrong "team". Right?
I believe those in the concentration camps were undernourished because the food supply was cut and not by the Germans.
 

Unca Walt

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#27
Tru dat. They were purposefully starved. It is a blot on America. It should be taught in schools to wake kids up that there are evil people on this planet, and some of them are right amongst us.
 

DodgebyDave

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#28
Lipton: One of these nights all of those bodies are going to get into bed with you

Guarnere: They did.
 

D-FENZ

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#29
It does suck that innocents get killed for any reason. And there's plenty of blame to go around. War is hell.

But is there really any difference between a city of civilians getting killed and a single merchant marine splattered by a torpedo? Both are horrendous tragedies for the individuals involved but is either more or less tragic just because of the numbers? Serious question.
 

Son of Gloin

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#32
...
Therefore, while I have absolutely no guilt regarding USA post-War atrocities... I cannot be guilty of hiding the evil in all men -- including Eisenhower and US Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau (he wanted to starve, sterilize, or deport all Germans) TINS
I read in an article posted here on GIM, a number of months ago, that Morgenthau was instrumental in the decision to drop the bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima; Hiroshima being the Japanese city with the highest concentration of Christians in Japan. I wonder to myself, reading about this madness, how much Morgenthau was involved in the decision to incinerate thousands of German Christians in Dresden and considering that Dresden really had so little military significance in the war, at that time. Part of the reason they dropped incindiary bombs on Dresden was that they knew that many of the homes had intricately constructed roofs supported by small wooden beams and they knew also that wood would burn fast and hot, creating an unstoppable conflagration. Just how evil was that man? Or any man or men that were instrumental in that bombing decision?
 
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#33
The same communist media that distorts reality today, and pumps sunshine for modern day communists, wrote the story of WW2. They told us that Germans were evil, and deserved this. Communists and Allies committing unspeakable atrocities did not happen, it was all Hitlers fault. And the communists, tribesmen, and allies were just peaceful protesters and benevolent overlords in post ww1 Germany.
 

Buck

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#34
Just how evil was that man? Or any man or men that were instrumental in that bombing decision?


i believe once you figure this question out, you'll begin to understand the answers to a few other questions...

mankinds atrocities to 'his own kind', make me wanna cry...
 

brosil

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#35
I think that you'll find that the Brits were involved in the decision for Dresden. They wanted payback for the London Blitz. Same thing with the bombing of Austria at the end of the war. They wanted to spread the love around.