Location: Cincinnati, Ohio

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Bombing of Lübeck, 1942

Lübeck was the first large German city to be attacked by the RAF using its area bombing tactics. Early in the war, the British recognized that it was very difficult to actually strike a single target like a factory, especially if they flew high enough to get out of reach of the flak. Soon, RAF Commander Arthur "Bomber" Harris adopted a nighttime approach. The smallest target they could strike from high altitude at night had to be the size of a city. In 1942, Lübeck was thus attacked at night from high altitude and was viewed by the RAF as the first successful attack on a city in World War II.

At top, in these photos, you can see fires raging around St. Mary's church. Next, damage around the cathedral. The third photo shows some of the damage - the churches de-roofed and destroyed and in the one photo the bells of St. Mary's that fell from their tower during the attack. Today, they have been left in place as a memory of the attack - broken, melted, and battered, a mute testimony to the night Lübeck was attacked. On the wall, next to the bells are two large nails presented in the form of a cross from the destroyed cathedral at Conventry, England. It is an attempt by British and German civilians to recognized their shared suffering under the bombs. Only about 300 civilians were killed in the raid but about 15,000 lost their homes in fires resulting from the incendiary bombs.

Harris wrote after the attack: "[Lübeck] went up in flames" because "it was a city of moderate size of some importance as a port, and with some submarine building yards of moderate size not far from it. It was not a vital target, but it seemed to me better to destroy an industrial town of moderate importance than to fail to destroy a large industrial city".


Blogger Hans said...

To begin with, the first picture shows the "Dom" (cathedral) burning on the morning of the 29th march, 1942. The following all show St. Marien (St. Marys), not the cathedral. I know, because I grew up in St. Marien's shadow and lived through the raid, which by the way, did NO damage to anything of industrial or military significance. Not one bomb fell on any portion of the docks, which formed the edge of town in the north-west corner. The city itself, some 800 years old, forms an island of some 1,5 x 1,0 km.

8:47 PM  

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