Blogs by Edeltraud F. Fellendorf
WWII -- BOMBING OF BERLIN
1/10/2010 2:55:00 PM
By Cindy Rodriguez, Commander, U.S. Navy (ret.)
"I think it is well for the man in the street to realize that there is no power on earth that can protect him from being bombed. Whatever people may tell him, the bomber will always get through. The only defense is in offense, which means that you have to kill more women and children more quickly than the enemy if you want to save yourselves."
-Stanley Baldwin, House of Commons, 1932
The first British air raid on Berlin, Germany's largest city, took place in August 1940. A year later, the Red Air Force dropped its first bombs on the city. The Americans joined the bombing fray over Hitler’s capital in March 1944. The Allies (Britain, US, and Russia) launched a total of 363 air raids against Berlin during WWII (Duncan, n.d., p. 1). Unlike today, there were no precision guided munitions so carpet bombing was necessary to take out targets. This obviously resulted in massive collateral damage, which was more than acceptable since the German people themselves were considered targets as part of the Allies’ strategy to weaken morale.
To put carpet bombing into context, to hit a 60x100 ft building it took: 550 bombs in WWII; 44 bombs in Vietnam; 6 bombs in the Gulf War; and just 1 bomb in Operation Iraqi Freedom (Rodriguez, Manzer, Lobree & Dachos, 2004, p. 33).
Unfortunately for Mom, she lived in the Tempelhof area in Berlin, close to the Tempelhof Airport, which was considered a key target so the area was bombarded more than usual. She spent a lot of time hiding in bunkers because of this. On this particular day, German searchlights lit up bombers in the night sky. To Mom they looked like harmless miniature planes, only as big as her hand, but by this time she was more than familiar with the devastation they brought. She could already hear the bombs dropping somewhere in the distance.
She and her Mother rushed into the basement of the apartment house across the street. Unlike their apartment house’s basement, the one across the street had thicker metal doors. Mom took a seat next to the chimney close to her Mother. It didn’t take long before the bombs reached their area. The whistling of the bombs could be heard by all 30 occupants, mostly women, children, and old men. Soon they all felt the explosions shake their shelter. No one spoke. There was whistling and loud explosions all around them.
Abruptly there was a deafening noise and the ceiling came crashing down; a large beam just missing Mom. The screaming. People were screaming, crying, and choking, but the sounds were muffled as they were all buried under debris. In the dark, Mom reached out to make sure her Mother was there. She was. Mom’s Mother was always a rock during crisis situations. She calmed my Mom’s fears, immediately orienting herself in the dark and started trying to help others who were less fortunate.
Mom and her Mother were scraped, battered, bruised, and filthy but otherwise untouched. The chimney’s strong structure and the way the beam landed had save them from being crushed, but they were still buried along with the dead, dying, and injured. In the small space the chimney and fallen beam had made for them, they could move a little, but barely had enough clear air to breath.
It took eight hours for rescuers to dig them out with everyone left alive coughing and struggling to breathe the thick air the entire time. Mom still remembers the constant screams of the injured and the crying of the children. Loved ones called to each other in the pitch black; some answering, others not. The smell of urine, blood, and the chalky debris is something Mom will never forget.
By the end of the war, an estimated 600,000 German civilians lost their lives in the bombing campaign against the Third Reich.
Duncan, G. (n.d.). Lesser-Known Facts of WWII. Retrieved from http://members.iinet.net.au/~gduncan/facts.html
Rodriguez, C., Manzer, M., Lobree, S. & Dachos, J. (2004). Harrier Carriers Perform in Iraqi Freedom. U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, 130(1212): 32-35.
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