BERLIN UNDER ATTACK

The Battle of Berlin progresses. It will continue as opportunity serves & circumstances dictate, until the heart of Nazi Germany ceases to beat.

Air Marshal Sir Arthur “Bomber” Harris, November 25th, 1943

Although the RAF had bombed Berlin during the night of August 25th, 1940, provoking the Blitz, it was not one of the target cities selected in the Area Bombing Directive of February 14th, 1942. However, for the sake of morale, it was plain that raids on the German capital were vital. The RAF proposed to give Berlin the same treatment that London had suffered.

The bombings began with two daring daylight raids by RAF Mosquito fighter-bombers on January 31st, 1943. The first was timed to strike just as Hitler’s deputy & head of the Luftwaffe Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring was to deliver radio broadcast, celebrating ten years of Nazi rule. Surprised by the lack of anti-aircraft flak – the Germans had not been prepared for a daylight raid – one Mosquito pilot said: “I imagine all the all the gunners were tuned in to Göring & they had left their posts.” The second raid came that afternoon, just as Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels took the microphone.

THOUSAND BOMBER RAIDS

In November, Bomber Command began pounding Berlin with thousand-bomber raids, each dropping 2,500 tons of high explosives. By January 20th, 1944, 17,000 tons of bombs had been dropped on Berlin, reducing it to rubble. That night, a Swedish correspondent reported that the sirens went off at 19:00 hours. Within minutes the first bombs were falling. In just over half an hour, 600 Lancaster & Halifax bombers dropped 2,300 tons of bombs, starting 30 major fires. The 3,000-foot cloud of smoke was so thick that the huge four-engined bombers had to dive through it & deliver their bombs from a few hundred feet about ground. After one attack on Berlin with incendiaries, RAF pilots said the flames could be seen 200 miles away. In all there were 363 air raids on Berlin by Bomber Command & the USAAF Eighth Air Force. An estimated 20,000 people were killed, many more injured, & hundreds of thousands rendered homeless.

I did not even hear the air-raid sirens & did not wake until a window shattered about two o’clock in the morning. I jumped from my bed to witness the horror of an air raid over Berlin… Although I could not see the planes, I could hear their continuous grumbling above me. They unloaded their bombs on the north side of town which became a burning inferno. Our searchlights sweeping the sky illuminated it like a dome. Occasionally, they caught a plane in their cross lights & our anti-aircraft guns would roar into full blast & the plane unable to escape would burst into flames & fall to the ground. It was clear to me that our furniture had to be moved out of Berlin for safekeeping, but bigoted Nazis still maintained that Berlin was a safe town.

Herbert Winkelmann, at home in Berlin on leave from the Eastern Front

From The Story Of A World At War: World War II, by Nigel Cawthorne

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