Home | About | Donate

The Beasts and the Bombings: Reflecting on Dresden, February 1945

Originally published at http://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/02/10/beasts-and-bombings-reflecting-dresden-february-1945


Thank you Brett Wilkens, for the reminder of what ultra-nationalism and
militarism inevitably leads to, ultimately and always. Once loosed the dogs
of war rarely are able to stop their killing and destruction, even when not
militarily necessary. History shows this very clearly, yet each generation of
leaders continues to learn this the hard way, if at all.

Thank you also for the tribute to Kurt Vonnegut, whose Slaughterhouse Five
remains one of the best anti-war novels of all time. For those who haven’t read
it, the descriptions of the experience of the bombing and is aftermath, were from
Vonnegut’s having been there as a POW. The Allied prisoners had to assist the
people of Dresden in clearing the burnt corpses from the rubble.


Yeah, this was a hard article to read. The only “good war”, is the war not fought. WW2 was a savage thing, but, the Nazi’s had to be stopped, and, defeated, same with the Japanese. So, did the Allies (British, American, French, Soviets, etc) commit atrocities, absolutely. Did the Axis (German, Japanese, Italians, etc) commit atrocities, yes they did, even worse atrocities than the Allies did. Revenge was widespread on both sides. Was WW2 worth it? Unfortunately, yes it was, Fascism absolutely had to be stopped, at any cost, and yet, today, this very day, Fascism has risen again and must be stopped, again, at any cost, and against ANY fascist cult, organization, group Whatever, and, Wherever! That especially, specifically includes the USA, Great Britain, France, and all others contemplating going down that deadly path!


"And so it goes." - Kurt Vonnegut, again and again and again in Slaughterhouse 5.

And still it goes.


Many of the most horrid sins are robed in self righteousness


Darmstadt, Germany, was the test bombing run for the bombing of Dresden. The city was bombed the night of September 11, 1944. More than 12,000 civilians died. I survived that bombing.

  1. Hap Arnold murdered over 2 million Japanese civilians using napalm from our bombers
  2. In early 1991, I worked with an engineer who had somehow survived the Dresden fire bombing. It took away his hearing. I understand that because an artillery shell landing nearby disabled my left side hearing for over 30 years. I never told anyone. Read lips.
  3. We will use virus to create chaos and tears in enemies cities.
    3a) perhaps designer, to attack certain DNA strains and spare others.
  4. Fascism is already here, I fear.

I like that: " The only, “good war,” Is the war not fought."
Sadly, it is the civilians who seem to pay most often.Sherman’s March to the Sea, " and destroying the food supplies.
Although, a person would have to say, OMG, to all the soldiers—on all sides on “D Day.” The civilians murdered, grandmas, grandpas, mothers and children, in Vietnam at My Lai. Blowing up the dams in North Korea and drowning the populace while ruining the food supply.
Of course, with Hiroshima and Nagasaki----that was America blowing up the entire population. and then continuing the nuclear study in the South Sea islands without telling the people what was happening. Oh yes, and NATO soldiers in Haiti giving the population cholera.
But Dresden, not even a military place…people and making Dresden china.

I looked up how many non Jews at the cats died and got this --around 5 million: gypsies, gay people, those with mental or physical disabilities, communists ,trade unionists, Jehovah’s witnesses, anarchists, Poles. Slavic people, Catholics, and priests and Poles, and I probably left some out too. Around 11 million altogether from that war on the populations. Of course, America and allies were no doubt shooting anything that moved too. : (


Hmm make that "camps,’ and not "cats. "If there were any cats I am sure they were eaten. : (

1 Like

Thank you, Brett Wilkins.
The savage area bombing campaign waged against Germany in the last few months of the war destroyed the German supply infrastructure. The horrifying pictures of emaciated corpses, piled up like cordwood in the concentration camps, were as much the result of the bombings as it was German neglect. Red Cross records’ showed the inmates generally healthy up until the last three months of the war.


The points Wilkens and posters make were part of the equation those of us who forced the end of the Viet Nam occupation argued during the Johnson and Nixon years. That is why the military industrial complex during the subsequent decade morphed into the military industrial media infotainment complex (MIMIC) for the purposes of 1) sanitizing the reporting of occupations and wars to gain public support (embedded reporters, and labeling civilian casualties “collateral damage” are a couple of examples), 2) excusing bad behavior of “the troops” which were theretofore sacred cows, and 3) creating eternal occupations and wars that will assure an eternal revenue stream for MIMIC.


Yes. This is the reality that has been reduced to the phrase “collateral damage” – words that make intentional mass murder palatable to the majorities who support these now-permanent slaughters.

‘Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds’.

J. Robert Oppenheimer quoting Krishna after witnessing Trinity (the first atomic bomb live test).


“Fascism absolutely had to be stopped, at any cost”

Yet the USA did not enter the war until 1941 when it was attacked by Japan, four years after the murderous massacres in Japan’s invasion of China and it was Germany that declared war upon the USA, not the other way around.


Glad you survived! I hope your family did too…


“Since the beginning…of the war I had been retreating step by step from one moral position to another, until at the end I had no moral position at all.”
The firestorms that destroyed Dresden and other smaller areas were essentially designed, by men like astrophysicist Freeman Dyson, and carried out by others, like historian Howard Zinn. A firestorm happens when a large enough fire, or enough separate fires, are started (by a mix of high explosive and incendiary bombs arrived at through calculation and experimentation) to form a column of rising hot air over the site—hot enough and powerful enough to draw in more oxygen and fuel from the surrounding area. Such fuel consists of litter, rubble, trees, people, animals, vehicles, and buildings.

Most military and industrial targets large enough to be bombed had already been destroyed by the time Dresden was bombed, making them of no use in creating and studying firestorms. Berlin, deeper into Germany, near the advancing Soviet armies, wasn’t a suitable target because anti-aircraft fire caused bombs to be so scattered a firestorm wouldn’t happen. So only unbombed targets (aka cities) of no military importance, undefended by anti-aircraft fire, were of any use in creating and studying firestorms.

The 2 atomic bombs, which together killed about 200,000, almost all civilians, caused only 2% of the US’s WWII bombing damage to Japan. In the last year of the war, conventional bombs killed 250,000-900,000.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki were selected for reasons similar to Dresden; they were almost undamaged because they were of little military or industrial importance and could thus be studied for the effects of purely atomic bombing.

The Starship and the Canoe, by Kenneth Brower, compares the lives of Freeman Dyson and his son George, who lived in a treehouse in British Columbia and designed baidarkas, Aleutian kayaks.

While I agree that fascism needs to be stopped–not the least for civilization and millions of species to survive–the means matter. Violence would make us like they are; the only viable path is peaceful direct action.


This is one of the reasons I feel Jimmy Carter was a great president. He did not go to war over the Arab oil embargo. “The moral equivalent of war”. He saved hundreds of millions of lives.


I’m not surprised to see what is not covered here…when the book “Masters of the Air” covered this in the chapter “Terror Without End” with regards to the fire bombing of Dresden…of the Operation Thunderclap policy that was drafted in the summer of 1944. This was debated to the highest ranks in the Allied Command in the months to come. The practice of area bombing that Churchill and the British Government approved three years ago…went horribly right at Dresden. And Dresden was bombed twice more after February 13th/14th. The US crossed the moral threshold even before Dresden with the Berlin strike on February 3rd. In the end, Churchill and the British government turned their backs on RAF Bomber Command and they were never honored at war’s end, despite having a 45 percent or more loss rate in men.

1 Like