I have seen an assertion that Dresden was the only major German city no to put up a protracted resistance to the Soviet Army. The person who asserted this declined to provide references; I still do not know if his assertion is true.

The debate on the bombing that started post war is thoroughly documented, I'm not trying to restart it, I'm more interested in how was the bombing justified from a military perspective at the time.

  • Are you trying to restart the debate, or is this an honest question? – American Luke Dec 10 '12 at 0:46
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    Honest question. I want to see references to objective analysis; surely a few must have been published over the years. My pown knowledge is not detailed enough and wikipedia is actually very thin on this topic. Furthermore, I do not wish to get into discussions of the moral angle; I want to know the military part. – Felix Goldberg Dec 10 '12 at 0:49
  • @FelixGoldberg Attempted an edit to make this a bit more focused on the military aspects of the bombing (at the time), feel free to roll back if I changed your intent. – yannis Dec 10 '12 at 9:16
  • Immediate military value? The only operation that comes to my mind is this: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lower_Silesian_Offensive (Mind you, the actual railroad to Breslau was not a target of a Dresden bombing. I'm providing a starting point for research, not implying it was the real/valid intent.) – kubanczyk Dec 12 '12 at 2:52
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    And surely, the bombing had no impact on resistance of Dresden to Soviet ground troops. Dresden was taken on 8 May 1945, long after Hitler was dead, and after Goering surrendered, and after Jodl signed the final uncoditional surrender; just hours before the surrender went into effect at 23:01 (CET). – kubanczyk Dec 12 '12 at 4:04

A 1953 United States Air Force report defended the operation as the justified bombing of a military and industrial target, which was a major rail transportation and communication centre, housing 110 factories and 50,000 workers in support of the German war effort.wikipedia

As @Luke has said, this is a far broader and more provacative question than is normally covered on this site, but I choose to take OP at his word and attempt a brief answer. I'm also going to endorse and respect OP's request to ignore the moral side. That isn't to say that there is no moral side, but merely that the OP requested that it be out of scope for the answer.

WWII was a total war

The Second World War can be considered the quintessential total war of modernity. The level of national mobilization of resources on all sides of the conflict, the battlespace being contested, the scale of the armies, navies, and air forces raised through conscription, the active targeting of civilians (and civilian property), the general disregard for collateral damage, and the unrestricted aims of the belligerents marked total war on an unprecedented and unsurpassed, multicontinental scale. wikipedia: Total War emphasis added

According to the theory, victory depended on the ability of the nations involved to muster an unprecedented level of industrial committment, and to deliver that to the front. Defeating the adversary's army merely prolonged the conflict; victory was only possible by degrading the adversary's ability to produce and deliver military supplies.

Dresden was a critical junction of communications and industrial production. Destroying Dresden halted the production of military supplies and delivery to the battlefield.

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    Mark, thanks for the thoughtful answer. I wish to query the last statement: Is there evidence that the production and delivery of supplies was indeed diminished? – Felix Goldberg Dec 11 '12 at 13:13

Less well known is that Dresden was home to a plasma physics laboratory led by Prof Max Steenbeck, part of the Ardenne institute for nuclear physics.

According to the autobiography of Nazi nuclear physicist Rolf Wideroe he and a team of others recovered an advanced particle accelerator which earlier in the war had been used as a particle beam weapon against Allied bombers in the Frankfurt area.

Rolf Wideroe

Dresden "Death Ray" machine

Wideroe noted that his team dug the device out of the rubble and transported it SW to Burggrub near Bayeruth where General Patton's Army captured the device intact on 14th April 1945.


Given that the US 8th Air Force also pulverised the Auer Uranium refinery at Oranienberg on 15th March 1945, it may be that the destruction of Dresden was intended to destroy nuclear facilities to prevent them falling into Soviet hands.

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