Dawn Pisturino's Blog

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Allied Bombing of Dresden, 1945

on May 27, 2022
(Destruction of Dresden, 1945)

[NOTE: A week ago, my father’s ashes were interred with full military honors in a military cemetery in California. The ceremony included a three gun salute, a bugler playing “Taps,” and the flag-folding ritual. Although my father served during the Korean War, he never saw live action. Instead, he was sent to Cuba on a reconnaissance mission. My brother is also buried in a military cemetery and died of cancer at the age of forty. He was an Army medic and became a paramedic and German teacher after leaving the military. Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start of summer here in the United States. We honor all of our dead this weekend, but especially, those who have served, fought, and died protecting our country. War is hell, as any soldier will tell you, but sometimes, it is a necessary evil. Just ask the people of Ukraine, who are fighting for their lives, their country, their freedom, and their sovereignty as a nation. Please take a moment to remember all the soldiers who have given their lives to protect YOUR country.]

Allied Bombing of Dresden

The British RAF began dropping bombs on Dresden, Germany on February 13, 1945. Over the next few days, British and American Allies dropped approximately 4,000 tons of bombs onto the city, killing 25,000 people, and destroying the center of the city (Luckhurst, 2020, pg. 2).

Prime Minister Winston Churchill questioned the attack, saying, “The destruction of Dresden remains a serious query against the conduct of Allied bombing” (Luckhurst, 2020, pg. 2).

But, was the bombing justified?

Summary of Theories and Concepts of Pufendorf and Vattel

Pufendorf claimed that the enemy’s aggression “allows me to use force against him to any degree, or so far as I may think desirable” (Glanville, 2018, pg. 152). He explained that the people fighting a defensive war may use any force to put an end to the threat against them, receive reparations, or “secure guarantees for [their] future security” (Glanville, 2018, pg. 152). It was not, he explained, a priority to gauge proportionality but to ensure “the defense and assertion of [their] safety, [their] property, and [their] rights” (Glanville, 2018, pg. 152). The people on the defensive, therefore, may use whatever means necessary to defeat the enemy.

Vattel, on the other hand, believed that “now the laws of nature being no less obligatory on nations than on individuals, whatever duties each man owes to other men, the same does each nation, in its way, owe to other nations. Such is the foundation of those common duties – of those offices of humanity – to which nations are reciprocally bound towards each other” (Christov, 2018, pg. 159). But he also allowed for the possibility of nations that would violate the law of nations and violate all the civilized rules of warfare: “If there were a people who made open profession of trampling justice under foot, — who despised and violated the rights of others whenever they found an opportunity, — the interest of human society would authorize all the other nations to form a confederacy in order to humble and chastise the delinquents . . .the safety of the human race requires that [such a nation] should be repressed” (Christov, 2018, pg. 160).

Was the Allied Bombing of Dresden Justified?

At the time of the bombing, the Eastern Front – “where Nazi Germany was defending [itself] against the advancing armies of the Soviet Union” – was only 155 miles from Dresden. According to Luckhurst (2020), Dresden “factories provided munitions, aircraft parts and other supplies for the Nazi war effort” (Luckhurst, 2020, pg. 3). It was a major city through which German “troops, tanks and artillery traveled through . . . by train and by road” (Luckhurst, 2020, pg. 3). The attack was intended to bolster Soviet efforts on the Eastern Front (Luckhurst, 2020, pg. 3).

RAF planes were equipped with both “high explosive and incendiary bombs: the explosives would blast buildings apart, while the incendiaries would set the remains on fire, causing further destruction” (Luckhurst, 2020, pg. 4). The United States Air Force completed the attack with daylight bombings which were directed at the city’s railway yards” (Luckhurst, 2020, pg. 4).

The Nazis denied that Dresden had any military function and exaggerated the death toll at 200,000 civilians. They claimed that Dresden “was only a city of culture” (Luckhurst, 2020, pg. 7).

Worldwide, Dresden was considered a tourist attraction. British Members of Parliament questioned the attack, and the Associated Press accused the Allies of using terrorism against the people of Dresden (Luckhurst, 2020, pg. 7).

Allied military leaders defended the attack as necessary to further cripple Nazi Germany and end the war. A 1953 report done in the U.S. determined that “Dresden was a legitimate military target” (Luckhurst, 2020, pg. 9), and the attack was no different from previous attacks on other German cities.

The debate continues, with some people viewing the bombing as immoral – possibly a war crime – and others defending it as necessary to help end the war with Germany (Luckhurst, 2020, pg. 9).

My own view is that Pufendorf’s and Vattel’s theories both justify the bombing of Dresden. Pufendorf is correct when he says that the side waging a just war (in this case, the Allies) may use any means necessary to secure the peace and “secure guarantees for . . . future security” (Glanville, 2018, pg. 152). Nazi Germany was a rogue nation that had invaded other countries, murdered millions of people, and imposed authoritarian rule against the will of the people. They were guilty of “trampling justice under foot . . . [and] despised and violated the rights of others” (Christov, 2018, pg. 160), in Vattel’s own words. So, Vattel is also correct when he says that “the interest of human society [should] authorize all the other nations to form a confederacy [in this case, the Allies] in order to humble and chastise the delinquents . . . the safety of the human race requires that [such a nation – the Germans] should be repressed” (Christov, 2018, pg. 160).

Is Preservation of Cultural or Artistic Enemy Cities Relevant in War – Or are they Secondary?

My personal view is that preserving cultural and artistic enemy cities is secondary because defending the safety of Allied nations, property, and human rights takes precedence and aligns with both Pufendorf’s and Vattel’s theories of just war and the right of self-defense. Germany was the aggressor. It was not the duty or priority of Allied forces to save their cultural and artistic centers (Christov, 2018, pg. 160; Glanville, 2018, pg. 152).

Is it Justifiable to Bomb a City to Weaken the Enemy Civilian Morale – Even if the City has Marginal Industrial Significance?

Although the Nazis claimed that Dresden was only a cultural center, the Allies considered it an important transportation center for the Nazis and sought to help Soviet forces on the Eastern Front by destroying it (Luckhurst, 2020, pg. 3). The bombing weakened civilian morale but also undermined the Nazi’s efforts on the Eastern Front. Since civilians in Dresden supported the Nazi cause, they were also enemies of the Allied forces and subject to punishment by Allied war efforts. In my opinion, Vattel would have seen the bombing of Dresden as necessary “in order to humble and chastise the delinquents” (Christov, 2018, pg. 160).

Works Cited

Christov, T. (2018). Emer de vattel (1714-1767). In D.R. Brunstetter & C. O’Driscoll (Eds.),

       Just war thinkers: From cicero to the 21st century (156-167). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge

Glanville, L. (2018). Samuel pufendorf (1632-1694). In D.R. Brunstetter & C. O’Driscoll (Eds.),

       Just war thinkers: From cicero to the 21st century (144-155). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge

Luckhurst, T. (2020, February). Dresden: The world war two bombing 75 years on. BBC.com.

       Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-51448486

Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

November 10, 2021; May 27, 2022

Copyright 2021-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

29 responses to “Allied Bombing of Dresden, 1945

  1. aparna12 says:

    This is such a wonderful, informative and thought provoking post. I have tears in my eyes as I read about The Allied Bombing of Dresden. I often wonder whether humans have more ego and pride than common sense. Thank you for sharing an eye opener. I wish the weapons were never invented. So many innocent lives could have been saved. Take care, 💕💕dear.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. sangeeta says:

    Don’t know what to say ☹️☹️ take care dear

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Insightful and appreciated Dawn! 💕

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Michele Lee says:

    An informative post, Dawn. Thank you for your father and brother’s service.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. utahan15 says:

    marc anthony julius caesar. the good that comes with is oft interred with mens bones. the evil men do lives on.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. MR. JAY✅ says:


    Liked by 1 person

  7. elvira797mx says:

    So informative post. Hope you keep well. Thank’s for share, Dawn.
    Have a relaxing time!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Lance Dean says:

    My deepest condolences.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hello Dawn, you are back, thats very nice. I was with you in my thoughts.

    You write in the comments section (introduction, at the beginning i mean) about the justifications for the Ukraine war that the people there are fighting for their freedom and their country. This is also the official justification that is conveyed to us by the media.

    So far, I have always understood you as questioning this justification, or I am wrong.

    On the one hand, there are allegedly “Ukrainian civilians” fighting there, then there are the most diverse international groups, which do not have much to do with the goals you describe, but want to destabilize Old Europe and drive it into chaos. I also think of the soldiers of Allah, who have officially declared exactly that. Then we find there mercenary groups, the group “Wagner” for example, and presumably “Black Water” will also get involved there. The main actor of the “Ukrainian Army” is the “Asov Brigade”, which was integrated into the Ukrainian Army. There is no doubt about their Nazi ideology. It is an international army.

    There is more that could be noted about those involved in the war. But the subject is Dresden and not Ukraine.

    I lived and worked in Dresden for two years. It is an incredibly beautiful city. During my time in Dresden, I witnessed the rebuilding of the “Dresden Frauenkirche”. That was an architectural masterpiece. The Americans also supported the reconstruction.

    To be honest, I can’t contribute (write) much to what happened in 1945. Strangely enough, that part of German history has never really interested me. Actually, I should be a bit ashamed of my ignorance, especially being a German. I prefer to write about things that I have experienced myself, and which I imagined to be important in order to better understand the present.

    But what interests me is the time after 1945. On the one hand, it is unacceptable that the Germans living now are still punished for the past, and on the other hand, it is unacceptable that our governments keep this ” preperator mentality” alive, and orient their entire policy with regard to the past. Still horrendous reparation money is paid to the victims, who do not even exist anymore. The Money goes to everybody in the whole world.

    We are completely different nation as before, than those of yesteryear. One almost has to say “unfortunately (its pitty).” Why? Because the Germans, once so proud, have become frightened citizens who have forgotten how to walk upright. I know of no other nation that so uncritically and poorly accepts everything that comes from above. The Germans have become so peaceable that they even let their country be taken away from them without offering any resistance. What has become of the Germans is a chapter in itself, but very interesting.

    A brief remark. When you read the word “RAF” in Germany, you don’t think of the Russian army, but of the left-wing terrorist group with the same name. Ulrike Meinhof and Andreas Baader, these names must mean something to you.

    And please do not forget, the real war is taking place worldwide. It is the biggest economic war of all times, which will have, and already has, terrible consequences for us Germans and Western Europeans.

    Everyone is a war winner, except us. But we pay this time not only with our money, but also with a completely different life for this crap, which comes from the headquarters (NWO).

    Have a nice weekend dear Dawn.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Linda, RAF is the British Royal Air Force. The media here in the United States does not do any real in-depth reporting, that I have seen, on the different groups fighting in the Ukraine. In the U.S., it is reported as Russia invaded Ukraine, the Ukrainian people are fighting back. I admire the Ukrainian people for fighting back. They serve as a good reminder that any country can be put in a position where the people will have to fight back. I am ignorant of all the politics involved with all the different groups involved, and I don’t necessarily trust Zelensky. Ukraine, after all, is a very corrupt country. I also don’t trust Biden’s motives. Americans don’t like all the money being sent over there while we have so many economic woes at home. It’s a waiting game. I think the media gets a lot of things wrong and puts politics first and truth last.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I didn’t think about the Birtish “RAF” while reading your text.

        Here is already reported about the “diversity” of the fighters, only, it is not considered as “important”. These findings fall more or less under the prayer rug in Germany. In the beginning, the Asov brigades were reported positively. The word “Nazi” did not appear at all in the reporting, now, where the “subversive net” reports about it, scientists and other scholars, it cannot be avoided any more on the part of the media, not to mention the ideological Intentions of the Asov brigades among other things. State today in the media. There are Nazis among them.

        You are right that the people should defend themselves, but in this case, they have fallen for Zelensky. He is a pied piper (I mean the animals, the rats). They support the wrong ones. Putin is no better, maybe a little, little bit.

        The key to solving the problem is the truth. Follow the Truth. By the way, that is the key to solving all problems.

        “I am the truth and the light”.

        The Kiev group is getting richer and richer. The overseas accounts are bursting (Pandora Papers). I don’t like this either, that our government is transferring money to Kiev and we really don’t know what else to buy to eat. How we feel has never interested them.

        I have already described in more detail elsewhere who the winners of the war are. Summarized it is all involved, also Putin, only not the citizens. All citizens of the world are affected. We suffer, the parties involved do not.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Myheartscry says:

    How neat a ceremony for your late father. Those things matter a lot. I hope you enjoyed your visit to California. God bless you, Dawn.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I cannot imagine that there is any justification for any kind of war! The excuse of a ‘just war’ is a modern twenty-century term, delivering the ‘aftermath’ excuse for those incompetent diplomats and politicians, who have failed to prevent such an abnormity in the first place.
    Wars are not clan disputes or fought out of the necessities for survival; wars are mindless slaughters and are instigated out of pure self-interest!
    The decisive factors for the start of the First World War were the failure at the hand of incompetent diplomats and the self-interested competition for economic dominance among the powers of the middle Europa.
    The Second World War was again the result of failed diplomatic foresight and self-interest on the winning side.
    Why had the Vatican never condemned the Nazi’s atrocities during their rain in 1930? Why did the USA hesitate to enter the war for so long?
    The reason is that both had high corporate stakes in the German chemical and heavy industries.
    And as the saying goes, history repeats itself. During the collapse of the Soviet Union at the beginning of the 1990th, the corporations of the western world could not wait to get their hands quick enough on the offering of raw materials. Cashing in on the cheap resource boom, in entire disregard of democratic rights or environmental concerns.
    Had anyone thought then about offering Ukraine an EU membership, was there a flurry of diplomatic negotiations? No, because Ukraine offered opportunities for cheap labour and low environmental regulations.
    So here again, corporate self-interest carried the day.
    Was there a decisive diplomatic response to the annexation of Crimea in 2014? Of course not; the stakes were already too high to severe those lucrative economic bonds with Russia.
    Now we are witnessing a mindless slaughter of the innocent again for self-interested gain and because of incompetent diplomatic interventions and self-interest in the past.
    Under such circumstances, it is futile to discuss what is a just or an unjust war; once it has begun, the violence only increases in its brutality and atrocity.
    Why were the bombs dropped on Dresden near the end? Because the war had reached a level of rawness that had very little time for discrimination!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. This is a wonderful revisiting of history, all the painful episodes of war. War leads to more harm than good and should always be the very last resort to dealing with problems. 🙏

    Liked by 1 person

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