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Bombing of Königsberg in World War II

 

Bombing of Königsberg in World War II

Königsberg Castle from the air, c. 1925

The bombing of Königsberg was a series of attacks made on the city of Königsberg in East Prussia during World War II. The Soviet Air Force had made several raids on the city since 1941. Extensive attacks carried by RAF Bomber Command destroyed most of the city's historic quarters in the summer of 1944. Königsberg was also heavily bombed during the Battle of Königsberg, in the final weeks of the war.

Allied bombing

In 1941, acting mainly in retaliation for the German bombing of Moscow, Joseph Stalin personally ordered the Soviet Air Force to bomb Königsberg. Eleven Pe-8 bombers attacked the city on 1 September 1941. The Soviets did not lose a single bomber in the raid.[1] The Soviet Air Force bombed the city again on several occasions, for example on 26 July 1942,[2] 27 August 1942[3] or 15 July 1943.[4] On the night of 28 April 1943,[5] a bomber dropped an 11,000 pounder on the city's area, the largest bomb in the Soviet inventory.[6]

No. 5 Group carried out the first RAF attack on Königsberg on the night of 26/27 August 1944, using 174 Avro Lancasters. The target, which was at the extreme range for the planes, demanded a round trip of 1,900 miles (3,100 km) from bases in England. Planes from RAF Skellingthorpe (Lincs) could not return to base and diverted to RAF Tain in northern Scotland after 10:35 hours flying time (cf 11:20 return to base three days later.[7]) Despite losing only four aircraft, the first attack was not particularly successful because most bombs fell on the eastern side of Königsberg, missing the city centre.

The next RAF raid occurred three days later on the 29/30 August. This time No. 5 Group dropped 480 tons of high explosive and incendiaries on the centre of the city. RAF Bomber Command estimated that 20% of industry and 41% of all the housing in Königsberg was destroyed. Out of a force of 189 Lancasters, German night fighters shot down 15 RAF bombers.[8] The historic city centre suffered severe damage and the districts of Altstadt, Löbenicht, and Kneiphof were nearly destroyed. The city's 14th-century cathedral was reduced to a shell. Extensive damage was also done to the castle, all churches in the old city, the university, and the old shipping quarter.

German-Jewish author and musician Michael Wieck, a native of Königsberg, wrote in A Childhood Under Hitler and Stalin that "the people of Königsberg shall never expunge these nights of terror from their memory".

Capture

In 1945, the prolonged battle of Königsberg inflicted further damage. More than 90% of the city had been destroyed when the Soviets occupied the city in April 1945. Under Soviet occupation, the entire German population was forcibly expelled from the city. It was then rebuilt as the Russian city of Kaliningrad.[9]

References

  1. ^ "Soviet bombing raids". Retrieved 2009-05-17. 
  2. ^ Soviets bomb Prussia by Eddie Gilmore, Associated Press, 27 July 1942
  3. ^ Gibson, Guy and Martin, Harold (2006). Enemy Coast Ahead - Uncensored: The Real Guy Gibson. MBI Publishing Company, p. 186. ISBN 0859791181
  4. ^ Russians bomb Nazi Airdrome by Eddie Gilmore, Associated Press, 16 July 1943,
  5. ^ "ФАБ-5000". Retrieved 19 July 2015. 
  6. ^ Boog, Horst, Krebs, Gerhart and Vogel, Detlef (2006).Germany and the Second World War: The strategic air war in Europe and the war in the West and East Asia 1943-1944. Oxford University Press, p. 157. ISBN 0198228899
  7. ^ Flying Log Book of Lloyd Phillips, Wireless Operator, VN-Nan, 50 SQDN
  8. ^ RAF Bomber Command: Campaign Diary. August 1944
  9. ^ "Soviet bombing raids". Retrieved 2009-05-17. 
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