British and American forces destroyed nearly the entire city center of Dresden, Germany, in a monumental, three-day firebombing campaign in February 1945.
Photograph courtesy the Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1994-041-07. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany license.

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  • On February 13, 1945, Allied forces began a massive firebombing of Dresden, Germany. Firebombing is a technique that aims to damage a target through fire, not the impact of powerful bombs. Over the course of the next three days, British and American forces dropped more than 2,500 tons of explosive and incendiary devices on Dresden.
     
    Dresden was a munitions hub, and its population had swelled with immigrants fleeing the advancing Soviet army in Germany’s east. The firebombing killed 25,000 people and nearly destroyed the entire city center. The devastation led many Allied leaders to reconsider the tactic, with Winston Churchill calling the firebombing “mere acts of terror and wanton destruction.” 
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    Allies Noun

    alliance of countries that opposed the Axis during World War II. The Allies were led by the U.S., the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union.

    destroy Verb

    to ruin or make useless.

    explosive Noun

    material that can quickly and violently expand due to a chemical change.

    firebomb Verb

    to attack with incendiary devices.

    immigrant Noun

    person who moves to a new country or region.

    incendiary Adjective

    capable or likely to catch and spread fire.

    massive Adjective

    very large or heavy.

    munitions Plural Noun

    military equipment, especially weapons and ammunition.

    Soviet Adjective

    having to do with the Soviet Union and the areas it influenced.

    tactic Noun

    procedure or method for accomplishing a goal.

    technique Noun

    method of doing something.

    wanton Adjective

    careless, or without regard for what is fair, just, or humane.