Identify a thought-provoking question about the bombing of Dresden.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that one thought provoking question that has to be asked regarding the bombing of Dresden was whether it was necessary.  Germany was retreating in stages, the European theatre was tilting in favor of the Allied forces, and Nazi expansionism was no longer a viable threat.  While some level of brutality in war is inevitable, the bombing of Dresden approached savagery when its statistics are considered:

More than 3,400 tons of explosives were dropped on the city by 800 American and British aircraft. The firestorm created by the two days of bombing set the city burning for many more days, littering the streets with charred corpses, including many children. Eight square miles of the city was ruined, and the total body count was between 35,000 and 135,000 (an approximation is all that was possible given that the city was filled with many refugees from farther east). The hospitals that were left standing could not handle the numbers of injured and burned, and mass burials became necessary.

Dresden was not a military center.  The use of incendiary bombs on a civilian stronghold was meant to strike terror.  Using over 3,000 tons of bombs in a consolidated area has to be questioned.  

At the same time, if Hitler and the Nazis were seen as moral savages, a thought- provoking question can be raised as to whether Allied forces operated on the same moral level.  Little was gained from the bombing of Dresden, other than the reality of the Allied forces inflicting as much pain on civilians as the Axis powers had done.  The need to "weaken German morale" has to be assessed while considering the pain inflicted on a civilian population as a result of the bombing of Dresden.  

Being willing to assess both the strategic and moral ends of the bombing of Dresden, along with Hiroshima and Nagasaki, results in a test of ethical philosophy as well as history.  This is where thought provoking questions lie.