This week in history


Reviewing history in the military, the Air Force and triumphs and misadventures in airpower.

On the night of July 24, 1943, over 750 Royal Air Force bombers descended on Hamburg, Germany. “Operation Gomorrah” became a mission for the RAF by night, the Americans by day, which we called “Blitz Week.”

An example of “Window” being dropped — A Royal Air Force Avro Lancaster bomber over Essen drops WINDOW to interfere with ground gunners during a 1000 bomber raid on the city during WWII. (Royal Air Force official photograph)

The goal? The series of raids were tasked to gain air superiority, cripple German industrial production and to inflict severe material damage on what Air Chief Marshal Arthur T. Harris called the “second city of the Reich.”

According to Air Force Magazine, Harris’s Bomber Command “threw 2,355 sorties at Hamburg in three massive nighttime raids on July 24-25, July 28, and July 30. The United States Army Air Forces also flung itself into the attacks; the Eighth Air Force, based in Britain, generated 235 daylight sorties in two raids during July 25 and July 26.”

While matters looked much worse for Germany during the raids (considered the “the Hiroshima of Germany”) the RAF’s experienced its own losses — 57 aircraft in the three raids, which ended in August.

The “minute” loss was partially because of a new radar-jamming device called “Window,” which consisted of strips of aluminum foil dropped by the bombers en route to their target.

These “Window” strips confused German radar, which mistook the strips for dozens of aircraft, diverting them from the trajectory of the actual bombers.

More than 30,000 people died during the Hamburg bombings and over 280,000 buildings were destroyed.

With the city devastated, it came as no surprise when  Hamburg surrendered to British armies with no resistance in 1945.

Check out more airpower history for this week here.


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