On April 26, 1937, Bombers from Hitler’s Condor Legion dropped munitions on a small town in Spain known as Guernica. The town represented a pocket of resistance against Franco’s growing fascist populism and a seat of the Nationalist movement. Junkers 52 bombers and Heinkel 51s hit the city and returned to strafe it as well. Estimates of the dead vary from 300 to 1600. It did little to actually quell the rebellion. Yet after the civil war ended, it appeared to military planners that the Guernica bombing might have played a psychological effect on the resistance.
This is not to assert that Guernica was a reason for bombing Dresden, but a lack of thoughtful deliberation about the results probably fed Sir Arthur Harris’ decision to press for bombing the town. One thing that might have driven the raid was what Churchill called for in “The Thunderclap of Anglo-America annihilation,” an effort that would impress Stalin.
At the time it was lovely place called the Florence of the North. It was recently filled with refugees fleeing the oncoming Red Guard in the East. Almost everyone who lived in Breslau was now in Dresden, and the local population was now 1.2 million. On the evening of February 13th, 1945, a series of B-17 raids by the 8th Air Force dropped incendiaries over the town.
The official target were the factories that made bomb-sites, artillery optics and fuses and aircraft components. Previous to the war it was a center of chinaware. But on that day, a town that was not even defended, and populated by civilians was targeted. It is estimated that 22,000 people died in the city, many of them burned to death right where they lay.
British Lancasters and Mosquito fighter bombers followed up with new raids timed to hit rescuers. One cannot answer whether or not it did one thing to end the war, but it did kill a lot of people that had little to do with the war.
Kurt Vonnegut write Slaughterhouse 5, a science fiction satire of the bombing of Dresden. He wrote: “Yes, by your people [the English], may I say, you guys burnt the place down, turned it into a single column of flame. More people died there in the firestorm, in that one big flame, than died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined. I’m fond of your people, on occasion, but I was just thinking about ‘Bomber Harris, who believed in attacks on civilian populations to make them give up. A hell of a lot of Royal Air Force guys were ashamed of what Harris had made them do. And that’s really sportsmanship and, of course, the Brits are famous for being good sports.”
Churchill questions the ethics of it soon thereafter : “It seems to me that the moment has come when the question of the so called ‘area-bombing’ of German cities should be reviewed from the point of view of our own interests. If we come into control of an entirely ruined land, there will be a great shortage of accommodation for ourselves and our allies… We must see to it that our attacks do no more harm to ourselves in the long run than they do to the enemy’s war effort.”
Source: wiki, Slaughterhouse 5, Kurt Vonnegut