The city of Hamburg already had ‘good’ conditions for the rapid spread of fire. A heat wave from the summer of 1943 heat wave had dried out much of the city and surrounding plant growth. Hamburg was Germany’s most important industrial center, as well as the largest seaport in Europe.


The allies used the “Window” to bomb Hamburg without counterattack or anti-aircraft losses. This technique consisted of dropping foil strips out of the window of the planes, which would confuse the Germans’ early radar.


On July 24, 9PM the allies bombed Hamburg with high explosive, incendiary, phosphorous and napalm bombs. The resulting firestorm was so powerful that buildings would have flames reaching over 20 feet high.

‘With hurricane force, 150 mile per-hour winds were sucked into the oxygen vacuum created by the fire, ripping trees out by their roots, collapsing buildings, pulling children out of their mothers' arms. Twenty square miles of the city centre burned in an inferno that would rage for nine full days. The temperature in the firestorm reached 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit. There was no oxygen to breathe; whatever was flammable burst spontaneously into flame.’[1]


  • The Royal Air Force alone sent 3,000 bombers in 4 raids on Hamburg, dropping 9,000 tons of bombs.
  • Affected 22 sq km, 8.5 sq m
  • Killed estimated 44,600 civilians, 800 servicemen (60k-100k according to the US bomber survey)
  • Half the city ruined (some accounts over 60%), 2/3 remaining population evacuated — almost 1 million homeless
  • Mostly affected civilian population, nonetheless 580 industrial centers damaged/destroyed 1.8 months of the city’s output. Normal output was never fully recovered, at best output recovered to 80% five months later.
  • Fire-fighting (obviously) helpless Hamburg Before the Fire Raids
  • No air defense because of WINDOW














The Aftermath of Hamburg





The bombing of Hamburg was hugely successful according to the British—“None of our other attacks had produced effects that were a tenth as destructive as the effects of a firestorm.”


Air Vice Marshall Harris stated, “In spite of all that happened at Hamburg, bombing proved a relatively humane method there is no proof that most casualties were women and children.” German records indicate, however, that 29,000 of those killed were women (21k) and children (8k), the other 13,000 were men.