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The Allied Bombing of Hamburgmarker during World War II (September 1939-April 1945) included numerous strategic bombing missions and diversion/nuisance raids.As a large port and industrial center, Hamburg's shipyards, U-boat pens, and the Hamburg-Harburg area oil refinerieswere attacked throughout the war. Hamburg was also the site of the world's oldest dynamite factory, constructed by Alfred Nobel.

The attack during the last week of July, 1943, Operation Gomorrah, created one of the greatest firestorms raised by the RAF and United States Army Air Force in WWII, killing roughly 50,000 civilians in Hamburg and practically destroying the entire city. As with the bombing of other cities, the RAFand USAAFbombings of Hamburg employed a number of revolutionary strategies, including bombing the city center first in order to draw in the city's entire fire-fighting force, then dropping delayed action high-explosives in a concentric ring around the center, filling the streets with rubble and trapping the firefighters while they worked, ultimately incinerating them. This was followed by the dropping of further napalm and white-phosphorus incendiaries in a second concentric ring outside the first, facilitating unhampered burning in the remaining outer city. The circular bombing pattern , combined with a few days of unusually warm weather, was fundamental to creating the necessary vortex and whirling updraft of super-heated air needed to create the 1,500-foot-high tornado of fire. Various other new techniques and devices were instrumental as well, such as (e.g., area bombing), tactics (Pathfinders), and technologies (H2S radar), and 'Window' - clouds of shredded tinfoil dropped by pathfinders preceding the bomber stream in order to completely cloud German radar.

Significant missions

Battle of Hamburg

The Battle of Hamburg, codenamedOperation Gomorrah, was a campaign of air raids beginning 24 July 1943 for 8 days and 7 nights. It was at the time the heaviest assault in the history of aerial warfareand was later called the Hiroshima of Germanyby British officials.

The Battle of Hamburg overlapped the Battle of the Ruhrwhich ended on 31 July.

Gomorrah was originally formulated by British Prime Minister Winston Churchillwith help from Air Chief MarshalArthur "Bomber" Harris. The operation was conducted by RAF Bomber Command(including RCAFSquadrons) and the USAAF Eighth Air Force. The British conducted the night raids and the USAAF conducted the daylight raids.

On 24 July, at approximately 00:57AM, the first bombing started by the RAF and lasted almost an hour. A second daylight raid by US Army Air Force was conducted at 4:40PM. A third raid was conducted on the morning of the 26th. The night attack of 26 July at 00:20AM was extremely light due to a severe thunderstorm and high winds over the North Seamarker during which a considerable number of bombers jettisoned the explosive part of their bomb loads (retaining just the incendiaries) with only two bomb drops reported.That attack is often not counted when the total number of Operation Gomorrah attacks is given. There was no day raid on the 27th.

On the night of 27 July, shortly before midnight, 739 aircraft attacked Hamburg. The unusually dry and warm weather, the concentration of the bombing in one area, and firefighting limitations due to Blockbuster bombsused in the early part of the raid culminated in the so-called "Feuersturm"(firestorm). The tornadic fire created a huge inferno with winds of up to 240 km/h (150 mph)reaching temperatures of 800 °C (1,500 °F) and altitudes in excess of 1,000 feet, incinerating more than eight square miles (21 km²) of the city. Asphaltstreets burst into flame, and fuel oil from damaged and destroyed ships, barges, and storage tanks spilled into the waters of the canals and the harbor caused it to ignite as well. The majority of deaths attributed to Operation 'Gomorrah' occurred on this night. A large number of those killed died seeking safety in bomb shelters and cellars, the firestorm consuming all available oxygen in the burning city above. The furious winds created by the firestorm were rumored to have swept people up off the streets like dry leaves.

On the night of 29 July, Hamburg was again attacked by over 700 aircraft. The last raid of Operation Gomorrah was conducted on 3 August.

Operation Gomorrah caused at least 50,000 deaths, and left over a million German civilians homeless. Approximately 3,000 aircraft were deployed, 9,000 tons of bombs were dropped, and over 250,000 homes and houses were destroyed. No subsequent city raid shook Germany as did that on Hamburg; documents show that German officials were thoroughly alarmed, and there is some indication from later Allied interrogations of Nazi officials that Hitler stated that further raids of similar weight would force Germany out of the war. Hamburg was hit by air raids another 69 times before the end of World War II.

RAF Bomber Command lost 12 bombers on the first day of the attack. In total, 440 RAF aircraft were lost over Hamburg during the war.



The totally destroyed quarter of Hammerbrookmarker, in which mostly longshoremen lived, was not rebuilt as housing area but as a commercial area.The adjoining quarter of Rothenburgsortmarker shared the same fate, as only a small area of housing was rebuilt.The underground line which connected these areas with the central station was not rebuilt either.

In the destroyed residential areas many houses were rebuilt across the street and therefore do not form connected blocks anymore. The hills of the Öjendorfer Park are formed by the debris of destroyed houses.


Several memorials in Hamburg remind at the air raids during World War II:

  • The Nikolaikirche, which was largely destroyed during the bombing, has been made into a memorial against the war. The spire of the church, which was used by the bomber pilots as aiming point, endured the attacks.

  • Memorial at the Hamburger Strasse - a memorial for those who died in a shelter under the Karstadt department store at the corner Desenißstrasse/Hamburger Strasse. The department store was hit by a bomb in the night of 30 July. The people in the air raid shelter below were killed by the heat and carbon monoxide poisoning.

  • The victims of the air raids were buried on the Ohlsdorf cemetery in mass graves. The memorial "Passage over the Styx" by Gerhard Marcks is in the center and shows how Charon ferries a young couple, a mother with her child, a man and a desperate person over the river Styx.

  • Many houses rebuilt after World War II show a memorial plaque with the inscription "Destroyed 1943 - ... Rebuilt" to remind of their destruction during the air raids in July 1943.


Video footage of the bombing of Hamburg

Raids on Hamburg during Second World War


  1. These two nights of bombing were only 24 hours after a very large raid by the German Luftwaffe on Coventry on the night of 14/15 November 1940. However the raid must have been planned more than 24 hours in advance, so although these raids are often stated to be revenge attacks, it is unlikely that they were planned to be so.
  2. "384 BG":
  3. Hans Brunswig: Feuersturm über Hamburg, Stuttgart 1978, ISBN 3-87943-570-7, S. 195.
  4. Hans Brunswig: Feuersturm über Hamburg, Stuttgart 1978, ISBN 3-87943-570-7, S. 208.
  5. Hans Brunswig: Feuersturm über Hamburg, Stuttgart 1978, ISBN 3-87943-570-7, S. 208.
  6. Hans Brunswig: Feuersturm über Hamburg, Stuttgart 1978, ISBN 3-87943-570-7, S. 210.
  7. Hans Brunswig: Feuersturm über Hamburg, Stuttgart 1978, ISBN 3-87943-570-7, S. 211.
  8. Hans Brunswig: Feuersturm über Hamburg, Stuttgart 1978, ISBN 3-87943-570-7, S. 248.
  9. Hans Brunswig: Feuersturm über Hamburg, Stuttgart 1978, ISBN 3-87943-570-7, S. 261.
  10. Hans Brunswig: Feuersturm über Hamburg, Stuttgart 1978, ISBN 3-87943-570-7, S. 345.
  11. 447 BG:
  12. Hans Brunswig: Feuersturm über Hamburg, Stuttgart 1978, ISBN 3-87943-570-7, S. 347.
  13. Hans Brunswig: Feuersturm über Hamburg, Stuttgart 1978, ISBN 3-87943-570-7, S. 348.

Further reading

External links

Typical bomb damage in Hamburg, 1944 or 1945
Memorial to the victims of the Hamburg bombings.
Inscription reads: "On the night of 30th July 1943, 370 persons perished in the air-raid shelter on the Hamburgerstrasse in a bombing raid.
Remember these dead.
Never again fascism.
Never again war".
Example of a Memorial plaque at a house in Hamburg
night of 10/11 September 1939:
10 aircraft
oil installations
48 Hampdens attacked Hamburg oil installations.

 Campaign Diary:
May-June (Battle of France) July-December June-October (Battle of Britain)
January-April May-August September- December
January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December
January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December
January 1944, February 1944 March 1944, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December
January 1945, February 1945, March 1945, April 1945
oil refineries
Hampdens attacked oil refineries near Hamburg.
oil refineries
Hamburg oil refineries were bombed.
nights of 15/16 November and 16/17 November 1940:
over 200 aircraft. On the first night damage was caused to the Blohm & Voss shipyard and over 60 fires were started. On the second night only 60 aircraft found their target and damage was far less.
night of 12/13 March 1941:
Hamburg, Bremen, and Berlin bombed by a total of 257
The night of 13/14 March 1941
51 people were killed, the highest number in a single raid to date
April 1941.
During this month Hamburg was a main target.
May 1941.
Hamburg was bombed several times during the month. Raids now usually contained about 100 bombers.
The night of 11/12 May 1941
92 aircraft.
The night of 27/28 June 1941:
a raid on Bremenmarker but most bombed Hamburg - an error of 50 miles. 11 out of 35 bombers were shot down by night fighters.
night of 14/15 January 1942:
95 aircraft. Only 48 aircraft claimed to have bombed Hamburg. Altona stationmarker was hit and 12 fires, 7 of them large ones, were started. Six people killed and 22 injured. No aircraft reported lost.
night of 15/16 January 1942:
96 aircraft. 52 bombers claimed to have bombed Hamburg successfully. 36 fires started 3 of which were large, 3 people killed and 25 injured. 11 Bombers lost.
night of 17/18 January 1942
Bremen was the main target for 83 aircraft, but Hamburg was bombed as a secondary target causing 11 fires and casualties of 5 dead and 12 injured in Hamburg. Four bombers lost.
night of 16/17 February 1942
one or two bombers.
night of 8/9 April 1942
largest raid to date on a single target. Carried out by 272 aircraft. Raid was considered a failure. 17 people were killed and 119 injured. 5 planes lost.
The night of 17/18 April 1942
173 aircraft. 75 fires, 33 classed as large were started. Twenty-three people were killed and 66 injured. Eight aircraft lost.
The night of 3/4 May 1942
81 aircraft, dispatched on the 100th anniversary of a great fire in Hamburg. 53 aircraft were estimated to have hit the target. 113 fires started, of which 57 were large. 77 were killed, 243 injured and 1,624 bombed out. 5 aircraft were lost.
night of 26/27 July 1942
403 aircraft. Widespread damage was caused, mostly in housing and semi-commercial districts rather than in the docks and industrial areas. At least 800 fires started, 523 of which were large. 823 houses were destroyed and more than 5,000 damaged. More than 14,000 people were bombed out. 337 people were killed and 1,027 injured. 29 aircraft were lost, 7.2% of the force.
night of 28/29 July 1942
256 aircraft. Due to bad weather only 68 bombed in the target area. Fifty-six fires, 15 of them large, were started. Thirteen people were killed and 48 injured. Bomber losses were high, 15.3% for the main group bombing that night.
day of 3 August 1942
10 aircraft.
day of 18 August 1942
nuisance raid
single Mosquito.
day of 19 September 1942
nuisance raid
2 Mosquitos.
night of 13/14 October 1942
light secondary target raid. 2 large fires were started. 8 people were killed and 43 injured.
night of 9/10 November 1942:
213 aircraft. There were 26 fires started of which 3 were large. 3 people killed and 16 injured. 15 aircraft lost, 7.0% of the force.
night of 30/31 January 1943
148 aircraft. It was the first H2S radar-assisted attack of the war. H2S use was not successful and the bombs were scattered. However 119 fires were started of which 71 were large. 58 people were killed and 164 injured. 5 aircraft were lost, 3.4% of the force.
night of 3/4 February 1943
263 aircraft. Bad weather affected the bombers with many turning back early. Damage was light for what was planned to be a large raid. 16 bombers were lost, 6.1% of the force, many to nightfighters.
The night of 3/4 March 1943
417 aircraft. The Pathfinders marked the wrong target, mistaking a mud bank for the docks with their H2S radar, so most of the bombs landed 13 miles downstream from the centre of Hamburg, around the small town of Wedelmarker. Those bombs which landed on Hamburg did considerable damage starting 100 fires, killing 27 people and injuring 95. The damage to Wedel was extensive. 10 aircraft lost, 2.4% of the force.
13/14 April 1943
nuisance raid
2 Mosquitos.
25 June 1943
Blohm & Voss
The 384th Bombardment Group attacked the Hamburg submarine pens.
night of 26/27 June 1943
nuisance raid
4 Mosquitos.
night of 28/29 June 1943
nuisance raid
4 Mosquitos.
night of 3/4 July 1943
nuisance raid
4 Mosquitos.
night of 5/6 July 1943
nuisance raid
4 Mosquitos.
night of 24/25 July 1943
large raid
791 aircraft, marked the opening of the "Battle of Hamburg" or so called "Operation Gomorrah raid". A countermeasure against the radar-directed German nightfighters in the form of "Window" was used for the first time. In the clear weather visual and H2S marking was accurate and on the town centre. 728 aircraft dropped their bombs in 50 minutes. Less than half the force bombed within 3 miles of the centre with a bomb creepback of six miles. Damage was caused in the central and north-western districts, particularly in Altona, Eimsbüttel and Hoheluft. The Rathaus (Town Hall), the St. Nikolai churchmarker, the main police station, the main telephone exchange and the Hagenbeck Zoo were among the well-known landmarks to be hit. About 1,500 people were killed which was the largest outside the range of the "Oboe" radio navigation system which helped to concentrate the bombing pattern. Thanks to the use of Window only 12 aircraft were lost, 1.5% of the force.
25 July 1943 4:40PM
Blohm & Voss
ca. 90-110 B-17s attacked the Hamburg submarine pens; involved 91st, 351st, 381st (= 1st combat wing), 303rd, 379th, 384th bomb group (= 41st combat wing).
26 July 1943
Blohm & Voss
121 B-17's dispatched against Hannover (54) and the U-boat yards at Hamburg at 1159-1200 hours (71).
The night of 26/27 July 1943
nuisance raid
6 Mosquitos attacked Hamburg.
night of 27/28 July 1943
787 aircraft guided in by Pathfinders using H2S bombed about 2 miles east of city centre. Due to the unseasonally dry conditions, a firestorm was created in the built-up working-class districts of Hammerbrook, Hamm, Borgfelde and Rothenburgsort. The bombing was more concentrated than the RAF was usually able to manage at this stage of the war. In just over half an hour it is estimated that 550-600 bomb loads fell into an area measuring only 2 miles by 1 mile and this gradually spread the fire eastwards. The firestorm lasted for about three hours, consuming approximately 16,000 multi-storyed apartment buildings and killing an estimated 40,000 people, most of them by carbon monoxide poisoning when all the air was drawn out of their basement shelters. Fearing further raids, two-thirds of Hamburg's population, approximately 1,200,000 people, fled the city in the aftermath.
night of 28/29 July 1943
nuisance raid
4 Mosquitos.
night of 29/30 July 1943:
777 aircraft guided in by pathfinders marking using H2S. The plan was to bomb the untouched northern suburbs. But a mistake in mapping led to the bombing of an area just north of the area devastated by the firestorm three nights before. The residential areas of Wandsbek and Barmbek districts and parts of the Uhlenhorst and Winterhudemarker were severely damaged and widespread fires but no firestorm. Twenty-eight aircraft 3.6% of the force was lost.
night of 2/3 August 1943
740 aircraft dispatched on a raid to Hamburg but bad weather stopped all but a few bombers reaching Hamburg; many bombed secondary targets instead. 30 aircraft, 4.1% of the force was lost.
night of 22/23 August 1943
nuisance raid
6 Mosquitos
night of 5/6 November 1943:
Hamburg and other cities raided by a total of 26 Mosquitos.
night of 1/2 January 1944:
diversionary raid (Berlin)
15 Mosquitos attacked Hamburg.
night of 11/12 March 1944:
nuisance raid by 20 Mosquitos.
night of 6/7 April 1944:
35 Mosquitos
night of 26/27 April 1944:
diversionary raid
16 Mosquitos.
night of 28/29 April 1944:
26 Mosquitos.
18 June 1944
oil refineries
Mission 421: B-17s bombed Hamburg-Ebano (18), Hamburg-Eurotank (54), Hamburg-Ossag (38), and Hamburg-Schindler (36).

January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December
January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December
January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December
January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September a Battle of the Ruhr mission (including the 92 BG)
20 June 1944
oil refineries
Mission 425: B-17s bombed oil refineries at Hamburg/Deut.Petr.AG (53), Harburg/Ebano (60),Hamburg/Eurotank (107), Hamburg/Rhenania-Ossag (50), Harburg/Rhenania (53), Hamburg/Schliemanns (54), and Hamburg/Schindler (26).
night of 22/23 June 1944:
diversionary raid
29 Mosquitos.
night of 22/23 July 1944:
diversionary raid
26 Mosquitos
night of 26/27 July 1944:
diversionary raid
30 Mosquitos
night of 29/29 July 1944:
307 aircraft. The raid was not a success, the bombing was scattered and German sources estimated that only 120 bombers landed their load on the city. 22 aircraft were lost mainly to night fighters.
4 August 1944
oil refineries
181 B-17s bombed Hamburg refineries.
6 August 1944
oil refineries
Mission 524: Hamburg oil refineries bombed at Hamburg/Deutsche (54), Hamburg/ (33), Hamburg/Rhenania (61), Hamburg/Rhenania-Ossag (62), Hamburg/Schlieman (32), and Hamburg/Schulau (72 B-17s). Rhenania-Ossag was a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell.
night of 26/27 August 1944:
diversionary nuisance raid
13 Mosquitos.
night of 29/30 August 1944:
diversionary nuisance raid
Hamburg was one of five cities bombed by a total of 53 Mosquitos.
night of 6/7 September 1944:
nuisance raid
32 Mosquitos.
night of 26/27 September 1944:
diversionary nuisance raid
6 Mosquitos.
night of 30/1 October 1944
46 Mosquitos.
6 October 1944
oil refinery (Harburg/Rhenania)
Mission 667: 121 of 406 dispatched B-24s bombed the Harburg/Rhenania oil refinery.
night of 12/13 October 1944
52 Mosquitos
25 October 1944
oil refineries
Mission 688: 455 B-17s dispatched to hit the Harburg (221, including those of the 447th BG)and Rhenania oil refineries (214) at Hamburg. 297 B-17s dispatched to hit the primary hit secondaries, Harburg (179) and Rhenania oil refineries (106) at Hamburg.(cloud cover limited accuracy, devastigation of Harburg city)
30 October 1944
oil refineries
Mission 693: 357 B-24s are dispatched to hit the Harburg oil refinery (72) and Rhenania oil refinery (67) at Hamburg, 28 bomb Hamburg targets of opportunity.
4 November 1944
oil refinery
The 447th BG bombed a Hamburg oil refinery. Mission 700: 257 B-17s are dispatched to hit the Harburg oil plant at Hamburg (238), 186 of 193 B-17s hit the Rhenania oil plant at Hamburg
6 November 1944
oil refineries
Mission 704: 291 B-17s are dispatched to hit the Harburg (142) and Rhenania (138) oil refineries at Hamburg;
night of 11/12 November 1944
oil refineries
237 Lancasters and 8 Mosquitos of No 5 Group are dispatched to hit the Rhenania-Ossag oil refinery Harburg, which had been attacked several times by American day bombers.
21 November 1944
oil refineries
Mission 720: 366 B-24s are sent to hit the Dpag (178) and Rhenania (171) oil plants at Hamburg.(cloud cover limited accuracy, devastigation of Harburg city)
night of 30 Nov – 1 Dec 1944
diversionary raid
53 Mosquitos.
night of 11/12 December 1944
28 Mosquitos.
night of 27/28 December 1944
nuisance raid
7 Mosquitos hit Hamburg-Wandsbek and -Barmbek at 3 am.
31 December 1944
Blohm & Voss
Mission 772: 526 B-17s are dispatched to hit oil industry targets at Hamburg (68), the Wilhelmsburg refinery at Harburg (92), the Grassbrook refinery at Hamburg (71) and the industrial area at Hamburg (72).
night of 16/17 January 1945
diversionary nuisance raid
9 Mosquitos.
24 February 1945
Blohm & Voss
The 384 BG bombed the Hamburg submarine yards
24 February 1945
oil refineries
Mission 845: 362 B-17s are sent to hit the Albrecht (278) and Harburgmarker (70) oil refineries at Hamburg.
08/9 March 1945
Blohm & Voss
312 aircraft, including those of the No. 466 RAF Squadron, bombed Blohm and Voss to destroy the type XXI U-boats (cloud cover limited accuracy).
10 March 1945
Blohm & Voss
The No. 466 RAF Squadron bombed Blohm and Voss.
10 March 1945
The 447 BG bombed the Hamburg shipyard.
20 March 1945
Blohm & Voss
Mission 898: The Blohm & Voss U-boat yard was bombed.
20 March 1945
oil refinery
Mission 898: A Hamburg oil refinery was bombed.
20 March 1945
Mission 898: The Hamburg shipyard and dock area.
night of 21/22 March 1945
oil refinery (Erdölwerke)
159 aircraft put the refinery out of action for the rest of the war.
30 March 1945
oil depot
169 bombers attacked a Hamburg oil depot.
night of 30/31 March 1945
raid by 43 Mosquitos.
day of 31 March 1945
Blohm & Voss
469 aircraft to destroy the Type XXI U-boats under construction. Cloud cover prevented serious damage to the target, but there was considerable damage to houses, factories, energy supplies and communications over a wide area of southern Hamburg. 11 aircraft lost mainly to German day fighters.
night of 2/3 April 1945
nuisance raid
1 Mosquito.
8 April 1945
Hamburg shipyards bombed.
night of 8/9 April 1945
440 aircraft—partial cloud caused the raid to become dispersed. There was some damage to the yards by it was not clear whether the damage was American or British or both.
day of 9 April 1945
oil storage
57 Lancasters of No. 5 Group RAF attacked oil-storage tanks (40 aircraft) and U-boat shelters (17 aircraft of No. 617 "Dambuster" Squadron with Grand Slam and Tallboy bombs). Both attacks were successful. 2 Lancasters were lost from the raid on the oil tanks.
night of 9/10 April 1945
diversionary raid
24 Mosquitos.
The night of 13/14 April 1945
diversionary raid
87 Mosquitos.

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