Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin
Shortly past 11 AM on February 3rd, 1945 the 937 bombers of the 8th USA-Airforce – the 1st and 3rd divisions – drop 2,264 tonnes of explosives on Berlin. They reach the city protected by additional 575 US P51-Mustang planes. The main focus of the attack supervised by the experienced Jewish-American pilot, USAAF Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Rosenthal of the 100th Bombardment Group is the very heart of Hitler´s capital.
In only 50 minutes the city centre with all main government buildings and everything around them ceases to exist: the historic district of Luisenstadt with its old churches and multiple medium-sized factories, the regime buildings around Wilhelmstrasse, Unter den Linden, Leipzigerstrasse are almost entirely gone. 2,894 people die, more than 12,000 are wounded. 120,000 are left homeless – “dehoused” – within the burning winter streets.
Gone are Belle-Alliance-Platz, Blücherplatz, Moritzplatz, the whole of Ritterstrasse, parts of Oranienstrasse, the old Plan Ufer (it ran along the Landwehrkanal from Blücherplatz to Kottbusser Damm). Hundreds of houses are turned into rubble and ashes. The Kreuzberg as it was is gone for good.
The photo below shows the original photo map that USAAF were using on that day. With the damage zones marked clearly. The oval object is Tempelhofer Flugfeld, the old central airport of Berlin. The black lines indicate the areas destined to be hit by HE bursts – High Explosive missiles. The “clouds” mark the spots hit by IBs – incendiary bombs – that would cause 4-day-long fires spreading throughout southern Friedrichstadt and Luisenstadt, driven by the western wind.