February 14, 1945 Firestorm

Today in History

The most destructive war in history entered its final, apocalyptic phase in January 1945, with another four months of hard fighting yet remaining before Allied forces could declare victory in Europe. In the west, the “Battle of the Bulge” was ended, the last great effort of German armed forces spent and driven back beyond original lines. In the east, the once mighty German military contracted in on itself, in the face of a massive Soviet advance.

destroyed-german-equipment-znoymo-czechoslovakia-1945-may German military equipment lies broken in Czechoslovakia, 1945

Dozens of German divisions hurried east to meet the threat. Allied intelligence believed the war could be over in April, if the major cities to the east were destroyed. Dresden. Leipzig. Chemnitz. Letting these places stand to serve as bases for retreating German forces, could drag the war out until November.

Sir Charles Portal, British Chief of the Air Staff, put the problem succinctly: “We…

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