Why the name?
For those of you unfamiliar with or have forgotten your Bible
was a city that was destroyed by fire and brimstone
Fair enough, what exactly was it?
Operation Gomorrah was the British response to Germany’s bombing of London during World War II. In July of 1943, they decided to start bombing Hamburg, Germany’s largest port and second largest city
What made it work?
The night phase of Gomorrah was dependent upon a couple of new toys in Britain’s arsenal of electronic gadgets. The first of these new toys was called H2S, somewhat of a play on the words “home, sweet home.” Well, this H2S was a radar scanning system that gave the bomber crews a sorta television-like image of the ground below. The second of these new toys was called “Window” and it’s purpose was to fool the Luftwaffe’s defensive radar network. For you see, “Window” was based on a phenomenon first noticed in 1937 by a British research scientist by the name of R.V. Jones. He discovered that a strip of aluminum foil drifting through the air would produce a blip on a radar screen and that about 2,000 of these babies, each of them a foot long and half an inch wide, would produce a blip very similar to that of a British heavy bomber. Ingenious and very simple I might add…
Who opened the Window?
It was none other than Winston Churchill
himself who made the decision to "open the Window" against Hamburg. Encouraged by the reports on the success of both Window and H2S, the bombing of Hamburg opened up on the night of July 24, 1943
. At around midnight, the RAF
bombers began crossing the enemy coast, along the way dropping bundles of aluminum foil- a staggering 92 million strips in all. The bombing team was made up of 740 bombers, but on the German radar screens there appeared to be many more. Reports from German radar controllers said that the British seemed to be "reproducing themselves." By jamming the Germans' radar sets, Window virtually paralyzed the city’s air defenses. Led by H2S-equipped Pathfinders
, the Brits bombed with impunity, dropping a payload of nearly 3,000 tons and losing just 12 planes. The following day, while the crews were sleeping back at their bases, another 68 Flying Fortress
es attacked the city’s shipyards and submarine
-building yards. The day after that, 53 Fortresses returned to level the city's main power plant
What was the result?
After taking a break for the day, on July 27, another 722 or so bombers returned to the city only to discover that the fires started by the previous days bombing had illuminated the city to such an extent that they barely needed the Pathfinders to mark the targets. It seems the previous raids had burst water mains and disrupted Hamburg’s civil defense system
to such an extent that they no longer had any capacity to fight the fires. The old fires now merged with new fires ignited by RAF incendiary bombs
. As the air heated, it rose and cool air rushed in to take its place. This process, repeated in hundreds of places in Hamburg during the night created winds of up to 150 miles per hour, the force of a hurricane
. The result was the War's first firestorm
. The Hamburg chief of police reported -"a fire typhoon
such as was never before witnessed,", "against which every human resistance was useless." The fire storm uprooted trees and flung cars into superheated air. Temperatures reached 1,800° F. and the winds set the asphalt streets on fire. They swept across bomb shelter
s and suffocated many who sought refuge there. It then incinerated their bodies.
So , what was the final tally?
After all was said and done, its estimated that about 50,000 people died and another 900, 000 were left homeless. Ten square miles of the city were reduced to ruin, including half of the cities buildings. When adding in such factors as the demoralization and fear now placed at the feet of the German citizenry, Operation Gomorrah was an unqualified success.