The anniversary of the Allied bombing of Dresden on February 13 and 14, 1945 has become an increasingly contentious memory for thousands of Germans. Historians have debated the military value of the old and crowded city, some saying it had little significance, with others pointing out that until the bombing it was still active with war production. What few doubt is that the war was already lost for Germany before the bombing of Dresden, and that the unconditional surrender demanded by President Roosevelt was inevitable in a few weeks no matter what.
What is even more certain is that the intractable decision of FDR to settle for nothing less than unconditional surrender by the Axis Powers cost tens of millions of lives, lengthened the war, and extended the reach of Soviet power dramatically. Such an outcome is what traitors deep within the U.S. government wanted. In Europe, the demand for unconditional surrender meant that the brave Germans who worked to end the evil of national socialism worked without hope. The Anglo-American nations threw back every overture from these anti-Nazi Germans, some of whom held positions of influence in the military and government (though not in the Nazi Party).
The impact upon other Axis Powers created a horrific muddle which prolonged the war. Italy, for example, was willing not only to quit the Axis but to actively enter the war on the side of the Allied Powers. If its overture had been cleanly and quietly accepted by the Allies, then the whole bloody battle up the Italian peninsula might have been avoided and German military units in Italy in 1943 could have been disarmed and interned.
Nations such as Finland, perversely listed on the Military Channel’s program on Nazi collaborators as a helper of Hitler, wanted simply the return of territory taken from it by Stalin, the most important “Nazi collaborator” in the world. Interestingly, the Military Channel is not including in the series this biggest collaborator – the Soviet Union – the facilitator of the division of Poland, the Marxist regime which turned over German Jews to the Gestapo, as the chilling personal accounts of Margarete Buber-Neumann demonstrate in her Under Two Dictators. Nations such as Hungary – which loathed Nazi anti-Semitism (Jews continued to serve in the Hungarian national legislature deep into the war) – likewise had no way out.
Strategic bombing, rather than negotiated surrenders, was not something that naturally appealed to Americans, most of whom wanted the concentration camps and death camps shut down as soon as possible. It is a horrific historical truth that half of those who died in those camps did so in the last six months of the war, long after most European Axis powers and a large percentage of the German army leaders saw that the war was lost.
Even if bombing had been the only way to defeat the Nazis, the immolation of Dresden was disastrously ineffective (however, in no way diminishing the courage and nobility of American airmen who fought and died in large numbers for their country). Two years before Dresden, in “Operation Gomorrah,” British night bombers and American daylight bombers pounded Hamburg around the clock until fire services were overwhelmed, streets quite literally melted, and Germans of all ages were sucked by hundred-mile-an-hour winds into firestorms which killed in a few nights as many as would die in Dresden.
What happened in Europe was mirrored in the Pacific. As Professor Anthony Kubek recounted in his magisterial work, How the Far East Was Lost: American Foreign Policy and the Creation of Communist China, 1941–1949 (Regnery: 1963), there need never have been a decision about whether to drop a fission bomb on Hiroshima or later on Nagasaki. Most historians say the decision to bomb Japanese cities was the natural consequence of Japanese imperialism, which made them unwilling to surrender under any conceivable circumstances; additionally, they assert that factored into the decision was the number of American soldiers who would likely die in the initial assault on the Home Islands of Japan.