Bombing of Mannheim in World War II
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As part of Operation Abigail Rachel, the "first deliberate terror raid" of World War II took place on 16 December. Although of poor effect, the raiders dropped one hundred tonnes of explosives and 14,000 incendiaries on Mannheim.
The British government had developed plans for the large-scale area bombing of cities from the summer of 1940, but waited for an opportunity to present itself. That came after the German raid on Coventry. The new bombing policy, officially as a reprisal for Coventry and Southampton, was ordered by Winston Churchill on 1 December and explained in the War Cabinet on 12 December. Operation Abigail was approved on the 13th, on condition that it receive no publicity and be considered an experiment. The "air-crews, rightly, regarded it as a terror raid". Incendiaries dropped by eight bombers to mark the target missed the city center, and most of the 100 or so aircraft (of 134 dispatched) that did drop bombs missed the city center. German casualties were 34 dead and 81 injured. The lessons learned from the large dispersal of bombs over Mannheim led to the development of the "bomber stream", which entailed the maximum amount of bombs over the shortest time and area. Despite the lack of decisive success, approval was granted for further similar raids.
This was the start of a British drift away from precision attacks on military targets and towards area bombing attacks on whole cities.
The largest raid on Mannheim was on 5 and 6 September 1943. A large part of the city was destroyed. In 1944, raids destroyed Mannheim Palace, leaving only one room undamaged out of over 500. On 2 March 1945 the RAF launched a 300-bomber attack, causing a devastating firestorm. 25,181 tons of bombs fell throughout the war.
- Boog, pp 507, 508
- "Royal Air Force Bomber Command Campaign Diary 1940". DeltaWeb International. April 6, 2005.
- Boog, p 509
- Boog, Stumpf and Rahn (editors) Germany and the Second World War: Volume VI: The Global War Oxford University press, 2001, ISBN 0-19-822888-0
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