Bombing of Stuttgart in World War II

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The bombing of Stuttgart in World War II was a series of 53 air raids that formed part of the strategic air offensive of the Allies against Germany. The first bombing (by 20 aircraft of the Royal Air Force) occurred on August 25, 1940, and resulted in the destruction of 17 buildings. The city was repeatedly attacked over the next four and one-half years by both the RAF and the 8th Air Force as it had a significant industrial infrastructure (including the Daimler and Porsche automotive factories) and several military bases, and was also a center of rail transportation in southwestern Germany. Stuttgart endured 18 large-scale attacks by the Royal Air Force (RAF) during the war (the first and last of which were on 5 March 1942 and 13 February 1945 respectively),[1] during which 21,016 long tons (21,353 t) of bombs were dropped on the city,[2] but the RAF concluded that its attacks against Stuttgart were not as effective as they could have been:[3]

Stuttgart's experience was not as severe as other German cities. Its location, spread out in a series of deep valleys, had consistently frustrated the Pathfinders and the shelters dug into the sides of the surrounding hills had saved many lives.

Background[edit]

Even before World War II, in 1916, Stuttgart had been a potential target for air raids because of its short distance from the Western Front of the First World War.[4] In the next two years, the city would be attacked by Allied aviators on several occasions throughout 1917 and 1918, the Daimler plant in Stuttgart being of special interest to them.[5][6][7] When the Royal Air Force's Bomber Command began its strategic bombing command during the Second World War, it initially targeted airstrips in Norway and France and U-Boat pens in northern France, but soon added civilian targets, such as Stuttgart, to its target list in March 1940.[8] As early as May of that year, the RAF attempts to bomb targets in Württemberg, of which there were two among the mostly rural region: Stuttgart and Friedrichshafen. Nicknamed the "German Coventry," Stuttgart was an important rail hub and a center of industry, home to the Bosch, Daimler-Benz, and the SKF ball bearings factories. However, actually reaching these targets was difficult because of their great distance from Britain and because of Württemberg's topography of hills and valleys, which befouled the accuracy of British bomb crews. The workaround was to attack in force, starting in 1942-43, but these raids sometimes struck false targets and were costly in life and material.[9]

On 14 February 1942, the Royal Air Force lifted all constraints from Bomber Command, and Stuttgart was on Bomber Command's list of "Alternative Industrial Areas" with Frankfurt, Schweinfurt, and Kiel.[10]

Stuttgart's defenses[edit]

Preparations to protect Stuttgart's citizens from British air raids, though they were downplayed, were made in September 1939 with the establishment of twenty first aid stations. The 31 May 1940 issue of the local Nazi Party newspaper NS-Kurier boasted that the Reichsluftschutzbund had taken advantage of Stuttgart's "natural physical conditions," and that no civilian fatalities were expected. In the first air raid on the city of the war on the night of 25 August 1940, four were killed and five injured, but the city weathered its next raids without any fatalities, and the city was deemed safe enough to receive evacuees from cities already ravaged by British bombings such as Hamburg, Essen, and Düsseldorf.[11]

Stuttgart was defended at the outset of the war by a single Group of I./Jagdgeschwader 52 based at Böblingen.[12]

By 1944, Stuttgart was defended by 11 heavy (88 mm) and 38 light (20 mm to 40 mm) anti-aircraft gun batteries.[13] There was also a Luftwaffe fighter base south of the city at Echterdingen. The landmark Observation Tower Burgholzhof was used by anti-aircraft spotters during raids.[14] The Pragstattel Flakturm stands just north of central Stuttgart along a busy highway, decorated with signage,[15] and the bullet-shaped Winkel Towers built around the city also remain.[16]

Raids[edit]

World War II RAF photograph of the devastated Stuttgart city center.

On the night of 4–5 March 1942, Stuttgart endured its first large-scale attack, as 121 RAF bombers conducted a strategic bombing of the city to destroy the Bosch factory, which produced components for the Luftwaffe. Extremely dense cloud coverage of the city foiled the raid, and the flotilla's bombs were scattered over the city, though a decoy site at Lauffen am Neckar was hit. Not a single bomb struck the Bosch factory but 13 civilians were killed and 37 more were injured. One Stirling was lost.[17] The next night, another 77 bombers marshaled against Stuttgart but again were troubled by poor visibility, as the city was obscured by haze. The closest bombs came was the Kraherwald to the west of the city, and three Wellingtons and another Stirling were lost.[18] Another raid was launched on the night of 6–7 March containing 97 aircraft, but the crews again couldn't identify Stuttgart and instead attacked the Lauffen decoy, which may have led the flotilla to Heilbronn, 20 miles (32 km) away, where seven civilians were killed and more than 150 buildings were destroyed.[19]

On the night of 22–23 November 1942, 222 bombers made for Stuttgart, but the city was obscured by clouds and the Pathfinders could not identify the city center. The southern districts of the city, namely Rohr, in Vaihingen, Plieningen, and Möhringen were heavily bombed; 88 houses were destroyed and another 334 severely damaged, and 28 people were killed and another 71 injured.[20] In total, thirty tonnes of bombs had been dropped on the city.[21]

Several months later on 11 March 1943, a massive fleet of 314 RAF bombers arrived at Stuttgart. Pathfinder units claimed to have spotted the city, but most of the bombs dropped that night fell in open country and on dummy Pathfinder indicators, the first use thereof by the Germans, but still 112 died and 386 were injured when Vaihingen and Kaltental were hit, resulting in the destruction of 118 houses. Six Halifaxes, three Stirlings, and two Lancasters, 3.5% of the total force, were lost during the operation.[22] The next month, 462 bombers marshaled against Stuttgart and again the Pathfinders claimed to have accurately identified Stuttgart, but the actual bombardment occurred to the northeast of the city. This mission proved a costly failure, as eight Stirlings and Wellingtons, four Halifaxes, and three Lancasters were lost.[23] That October, the RAF changed gears and sent a force of 343 Lancasters for a nighttime attack equipped with the 101st Squadron equipped with the "Airborne Cigar" jamming device and supplemented with several diversionary flights, all together ensuring that only four Luftwaffe night fighters made their way to Stuttgart by the end of the raid. For a loss of only four Lancasters,[24] the raid was a massive success, killing 104 civilians and injuring 300 more. A further 31 deaths and 156 injuries were sustained the next month on 26 November 1943,[25] as a diversionary force of 178 bombers conducted a scattered raid on Stuttgart to draw night fighters away from Berlin for a cost of six Halifaxes lost to the Luftwaffe.[26]

1956 photo of the New Palace, destroyed during the war.

On the morning of 6 September 1943, 388 B-17 Flying Fortresses gathered over southern England and the English Channel, bound for Stuttgart to destroy its industrial sector, where American intelligence in 1943 estimated 90% of Germany's magnetos and fuel injection nozzles were being produced.[27] A fifth of this flotilla aborted because of the weather or mechanical failure, leaving the remainder of the formation to carry on into France,[28] where it began splitting into different diversionary flights to draw away the staffeln from Jagdgeschwader 2.[29] This was the first daylight attack on Stuttgart, the United States Army Air Force's first attack on Stuttgart, and the eleventh raid on the city.[11]

As the bombers flew over Cambrai, a number of Lufftwaffe fighters attacked the formation and exchanged blows with its escorting P-47 Thunderbolts before ceasing their action at 8:44 AM. At this time, the escorting P-47s signaled that they were running low on fuel and had to return to base, meaning that the bombers would be on their own until they returned to current Allied fighter range.[30] After a short period of calm,[31] Luftwaffe fighter aircraft of every make and unit (even some Ju 87 Stuka dive bombers) descended upon the force,[32] inflicting high casualties for some losses.[33] These attacks abruptly ceased when the bomber flotilla arrived over Stuttgart, where the city's anti-air Flak cannons began to open fire on the bombers.[34] Unfortunately for the Americans, the Stratus clouds covering the city that day were impossible for the men operating their respective Norden bombsights to spot through,[35] forcing the various bomber groups, under the command of Brigadier General Robert F. Travis, to circle over the city three times with their bomb bay doors open, slowly using up fuel and being subjected to the German anti-aircraft guns.[36] Before the fourth run, the 96th and 388th Bomb Groups began leaving to attack the secondary objective of Strasburg, but again failed to spot it and instead deposited their bombs into the Black Forest.[37] Moments later, Luftwaffe fighters returned to engage the bombers,[38] and would continue to harry them until they returned to fighter range. 45 bombers were lost during the mission, and the American doctrine of daylight precision bombing would die after the second raid on Schweinfurt later that year.[39] In Stuttgart, 108 had been killed and 165 injured.[11]

Out of 21 crews from the 388th crew to embark on the mission, dubbed by the unit as "Black Monday," 13 returned.[40]

On 3 November 1943, Arthur Harris listed Stuttgart among 19 cities he claimed had been "seriously damaged" in a report of Bomber Command's activities to Prime Minister Winston Churchill.[41]

1944[edit]

The most devastating year of the war for Stuttgart opened with a massive British attack against the city made up of 598 bombers, losing only seven Lancasters and a single Halifax thanks to two diversion flights over the North Sea and to Munich.[42] Over the next two nights, a total of 27 Mosquito night fighters made flights to Stuttgart.[43]

552 aircraft struck the city on 21 February 1944, and this attack was followed by a raid of 557 aircraft on 2 March. Stuttgart was heavily attacked by the RAF raid of March 15, 1944, in which 863 bombers dropped 3,000 tons of bombs.[44] About 100 aircraft bombed the city on July 16, 1944. Subsequently, the Allied air forces struck Stuttgart four times between 25–29 July, dropping some 73,000 bombs on the city. On September 5, 10, and 12, the city was attacked by raids of over 200 aircraft. The September 12 raid resulted in a firestorm that caused extensive damage and 957 deaths. During the night of October 19–20, 1944, the city was bombed by 583 aircraft. This was followed on 5 November by two raids that totaled 165 bombers. The raid of 1944 was with 350 aircraft against eastern Stuttgart on 9 December.

On 25 February 1944, in the final mission of the Big Week, 268 B-17 Flying Fortresses were launched to attack Augsburg and Stuttgart, and 50 bombers of that formation struck Stuttgart.[45]

Legacy[edit]

A drawn map of the ruins of Stuttgart's city center
A sketch of the destruction in the city center by Walter Kittel, dated 1950.

In totality, 53 air raids were launched against Stuttgart by the United States Army Air Force and the Royal Air Force. The latter conducted carpet bombing of civilian targets in Stuttgart according to the Area bombing directive of 14 February 1942.[46] 4562 German citizens were killed,[47][a] as were 770 foreigners, most of whom were forced laborers. An estimated 300 aircraft and 2400 Allied personnel were lost.[citation needed] 68% of Stuttgart's center was destroyed.[48]

A total of 27,000 tons of bombs fell on Stuttgart; 20,000 high explosive bombs and 1.3 million incendiary devices.[49] An estimated 12000 bombs remain undetonated in the city limits. On 4 June 2014, a residential area near Degerloch and Sillenbuch, was evacuated so that police could disarm two 250 kg (550 lb) bombs.[47]

The 15,000,000 cubic meters (530,000,000 cu ft) cubic meters of rubble leftover from the war was gathered on the Birkenkopf from 1953 to 1957 to form a Schuttberg.[50] On 9 August 2018, a monument to two teenage Flakhelfer was unveiled at the cemetery in Degerloch, a municipality of Stuttgart.[51]

Canadanian painter Carl Schaefer, then a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force as a war artist, depicted No. 6 Squadron RAF as it prepared to leave to bomb Stuttgart on 7 October 1943. Schaefer used the date in the watercolor painting Marshalling Lancasters Against Stuttgart, 7 October 1943, though he most likely finished the piece later. This piece would become one of five of his works to be put on public exhibition.[52]

Bombing of Stuttgart during World War II[25]
# Date and time Area(s) damaged Casualties Force
1 25 August 1940
00:16–01:24
Gaisburg, Stuttgart-East; Untertürkheim Four killed, five injured. Est. 20 planes
2 8 November 1940
21:16–24:00
Stuttgart-Center None killed, three injured Est. 20 planes
3 10 February 1941
00:28–01:43
Castle Solitude No casualties One plane
4 5 May 1942[b]
00:33–02:43
Zuffenhausen; Bad Cannstatt 13 killed, 37 injured 121 planes:[17] 69 Wellingtons, 19 Hampdens, 14 Lancasters, 12 Stirlings, 7 Halifaxes
5 6 May 1942
01:51–01:53
Kräherwald No casualties 77 planes:[18] 49 Wellingtons, 13 Stirlings, 11 Halifaxes, 4 Lancasters
6 29 August 1942
01:45
Dinkelacker brewery, Stuttgart-South No casualties One plane
7 22 November 1942
21:30–22:45
Rohr, Vaihingen; Möhringen; Plieningen[20] 28 killed, 71 injured 222 planes:[20] 97 Lancasters, 59 Wellingtons, 39 Halifaxes, 27 Stirlings.
8 11 March 1943
22:46–23:50
Vaihingen; Kaltental, Stuttgart-South 112 killed, 386 injured[22] 314 planes:[22] 152 Lancasters, 109 Halifaxes, 53 Stirlings.
9 15 April 1943
00:42–01:52
Bad Cannstatt; Münster; Mühlhausen 619 killed, 705 injured; 400 prisoners of war killed in Gaisburg 462 planes:[23] 146 Wellingtons, 135 Halifaxes, 98 Lancasters, 83 Stirlings.
10 17 April 1943
01:10
Stuttgart-West One killed, 58 injured One plane
11[c] 6 September 1943
10:44–11:10
Stuttgart-West; Stuttgart-South 108 killed, 165 injured Est. 150 planes
12 8 October 1943
00:02–00:53
Karlshöhe, Stuttgart-South 104 killed, 300 injured 343 planes:[24] All Lancasters
13 26 November 1943
20:25–21:12
Bad Cannstatt; Untertürkheim; Daimler plant 31 killed, 156 injured 178 planes:[26] 157 Halifaxes, 21 Lancasters.
14 21 February 1944
03:57–05:09
Bad Cannstatt; Feuerbach 160 killed, 977 injured 598 planes:[42] 460 Lancasters, 126 Halifaxes, 12 Mosquitoes.
15 25 February 1944
14:25–15:00
Industrial area; Feuerbach; Bad Cannstatt; 10 killed, 56 injured 17 planes:[53] 17 Mosquitoes
16 2 March 1944
02:51–04:01
Bad Cannstatt; the New Palace 125 killed, 510 injured 557 planes:[54] 415 Lancasters, 129 Halifaxes, 13 Mosquitoes
17 15 March 1944
23:10–00:13
Vaihingen, Möhringen 86 killed, 203 injured 863 planes:[55] 617 Lancasters, 230 Halifaxes, 16 Mosquitoes
18 28 April 1944
01:50–02:20
Stuttgart-Center; Feuerbach; Bad Cannstatt None killed, 9 injured 13 planes
19 16 July 1944
10:09–10:25
Bad Cannstatt; Winterhalde 42 killed, 94 injured Est. 100 planes
20 21 July 1944
11:04–11:12
Zuffenhausen 31 killed, 29 injured 25 planes
21 25 July 1944
01:35–02:10
Stuttgart-Center No casualties 614 planes
22 26 July 1944
01:38–02:35
Stuttgart-Center No casualties 550 planes
23 28 July 1944
01:22–01:50
Surrounding area; Stuttgart-North 898 killed, 1916 injured, 14 missing[47] 27 planes
24 29 July 1944
01:48–02:30
Feuerbach; Botnang; Ostheim and Gablenberg, Stuttgart-East No casualties 496 planes
25 5 September 1944
11:15–11:54
Untertürkheim; Wangen 37 killed, 70 injured Est. 200 planes
26 10 September 1944
11:21–11:40
Zuffenhausen; Feuerbach; Stammheim 28 killed, 113 injured Est. 200 planes
27 12 September 1944
22:59–23:30
Stuttgart-West 957 killed, 1600 injured 211 planes
28 3 October 1944
22:01
Weilimdorf No casualties One plane
29 14 October 1944
04:35–04:56
Zuffenhausen Two killed, 40 injured Est. three planes
30 19 October 1944
20:25–21:10
Bad Cannstatt; Feuerbach; Gaisburg No casualties Unknown
31 19 October 1944[d]
00:55–01:38
Bad Cannstatt; Feuerbach; Gaisburg 338 killed, 872 injured 583 planes
32 5 November 1944
20:00–20:30
Bad Cannstatt; Münster 24 killed 46 injured 132 planes
33 5 November 1944
23:32–23:48
Bad Cannstatt; Münster See last entry See last entry
34 21 November 1944
19:10–19:16
Stuttgart-South One killed, one injured Est. 25 planes
35 26 November 1944
01:57–02:00
Bad Cannstatt None killed, 10 injured Two planes
36 4 December 1944
14:48
Hofen, Mühlhausen One killed, two injured One plane
37 9 December 1944
12:25–13:15
Bad Cannstatt 24 killed, 55 injured Est. 350 planes
38 11 December 1944
11:51–11:52
Untertürkheim Three killed, 11 injured Four planes
39 7 January 1945
21:49
Feuerbach No casualties Unknown
40 20 January 1945
11:50–12:05
Bad Cannstatt One killed, 12 injured Est. 30 planes
41 21 January 1945
12:58–13:00
Münster; Hofen No casualties 12 planes
42 28 January 1945
20:35–20:54
Feuerbach; Weilimdorf; Botnang No casualties 186 planes
43 28 January 1945
23:30–23:48
Feuerbach; Weilimdorf; Botnang 123 killed, 78 injured 376 planes
44 1 February 1945
19:47
Bad Cannstatt None killed, 13 killed One plane
45 12 February 1945
19:30–19:46
Bad Cannstatt 68 killed, 139 injured Est. 30 planes
46 3 March 1945
14:32–14:42
Stuttgart-North One killed, One injured Est. Eight planes
47 4 March 1945
10:20–10:28
Bad Cannstatt; Stuttgart-West 50 killed, 135 injured Est. 40 planes
48 9 March 1945
15:02–15:03
Bad Cannstatt None killed, four injured Est. 150 planes
49 12 March 1945
21:02
Feuerbach Six killed, 11 injured One plane
50 25 March 1945
07:55
Weilimdorf No casualties Two planes
51 25 March 1945
13:35–13:37
Stammheim; Zuffenhausen None killed, our injured Eight planes
52 1 April 1945
07:17–09:45
Weilimdorf Two killed, 16 injured Eight planes
53 19 April 1945
22:12
Stuttgart-North One killed, seven injured One plane

Notes[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Jörg Friedrich specifies in The Fire that 4,477 of those citizens were residents of the city of Stuttgart.[48]
  2. ^ 5 May 1942 was the first large-scale air raid launched against Stuttgart.[17]
  3. ^ This was the United States Army Air Force's first day-time attack on Stuttgart.[25]
  4. ^ 19 October 1944 was the first double attack on Stuttgart.[25]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ Hastings 2013, p. 332.
  2. ^ Flightglobal, 9 August 1945.
  3. ^ Bomber Command Campaign Diary, January 1945, 28/29 January 1945.
  4. ^ The New York Times, 27 September 1916.
  5. ^ The New York Times, 1 October 1917.
  6. ^ The New York Times, 10 March 1918.
  7. ^ The New York Times, 15 September 1918.
  8. ^ Bomber Command Diary, January–April 1941.
  9. ^ Stephenson 2006, pp. 156-57.
  10. ^ Hastings 2013, p. 95.
  11. ^ a b c Stephenson 2006, p. 158.
  12. ^ Caldwell & Muller 2014, p. 29.
  13. ^ Schutzbauten Stuttgart, Flakstellungen.
  14. ^ "Der Burgholzhofturn" (in German). City of Stuttgart. Retrieved 10 May 2018.
  15. ^ Stuttgarter Nachrichten, 23 January 2018.
  16. ^ "Stuttgart Winkel Tower". atlasobscura.com. Atlas Obscura. Retrieved 10 May 2018.
  17. ^ a b c Bomber Command Campaign Diary, May 1942, 4/5 May 1942.
  18. ^ a b Bomber Command Campaign Diary, May 1942, 5/6 May 1942.
  19. ^ Bomber Command Campaign Diary, May 1942, 6/7 May 1942.
  20. ^ a b c Bomber Command Campaign Diary, November 1942, 22/23 November 1942.
  21. ^ Flightglobal, 3 December 1942.
  22. ^ a b c Bomber Command Campaign Diary, March 1943, 11/12 March 1943.
  23. ^ a b Bomber Command Campaign Diary, April 1943, 14/15 April 1943.
  24. ^ a b Bomber Command Campaign Diary, October 1943, 7/8 October 1943.
  25. ^ a b c d Schutzbauten Stuttgart, Luftangriffe.
  26. ^ a b Bomber Command Campaign Diary, October 1943, 26/27 November 1943.
  27. ^ Mrazek 2011, pp. 83-84, 114, 116.
  28. ^ Astor 2015, p. 163.
  29. ^ Mrazek 2011, pp. 92-98.
  30. ^ Mrazek 2011, p. 102.
  31. ^ Mrazek 2011, pp. 102-03.
  32. ^ Mrazek 2011, p. 103.
  33. ^ Mrazek 2011, pp. 103-108.
  34. ^ Mrazek 2011, p. 109.
  35. ^ Mrazek 2011, pp. 110-111, 115-117.
  36. ^ Mrazek 2011, pp. 110-112, 116-120.
  37. ^ Mrazek 2011, p. 126.
  38. ^ Mrazek 2011, p. 127.
  39. ^ Mrazek 2011, p. 240.
  40. ^ "Missions". 38bg.info. 388th Bomb Group.
  41. ^ Hastings 2013, p. 184.
  42. ^ a b Bomber Command Campaign Diary, February 1944, 20/21 February 1944.
  43. ^ Bomber Command Campaign Diary, February 1944, 21/22 February, 22/23 February 1944.
  44. ^ Page on RAF raids.
  45. ^ 8th Air Force Historical Society, January 1944–June 1944, Friday, 25 February 1944.
  46. ^ Friedrich 2008, pp. 70, 293.
  47. ^ a b c Stuttgarter Nachrichten, 25 July 2014.
  48. ^ a b Friedrich 2008, p. 293.
  49. ^ Friedrich 2008, p. 343.
  50. ^ Region Stuttgart, Birkenkopf.
  51. ^ Stuttgarter Nachrichten, 8 August 2018.
  52. ^ Coles 2011, pp. 10, 23.
  53. ^ Bomber Command Campaign Diary, February 1944, 21/22 February 1944.
  54. ^ Bomber Command Campaign Diary, March 1944, 1/2 March 1944.
  55. ^ Bomber Command Campaign Diary, March 1944, 15/16 March 1944.

References[edit]

Books
News sources

The New York Times'

Stuttgarter Nachrichten (in German)

Online references[edit]

The National Archives

Flightglobal archives

City of Stuttgart

Schtuzbauten Stuttgart (in German)