Operation Gomorrah begins: Hamburg is bombed (July 24, 1943) - History Key

Operation Gomorrah begins: Hamburg is bombed (July 24, 1943)

This day in history July 24, marks the first day of the Operation Gomorrah. The code name was given by the Allies and it was a military operation carried out by the Allied forces (USA, Canada and Great Britain). The end of the operation resulted with 45,000 civilian deaths, 35,000 wounded and the destruction of almost the entire city.

Inspiration from the Bible

The Operation Gomorrah was planned in order to trigger a devastating fire, which is why it was named Gomorrah:

“Then the Lord rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the Lord out of the heavens.” – Genesis 19:24

The catastrophic fires (which were actually greater that the fires from Nagasaki) triggered “storms of fire”. Most of us know that only the Axis powers were “savages” and cruel to their enemies, but some historians sustain that also the Allies were evil. For example, according to the Operation Gomorrah, the bombings took place between July 24 and August 3, 1943. It aimed killing a large number of civilians and destroying the city of Hamburg in order to take over one of the largest ports from Europe.

Lancaster over Hamburg, Germany
Lancaster over Hamburg, Germany © user:Ian Dunster /Image Source: Wikipedia

Kill ’Em All

Since 1942, the British have abandoned the idea of “precision bombardment” and embraced the following strategy:

“If you can’t hit the factories, hit the workers!”

The carpet-bombing of Hamburg
The carpet-bombing of Hamburg © Image Source: spectator.co.uk


Under the tactical plan of action, the RAF (Royal Air Force) executed air raids during the night and the US Air Force executed air raids during the day. Together they “dropped” 2,300 tons of explosives on July 24, 1943.

Most of the bombs triggered fires. Therefore, the replacement of explosive bombs with incendiary incidents prevented the rapid intervention of fire-fighters. However, the bombing lasted for 3 days. The Germans reacted only on July 26 causing significant losses for the US Air Force.

Despite this, the Americans accomplished their mission and interrupted the city’s power supply. Therefore the British now have a very easy job to do: to continue the bombing until the city is ruined. Some sustain that temperatures reached 815°C in certain areas.

Typical bomb damage in the Eilbek district of Hamburg, 1944 or 1945
Typical bomb damage in the Eilbek district of Hamburg, 1944 or 1945 © Dowd J (Fg Off), Royal Air Force/Image Source: Wikipedia


The night bombs were interrupted until August 3 when the city’s infrastructure was completely destroyed. The results?

      80,000 explosive bombs and 80,000 incendiary bombs were dropped by the Allies;

      5,000 boxes of phosphorus;

      Almost 8,000 tons of bombs were launched

      277,330 homes were destroyed (753,000 people lost their homes), 763 factories and industrial plants were destroyed

Here’s how the Allies presented the situation:

Here is how the Axis presented the situation:

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