World War II Day by Day World War II was the single most devastating and horrific event in the history of the world, causing the death of some 70 million people, reshaping the political map of the twentieth century and ushering in a new era of world history. Every day The Daily Chronicles brings you a new story from the annals of World War II with a vision to preserve the memory of those who suffered in the greatest military conflict the world has ever seen.


SHAEF HQ, Reims, France February 21, 1945

On this date in 1945 U.S. fighter-bombers attacked the Berg­hof, Adolf Hitler’s Alpine retreat on the Ober­salz­berg near Berchtes­gaden on the Bava­rian-Aus­trian bor­der. The Berg­hof, bought and devel­oped with proceeds from the sale of Hitler’s crack­pot poli­ti­cal testi­mony, Mein Kampf (My Struggle), served as an out­post of the chan­cel­lery in Berlin. That made it an obvi­ous target, not­with­standing that the Fuehrer him­self had vacated his lux­u­rious pre­mises for the last time on July 14, 1944, choosing to live in a suc­ces­sion of spartan bunkers as his Thou­sand Year Reich collapsed on top of him. In Hitler’s absence camou­flage nets now hung over the Berg­hof’s colossal 344‑square‑foot pano­ramic window, and the huge villa itself was pro­tected by a giant arti­fi­cial fog device that dis­charged a white gas that threw an opaque veil over the moun­tain side. By the time Amer­i­can soldiers managed to set foot in the aban­doned Alpine redoubt in May 1945, it had been gutted by inces­sant aerial bombardment and torched in a fire set by SS guards.

Further north on this date, in a less sym­bolic move, more than 1,200 U.S. bombers returned to the skies over Nurem­berg for the second time in two days. The medi­e­val city on the northern edge of the Bavar­ian Alps was an im­por­tant air­craft, sub­marine, and tank en­gine manu­fac­turing site and, from 1943 on­ward, was severely pum­meled in Allied stra­te­gic bombing raids. Just the month before, on Janu­ary 2, 1945, the RAF had sys­tem­at­ically bombed Nurem­berg. With­in an hour 90 per­cent of the city cen­ter was destroyed, dis­placing roughly 100,000 resi­dents, wounding 5,000, and leaving 1,800 dead. In the Febru­ary 20–21 raids, over 1,300 more residents were killed and a further 70,000 rendered homeless.

The next next day, February 23, 1945, and the day after that the Allies launched Opera­tion Cla­rion, a mas­sive day­time bombing attack by 10,000 air­craft based in Britain, Italy, France, Holland, and Belgium to cut trans­por­tation lines in Central Germany and para­lyze the enemy’s capa­bility to con­tinue the war. The Allies’ over­all sense was that Nazi Ger­many was on the ropes, and this only made the appa­rent vic­tors more ruth­less in their resolve to utterly destroy Hitler’s war machine and finish off his regime. The hellish fire­bombing of Dresden a week ear­lier, the fire­bombing of Pforz­heim near Stutt­gart two days after Nurem­berg, which killed a quarter of that city’s 79,000 in­habi­tants, and a raid on the Nazi capital itself in broad day­light that killed 3,000 Ber­liners and left 100,000 home­less were making clear the price of on­going resistance to the inevitable capitulation of Germany.

Unbelievably, the fanatical determination of the Third Reich’s leaders to hang in there as the coun­try’s mili­tary situ­a­tion grew progres­sively more hope­less played out in sur­real scenes as ordi­nary Ger­mans tried to main­tain a sem­blance of normal­cy: on April 12, 1945, the Berlin Phil­har­monic per­formed a con­cert, filmed by crews from Joseph Goebbels’ pro­pa­ganda minis­try, less than three weeks before Hitler’s and Goebbels’ suicides and the uncon­di­tional German surrender by Hitler’s suc­cessor, Reich President and Grand Admiral Karl Doenitz, on May 7 and 8, 1945.

Nuremberg Before and After the War

Nuremberg’s Altstadt at end 19th century Nuremberg bombing: Nuremberg in ruins, St. Lorenz Church in distance, 1945

Left: View of Nuremberg’s Altstadt (Old Town) at the end of the 19th century. In the middle ground is the twin-spired St. Lorenz Church (Lorenz­kirche). During the 1930s Nurem­berg earned the nick­name “City of the Party Rallies” (“Stadt der Reichs­partei­tage”), for it was here that the Nazis held their annual party extrav­a­gan­zas cele­brating the achieve­ments of National Socialism. The city was also home to over 120 arma­ment firms. From Septem­ber 1942 on, the U.S. Army Air Forces employed a team of civil­ian econo­mists to assist with tar­get selec­tion that aligned with mili­tary and politi­cal aims of the war. The goal of the Enemy Objec­tives Unit was straight­forward: maxi­mize the effi­ciency and effec­tive­ness of U.S. air power to produce the greatest effects on Germany’s war economy.

Right: Nuremberg in the summer of 1945. In the distance, St. Lorenz Church. The city, parti­cu­larly the Altstadt with its narrow, crooked streets, had a large pro­por­tion of half-tim­bered houses with high wood con­tent, making the close-in buildings highly com­bus­tible and attrac­tive to an air attack by Allied bombers using a com­bi­na­tion of high explo­sives and incen­di­ary bombs. Because cloud cover over the target on Febru­ary 20–21, 1945, prevented pre­ci­sion bombing of mili­tary tar­gets, the bom­bardiers dropped their bombs blind over the whole of Nuremberg, rendering 70,000 residents homeless.

Nuremberg bombing: Nurembergin ruins, St. Mary’s Church in distance, 1945 Nuremberg Altstadt after restoration, 1969

Left: Nuremberg in the summer of 1945. In the dis­tance is St. Mary’s Church (Frau­en­kirche). Behind the de­stroyed buildings is the Haupt­markt, the main mar­ket. After Cologne, Dort­mund, and Kassel, Nurem­berg had the largest amount of rubble per capita: half of all resi­dences in the city were destroyed and those that remained for the population of 195,000 were mostly damaged.

Right: View of Nuremberg’s Altstadt in 1969 after its restoration.

Operation Clarion: Largest, Most-Expansive Air Assault of the War on Germany’s Transportation Network