SHAEF HQ, Versailles, France · September 30, 1944

On this date in 1944 staff at Gen. Dwight D. Eisen­hower’s Supreme Head­quarters Allied Expe­di­tion­ary Force (SHAEF) esti­mated that since the start of the Nor­mandy landings on D-Day, June 6, 1944, one million Ger­man soldiers had been killed, cap­tured, or taken pri­soner by Allied armed forces. By the end of the war, the figure of Ger­man mili­tary dead stood at 5,533,000, with another 1,760,000 civil­ians dead. Some of the Ger­man civil­ian dead died in mas­sive Anglo-Ameri­can air raids. Two book­end events, one in Ham­burg in late July/­early August 1943 and the other in Dres­den in mid-Febru­ary 1945, killed some 65,000 peo­ple as fire­storms swept through civilian neighborhoods and military facilities.

By con­trast, U.S. war dead in all thea­ters totaled 416,800 out of 15 mil­lion men and 350,000 women who served in the armed forces. Britain and her Com­mon­wealth mem­bers suffered 575,000 dead. Italy suffered 301,400 mili­tary and 153,100 civil­ian deaths. Poland lost 160,000 ser­vice mem­bers and 5,440,000 civil­ians, a figure that in­cludes vic­tims of the Holo­caust. The war between China and Japan was the longest in the series of con­flicts that made up World War II (1937–1945), and China suffered more mili­tary deaths than any other nation apart from the Soviet Union: 3,000,000 to 4,000,000 Chi­nese ver­sus 8,800,000 to 10,700,000 Soviet nationals. Civil­ian deaths were many times higher for both coun­tries: 16,200,000 Chi­nese civil­ians died during the con­flict, while 12,400,000 Soviet civil­ians died. Japan suf­fered 2,120,000 mili­tary deaths and a mil­lion civil­ian deaths, mostly in U.S. attacks on Japa­nese popu­la­tion centers. In a March 9–10, 1945, air raid on Tokyo, 100,000 died mostly by a fire typhoon that engulfed 16 sq. miles of down­town Tokyo. Fewer civil­ians died in each of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima (70,000–80,000) and Nagasaki (40,000–75,000) in August 1945.

Esti­mated World War II mili­tary deaths by all par­ti­ci­pants range from 22,597,200 to 25,497,500 out of the 110 mil­lion who served their coun­try, while civil­ian deaths range from 34,664,600 to 46,909,600. On top of that huge figure are probably three times as many wounded and an untold number who were emotionally scarred by the loss of loved ones or by their own experi­ences; for example, as refugees in flight, as mili­tary or civil­ian internees in camps of one sort or another, or as slave laborers in factories and mines. The scope of human suffering was immense.

Firebombing Enemy Cities: Hamburg, Dresden, and Tokyo. Some Photos Are Disturbing

Hamburg’s Altstadt, 1947Hamburg victims of asphyxiation

Above: Hamburg’s Old Town and asphyxiated victims of Opera­tion Gomor­rah. The “second city of the Reich” was the tar­get of a human version of the wrath of God (as implied by the name of the opera­tion) on July 24–26, July 28, July 30, and August 3, 1943, when the Royal Air Force bombed by night and the U.S. Eighth Air Force bombed by day. A July 28 fire­storm that lasted three hours and created a 1,500‑foot-high vor­tex of super-heated air killed more than 40,000 persons in and around Ham­burg. Most people died of asphyx­i­ation while huddling in bomb shelters and basements or in the above-ground flames and melting asphalt of the streets. Gomor­rah killed 42,600 people and left 37,000 wounded. Fearing further hor­ren­dous air raids, approx­i­mately 1.2 mil­lion peo­ple, or two-thirds of Ham­burg’s popu­la­tion, fled the city in the after­math. The indus­trial losses were severe, and Hamburg never recovered to full production.

Collecting bombing victimsDresden funeral pyre

Above: Collecting victims and making a funeral pyre in Dres­den in the wake of four mid-Febru­ary 1945 Allied air raids. A city of 642,000 (1939) swelled by 300,000 refu­gees fleeing from fighting on the East­ern Front, Dres­den was the Third Reich’s seventh largest city. It was also home to 127 medium-to-large fac­tories and work­shops that sup­plied the Ger­man Army with matériel (per the Ger­man Wea­pons Office) and employed 50,000 workers. Some 1,249 RAF and USAAF bombers unloaded more than 3,900 tons of incen­diary and high-explo­sive bombs on the city’s cen­ter, causing a fire­storm that incin­erated 15 sq. miles and between 22,700 and 25,000 peo­ple. Tempera­tures in­side the city’s famous cathe­dral, the Frauen­kirche (Church of Our Lady), reached an estimated 1,832°F (1,000°C).

Tokyo in August or September 1945Victims of March 1945 Tokyo air raid

Above: Tokyo after the March 9–10, 1945 bombing. The Dante-esque raid by B-29 Super­for­tresses on a densely popu­lated area of 16 sq. miles proved the single-most destruc­tive bombing raid in history: 267,000 mostly wooden buildings were destroyed and an estimated 100,000 killed—the highest loss of life of any aerial bom­bard­ment of the war, including victims of Ham­burg (42,600), Ber­lin (20,000–50,000), Dres­den (25,000), Hiro­shima (70,000–80,000), and Naga­saki (40,000–75,000). Tokyo was sub­jected to over 18 bombings by four-engine B‑29 heavy bombers and many twin-engine bombers and carrier-based aircraft. By the end of the war most of Tokyo’s urban-indus­trial areas had been reduced to ashes and its industrial output reduced by half.

Hamburg Hammered, British Newsreel about Operation Gomorrah, July–August 1943