On March 4th, 1944, the U.S. Eighth Air Force would launch its first bombing raid on Berlin soil. After the initial attack, American pilots would join the Royal Air Force’s Bomber Command in strafing the city by day and night.
By ceasefire in May 1945, 26,000 servicemen of the Eighth Air Force would have been killed in combat, as well as 55,000 of their British counterparts. At least 20,000 Berliners would die during Allied raids.
On the 21st of July 1944, numerous figures involved or suspected of involvement with the 20th July plot against Adolf Hitler were executed. Claus von Stauffenberg, a Colonel in the German Army, would plan with other military leaders to assassinate Hitler at his ‘Wolf’s Lair’ in Poland. In the wake of the Führer’s death, they intended to impose ‘Operation Valkyrie’, a seizure of control over the German armed forces and an effort to obtain peace with the Western Allies.
Stauffenberg intended to plant two bombs, which would detonate during a military conference, under a desk concealed in a briefcase. He was able to prime only one of the two. The conference had been moved from an underground bunker into an overground room, windows flung open due to the hot weather that day. Furthermore, the briefcase in which the bomb was hidden would be moved away from Hitler’s place at the table. It has been suggested that the absence of any one of these three factors would have certainly resulted in Hitler’s death under the circumstances. Stauffenberg’s single bomb detonated, killing four and wounding Hitler. Seeing the explosion, Stauffenberg made his way back to Berlin, assuming he had been successful, to impose Operation Valkyrie. He and many others would be arrested in the next few hours.
The failure of the assassination attempt would lead to several immediate executions, including that of Stauffenberg and his key co-conspirators, and to the subsequent killings of up to 5,000 people suspected of involvement in plots against the National Socialist dictatorship. The assassination plot is the basis for Bryan Singer’s 2008 film ‘Valkyrie’, starring Tom Cruise as Stauffenberg. The Bendlerblock in Berlin, Headquarters of the German Army within which the assassination was planned, is currently the location of the German Resistance Museum.
This week in history: on the 6th of June 1944, over 150,000 troops from 13 countries would land on the coast of Normandy, enacting ‘Operation Neptune’ on what has come to be known as ‘D-Day’. Airbone and amphibious landings were made, overwhelming Erwin Rommel’s forces, with 4,000 Allied troops, 1,000 German troops and 3,000 civilians killed in the first 24 hours of history’s largest coastal invasion. The foothold gained by the Allies on this day would enable them to advance toward Western Germany in the subsequent weeks.