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London Blitzkrieg

London Blitzkrieg

by William H. Benson

September 6, 2018

     The German Nazis decided to launch an aerial attack upon London, England, on September 6, 1940. The command to attack England came from no less than Hermann Göring, commander-in-chief of the Luftwaffe, and the Führer himself, Adolf Hitler.

     The two Nazi leaders believed that a series of terrorizing airstrikes would melt British willpower to fight. A submissive United Kingdom would then permit the Nazis opportunity to march troops into the Soviet Union unhindered, and there to surprise an unprepared Joseph Stalin.

     Yes, Stalin was unprepared, but the Nazi leaders misjudged the English people’s determination to never surrender, unlike the rest of Europe that had capitulated before the German military juggernaut.

     On the afternoon and evening of September 7, 1940, some 300 German bombers lifted off from airstrips in Europe, headed west, crossed the English Channel, circled over London, and dropped 337 tons of bombs on London, cutting short the lives of 448 London citizens.

     Each day thereafter for the the next fifty-seven days, a stream of German bombs reined down upon London’s helpless citizens, mainly at night. The total death toll climbed to over 40,000 during the London Blitzkrieg, and thousands of buildings across the city were leveled, reduced to rubble.

     The strange thing is that the Nazi’s bombing campaign on London failed to diminish British resolve even one iota. Instead, the English people’s sense of determination strengthened. They learned to withstand the bombs that the Germans dumped on them each night, and they lived with the hope that one day they could repay the damage to the Germans.

     Winston Churchill told London’s citizens over the radio, “We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island whatever the cost may be.

     “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields, in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.” The English people believed Churchill.   

     Also, because the Germans lacked sufficient intelligence on the ground in England, their bombs often missed their targets and failed to cripple England’s munitions factories. Once the bombs began to fall on the city, management packed up and moved their factories out of London, to the countryside.

     Once a London building was bombed at night, English laborers would show up the next morning, set to work, and in three or four weeks remove the rubble. Some 1,700 freight trains transported some 750,000 tons of bombsite stones to the countryside in eastern England, where workers would lay them into the ground to construct airstrips.

     The following spring, London’s citizens saw the numerous empty plots, the bare ground where houses and buildings once stood, and there they planted vegetables—peas, carrots, beets, potatoes, and tomatoes—in order to ease wartime food shortages, and they called their plots “victory gardens.”

     An expression comes to mind. “When life gives you a lemon, make lemonade.” In other words, the English people converted the rubble of their lives into something useful, and in the bare spaces where the Germans wrecked and destroyed what once had stood there, they planted a garden.

     The day came when British and American bombers took off from airstrips in England, flew across the English Channel, and dropped their bombs upon Nazi Germany’s cities. Of the several German cities bombed, Dresden suffered horrible damage.

     Between February 13 and 15, 1945, in four separate raids, 722 British Royal Air Force bombers and 527 U.S. Army Air Force bombers dropped more than 3,900 tons of high-explosive bombs on Dresden, causing a horrific firestorm that destroyed over 1,600 acres, and killed some 25,000 German citizens. Because it was Shrove Tuesday, many of the dead children were dressed in carnival costumes.

     The English historian Paul Johnson said, “This was not the work of lunatics. It was the response of outraged democracies corrupted by the war that the Nazis had started.”

     Three months later, on May 7, 1945, Germany surrendered, and the Third Reich disintegrated.

     In Voltaire’s novel, Candide, the French author allows a character to say, “We must take care of our garden. When man was put into the Garden of Eden, it was with an intent to dress it, and this proves that man was not born to be idle.” In other words, everyone should cultivate their own garden, even if it is in an area where a house or a building once stood.