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Virtual Earth map of The destroyed old part of Heilbronn after the December 1944 bombings

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On the evening of 4 December 1944, 282 Lancaster bombers of 627 Squadron and ten escort fighters flew over the city in loose formation. The night was thickly clouded, and this factor altered the approach height for the planes. At 7:18 the first plane flew over, but it was the second plane that dropped 10 bombs with long-term fuses onto the city about one minute later. Immediately after dropping the bombs, this plane began its return flight. At 7:20, flare markers were dropped on the city in order to allow accurate bombing by the rest of the squadron. A flashlight bomb was dropped, and exploded at 600 feet. After all the flares were released, the area was illuminated as bright as day. This light was obviously distinguishable to the bomber pilots, and they were subsequently ordered to go in and assault. After the flare markers, the flashlight bombs, and other such devices used for targeting were released and were functioning effectively, the first load of high explosive bombs was dropped by Lancaster PB 251. A approximately 5,800 bombs, dropped from a height of 3,800 metres, hit the city at 7:29. The attack continued until 9:38, with a further 1,200 tonnes of bombs released upon the city, and 380 devastating the marshalling yard. Within a period of half an hour, over 6,500 people, over 1,000 of were children under 10 years of age, lost their lives. However, the exact number of victims is impossible to determine because many corpses were burned beyond recognition or were unrecognisable due to various other causes. Due to the number of incendiary bombs that fell on the city, and the number and impact of the bombs, fires started up the entire night, and entrance to the city was impossible for days.

Altogether, before the bombings of Heilbronn, there were almost 14,500 buildings in the city. However, through the war, 5,100 buildings were destroyed, and another 3,800 heavily damaged. Also because of the war, the population of Heilbronn shrank to 46,350.


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