Humanities › History & Culture Operation Gomorrah: Firebombing of Hamburg Share Flipboard Email Print Bomb damage in Hamburg. Public Domain History & Culture Military History Aerial Battles & Aircraft Battles & Wars Key Figures Arms & Weapons Naval Battles & Warships Civil War French Revolution Vietnam War World War I World War II American History African American History African History Ancient History and Culture Asian History European History Genealogy Inventions Latin American History Medieval & Renaissance History The 20th Century Women's History View More By Kennedy Hickman Military and Naval History Expert M.A., History, University of Delaware M.S., Information and Library Science, Drexel University B.A., History and Political Science, Pennsylvania State University Kennedy Hickman is a historian, museum director, and curator who specializes in military and naval history. He has appeared on The History Channel as a featured expert. our editorial process Facebook Facebook Kennedy Hickman Updated March 06, 2017 Operation Gomorrah - Conflict: Operation Gomorrah was an aerial bombing campaign that occurred in the European Theater of Operations during World War II (1939-1945). Operation Gomorrah - Dates: The orders for Operation Gomorrah were signed on May 27, 1943. Commencing on the night of July 24, 1943, the bombing continued until August 3. Operation Gomorrah - Commanders & Forces: Allies Air Chief Marshal Arthur "Bomber" Harris, Royal Air ForceMajor General Ira C. Eaker, US Army Air ForceBritish: approx. 700+ bombers per raidAmericans: approx. 50-70 bombers per raid Operation Gomorrah - Results: Operation Gomorrah destroyed a significant percentage of the city of Hamburg, leaving over 1 million residents homeless and killing 40,000-50,000 civilians. In the immediate wake of the raids, over two-thirds of Hamburg's population fled the city. The raids severely shook the Nazi leadership, leading Hitler to be concerned that similar raids on other cities could force Germany out of the war. Operation Gomorrah - Overview: Conceived by Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Air Chief Marshal Arthur "Bomber" Harris, Operation Gomorrah called for a coordinated, sustained bombing campaign against the German port city of Hamburg. The campaign was the first operation to feature coordinated bombing between the Royal Air Force and the US Army Air Force, with the British bombing by night and the Americans conducting precision strikes by day. On May 27, 1943, Harris signed Bomber Command Order No. 173 authorizing the operation to move forward. The night of July 24 was selected for the first strike. To aid in the operation's success, RAF Bomber Command decided to debut two new additions to its arsenal as part of Gomorrah. The first of these was the H2S radar scanning system which provided bomber crews with a TV-like image of the ground below. The other was a system known as "Window." The forerunner of modern chaff, Window was bundles of aluminum foil strips carried by each bomber, which, when released, would disrupt German radar. On the night of July 24, 740 RAF bombers descended on Hamburg. Led by H2S equipped Pathfinders, the planes struck their targets and returned home with a loss of only 12 aircraft. This raid was followed up the next day when 68 American B-17s struck Hamburg's U-boat pens and shipyards. The next day, another American attack destroyed the city's power plant. The high point of the operation came on the night of July 27, when 700+ RAF bombers ignited a firestorm causing 150 mph winds and 1,800° temperatures, leading even the asphalt to burst into flames. Strung out from the previous day's bombing, and with the city's infrastructure demolished, German fire crews were unable to effectively combat the raging inferno. The majority of German casualties occurred as the result of the firestorm. While the night raids continued for another week until the operation's conclusion on August 3, the American daytime bombings ceased after the first two days due to smoke from the previous night's bombings obscuring their targets. In addition to the civilian casualties, Operation Gomorrah destroyed over 16,000 apartment buildings and reduced ten square miles of the city to rubble. This tremendous damage, coupled with the relatively small loss of aircraft, led Allied commanders to consider Operation Gomorrah a success.