May 1942 One Thousand Plane Raid on Cologne

Lncaster Bombers in 1942
On May 30th, the British launched a 1,000-plane night raid on Cologne. It was in fact a raid of just under 900 planes. The goal of the raid was destroy the ability of Cologne to participate in the war effort. The raid started over 2,000 fires and killed 486 people. The long term effect of the raid however, was minimal, and despite continued raids that went on for the rest of the war, the Germans continued to produce ever more war materials.


The first bombing of German cities took place after the Luftwaffe bombed London. Churchill demanded that the Royal Air Force retaliate with a raid on Berlin. As the blitz continued the British responded with raids against German cities. The British who bombed at night soon realized that only 1 bomb in five was falling within five miles of its target.In February 1942 the order was given to target cities instead of specific cities. Since the best way to destroy a city was with a fire most of the bombers started dropping incendiary bombs. One week after the new order was given Sir Arthur Harris was appointed as the new head of Bomber Command. He believed that strategic bombing could be decisive in winning the war. He believed that if you bombed cities, you would both deplete the available workers for industry, hurt morale and possibly even effect regime change.

Harris believed in massive bombing of individual cities. The first was he dubbed the 1,000 plane raid on Cologne which was actually only a little under 900 planes. The raid itself created over 2,000 firs and killed 486 people. Raids continued on other German cities like Hamburg and Berlin, but despite General Harrison’s claim in 1943 that he would bring about the collapse of Nazis Germany by May 1944, all of the raids had only a limited effect. German industrial output was disrupted but never dropped, and while the raids no doubt effected German morale, it never created any significant pressure on the regime.

The Americans chose to bomb during the day with better bombing aiming technology but their day light raids were very costly, until their bombers could receive fighter escort. After the war an analysis of the total effectiveness of the bombing showed it was extremely limited at best.