The central point, for aiming purposes, was Cologne’s famous twin-spired cathedral (shown in the picture to the left). The cathedral was hit but survived the raid and was still standing when the war in Europe ended. Over 460 people were killed in the raid, almost entirely civilians, and more than 45,000 people were rendered homeless. Cologne had been chosen because the weather over Hamburg had been bad for several days. Hamburg’s time would come later.The reaction of Luftwaffe chief, Hermann Goering, was one of disbelief. Later, he noted in his diary that the effects of aerial bombardment were horrific, but that one had to ‘accept them.’
The Cologne raid, and the even more devastating raids on Hamburg and on Dresden, and the Allied bombing campaign as a whole are described by Canadian historian Randall Hansen in his vivid and well-written book Fire and Fury: The Allied Bombing of Germany 1942-45 (Doubleday Canada, 2008).
German prestige had already suffered a severe blow earlier that same week when two Czechoslovak patriots had attacked and fatally wounded Reinhard Heydrich, the Reichsprotektor of Bohemia & Moravia.