This graph shows how badly German cities were hit by Allied bombing raids.
- Despite Göring's assurances they wouldn't get through, Allied bombers rained destruction on Germany in World War II.
- This 1947 map takes stock of the devastation: Berlin and Hamburg half destroyed, some smaller cities wiped out.
- The history of the air war over Germany is a chilling reminder of the peculiar horror of mechanized warfare.
Demoralising the enemy<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDUwNDgxNy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMjkwMTYxOH0.oT0mBChYzSOzlqWF0lNw0dVaUu2Jo-m6mcF-V3jwdVw/img.jpg?width=980" id="6adf8" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5946ce4493af1510ab5458b57a3f3d1b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bAerial view of Cologne cathedral, relatively unscathed amid the ruins of the city." />
Aerial view of Cologne cathedral, relatively unscathed amid the ruins of the city. Bottom left: the train station. Top left: the Rhine.
Image: Royal Air Force (1944), public domain.<p>"If just one English bomber reaches the Ruhr, my name is no longer Hermann Göring, but Hermann Meier," the <em>Luftwaffe</em> commander boasted in August 1939. </p><p><span></span>Over the following five and a half years, millions of Germans cursed 'Hermann Meier' as Allied bombing churned up city after German city. The air raid sirens that announced yet another wave of British or American bombers were nicknamed, with vicious relish, 'Meier trumpets'. </p><p><span></span>On this map of Germany, drawn up in 1947, black pie slices indicate how much of each city was flattened in the war—mostly by aerial bombardments. It reflects the dizzying scale of destruction in Germany, a fact not often dwelled upon in histories of the Second World War. Understandable, since Germany started it—both the war and bombing civilians—the overall sentiment is: They had it coming. </p><p><span></span>The history of the air war is nevertheless instructive, for it shows the special kind of hell that is mechanized warfare. As in earlier wars, both sides became inured to slaughter as the fighting dragged on. But in modern conflicts like WWII, science and industry drive a frantic arms race to make the killing ever more efficient. </p><p><span></span>Before the war, targeting civilians was considered off-limits. But as the fighting started, moral compasses soon went haywire. Under the guise of 'demoralizing the enemy', killing large numbers of civilians became an accepted military objective. The Germans blitzed Warsaw in September 1939, Rotterdam in May 1940, and London soon thereafter. By early 1941, the German air war on Britain had claimed 41,000 lives and caused widespread destruction. London lost more than a million buildings in the war; the center of Coventry was wiped out in one night; and 95 percent of houses in Hull were damaged or destroyed. </p><p><span></span>The Royal Air Force retaliated, but its main strategy remained: Precision bombardments on strategic targets – industrial sites, rail and road infrastructure and the like. Then came the Butt Report (sic). Published in August 1941, it revealed that only one in three RAF bombers that managed to drop their payload over Germany did so within 5 miles (8 km) of its target. That shocking statistic eventually led to a change of strategy: In February 1942, under the new leadership of air marshal Richard Harris, RAF Bomber Command switched to 'area bombing' a.k.a. carpet bombing. Harris' tenacious pursuit of the new strategy, sometimes in the face of contrary evidence, would earn him the nicknames "Bomber Harris" and "Butcher Harris".</p>
Destroying 25,000 houses per month<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDUwNDgyOS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMDY2NjY1OH0.HaqwLoaDpK4Mm7ot2vHQzV-KbVVY6UKrtdDFJPJWXdw/img.jpg?width=980" id="dc3ad" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ae7216d52acc67bc3a8673c63c05d020" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="G.W. Harmssen, Reparationen, Sozialprodukt, Lebensstandard (1947)," />
The destruction is concentrated in the industrial cities in the west and the largest cities throughout the country.
Image: G.W. Harmssen, Reparationen, Sozialprodukt, Lebensstandard (1947), in Deutsche Geschichte in Dokumenten und Bildern.<p>Cologne was the first major German city to get 'area bombed': On the night of May 30, 1942, over 1,000 RAF aircraft dropped around 1,500 tons of bombs, causing large-scale destruction and over 2,000 large fires. Over the course of that year, many other German cities would get the carpet treatment during RAF night raids. From January 1943, the USAF joined in, with daylight raids.</p><p>The air war over Germany turned increasingly deadly—both for the Allied crews in the skies and the German civilians on the ground. By the spring of 1943, less than 20 percent of RAF airmen made it alive to the end of a 30-mission tour.</p><p>Throughout 1943 into early 1944, the three major operations of the air war were:</p><ul><li>the Battle of the Ruhr (March to July 1943): Targeting the major cities of this industrial heartland;</li><li>Operation Gomorrah (July 24 to August 3, 1943): The round-the-clock bombing of Hamburg, aimed at its total destruction (see also #<a href="https://bigthink.com/strange-maps/hamburg-bombing-camouflage" target="_blank">1015</a>); and</li><li>the Battle of Berlin (November 1943 to March 1944): Destroying the industrial muscle of the German capital.</li></ul><p>In the first half of 1944, the air war seemed to trail off; but as the ground war neared its end, the aerial campaign intensified as never before:<br></p><ul><li>from March 1943 to January 1944, Allied air raids destroyed on average 15,000 housing units per month in Germany;</li><li>from February 1944 to June 1944, that average fell to about 9,500 houses per month;</li><li>but from July 1944 to January 1945, it shot up to just over 25,000 units per month.</li></ul><p>By the end of the war, technical advances and operational expertise allowed the Allies to increase the destructiveness of their air raids. In the night of February 1945, a single attack sufficed to create a firestorm that destroyed 90 percent of the inner city of Dresden. </p><p>Göring/Meier's <em>Luftwaffe </em>having largely been eliminated, the RAF and US Air Force sought to maximize the advantage of their air supremacy. That's why 60 percent of all Allied bombs dropped on Germany fell in the last nine months of the war, in a massive effort to break German resistance, shorten the war and save Allied lives.</p><p>Could that apocalypse have been avoided? German historian Klaus von Beyme once mused: "If the Putsch of 20 July 1944 [Stauffenberg's failed assassination of Hitler] had been successful and resulted in a peace treaty, Germany's cities would have been spared 72% of all bombs that were to fall by war's end." That's a big <em>What if</em>, because it assumes the Allies by mid-1944 would have been content with something less than unconditional surrender, even from a Germany without Hitler.</p>
14 billion cubic feet of rubble<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDUwNDg0OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNzIzMDk3NX0.m0hct-8_a1t0MKkmrrgaYXWxHKbKR9mqYTJvZjyILzQ/img.jpg?width=980" id="13bc0" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="85d335b78426af3b7754e108f3c3ba77" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bAir raid on Koblenz on 19 September 1944 by the 447th Bombardment Group of the US Air Force." />
Air raid on Koblenz on 19 September 1944 by the 447th Bombardment Group of the US Air Force.
Image: USAF (1944), public domain<p>In the real world, the wheels of destruction kept turning until May 8, 1945, when Germany did surrender unconditionally. Eventually, the air war claimed the lives of about 600,000 Germans. When the time came to take stock of the destruction, this is what the shell-shocked survivors found.</p><ul><li>The war had destroyed 4.8 million housing units. As a result, 13 million Germans were homeless. And there was 400 million cubic meters (14 billion cubic feet) of rubble to clear.</li><li>The degree of destruction varied regionally. In East Germany, 9.4 percent of pre-war housing was destroyed. In West Germany, the figure was 18.5 percent.</li><li>At state level, the distinction is even starker: in Thuringia, only 3 percent of houses were destroyed. In North Rhine-Westphalia, it was close to 25 percent—and even more in the industrial heartland of the state.</li><li>Of the 54 largest cities (>100,000 inhabitants) in Germany, only four survived without significant damage: Lübeck, Wiesbaden, Halle and Erfurt. Worst hit was Würzburg (75 percent destroyed), followed by Dessau, Kassel, Mainz and Hamburg.</li><li>Over 70 percent of the largest cities had their urban core destroyed. Worst cases: Dresden, Cologne, Essen, Dortmund, Hanover, Nuremberg, Chemnitz.</li><li>Of the 151 medium-sized cities (25,000-100,000), about a third lost at least 20 percent of their housing stock. In Bavaria, Thuringia and Saxony, most medium-sized cities managed to make it through the war with little or no damage. </li></ul><p>In Germany, the end of WWII was <em>Stunde Null</em> ('Zero Hour'). Everything had to be built up from the ground, both literally—the cities—and figuratively—civil society and democratic institutions. </p><p>Some cities chose to rebuild the past, reconstructing ancient buildings and street patterns. Others opted for modernity and functionality, often with an urban layout centered around the car, as in American cities. In many cases, however, the destruction was so complete that no effort to rebuild could erase the void that the air war had created—a void that haunts many German city centers to this day. <br></p><p><strong><br></strong></p><p><strong>Strange Maps #1051</strong></p><p><em>Got a strange map? Let me know at </em><a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com</a><em>.</em></p>
Stewart is supporting a new bill that aims to extend health care and disability benefits to veterans who served alongside burn pits.
- Thousands of American veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan were exposed to burn pits, which may have caused diseases like asthma and cancer.
- Burn pits were used as a crude way to dispose of waste, including plastics, body parts, dead animals, and hazardous chemicals.
- Despite gaps in the research linking exposure to medical conditions, advocates say the benefit of the doubt should go to veterans.
A lack of evidence?<p>Conclusive research on the links between burn-pit exposure and medical conditions is lacking. </p><p>But after the Vietnam War, there was also a lack of research on the health effects of exposure to Agent Orange. In 1991, Congress passed the <a href="https://www.propublica.org/article/agent-orange-act-was-supposed-to-help-vietnam-veterans-but-many-still-dont-#:~:text=In%201991%2C%20Congress%20passed%20the,the%20vet%20eligible%20for%20benefits." target="_blank">Agent Orange act</a>, which extended health benefits to Vietnam veterans suffering from conditions linked to exposure. There was also an <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2011/07/911-cancer-study-pits-scientists-vs-first-responders/353352/" target="_blank">initial lack of evidence</a> showing that 9/11 first-responders developed conditions like cancer after inhaling pulverized dust at Ground Zero.</p><p>While scientists continue to study the effects of burn-pit exposure, advocates say lawmakers should err on the side of extending health care to ailing veterans.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"If people were injured or affected and there's a plausible relationship or explanation for what's going on, the benefit of the doubt needs to go to the veteran," former V.A. Secretary Dr. David Shulkin said at the event on Tuesday. "To simply let people suffer and go without help from their government is not a satisfactory response."</p>
Acorn woodpecker battles over prized territory are serious business.
- Acorn woodpeckers are highly socialized birds who are, let's say, unusual.
- Small teams of acorn woodpeckers battle for days over coveted territory.
- Up to 30 spectators attend the battles, leaving their own territories unattended to do so.
Acorn woodpeckers<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzgwMDAzMy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2NDc1ODExN30.A2m8gTkzBndTUjghwOh6Rc2NWwTXMjkMo7jH9eezq1k/img.jpg?width=980" id="9b2f8" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="7093a92289c1e00f38e76504ad3dc596" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="acorn woodpecker" />
Credit: Ondrej Prosicky/Shutterstock<p>Much of what's known about these birds, including the new research, comes from a long-running project at the <a href="http://hastingsreserve.org" target="_blank">Hastings Natural History Reservation</a> in California's Monterey Country. Acorn woodpeckers first arrived at the sanctuary in 1968 and have been under observation since 1974. The birds are common in the oak woodlands of western North America.</p><p>Acorn woodpeckers have a <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polygynandry" target="_blank">polygynandrous</a> mating system, something that's rarely seen in nature. A group will consist of as many as seven co-breeding males and four joint-nesting females. Breeding members of the group couple promiscuously within the group, and never outside it.</p><p>It's an incestuous arrangement by human standards, with father and son competing for and breeding with the same females. And though the females use the same nests, it's pretty competitive — one female will remove and eat another mother's eggs to make room for her own. Over time, according to Hastings, this results in a balance in the number of chicks among the females.</p><p>In addition, an acorn woodpecker group will also include other, non-breeding community "helper" members — they're the woodpeckers who go into battle for acorn granaries. Though the woodpeckers primarily feed on insects, acorns provide them with non-perishable nutrition for those colder months when bug meals are few and far between.</p>
Fight Club<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzgwMDAzOS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2MTcxMDU5Nn0.ep-PNigMZayCRdAp47v-5aBWp9a3x9iwkVLdlOqZEkM/img.jpg?width=980" id="33cea" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="fe92b1641ba8518f164dd274e69cc44e" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="acorns embedded in tree holes" />
Credit: David A Litman/Shutterstock<p>A granary for which an acorn woodpecker will fight is reminiscent of a human wine rack: An array of vertical storage compartments for their precious winter food. And they're dead serious about acquiring this storage: "These birds often wait for years, and when there's the right time and they have the right coalition size, they'll go and give it their all to win a really good territory," <a href="https://phys.org/news/2020-09-acorn-woodpeckers-wage-days-long-vacant.html" target="_blank">says Barve.</a></p><p>The balls-to-the-wall action of acorn woodpecker battle have made it difficult for human researchers to keep track of what's going on, so Barve and his colleagues devised a solution: They outfitted woodpeckers with radio tags that allowed the researchers to tell when two birds were in the same location, and to track the origin of combatants, and also to make detailed observations of a melee.</p><p>While the researchers had thought that acorn woodpeckers living nearby would most fiercely make a play for a nearby granary, this turned out not to be the case. It's not yet known what prompts one group of woodpeckers to commit to battle, though the researchers suggest that a group's internal calculus somehow produces a decision whether to try and acquire a particular granary.</p><p>Yet commit they do. The researchers found that woodpecker teams will fight for as long as 10 hours straight, and will return day after day. This was something of a surprise to researchers, making them wonder how they even sustain themselves that long.</p>
"Get ya acorns heayah, acorns, get ya acorns heayah!"<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzgwMDA0Ni9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNzkyMDMwMX0.MH5tJaZk4PQrANKic92UKkVIG8kuW7gAgrFRQHk1YMk/img.jpg?width=980" id="9a454" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9af4e854af92f7a5c48aba5a86359366" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="woodpeckers" />
Credit: Petr Simon/Shutterstock<p>Previous research missed the spectators because the brouhaha was so overwhelming and attention-grabbing. As many as 30 woodpeckers have been observed in the peanut gallery.</p><p>The researchers have seen birds coming from as far as three kilometers (1.9 miles) away. These onlookers may spend up to an hour each day in attendance. Among the spectators are woodpeckers who already have adequate granaries of their own — whatever they get out of watching has to be worth the time spent leaving their own granaries unattended. The researchers suggest the watchers may be curious about changes a battle could make to the local status quo.<span></span></p><p>These highly social birds may also actually be rooting for one fighting group over another. "They potentially have friendships," <a href="https://phys.org/news/2020-09-acorn-woodpeckers-wage-days-long-vacant.html" target="_blank">says Barve,</a> "and they probably have enemies. The next step is to try and understand how their social networks are shaped, and how they vary across the year."</p>
SEAL training is the ultimate test of both mental and physical strength.
- The fact that U.S. Navy SEALs endure very rigorous training before entering the field is common knowledge, but just what happens at those facilities is less often discussed. In this video, former SEALs Brent Gleeson, David Goggins, and Eric Greitens (as well as authors Jesse Itzler and Jamie Wheal) talk about how the 18-month program is designed to build elite, disciplined operatives with immense mental toughness and resilience.
- Wheal dives into the cutting-edge technology and science that the navy uses to prepare these individuals. Itzler shares his experience meeting and briefly living with Goggins (who was also an Army Ranger) and the things he learned about pushing past perceived limits.
- Goggins dives into why you should leave your comfort zone, introduces the 40 percent rule, and explains why the biggest battle we all face is the one in our own minds. "Usually whatever's in front of you isn't as big as you make it out to be," says the SEAL turned motivational speaker. "We start to make these very small things enormous because we allow our minds to take control and go away from us. We have to regain control of our mind."
Thanks to modern technology, we can reexamine our assumptions about ancient warriors.
- The 2600-year-old remains of a young Scythian warrior are now known to be female.
- The young warrior appears to have been around 13 years old when she died.
- The findings shed light on the Scythian culture.