June 5, 2009 / 10:08 AM / 10 years ago

FACTBOX: U.S. President Obama visits Dresden

(Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama met German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday in Dresden, a city that was the scene of one of the fiercest and most controversial Allied bombing raids of World War Two.

Here are some details on the fate of Dresden:

* In January 1945, the British drew up a plan (Thunderclap) to attack Berlin and other population centers.

* Dresden, untouched by bombing just months before the end of World War Two, was attacked by two waves of British bombers, three hours apart, on the night of February 13, 1945.

* 796 RAF Lancaster bombers let loose 1,182 tons of incendiaries and 1,478 tons of high explosives creating a firestorm that destroyed the city.

* The next day, the Americans sent 311 B-17 Flying Fortress long-range bombers, adding to the damage.

* The official death toll is put at around 25,000. Many survivors believe the number was higher as bodies were reduced to ashes in the firestorm.

* Once dubbed the Florence of northern Europe for architectural jewels such as the Zwinger palace and the Semper Opera, the city was reduced to smouldering ruins.

* The 90-meter (295-foot) Frauenkirche, or Church of Our Lady, church survived the initial waves of British and American bombings that engulfed Dresden, but caught fire and collapsed a day and a half after the first attack. The church had dominated Dresden’s skyline for two centuries but sixty years after the bombing in 2005 it was re-consecrated following a 180 million euro ($251.9 million) reconstruction.

* Wartime British Prime Minister Winston Churchill said: “The destruction of the city remains a serious query against the conduct of Allied bombing.”

Source: Reuters/Oxford Companion to Second World War.

Writing by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit;

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