On February 13, 1945, the Royal Air Force bombed Dresden, a German city once known as the "Florence on the Elbe." Over 800 bombers dropped over 2,500 tons of bombs. The resulting firestorm, similar to one generated in Hamburg during a July 1943 bombing raid, killed perhaps 40,000 to 50,000 people. (No official death toll has ever been established. Estimates range from 25,000 to 400,000.)
The next day, Valentine's Day, American B-17s dropped another 771 tons of bombs while the fighter planes accompanying the bombers strafed traffic on the roads leading into and out of the city in order to compound the chaos. Still more bombing raids occurred on February 15 and March 2 as the Allies endeavored to break Germany's ability to defend itself in the final months of World War II. Many today believe the terror bombing of German cities so late in the war to have been morally unjustifiable.
Next year Dresden will mark the 800th anniversary of the city's founding.