On May 30, 1942, over 1, 000 bombers were sent into Cologne, Germany by the British. Their goal was to demolish the chemical and machine tool facilities in one fell swoop.
It was set to happen before there were many American troops in Europe, and the British did not have a whole lot of bombers. In total, there were 416 bombers that were mission-ready. It was Air Marshal A.T. Harris’ job to figure out how best to use the planes that they had.
It was imperative that the British kept running missions, even though they kept losing planes. If missions were not flown, the Germans were able to make more bombers and fighters of their own.
Harris hatched a plan. He could take a grouping of bombers, over multiple missions all focused on a single target. That way he would have to drop fewer bombs and have fewer planes for the Germans to focus on.
Or he could send a large force of bombers all at once and flood the enemy. The Germans would have many, many planes to defend themselves from.
All At Once
He decided the best course of action was to send them all at once. All 416 first-line bombers along with the second-line and the training bombers set course for Cologne.
Operation Millennium was in motion. The 1,000 plus planes dropped 1,500 tons of bombs on the city, causing 600 acres of damage. On average, a bomb went off every two seconds.
Britain lost 40 bombers in the raid. Targeting was not at its best in the early years of World War II, drawing criticism for the execution of the raid.
However, 45,000 German were without homes after the raid was over, and 469 were killed, many of them civilians. Britain had seen similar losses in 1941.
The Royal Air Force bombing resulted in about a 5 percent loss each time the fighters went out. So a 4 percent loss in this mission was actually pretty good stats.
This was not the only high number of raids of the war, but it did have the most. The attack on Dresden only had about 700 bombers.