The bombing of Dresden was area bombing at its worst. The Dresden bombings were designed to kill tens of thousands of Dresden civilians at a time when Germany had lost the war.
Read Part One here.
Reasons Why the Dresden Bombings Were Not Militarily Justified
In Alexander McKee’s opinion, Dresden was bombed for political rather than military reasons. McKee writes:
“The standard whitewash gambit, both British and American, is to mention that Dresden contained targets X, Y and Z, and to let the innocent reader assume that these targets were attacked, whereas in fact the bombing plan totally omitted them and thus, except for one or two mere accidents, they escaped.”
There was a tremendous amount of death and misery, but it did not affect the war.
McKee states that the railway bridge over the Elbe was a single key point which, if knocked out, would bring rail traffic to a halt for months. However, it was not an RAF target. The rail marshaling yards and the Autobahn bridge outside of Dresden to the west were also important military targets, but they were never attacked. There was also a Waffen-SS barracks with some 4,000 German soldiers on the New Town (Neustadt) area, but this obvious military target was never attacked.
“The bomber commanders were not really interested in any purely military or economic targets, which was just as well, for they knew very little about Dresden; the RAF even lacked proper maps of the city. What they were looking for was a big built-up area which they could burn, and that Dresden possessed in full measure. Any ordinary tourist guide made that obvious; indeed this vulnerability was built into the history of the city.”
Historian Richard J. Evans disputes the statement in the USAF Historical Division report that the railway bridges over the Elbe River “were rendered unusable and remained closed to traffic for many weeks after the raids.” Evans states, “Even the main railway line remained severed for only four days.” Historian Alan Levine also states that the railway attacks at Dresden were not effective because rail service was restored to Dresden in three days. Historian Sönke Neitzel agrees,
“The railway lines were out of action for only a few days.”
Philosopher A.C. Grayling examines questions that might be asked about the bombing of Dresden:
Given that the chief point of bombing Dresden was its importance as a transport hub close to a region where crucial military events were unfolding, why was the bombing effort not directed at the railways and roads in the environs of the city, or leading to and from the city along the crucial west-east axis? The aiming-point issued to Bomber Command crews was not the railway yards, but a stadium close to the city center.
The city was known to be full of tens of thousands of refugees fleeing the approach of the Soviet troops. Was this a reason to bomb the city? Why was it not, on humanitarian grounds, a reason not to bomb the city?
Indeed, instead of asking what the reasons were for bombing the city (rather than others nearby also involved in the movement of troops and refugees), one might ask for the reasons not to bomb it, and the answer might have been the same that America’s Secretary of State Henry Stimson gave when he struck Kyoto off the list of possible targets for atom-bomb attack.
Thus, although Dresden was a legitimate military target, the British bombers dispatched to Dresden on the night of February 13-14 had the task of simply destroying as much of the vital center of the city as possible. The attack on Dresden was about creating overwhelming disruption. While the destruction and disruption of industry in Dresden was significant, it was less than would have been the case if the British had systematically bombed the industrial suburbs. The few military targets reported as damaged were relatively unimportant, and the death toll among the military was low (around a hundred).
Sönke Neitzel states:
“In hindsight it is also perfectly clear that the Allies gained no military advantage as a result of their attack on Dresden. The bombing illustrates a degree of military incompetence on both sides. Neither side had the measure of the other. The Allies failed to appreciate Dresden’s lack of importance. The Germans failed to appreciate the extent of the western Allies’ power and ruthlessness.
The bombing of Dresden was area bombing at its worst. The Dresden bombings were designed to kill tens of thousands of Dresden civilians at a time when Germany had lost the war. A.C. Grayling answers the following questions in regard to area bombing:
Was area bombing necessary? No.
Was it proportionate? No.
Was it against the humanitarian principles that people have been striving to enunciate as a way of controlling and limiting war? Yes.
Was it against general moral standards of the kind recognized and agreed in Western civilization in the last five centuries, or even 2,000 years? Yes.
Was it against what mature national laws provide in the way of outlawing murder, bodily harm, and destruction of property? Yes.
In short and in sum: was area bombing wrong? Yes.
Very wrong? Yes.
Should airmen have refused to carry out area-bombing raids? Yes. 
While there were some legitimate military targets in Dresden, the bombing of Dresden constituted area bombing at its worst. The British bombers especially were not interested in any purely military or economic targets; instead, they concentrated on destroying as much of the vital center of the city as possible. The Dresden bombings were a violation of the humanitarian principles that people have been striving to enunciate as a way of controlling and limiting war.
Read more – After The Firestorm: Debating the Dresden Death Toll
 McKee, Alexander, Dresden 1945: The Devil’s Tinderbox, New York: E.P. Dutton, Inc., 1984, pp. 69, 244.
 Ibid., pp. 69-70, 243-244.
 Ibid., p. 70.
 Evans, Richard J., Lying About Hitler: History, Holocaust, and the David Irving Trial, New York: Basic Books, 2001, p. 150.
 Levine, Alan J., The Strategic Bombing of Germany, 1940-1945, Westport, CT, Praeger, 1992, p. 179.
 Neitzel, Sönke, “The City Under Attack,” in Addison, Paul and Crang, Jeremy A., (eds.), Firestorm: The Bombing of Dresden, 1945, Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2006, p. 76.
 Grayling, A.C., Among the Dead Cities: The History and Moral Legacy of the WWII Bombing of Civilians in Germany and Japan, New York: Walker & Company, 2006, pp. 259-260.
 Taylor, Frederick, Dresden: Tuesday, February 13, 1945, New York: HarperCollins, 2004, pp. 218, 359.
 Ibid., p. 357.
 Neitzel, Sönke, “The City Under Attack,” in Addison, Paul and Crang, Jeremy A., (eds.), Firestorm: The Bombing of Dresden, 1945, Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2006, p. 77.
 Grayling, A.C., Among the Dead Cities: The History and Moral Legacy of the WWII Bombing of Civilians in Germany and Japan, New York: Walker & Company, 2006, pp. 276-277.