Operation Moonlight Sonata: The German Raid on Coventry

By Allan W. Kurki | Go to book overview
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Introduction

BACKGROUND

Although Coventry is considered to be a medieval English city, if one visits the downtown area of Coventry today it looks very much like any typical downtown section in a comparable-sized American city. The primary reason for this modern look can be traced to what happened on the night of November 14/15, 1940. On that night the German Luftwaffe struck the city with hundreds of bombers that dropped thousands of high-explosive and tens of thousands of incendiary bombs. The raid lasted more than ten hours, and during that time over 100 acres of the city were devastated. By the time the raid was over, much of the central sector of the city had been destroyed and more than 550 individuals had been killed and over 850 seriously wounded. Coventry had joined ranks with Guernica, Warsaw, and Rotterdam as cities devastated from the air by the Germans. After the war was over, most of the downtown section of the city had to be rebuilt, and it was rebuilt in a contemporary motif similar to that used in many American cities.

The raid was so massive and spectacular that the word "Coventrized" was coined by the Germans to signify something being totally destroyed. The use of this word to describe the city after the raid was, however, not accurate. The city really was not destroyed. Coventry would come back; as a matter of fact, it came back much faster than many predicted, but it will forever carry the scars it received that eventful night in 1940. One of the most memorable images to come out of World War II is the picture of the bombed and burned Coventry Cathedral, St. Michael's, with only its walls remaining. After the raid, the shell of the old cathedral was left standing, and it remains so today as a memorial to those who perished that awful night.

The bombing of Coventry on that November night in 1940 has produced an interesting dichotomy. On one hand, the dramatic photograph of the burned, stark shell of St. Michael's Cathedral has become one of the most widely publicized photographs of the fighting in Europe during World War II. On the other hand,

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