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Until the focus of RAF Bomber Command switched to Hamburg it had been on the Ruhr industrial region which had been the target of a five-month-long campaign.
The Allied bombing of Hamburg during World War II included numerous strategic bombing missions and diversion/nuisance raids.
As a large port and industrial centre, Hamburg's shipyards, U-boat pens, and the Hamburg-Harburg area oil refineries were attacked throughout the war.
The furious winds created by the firestorm had the power to sweep people up off the streets like dry leaves: Some people who tried to walk along, they were pulled in by the fire, they all of the sudden disappeared right in front of you (...) You have to save yourself or try to get as far away from the fire, because the draught pulls you in.
Approximately 3,000 aircraft were deployed, 9,000 tons of bombs were dropped and over 250,000 homes and houses were destroyed.
It had been intended for 300 aircraft to attack Hamburg and Hanover but problems with assembling the force in the air meant that only 90 B-17 Flying Fortresses reached Hamburg.