On this day in 1940, German bombers devastate the English city of Coventry, demolishing tens of thousands of buildings and killing hundreds of men, women, and children. The verb “Koventrieren” (to Coventrate) passed into the German language, meaning “to annihilate or reduce to rubble.”
On November 8, Adolf Hitler had to move up his scheduled speech in Munich on the anniversary of his 1923 attempted coup in Bavaria because British bombers were on their way to take out a railway yard. Hitler was determined to avenge this audacious offensive. The Fuhrer let his bomber pilots know that he was not “willing to let an attack on the capital of the Nazi movement go unpunished.”
And so, on this day, almost 500 German bombers unleashed some 150,000 incendiary bombs and more than 500 tons of high explosives on the British industrial city, taking out 27 war factories. Of the 568 people killed, more than 400 were burned so badly they could not be identified. Among the more than 60,000 buildings destroyed or severely damaged was St. Michael’s Cathedral.