Frances Stall Husdale was right [letters, July 11]: There was "selective targeting" in Cologne during World War II. I know; I was there. Because I was born and raised in Cologne and survived the airstrikes, I feel qualified to comment.
In the middle of many a night, my father would go to the roof of our five-story inner-city house as soon as the early air raid warning sounded, watching for flares dropped by Allied reconnaissance flights. The flares, descending slowly on small chutes, would mark the four corners of the target area. Subsequent bomber formations would drop their load of incendiary bombs into that area, followed by other formations of bombers dropping explosive bombs into the inferno in an exercise called "carpet bombing."
Such "selective strikes" resulted in 97 percent of all housing units in the inner city of Cologne being rendered uninhabitable and the death of some 180,000 out of a pre-war population of 800,000, mostly women, children and old men. (Men between the ages of 16 and 65 were forced into uniform and were away from the city.) Of Cologne's 104 magnificent inner-city churches, only one remained standing.
Maps of the pre-war city of Cologne show no "huge railroad yards" next to the main passenger railroad station or the cathedral next to it. The railroad bridge over the Rhine River carried passenger and freight trains, and the latter were bypassing the passenger station on several tracks. The freight yards were some distance off to the northwest of the cathedral and well outside the Ring Strasse, the boundary of the inner city.
Contrary to some accounts, the cathedral sustained heavy damage inflicted by 13 direct hits. The roof went up in flames, the heavy lead roof cover melted, but the domed ceilings and massive walls did not collapse.
Initial raids on Cologne, according to the press of the time, were in retaliation against Hitler's barbaric air raid on Canterbury. As the war ground on, the ancient inner cities of Dresden, Munich, Aachen, Paderborn, Muenster, Trier, Duesseldorf and many others were leveled. Selective strikes in the most recent war in the Balkans were outright humane compared with the devastation in Europe 55 years ago.
EDWIN M. SCHMIDT