How Would NYC or Chicago, Stand Up To WWII Type Bombings

Since Chicago and NYC are known in the USA for their tall buidlings I was wondering how the skyscrapers in those cities would hold up to a WWII type bombing raid. Supposing you replace Berlin with NYC or Chicago. Or replace London with Chicago or NYC, how would the skyscrapers hold up to the same raids.

In other words if, instead of the London Blitz you had the Chicago Blitz or NYC Blitz. Obviously it couldn’t happen in real life those cities were safe out of the way of German bombs, except the very small type.

I am really interested to see if modern skyscrapers would hold up to WWII type of bombing raids, from both the Axis bombers or the Allied bombers


Surprised this got no replies and wanted to give it a bump… Anyone?

How could anyone answer this on a factual basis?

The history we do know – one might say the jets hitting the WTC were akin to large incendiary bombs that penetrated and exploded – is not promising, Two for two collapses and large casualties.

But there are important differences, mostly related to the mass of the planes versus a bomb, and the amount of incendiary material. The planes had thousands of gallons of flammable jet fuel each. It may well be that a standard bomb would have sufficient … napalm?.. to do that much damage. Besides which, most incendiary bombs are not designed to penetrate. Mosy go off on contact, or even above ground, and many are bundles that break up and scatter as they fall. (Or the WWII types were.)

Most would have withstood moderate bombing, I guess.

There wasn’t anything on the scale of the Chrysler Building or the Empire State Building, but there were some relatively tall buildings in Berlin. It seems like looking at the immediate post-war pictures of places like Potsdamer Platz (like this one), most of the taller modern-design buildings were severely damaged but were still standing. Many of the buildings were likely repairable, had the post-war division of the city not make that particular chunk of real estate nearly unusable. In fact, the Columbushaus, which is the building on the left in that picture, was actually used with only minimal repairs until it was gutted in the 1953 uprising. Some of the bigger buildings like the Europahaus were almost obliterated during the war, but were still structurally sound (and advantageously located) enough to be repaired.

Both the Europahaus and the Columbushaus were modern steel-frame buildings that weren’t as tall as some of the buildings in NY and Chicago, but were of similar construction. I would guess that unless they were specifically targeted, both the big sky-scrapers and other smaller steel-frame structures would have at least remained structurally okay.

This hasn’t gotten a lot of responses so I think I’d give my opinion.

Is your question modern New York or WWII era New York.

I think modern New York would hold up pretty well to a WWII style bombing raid, even after that style was perfected by the Allies later in the war. The typical strategic bombing raid was 1) High explosive bombs to blow the slate roofs of buildings and expose the flammable contents (wood beams, furniture, etc,) 2) Phosphorus type incendiary bombs to start a firestrom, 3) another wave of high explosives to kill firefighters, bust watermains, take down the electrical grid, generally add to the confusion and mayem.

American cities, especially now, are probably more fireproof being more spread out, use of steel beams in building, as such. WTC probably would have survived a hit with airplanes if they had a lot less jet fuel aboard. I imagine would also survive being hit with traditional incendiary bombs. Apart from wooden deskts and carpeting I don’t think there’s much inside that could burn. Drywall doesn’t burn. Steel doesn’t burn. The jet fuel kept the fire going long enough to weaken the steel beams.

Probably the best way to attack a contemporary American city with WWII technology would be napalm and high explosives, but you probably wouldn’t wind up with anywhere near the amount of damage with the same amount of sorties.

I’m no weapons expert, but I’m pretty sure that what hit the WTC was a hell of a lot more powerful than any bomb in WWII not named Fat Man or Little Boy.

Modern cities are not designed to hold up to that kind of pounding. I don’t see much difference between WW2 German cities and WW2 American cities, for that matter, now or then. I doubt if the German pre-WW2 construction was planned with large-scale bombing in mind, either, except perhaps for bomb shelters for humans.

Not much you can do against a fully-loaded B29 except the hope you can shoot some of them down.

You’re right. A fully loaded jet is equivalent to 387,000 kg of TNT. The biggest conventional WWII bomb was about 4,000kg of TNT. Conclusion: taking out a skyscraper with WWII technology is unlikely to happen.

You don’t think a 500lb bomb, well placed (with luck, since the aiming wasn’t too good back then) would inflict serious damage to a NY skyscraper and make it unsafe to occupy?

I understand a B17 carried a dozen of them babies.

I don’t. Modern construction materials and methods would work against it, in fact. Dropped from altitude, 500lb. bombs would be traveling almost straight down, which means you would get quite a spread and little lateral impacting. Drop from 30,000 feet against something with the footprint of the Empire State Building and you’ll get 2 hits max. Since the building shrugged off being hit by a B-25, I’m betting the bombs won’t bother it much either. A direct hit will trash the observation deck. Three floors below and it will be business as usual the next day.

My guess, contrary to what everyone else is saying, is that it would cause much more serious damage than you saw in Europe. German (and Allied) WWII bombers caused absolute carnage in European cities. Dresden was almost literally wiped out. You take those same bombers and the same scale of bombing raids and apply them to somewhere like Manhattan, where half the buildings are “skyscrapers” by European standards, and I think the result would be devastating. Each bomb could wipe out multiple floors of a building, and if they could set it on fire or collapse it the damage to the surrounding area would be magnified.

I’m not a Truther in the slightest, but I imagine if a sufficiently large bomb exploded near the street level, right at the foundation of a sufficiently small building, it would topple over and be 100% loss. Or at least lean enough to be uninhabitable.

“Sufficiently” might be the operative word, but even if you couldn’t aim a bomb very accurately, that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t impact at the worst place from random chance alone.

Well, yeah. Drop a 1000 lb. bomb on Katz’s Deli and it’s gone. A 500lb. bomb on the Chrysler Building is a job for Maintenance to fix. :smiley:

I was bored (and, truthfully, a bit in the bag) and so was curious about the relative energies of an impacting B-25 at cruise velocity and a 500 lb GP bomb. From the wiki for the B-25, it weighs anywhere between 19,800 pounds and 35,000 pounds, and cruises at 230 mph. I took that velocity and used a weight of 25,000 pounds. Converting to SI units, I got about 60 MJ of kinetic energy (please check the math!).

A British500 lb GP bomb from WW2, had about 28 to 31% explosive filler, typically TNT or an Amatol blend. Amatol is about 1.15 times as effective as TNT, FWIW. I used a pure TNT filler. TNT has chemical energy of 4.184 MJ/kg. (As the wiki shows, this isn’t exactly correct, but is within the ballpark, IMO). Accordingly, a 227 kg bomb has ~70 kg of TNT filler, with a chemical energy of ~295 MJ, roughly 5 times the kinetic energy of the colliding bomber. Explosive energy vs kinetic energy is going to transfer in different ways obviously, but the Empire State Building is not going to simply shrug off a couple of 500 pounders that hit it.

FWIW, a fully loaded MD-11 at ~ cruising weight of 550,000 pounds, moving at 500 MPH, has K.E. of 5677 MJ. This discounts the additional chemical energy of ~200,000 lbs of burning JP-8, incidentally.

Og bless boredom and alcohol! Where would the Dope be without them? :smiley:

Thanks for the replies. I know it’s hard to say would would happen, but I was thinking more in line with good guesses :slight_smile:

When I see pictures of cities ruined in WWII, I often wonder what American cities would’ve looked like had they had been subject to such bombing.

I’ve recently read a book called “A Torch to the Enemy”, a nonfic about the Tokyo firebombing. Big concrete buildings did survive, but everyone that was in them got roasted to death.

Well, the Grand Slam was bigger – 10,000 kg of Torpex, which is “a secondary explosive 50% more powerful than TNT by mass”. But it’s an unlikely candidate to be carried across the Atlantic even if the Axis had possessed a bomber capable of carrying it, which they did not (only the British Lancaster managed the feat).

Interesting that you should say that. The inventor of the Grand Slam (and its predecessor, the Tallboy), Barnes Wallis, described his concept as an “earthquake bomb.”

In practice, this worked as well as the accuracy of WWII bombing allowed; Wallis’ earthquake bombs had a relatively successful record.