What Sigrid Dathe remembers most clearly is how brilliant the light was. ``It was incredibly bright, stronger than the sun,'' says Dathe, 65. ``The bombers roared overhead, very loud, and they dropped unbelievably bright lights. We called them Christ bombs. They were like the lights of Christmas.''

What Dathe was seeing was the very opposite of Christmas. The Christ bombs that so awed the 15-year-old schoolgirl on that night of Feb. 13, 1945, were lights of war and apocalypse. They were marker flares to guide U.S. and British bombers to one of the most controversial and troubling Allied actions of World...

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