Aerial bombings in Italy during WWII

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During the Second World War the Allies invaded Europe, starting it from Sicily on 9 July 1943 and after that the Italian Peninsula. The Aerial bombings in Italy during WWII caused large scale deaths and affected many churches, historic monuments, hospitals, schools and other civilian places.

The very first city to be bombed by the RAF on the north was Turin on the 11 of june of 1940, and in the south was Palermo in Sicily (bombers from Malta) on the 23 of june, in both cases killing a small number of civilians[1]. After USA enter in the war, the bombings against civilians become more intense. The Luftwaffe also bombed a few places, mainly to make the invasion slower, like they did on the port of Bari. The most infamous bombing happened in 1944 when a school in Milan was bombed by the USAAF resulting in the death of 184 children, this war crime is called the Gorla Massacre.

Cities and places bombed by the Allies

City of Milan after bombings made by USAAF.
Fiume being bombed by RAF.
Pisa being bombed by USAAF.


The city of Foggia, in the mid-south of Italy, was on of the cities with the biggest number of deaths proportional of the total Population. More than 20,000 or a third (33%) of the population of the city (60,000 at that time) were killed.



Isernia is a poor city on a small hill located not far from Foggia. On the 10 September, just two days after the armistice, the USAAF sent the B-17 Bomber Command to this small city for a "strategic" bombing. The main target was the bridge "Cardarelli", never hit, instead this bridge was one of few buildings not damaged. The city was bombed at Ten thirty o'clock on a market day at the city square, which was full of people, causing 4.,00 deaths in a population of 11,000 people.

Monte Cassino

During the Battle of Monte Cassino (January - May 1944) the Abbey made up one section of the 161 Kilometer (100 miles) Gustav line, which was a defensive German line designed to hold the Allied attackers from advancing any further into Italy during World War Two. It stretched from coast to coast and the monastery was one of the key strongholds overlooking highway 6 and blocking the path to Rome. On February 15, 1944 the abbey was almost completely destroyed in a series of heavy American (USAAF) led air-raids. The Americans Claim, the bombing was conducted because many reports from troops on the ground suggest that German Wehrmacht troops were occupying the monastery, and it was considered a key observational post by all those who were fighting in the field. However, actually during the bombing no Germans were present. It is certain from every investigation that followed since the event that the only people killed in the monastery by the bombing were 230 Italian civilians seeking refuge in the abbey. After the bombing the ruins of the monastery were occupied by German Fallschirmjäger, aiding them in their defense, because the ruins provided excellent defensive cover. The heavily outnumbered Germans held the position until withdrawing on May 17, 1944, having repulsed four main offensives by the New Zealanders, British Indian regiment and Polish troops. Allied forces broke the line between 11 and 17 May and were finally able to take command of the ruins on May 18. The Abbey was rebuilt after the war; Pope Paul VI reconsecrated it in 1964.


The eruption of the Vesuvius volcano near Naples damaged some allied bombers.

Naples could be the city with the largest amount of human lost in Italy, with a death toll estimated between 20,000 and 35,000. Until 1942, the city was bombed only by the RAF with a small number civilian deaths. On December 4 the first terror bombing started, when 20 B-24 bombed the port of the city and also buildings not far from it. The worst war crimes happened on the August 4, 1943, when the city was bombed by 200 B-17, even the church Basilica di Santa Chiara (built between 1310 and 1340) was completely destroyed.


Palermo, the biggest city of Sicily, was bombed at the begging of the war in 1940 by French and English air Forces. They flew mostly against military targets and with minimal number of deaths. On the 9 May of 1943 the USAAF bombed the city, causing large destruction and 1,500 deaths among Italian civilians. After the Allies captured and used the port, the city was also bombed by the German Luftwaffe.


Pisa suffered a heavy bombing by the USAAF, on the 31 August of 1943 at 13:01, when the 152 bombers (between B 17 and B 24) throw 1.100 bombs in a total of 408 tonnes that caused at least 952 deaths and 1.000 injureds. The city was bombed 54 times that caused the death of 1.738 civilians.

Reggio Calabria

The bombing on the city of Reggio Calabria started on the 27 January 1943, but the worst bombing occured on August of the same year by both USAAF and RAF. The city at that time had 130,000 inhabitants and sufferd 3,986 deaths, 12,043 injured, 70% of the buldings destroyed or damaged and around 35,000 people without shelter had to leave their home city.



The bombing of Treviso is considered by some historians as one of many "terror bombings". The city had no military importance, although the USA uses the excuse that they bombed the city because their "intelligence" had information that Hitler and Mussolini would have a meeting in the city, although neither of the two were there at this time. Hitler was at Obersalzberg on this day and he would meet Mussolini on 22/23 April in Salzburg[2]. The attack was on 7 April 1944 and was carried out by 159 B-17 Bombers. Like others Italian cities bombed during the World War II, the targets were the residential areas and the old city centre. Around 80% of the city buildings were destroyed, among these many historical and artistic monuments. Is hard to state the exact number of deaths, but it is believed to be 1,000, although the actual number can be much higher.


Because its geographical position and its industrial importance in Italy, Turin was the first and probably one of the most bombed city in the country. The first raid was on the 11 June 1940 and the last on 5 April 1945. The total number of deaths were 2,069,[3] not many in comparision with some other cities, as almost all bombings in Turin were not made by USAF.

Bombings by the Luftwaffe

Port of Bari

On 2 December 1943, the Luftwaffe sent 105 Junkers Ju 88 to the port of Bari in the southeast of Italy, which at the time was a logistical port used by the Allies during the invasion of Italy. The attack was, from the military point of view, a success because of the sinking of 27 transport ships. The port could not be used for weeks, so the Allied Forces had to slow down their invasion. On the other point, the attack was a human disaster, as one of the Allied ships was loaded with iprit bombs that liberated a toxic mustard gas[4] killing 1,000 italian civilians near the port.

Top Secret: Bari 2nd December 1943

RSI posters about the bombings

See also

External links


  1. [1] Claudia Baldoli. I bombardamenti sull'Italia nella Seconda Guerra Mondiale.
  3. Bombardamenti a Torino
  4. The sulfur mustards, or sulphur mustards, commonly known as mustard gas, are a class of related cytotoxic and vesicant chemical warfare agents with the ability to form large blisters on the exposed skin and in the lungs. Pure sulfur mustards are colorless, viscous liquids at room temperature. When used in impure form, such as warfare agents, they are usually yellow-brown in color and have an odor resembling mustard plants, garlic or horseradish, hence the name. Mustard gas was originally assigned the name LOST, after the scientists Wilhelm Lommel and Wilhelm Steinkopf, who developed a method for the large-scale production of mustard gas for the Imperial German Army in 1916.