Bombing of Bucharest in World War II


Bombing of Bucharest in World War II

The bombing of Bucharest (the capital of Romania) in World War II comprised operations by the Allies and Axis Powers at separate intervals in 1944. The first one was carried out by the American Army Air Forces (USAAF) and the British Royal Air Force (RAF) on 4 April and 15, 1944, mainly as an attempt to interrupt military transports to the Eastern Front; both sides incurred heavy losses. The second was carried out by the German Luftwaffe in retaliation for Romania having changed sides (immediately after the fall of the fascist regime headed by Ion Antonescu), and took place on 23 August-25.

Background

:"Main articles: Romania during World War II, Bombing of Romania in World War II"The USAAF first bombed Romania on 12 June 1942, a week after declaring war on it and reciprocating Romania's declaration of war on the United States of 12 December 1941. Its results were minor, and planes did not reach the capital.

Subsequent bombings centered on Ploieşti (August 1943), the first ones to profit from gains in Italy ("see Italian Campaign (World War II)"), and air bases closer to Romania's territory. These were known as Operation Tidal Wave, and resulted in serious damage to Romania's oil industry.

Allied operations

April 4

The first Anglo-American bombing of Bucharest lasted two hours and occurred on April 4, 1944 with planes leaving from Grottaglie, taking the usual route past Turnu Severin, across the Southern Carpathians, and up to Târgovişte and Snagov, but then continuing straight to Bucharest and not doubling back toward Ploieşti as usual. The bombing had as its objective to interrupt military transports to the front. Hence, the principal Bucharest rail station, Gara de Nord, and its surroundings were carpet-bombed and the tracks at the Bucharest classification yard were destroyed. A very strong wind on that warm spring day diverted a number of bombs, which landed on Calea Griviţei and Giuleşti, and later on the rest of the city; western and north-western Bucharest were most severely hit. Hundreds of buildings were destroyed and over 5,000 were killed or injured, though there is no official casualty figure. In particular, bombs fell on Calea Victoriei, on the Splendid and Athénée Palace Hotels; on the German Military Mission; near the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. Joseph, destroying its stained-glass windows; and on Cotroceni, uprooting several large, ancient poplars in the Botanical Garden of Bucharestro icon [http://www.jurnalul.ro/articol_60713/ia_ti_bucurestii___cotroceniul_linistit.html "Ia-ţi Bucureştii - Cotroceniul liniştit" ("Keep Bucharest - Cotroceni Is Quiet")] , "Jurnalul Naţional", August 31, 2006] .

The mid-day attack came by surprise but air raid sirens quickly activated, sending Bucharesters into bomb shelters, at least one of which was destroyed by bombing.

The use of anti-aircraft artillery by the Romanian military inflicted damage but was considered light by the air crews. [USAF HRA] The 449th Bombardment Group, based in Grottaglie, lost 7 of 28 aircraft that took off. [review of "Ted's Travelling Circus: 93rd Bombardment Group (H) 1942-1945", by Scott A. Willey, "Air Power History", Fall 1998] However, flak did not inflict as many losses as the 80-100 enemy aircraft, all marked as German Nazi, that were reported. Losses include "Reluctant Liz", 41-28596, 717th BS, downed by enemy aircraft; "Miasis Dragon", 42-52172, 717th BS, downed by enemy aircraft; "Consolidated Mess", 42-52159, 719th BS, downed by enemy aircraft; "Dixie Belle", 41-29193, 719th BS, downed by enemy aircraft; "Paper Doll", 42-07691, 719th BS, downed by enemy aircraft; "Born to Lose", 41-29258, 719th BS, downed by enemy aircraft; (Unknown), 41-28655, 719th BS, downed by enemy aircraft. The 449th hit the marshalling yards and inflicted heavy losses on the attacking fighters. Actual Army Air Force Mission Reports claimed Enemy Aircraft "Destroyed: 32 ME-109, 6 FW-190, 1 HE-113, 1 ME-210; Probable destroyed: 6 ME-109, 5 FW-190, 2 JU-88; Damaged: 5 ME-109, 1 FW-190." Flak was reported as "Over the target the group experienced slight, inaccurate, heavy flak probably due to presence of E/A [enemy aircraft] attacking formation over target area." Total losses were 7 B-24s all from enemy aircraft, 13 B-24s were damaged, but returned to base. [USAF HRA]

April 15

A second massive bombing took place on April 15. This time, the RAF used P-61 Black WidowsFact|date=April 2008 to carry out the operation, first dropping flares that illuminated the night sky bright as day and then using incendiary bombs, once they could see their targets. [Giurescu, p.209] As Constantin Giurescu notes, a terrifying, "apocalyptic" scene was created that night. [Giurescu, p.209] The University of Bucharest was gravely damaged and the building next to it, that of "Cartea Românească", was destroyed, as were others.

Domestic reaction

Ion Antonescu, who was then "Conducător" and Prime Minister, had this to say after the April 4 bombing: cquote|Since we never attacked them, we might have expected understanding and justice instead of vengeance. Virile people do not conquer on their knees but only by looking the enemy in the eye. The civilization that today has been sinned against by people whom we have never harmed stands in need of our work, our hearts, our struggle and our unity. ["Antonescu Deplores Bombing of Bucharest, And So Does Hungary, Germans Report", "New York Times", April 6, 1944]

Writing in 2005, Mihai A. Semedrea, a survivor of the April 4 bombing, observed, cquote|When American planes were bombing Bucharest, on 4 April 1944, in the downtown movie theatres, on Elisabeta Boulevard, American films were playing, films with cowboys, that is, Westerns; and I think "Gone with the Wind" was playing somewhere–at the Capitol Theatre, if I'm not mistaken. The public's disposition and even that of the authorities was not at all anti-British or anti-American. [ro icon [http://www.observatorul.com/articles_main.asp?action=articleviewdetail&ID=2043 "Amintiri din război - 4 aprilie 1944" ("Memories of the War - 4 April 1944")] , "Observatorul" (Toronto), March 12, 2005]

These feelings, whilst valid, may be counterbalanced with the Allies' rationale for the bombing–Romania's whole-hearted support for Axis operations in Europe, in particular the supply of massive amounts of materiel (such as oil and other vital war goods), and the assignment of huge numbers of direct combat troops to the Eastern front.

German operation

The Soviet Red Army's incursion into Moldavia ("see Battle of Târgul Frumos") prompted King Mihai I to carry out the August 23 coup that toppled and arrested Antonescu, seeking a peace with the Allies.

Retaliation followed on the same day: while the Romanian Army and Wehrmacht were engaged in street fights, Adolf Hitler gave the order for German planes to leave their base in Otopeni (just north of the capital) on the night of August 23-24, and systematically bomb Bucharest. This was repeated on the night of August 24-25, until an Anglo-American bombing of Otopeni resulted in heavy losses for the Luftwaffe. [Giurescu, p.212]

The operation destroyed the National Theatre building and several other downtown buildings, while seriously damaging the Royal Palace, the Victoria Palace, and the Romanian Athenaeum. [Giurescu, p.212]

Notes

References

*Constantin C. Giurescu, "Istoria Bucureştilor. Din cele mai vechi timpuri pînă în zilele noastre" ("History of Bucharest. From the earliest times to our day"), Ed. Pentru Literatură, Bucharest, 1966
*ro icon [http://www.jurnalul.ro/articol_56242/bombe_anglo_americane.html "Bombe anglo-americane" ("Anglo-American Bombs")] , "Jurnalul Naţional", July 3, 2006.
* [http://www.au.af.mil/au/afhra/ USAF Historical Research Agency (HRA)] - files GP-449-SU-OP and GP-449-SU-OP-S
*'Maximum Effort', A History of the 449th Bomb Group, Published by The 449th Bomb Group Association


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