Bombing of Rome in World War II

Bombing of Rome in World War II

The bombing of Rome in World War II took place on several occasions in 1943 and 1944, by both Allied and Axis aircraft, before the city was freed from Axis occupation by the Allies on June 4, 1944. Pope Pius XII was initially unsuccessful in attempting to have Rome declared an open city, through negotiations with President Roosevelt via Francis Cardinal Spellman. Rome was eventually declared an open city on August 14, 1943—a day after the last Allied bombing—by the defending forces. [The military and inner political development of Italy 1943-45 (German) [] ]

In the 110,000 sorties that comprised the Allied Rome air campaign, 600 aircraft were lost and 3,600 air crew members died; 60,000 tons of bombs were dropped in the 78 days prior to Rome's capture. [Henry D. Lytton. April 1983. "Bombing Policy in the Rome and Pre-Normandy Invasion Aerial Campaigns of World War II: Bridge-Bombing Strategy Vindicated — and Railyard-Bombing Strategy Invalidated." "Military Affairs". Vol. 47, No. 2. p. 55, 57.]

Correspondences between Pius XII and Roosevelt

Following Allied bombing of Rome on May 16, 1943 (three months before the Nazis occupied the city), Pius XII wrote Roosevelt asking that Rome "be spared as far as possible further pain and devastation, and their many treasured shrines… from irreparable ruin." ["Wartime Correspondence Between President Roosevelt and Pope Pius XII", p. 90.]

On June 16, 1943, Roosevelt replied:

General Henry H. Arnold described Vatican City as a "hot potato" because of the importance of Catholics in the U.S. Armed Forces.Murphy, p. 210.] British public opinion was more aligned towards the bombing of the city, due to the participation of Italian planes in The Blitz over London.


* On July 19, 1943, Rome was bombed again, more heavily, by 521 Allied planes, with three targets, causing hundreds of civilian casualties. After the raid, Pius XII, along with Msgr. Montini (future Pope Paul VI), travelled to the Basilica di San Lorenzo fuori le Mura, which had been badly damaged, and distributed 2 million to the crowds. [Murphy, p. 212–214.] [Trevelyan, p. 11.] Between 11 a.m. and 12 noon, 150 Allied B17 Flying Fortresses attacked the San Lorenzo railway station and steel factory. The second target was the "Scalo del Littorio" on the northern side of Rome. The third target was the Ciampino airport, on south-east side of Rome.

*Three weeks later, on August 13, 1943, Allied planes again bombed the city, targeting San Lorenzo and Scalo del Littorio . [Murphy, p. 214–215.]
*On November 5, 1943, a single Nazi plane dropped four bombs on the Vatican, destroying a mosaic studio near the Vatican railway station and breaking the windows of the high cupola of St. Peter's, and nearly destroying Vatican Radio. [Murphy, p. 222.]
*On March 1, 1944, Nazi airplanes dropped six bombs over the Vatican, littering the Court of Saint Damaso with debris.


*Jackson, W. G. F. 1969. "The Battle for Rome". London: B. T. Batsford Ltd.
*Katz, Robert. 2003. "The Battle for Rome: The Germans, the Allies, the Partisans, and the Pope, September 1943 – June 1944". New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-7432-1642-3
*Kurzman, Dan. 1975. "The Race for Rome". Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc. ISBN 0-385-06555-8
*Murphy, Paul I. and Arlington, R. Rene. (1983) La Popessa: The Controversial Biography of Sister Pasqualina, the Most Powerful Woman in Vatican History. New York: Warner Books Inc. ISBN 0-446-51258-3
*Roosevelt, Franklin D.; Myron C. Taylor, ed. "Wartime Correspondence Between President Roosevelt and Pope Pius XII". Prefaces by Pius XII and Harry Truman. Kessinger Publishing (1947, reprinted, 2005). ISBN 1-4191-6654-9
*Trevelyan, Raleigh. 1982. "Rome '44: The Battle for the Eternal City". New York: The Viking Press. ISBN 0-670-60604-9


External links

* [ Bombing of Rome documents at FDR presidential library]
* [ Collection of documents related to Australian bishops and the bombing of Rome]

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