Why Rome was bombed ?

Discussions on all aspects of Italy under Fascism from the March on Rome to the end of the war.
DavidFrankenberg
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Why Rome was bombed ?

Post by DavidFrankenberg » 15 Jan 2020 00:40

Hello,

The 26th june, the Vatican warns Mussolini that the Allies gonna bomb Rome if the army keeps on using roman railroads to go south. The 28th june the Vatican is persuaded that the Allies will bomb Rome even if there is no more troops.
The 7th july Ciano explains that Rome is of no military value since all troops movements are made through the tyrrhenian coast not Rome.

Albeit that, Rome is bombed the 19th. The bombing killed 1.500 people and detroyed partly the San Lorenzo's church. The pope Pie XII visited the ruins. The shock was huge in Italy.
The Allies will bomb again the 13 august.

So, i am wondering, if Rome was not a valuable military target, what was the point in bombing Rome ?

LColombo
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Re: Why Rome was bombed ?

Post by LColombo » 15 Jan 2020 09:59

Mostly for political and psychological reasons, but Rome was also a valuable military target.

The high command of the RAF already wanted to bomb Rome in October 1940, as a reprisal for the invasion of Greece, but the War Cabinet stopped this for fear of Italian retaliation against Athens. Later, the bombing of Rome was delayed for technical difficulties (first of all, distance from British air bases) and later due to American opposition (it was feared that the Vatican might be hit, causing outrage among the Catholic part of the population), but both Churchill and Eden thought that, at the right moment, hitting Rome would have great moral impact on the Italian population. On 13 November 1942 Eden wrote in a memorandum: “If we will bomb Rome, in all honesty this will happen for political and psychological reasons (…) [the bombing of Rome] will undoubtedly cause more turmoil in Italy than the bombing of any other city. The best course of action is therefore to (…) use it [the ‘card’ of the bombing of Rome] at the culmination of a campaign aimed at causing an internal upheaval in Italy. A large-scale attack on Rome (…) might have considerable impact on the internal situation in Italy (…) underscoring that this would be an attack against the seat of the Fascist government”.

Regarding the military value or lack thereof, contrasting opinions seem to have existed. In December 1942 a RAF report stated that Rome’s marshalling yards (Littorio and San Lorenzo) were “objectives of primary importance in the case of large-scale movements of enemy troops and supplies towards southern Italy, keys to the entire railway traffic towards the South (except the eastern coast) (…) It would be certainly possible to attack Bologna and Pisa as alternative railway targets, but only for a limited period. It would instead be desirable to attack objectives in Rome”. The position of the Foreign Office, instead, is apparent from Eden’s 13 November document – the bombing would be motivated by political/psychological reasons, rather than purely military reasons. Historians Marco Gioannini and Giulio Massobrio, in their book “Bombardate l’Italia”, write that with the invasion of Sicily and the movement of German troops towards southern Italy, Rome’s marshalling yards acquired considerable military importance, “but no more than those of Bologna to the north or Naples to the south”. In the spring of 1943 the British (for instance, Churchill, Eden and Marshal Artur Tedder at the Algiers Conference in May 1943) started to stress more and more the strategic value of disabling Rome’s marshalling yards in order to damage German supply lines and support operations in Sicily – largely in order to persuade the Americans. Roosevelt, in a letter to Churchill date 14 June 1943, wrote that he agreed to bombing San Lorenzo in order to hinder railway communications with southern Italy and slow down the transfer of the “Hermann Goring” Division. Eisenhower, on the other hand, wrote on 30 June that the bombing of Rome’s marshalling yards would have little material impact on the movements of troops and supplies towards southern Italy, but would have great psychological value.

That the marshalling yards (and airfields) of Rome held some military importance seems to be suggested by the fact that Rome suffered heavy Allied air raids even after the Armistice of Cassibile, that is, when the political/psychological aspect would not matter anymore, as Italy had capitulated and the new Fascist regime was nothing more than a German puppet.

DavidFrankenberg
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Re: Why Rome was bombed ?

Post by DavidFrankenberg » 15 Jan 2020 20:39

I still doubt about the military interest of these bombings. And the psychological impact does not worth it. And what about 2000 at least civilians losses ? Bad balance sheet.

This kind of free bombing recalls those made by the conquering Germans upon Amsterdam or Warsaw... totally useless, just damageful.

In further bombings, the Ciampino airport was aimed. It is understandable.

USAF did these bombings. Do we know who ordered it precusely and why ?
You quoted Roosevelt who seemed to have agreed to an english proposal. But its was USAF who did it.
Eisenhower was not for. So ?
Did only the Brist push for it ?

Morgenthau in his diary wrote :


156 Fortresses B17 and 112 Liberators B24 on Lorenzo.
145 Mitchell B25 and 105 Marauders B26 on Ciampino airport
5 losses
774 tons dropped.
Heavy damage to San Lorenzo and Littorio railways centres. Steel work and large chemical plant hit. 3 airfileds damaged.

LColombo
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Re: Why Rome was bombed ?

Post by LColombo » 16 Jan 2020 17:25

DavidFrankenberg wrote:
15 Jan 2020 20:39
I still doubt about the military interest of these bombings. And the psychological impact does not worth it. And what about 2000 at least civilians losses ? Bad balance sheet.
Enemy civilians... the RAF high commands at this time were studying the best way to burn cities, and just a few days later would kill 20,000 civilians in Hamburg. I am under the impression that they did not care much about civilian casualties as long as they attained their objectives.
DavidFrankenberg wrote:
15 Jan 2020 20:39
USAF did these bombings. Do we know who ordered it precusely and why ?
You quoted Roosevelt who seemed to have agreed to an english proposal. But its was USAF who did it.
Eisenhower was not for. So ?
Did only the Brist push for it ?
It was mostly a British initiative (especially by Churchill and Eden), already present in 1940. Initially, and for a long time, the Americans opposed it for the reasons I have mentioned (backlash from the public opinion, especially Catholics, if the Vatican or the historical monuments were hit – and indeed, when the raid was finally ordered, extraordinary measures were taken in order to ensure this would not happen). In order to persuade them, the British (who mostly aimed at the political/psychological effect) stressed, and maybe exaggerated, the military importance of the Roman marshalling yards; at the Algiers conference in May 1943 Eisenhower was met by Churchill, Eden, Alan Brooke (Chief of the Imperial General Staff), Andrew Cunningham (commander-in-chief of the Mediterranean Fleet) and Arthur Tedder (commander-in-chief of the Mediterranean Air Command), all of whom tried to persuade Eisenhower that bombing Rome would be useful and necessary under a military point of view, that the bombing would be accurate enough that the Vatican and the ancient monuments would not be hit, and that therefore there would be no serious backlash from the public opinion. It was Churchill who suggested to bomb Rome, and the others backed him up: Eden pointed out that Rome lay along the lines of communication between northern Italy and Sicily, and therefore bombing it would help Operation Husky; Cunningham added that the Tiber separated San Lorenzo from the Vatican and could be easily seen by the pilots; when Eisenhower asked if the same result could be obtaind by bombing other marshalling yards south of Rome, Tedder explained why (under a military point of view) it would be more useful to bomb Rome. The British thus finally obtained the American consent to the bombing; it was decided that Eisenhower would decide the moment when the attack would take place, choosing the time when this would be more helpful for the operations in Sicily. Roosevelt gave his approval with his letter to Churchill on 14 June 1943.

So, to answer your question, Eisenhower is the one who gave the order in the end; but the actual decision to bomb Rome came mostly from Churchill, and Eisenhower does not appear to have been very entusiastic about it.

The raid was carried out by the USAF, in all likelihood, because they were the ones that had the suitable means in the Mediterranean theatre: Rome was too far away from British bases in both England and Malta/Egypt, and I think the RAF did not have a great number of heavy bombers in the Mediterranean, mostly light/medium bombers. The USAAF, instead, had plenty of heavy bombers in French North Africa. Another reason is, the RAF only carried out night raids, the USAAF attacked in daytime; and in order to avoid hitting the Vatican or the Roman monuments, it would be necessary to bomb Rome in daytime.

The actual political/psychological effect is discussed to this day. What is certain is that the raid greatly impressed the population of Rome, which became enraged at the regime, the king and the armed forces for having been unable to defend the city (and more generally, for having started the war, whose catastrophic effects they were now experiencing on their skin); when Victor Emmanuel III visited the districts that had been hit, in the afternoon of 19 July, the population welcomed him coldly, some people even insulted or threw stones at him, and some of his aides were almost assaulted. On the following day, discussing what had happened with General Paolo Puntoni (his military aide), Victor Emmanuel noted that the irate reaction of the population showed that the Fascist regime did not have support anymore, and that it was necessary to “change at all costs”. Mussolini’s fall and arrest happened just six days later, as it is know. While of course it was not the only or main cause, the raid on Rome may have contributed to speeding up the events leading to the fall of the Fascist regime.

DavidFrankenberg
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Re: Why Rome was bombed ?

Post by DavidFrankenberg » 16 Jan 2020 18:26

This is a convenient conclusion. But, i fear that the fall of Mussolini was certain without the bombing. The bombing did not play any role in it. The main reason was that Mussolini was not able to break the alliance with Hitler and refused to sign a separated peace with the Allies. Mussolini was not even able to ask for it in front of Hitler.
That's why the fascists decided to overthrown him. Mussolini could not do anything against it and was surely not against it, he knew perfectly the desperate situation of the country. He was just unable to face Hitler, he feared the german reaction which would have been terrible, and indeed he was right when you look at the way the Germans treated the Italians.

yantaylor
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Re: Why Rome was bombed ?

Post by yantaylor » 27 Jan 2020 21:50

Well it was war and war is hell, cities where bombed all over the world, Rome suffered like many others which is sad, but there you go.
The Corpo Aereo Italiano turned up to bomb Britain in 1940, so go figure.
I don't know anything about Antifa communist, never heard of them, so I won't comment.
Regards
Yan

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Gorque
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Re: Why Rome was bombed ?

Post by Gorque » 27 Jan 2020 22:09

ItalianLegion1943 wrote:
27 Jan 2020 18:32
Joseph Stalin made a demonic deal with the allies to bomb Rome. He told the British and American Generals if you bomb Rome then in return the Soviet Union would invade Berlin 1945.
Wouldn't the decision regarding Berlin & Rome be up to Winston and FDR?

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Re: Why Rome was bombed ?

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Carl Schwamberger
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Re: Why Rome was bombed ?

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 13 Feb 2020 16:09

Gorque wrote:
27 Jan 2020 22:09
ItalianLegion1943 wrote:
27 Jan 2020 18:32
Joseph Stalin made a demonic deal with the allies to bomb Rome. He told the British and American Generals if you bomb Rome then in return the Soviet Union would invade Berlin 1945.
Wouldn't the decision regarding Berlin & Rome be up to Winston and FDR?
Churchill had a habit of getting involved in operational & tactical decisions like this, Roosevelt preferred to take his generals advice & set broad policy, but disliked the burden of details, he appointed men he hoped could make those decisions using his policy guidance. So in practical terms Churchill yes, Roosevelt no. Marshal acted as a link between Roosevelt & Eisenhower & often influenced Eisenhowers decisions, but if Ike did not directly follow Marshals advice there were no large repercussions. Same for the other senior US commanders. MacArthur, Stilwell, ect... Roosevelt left the details to the man on the spot. Conversely Churchill frequently pressured local leaders into his his favored actions. For the polar opposite consider Hitlers reputation for frequent intervention in decisions at all levels.

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Re: Why Rome was bombed ?

Post by Gorque » 13 Feb 2020 19:53

^^ Thanks for taking the time and effort in answering my question Carl. :thumbsup:

Do you think that FDR's lack of involvement in operational and tactical decisions was influenced by him not having any military service as opposed to Churchill's and Hitler's?

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