Bombing of Innsbruck in World War II

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Innsbruck, an Austrian city, was annexed by Nazi Germany in 1938. It was bombed 22 times by the Allies in World War II, suffering heavy damage.

Background[edit]

The widespread area bombing of Innsbruck began in December 1943 and went on until April 1945. Innsbruck is a main transport hub where four rail lines (Arlbergbahn from the west, Mittenwaldbahn from the north, Westbahn from the east and Brennerbahn from the south), converge. A key function as a railroad supply center for Italy made Innsbruck an important strategic target for the Allies.

Until autumn 1943, Innsbruck was too far away for the Allied air forces. With the establishment of the Fifteenth Air Force (15th AF) in November 1943, the success of "Operation Husky", (the name for the Allied invasion of Sicily) and the subsequent construction of several bases near Foggia in Italy, the city was then in range.

Table - the 22 attacks [1][edit]

Date of Raids Casualties Damaged Buildings Comments
December 15, 1943 259 472 301st Bombardment Group Heavy
97th Bomb Group - Mission #205
December 19, 1943 65 264 301st Bombardment Group Heavy
97th Bomb Group - Mission #206
98th Bomb Group
June 13, 1944 1 42 484th Bombardment Group Mission #31
484th Bombardment Group (H) - Mission #31
October 20, 1944 28 320
October 26, 1944 1 33 301st Bombardment Group Heavy
463rd Bombardment Group - Mission #124
November 15, 1944 - 4 450th Bombardment Group - Mission #175 - Narrative Report
461st Bombardment Group (H) - Mission #132
484th Bombardment Group - Mission #112
November 16, 1944 12 168 463rd Bombardment Group - Mission #136
November 25, 1944 1 13
November 30, 1944 - 2
December 3, 1944 - - 461st Bombardment Group (H) - Mission #143
484th Bombardment Group (H) - Mission #122
December 7, 1944 2 28 450th Bombardment Group - Mission #189 - Narrative Report
461st Bombardment Group (H) - Mission #145
484th Bombardment Group (H) - Mission #124
December 15, 1944 4 95 376th Heavy Bomb Group, - Mission Report by M. R. Gerszewski
December 16, 1944 40 798 450th Bombardment Group Mission #194 - Narrative Report
December 19, 1944 - 56
December 25, 1944 1 142 450th Bombardment Group - Mission #200 - Narrative Report
December 29, 1944 9 265 463rd Bombardment Group - Mission #156
February 14, 1945 - 2
February 16, 1945 - 36
February 27, 1945 4 27
April 7, 1945 6 111
April 10, 1945 27 262 205 Group RAF
April 20, 1945 1 7
22 Raids 461 3147

The first two raids (December 15 and 19 1943), happened unexpectedly: the residents of Innsbruck did not use the air-raid shelters therefore there was a high death toll (259 + 65 people killed).[2] During the next six months attacks were suspended by the Allies because of preparations for Operation Overlord in Normandy, (France). In this break the military and urban administration of Innsbruck rearranged the anti-aircraft defenses and expanded the air raid shelters. These shelters were mainly constructed by forced labor from the Arbeitslager Reichenau in Innsbruck. 25 underground shelters with a total length of 11,2 km and space for 28,755 civilians were built in 1944.[3]

The third attack on June 13, 1944 concentrated on the marshalling yards in Innsbruck. 37 aircraft of the 484th Bomber Group/5th Wing of the 15th Air Force were originally destined for targets in Bavaria, (Oberpfaffenhofen near Starnberg, Allach near Munich, Milbershofen near Dachau and Neuaubing near Munich). Due to bad weather conditions and strong air defenses over Munich, Innsbruck was the alternate target. The narrative report of Mission 31 states:

"Maybe men had been wounded, but remained heroically at the assigned posts. Approaching the target, for the second time on this mission the formation encountered heavy, intense and accurate anti-aircraft fire. In the face [of] repeated bursts of murderous enemy gun-fire, the group leader kept his remaining force intact and led the formation on a perfect bombing run for a brilliant peace of precision bombing."[4]

The bomber group, with about 350 crew members, suffered heavy losses: four killed, four wounded and 54 missing. 56 tons of bombs killed two civilians, and destroyed the marshalling yards and the Wilten monastery. The bomber crews received a "Presidential Unit Citation"[5]

The 13th attack on Innsbruck on December 16, 1944, indicated a change in the stratetic approach: a higher percentage of delayed-action and incendiary bombs (600 high explosive and 45 delayed-action bombs and 12,000 incendiaries). Innsbruck was no longer treated as a strategic target. The high number of civil buildings destroyed and the high death toll (40 persons killed) indicates "morale bombing".[6]

The 21st attack on April 10, 1945 was the only night operation. This raid was carried out not by the USAAF but by No. 205 Group RAF. 31 people were killed.[7]

The war ended in Innsbruck on May 3, 1945, when the resistance movement liberated and units of the US 103rd Infantry Division entered the city. From December 1943 to April 1945 60 percent of the buildings in Innsbruck were damaged, 461 people were killed.

Besides the marshalling yards, many historic monuments were destroyed, including: the Servitenkloster monastery (1614–1616) and the Bartholomäuskapelle, one of the oldest buildings in Innsbruck (13th century). The Landhaus or old federal state parliament of 1724, city hall, St. James's Cathedral (1717–1724), Stift Wilten monastery (1651–1667), the Jesuit Church (1627–1637) and several buildings in the historic center were badly damaged.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Die Bombenangriffe auf Innsbruck in den Jahren 1943 bis 1945. In: Tiroler Heimatblätter, Bd. 3-4, S. 60-61
  2. ^ Die Bombenangriffe auf Innsbruck in den Jahren 1943 bis 1945. In: Tiroler Heimatblätter, Vol 3-4, p 60-61
  3. ^ Theodor Greiner: Die Innsbrucker Luftschutzstollen als technisches Problem In: Konrad Arnold (Hrsg.): Luftschutzstollen aus dem Zweiten Weltkrieg. (2002), p 201-245
  4. ^ June 13, 1944 Mission to Innsbruck, Austria. In: The Torretta Flyer. Winter Spring 1995, No 27, p 24
  5. ^ June 13, 1944 Mission to Innsbruck, Austria. In: The Torretta Flyer. Winter Spring 1995, No 27, p 18-25.
  6. ^ Leo Unterrichter: Die Luftangriffe auf Nordtirol im Kriege 1939-1945 (1946/49), p 567-568
  7. ^ Unterrichter: Die Luftangriffe auf Nordtirol im Kriege 1939-1945. (1946/49), p. 31.

References[edit]

  • Albrich Thomas; Gisinger Arno: Im Bombenkrieg – Tirol und Vorarlberg 1943-1945. Innsbruck: Haymon Verlag 1992 (Innsbrucker Forschungen zur Zeitgeschichte, Vol 8).
  • Arnold, Konrad (Hrsg.): Luftschutzstollen aus dem Zweiten Weltkrieg. Das Beispiel Innsbruck. Von der Geschichte zur rechtlichen und technischen Problemlösung in der Gegenwart. Innsbruck: Studienverlag und Stadtarchiv/Stadtmuseum Innsbruck 2002 (= Veröffentlichungen des Innsbrucker Stadtarchivs, Neue Folge, Vol 27).
  • Die Bombenangriffe auf Innsbruck in den Jahren 1943 bis 1945. In: Tiroler Heimatblätter, Vol 3/4 1947-1948, p 60-61.
  • Ingenhaeff, Wolfgang; Bair, Johann: Die Erinnerung bleibt. Tirol im Bombenkrieg 1943 bis 1945. Innsbruck, Wien: Berenkamp 2004.
  • Innsbruck hilft sich selbst. Die Landeshauptstadt Tirols bei Kriegsende und zwei Jahre später. Ein Bild-Dokument aus schwerer Zeit mit 65 Photos und Zeichnungen. Innsbruck: Stadtmagistrat 1947.
  • The June 13, 1944 Mission to Innsbruck, Austria. In: The Torretta Flyer. Winter Spring 1995, No 27, p 18-32.
  • Schreiber, Horst: Innsbruck im Bombenkrieg. Der historische Hintergrund de Stollenbaues. In: Konrad Arnold (Hrsg.): Luftschutzstollen aus dem Zweiten Weltkrieg. Das Beispiel Innsbruck. Von der Geschichte zur rechtlichen und technischen Problemlösung in der Gegenwart. Innsbruck: Studienverlag und Stadtarchiv/Stadtmuseum Innsbruck 2002 (= Veröffentlichungen des Innsbrucker Stadtarchivs, Neue Folge, Vol 27), p 15-98.
  • Trapp, Oswald: Die Kunstdenkmäler Tirols in Not und Gefahr. Bericht des Landeskonservators über die Geschehnisse in den Jahren 1938-1945; Innsbruck, Wien: Roher 1947.
  • Unterrichter, Leo: Die Luftangriffe auf Nordtirol im Kriege 1939-1945. In: Veröffentlichungen des Tiroler Landesmuseums Ferdinandeum 26/29 (1946/49), p 555-581.
  • Zimmermann, Adolf: Alte Stadt im Ungewitter. Tatsachenbericht eines alten Innsbruckers. Innsbruck: Selbstverlag 1949.