Frascati bombing raid
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8 September 1943 is the date of a bombing raid of USAAF planes against Frascati, a historical town near Rome, Italy. The target was the German General Headquarters for the Mediterranean zone (O.B.S.) and the Italian headquarters, scattered in buildings and Villas nearby the town.
131 USAAF aircraft (B-17G Flying Fortress) carried out a selective-bombing from height altitude because the aircraft were equipped with the modern laying control system "Norden". The order of flight was:
- 1) 99th Bomb Group with n. 32 F.F. B17 - 5,500 m (18,000 feet).
- 2) 301st Bomb Group with n. 36 F.F. B17 - 6,000 m (20,000 feet).
- 3) 97th Bomb Group with n. 35 F.F. B17 - 5,500 m (18,000 feet).
- 4) 2nd Bomb Group with n. 28 F.F. B17 - 6,000 m (20,000 feet).
General Doolittle's operation order of 7 September 1943 was: Intentions for September eight heavies will destroy town of Frascati - This target is important and must be destroyed.
The anti-aircraft defence was equipped with heavy anti-aircraft guns of 88/56 mm and machineguns of 37/20 mm, which they had placed on Tuscolo ridge and terraces in the town reinforced with cement pillars to stand the recoils.
The Italian Royal Air Force (Regia Aeronautica) engaged about thirty aircraft fighters, some obsolete biplane Fiat CR.42s, some Macchi C.200s, Fiat G.50s, Reggiane Re.2001s, Macchi C.202s and two Fiat G.55s. This was the last mission of Regia Aeronautica before the Armistice with the allied. Overall, one Allied aircraft was destroyed, a B-17 of 97th Bomber Group and 36 fighter attacking were destroyed in air.
About of 50% of the buildings, many of the monuments and villas were destroyed. St. Pietro square was destroyed, however, the Cathedral facade remained undamaged.
Field Marshal Kesselring later wrote in his memoir's about his experience on 8 September. He called it the "day of Italian treason". In fact, the Italians were not present at the German headquarters at the time of the bombing raid. On 3 September 1943 the Italians were alerted by the Allied forces of the bombing raid during their peace talks about their ultimate surrender. These Italian generals and the Savoy royal dignitaries, six days later fled to the port of Ortona, located near Pescara.
The news of the Italian armistice with the Allies reached Frascati at 7:45 pm on 8 September 1943. The townspeople who, less than 24 hours beforehand had been hiding in bomb shelters, were now fleeing south to escape the occupation of the German army (Wehrmacht Heer). The townspeople had no time to clean up debris and bury their dead. As a result, the German armed forces (Wehrmacht) declared the area as an "infected area" and had plans to eliminate the city using flamethrowers. The remaining citizens, however, had found out about the German plan to raze the city, and worked to bury their dead. In total, 485 civilians were victims of the allied raid.
- Chronology of the Second World War, Royal Institute of International Affairs, 1949
- The Army Air Forces in World War II, Craven Wesley Frank & Cate James Lea - The University of Chicago Press, 1952
- Blumenson, Martin, Salerno to Cassino - The United States Army in World War II: The Mediterranean Theater of Operations, Washington, 1988
- Kurowski, Franz, Battleground Italy 1943-1945, Winnipeg, 2003.