Bombing of Foggia
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The aim of the Allied Forces was to prevent the use of the transport network and airfields at Foggia. The transport network was an important focal point in the deployment of German and Italian troops used to counter the Allied attacks on Southern Italy and the invasion of Sicily in July (Operation Husky). It has been claimed that the raids were too extensive and caused excessively high levels of deaths and casualties amongst the civil population (about a third of the population were killed. The air raids continued after an armistice had been signed between the Allies and Italy due to the concentration of German forces in Foggia who were not party to the armistice.
The city of Foggia was awarded the Italian gold medal for civil value on November 22, 1959, for having suffered 20,298 victims, and of the Italian gold medal for military value on April 25, 2007.
Foggia was attacked on nine occasions. Thousands of homes in residential districts, the airport, the railway station, and numerous squares and streets were totally devastated. After the extensive bombing raid of August 19, 1943, which caused over 9,000 victims, the British prime minister Winston Churchill stated "Foggia has been Coventrated", in reference to the destruction suffered by the city of Coventry in the Coventry Blitz on November 14, 1940.
A chronicle of the bombing of Foggia was written by Luca Cicolella in a book called "...e la morte venne dal cielo" ("...and death came from the sky"), published in 1973 and 1983, which also contained the Report made by the Monsignor Fortunato Maria Farina and sent to Pope Pius XII.
[22 July 1943] The station clock says 9.43. The sky suddenly darkens. Forty Flying Fortresses and more than fifty fighter planes descend upon Foggia. When the bell of the Town Hall tolls to give the alarm, the massacre has already begun. The first bombs fall on the station, smashing the buildings with extraordinary violence and closing the entrances to the underpasses from which heart-rending cries of pain can be heard. A train has arrived from Bari a few minutes before. Many travellers have been caught by surprise as they entered the underpasses. Others believe that they can shelter from the fury of the bombardment in the same underpasses. Instead they go to a certain death...
For a short period Foggia became a ghost town in which looters sought valuables worn by the casualties and burgled abandoned buildings.
... There are some who decide to exploit the tragedy. In the night the flying fortresses do not return. Instead the thieves arrive. They are "jackals" who pounce upon the dead, rummaging in their pockets and taking money, rings and gold chains. They enter the half-ruined houses, filling boxes with linen, and running off with furniture and jewellery. Every night they return to plunder the city. No one intervenes. People are afraid that they are armed.
Although an Armistice between Italy and Allied armed forces was declared on September 8, allied forces continued bombing until September 15 ostensibly to prevent German troop movements.
Chronology of events
- May 15, 1943: Allied forces occupy Tunisia.
- May 28–30-31: Destruction of the airport and railway station of Foggia. (462 victims)
- June 21: Second air raid. (91 victims)
- July 10: The first Allied landings on the island of Sicily.
- July 15: Air raid on the railway station. (1,293 civil victims)
- July 22: Another air raid on the railway station, with strafing of the whole area. (7,643 victims)
- July 25: The fall and arrest of Mussolini.
- August 16: Air raid on the outskirts of Foggia.
- August 19: Carpet bombing of the entire city. (9,581 victims)
- August 24–25: Thousands of bombs launched over the city, also during the night, until the morning of the 25th. (971 victims)
- September 8: Badoglio announces the armistice between Italy and the Allies (signed at Cassibile on September 3).
- September 9: A smaller air raid, despite the recently signed armistice. (21 civil victims)
- September 17–18: The last air raid on the city of Foggia. (179 victims)