World War II Italy: Air War Civilian Casualties--Preliminary Phase (1940-43)

Italian civilian casualties from air operations
Figure 1.--Naples, a majpr port in southern Italy, was the most bpmbed city in Italy. Mpst of the Italian civilian casualties before the Armistice (September 1943) occurred in Naples. Here we see some of these casualties after the Allies entered Naples. This family was bombed out of their home. The press caption read, "Canadians in Italy: An Italian mother and two small children sitting on a curb in Naples. The mother has been begging for money and food morning without much success. The child with the bandaged was injured by a stone which fell from a bombed building in the city."

Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, believing that the Germans had already won the War declared war on Britain and France (June 1940) and a few montha later attacked the British in Egypt from Italy's Libyan colony (September 1940). Allied bombing of Italy was during the first 2 years of the War very limited. This changed with the decisive British victory at el Alamein (November 1942) after which the British seized Libya with bases from which American bombers could reach southern Italy. The main target was Naples, the most important port in southern Europe. With the Torch landings (November 1942), the focus of the North African campaign became Tunisia. Hitler rushed reinforcements to Tunisia. The campaign would turn on the ability of the Germans and Italians to reinforce and supply their forces in Tunisia. This made the Italian ports a major target and the Allies now had the bases and air units to strike at them. It is at this time that civilian casualties from air attacks began to increase. They were, however, fairly limited. Attacks were primarily limited to ports and transport nodes like rail yards. Unlike German cities. There were few war industries in southern Italy. Naples was an exception. Naples became the most bombed Italian city in the War. The Allies staged about 200 air strikes on Naples, mostly the Americans in 1943. The primary targets was the port facilities in the east. Other targets included rail, industrial, and petroleum facilities and the steel mill to the west, in near by Bagnoli. The largest raid was more than a month before liberation (August 4). A force of 400 B-17 Mitchells of the Northwest African Strategic Air Force (NASAF) hit the submarine base at Naples. World War II targetting wa primitive. The Church of Santa Chiara was destroyed. The Santa Maria di Loreto hospital was also destroyed in Allied raids. Some 25,000 civilians are believed to be killed in Allies air raids while the Italians were still in the War as a NAZI ally. The vast majority were killed in Naples.


Instituto Centrale Statistica. Morti E Dispersi Per Cause Belliche Negli Anni 194045 (Rome: 1957).


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Created: 9:54 PM 10/22/2016
Last updated: 9:54 PM 10/22/2016