Strategic Air Missions

THE ENEMY'S LONG LINES OF COMMUNICATION leading to the battle area in Italy were vital targets for Allied bombing. Beginning on 17 August 1943, the Northwest African Air Forces started bombing strategic points on the Italian peninsula, and thereafter these forces ranged at will over the Balkans and Italy as well as the Adriatic and Tyrrhenian seas. The German airdromes and landing grounds in Italy and the Balkans were hit repeatedly. Railroad tracks, stations, marshalling yards, and bridges were the principal targets of the heavy bombers, operating at times in groups of 120 or more.

On 3-4 October, Wellingtons hit marshalling yards forty miles up the coast from Rome, and Flying Fortresses caused great destruction in the yards at Pisa. Bologna's oil storage plants, warehouses, and yards were wrecked on 5 October by 124 Fortresses which dropped 365 tons of bombs. On 21 October the air forces attempted to cut both coastal and lateral communications to Rome from the north by bombing the railroad on the western coast and a highway bridge at Terni. A week later 133 Fortresses disrupted the coastal communications again, this time by attacking the marshalling yards at Genoa. Industrial works in northern Italy were also the targets for major attacks. At Turin the factory rated as the third most important producer of ball-bearings in Axis Europe was practically destroyed by 81 Fortresses dropping 183 tons of bombs on 8 October. The Fiat motor works and the railway yards adjacent to the plant were also badly damaged.


In November the Air Forces reached out to attack industrial targets in Austria, ball-bearing factories in other parts of occupied Europe, and railway bridges and tunnels leading from France into Italy. Raids on ball-bearing factories at Annecy, France were coordinated with those of British-based bombers against Schweinfurt in Germany. The 15th Strategic Air Force on 2 November took off from Tunisian fields to bomb the ME-109 factory at Wiener-Neustadt, south of Vienna. The 112 planes dropped 336 tons of bombs and destroyed 50 enemy fighters.

Although the Strategic Air Force concentrated its efforts generally to the north of Rome, it also cooperated with the Tactical Air Force in bombing targets in central Italy. In October the Northwest African Air Forces flew from nine airfields in Italy, and by 1 November eleven more Italian fields were available for use. During these two months, this air force unloaded approximately six thousand tons of bombs on strategic targets. Three-fourths of this effort came during the period of the Volturno operations.

In contrast to Allied strategic and tactical bombing, the enemy effort was very weak in Italy. Over the battle areas the Luftwaffe flew from twenty to seventy sorties daily, averaging about twenty-five. In missions of one-quarter the size of the Allied formations, their bombers attacked the harbor at Naples, the airfields at Foggia, and during one night a convoy off the North African coast. Four raids on Naples caused slight damage to military and harbor installations.

Our strategic bombing benefited both the Fifth and Eighth Armies by disrupting traffic, reducing the effectiveness of the German Air Force, cutting communications, and destroying large quantities of supplies. The Luftwaffe was forced to concentrate much of its available fighter strength far from the front to ward off our bombers.


page created 17 September 2001

Return to the Table of Contents

Return to CMH Online