#Story - Italy

The bombings of Messina and Palermo

The Anglo-American bombing of the cities of Sicily was an important part of Operation Husky. The damage caused in some cities, above all Palermo, produced numerous victims and left a mark on the urban landscape.

Bombing raids on the cities of Sicily began at the same time as Italy's entry into the war. Palermo, for example, was reached for the first time on 23 June 1940, when French bombers - coming from Tunisia - hit the capital. The creation during that same year of a defensive network based on anti-aircraft emplacements and anti-aircraft supported by the Italian Air Force and the Luftwaffe helped to put a stop to these attacks, but not to all attacks. In 1941 and 1942, RAF interventions from Malta focused on Sicily as it was a support base for German forces in Africa. However, it was 1943 that saw the start of a massive bombing raids strategy, aimed at preparing the ground for Operation Husky. 

The city of Palermo was then hit hard by bombing raids from both sides. From January to early July, when the city was still under the control of the Axis forces, it was targeted by Allied bombing raids, whilst in July and August it was German bombing raids that hit the capital. The damage produced during the raids was extremely extensive in many respects: the city centre was damaged in numerous areas, more than 2,000 people lost their lives and the number of injured exceeded 30,000. 

The Allied raid on 9 May 1943 was particularly devastating, in which more than 200 bombers targeted the port and the railway station, but also hit the city centre. The Anglo-American raids also caused serious damage to the artistic and cultural heritage: the Magione, Annunziata, and Sant'Ignazio all'Olivella churches were all severely damaged. A wing of the Palazzo Sclafani and the south-west wing of Palazzo Abatellis were also damaged, the latter hit by bombs in April 1943. 

However, the raids did not spare other cities: Messina was targeted for its strategic importance even during the evacuation of the German army; Catania was hit hard in April that year; Syracuse, which had also been scourged in previous years by Anglo-American bombing, was subjected to intense Allied fire in the early stages of the landings.