#Story - Italy

Bombings in Sicily

During the three years of war, Sicily suffered hundreds of aerial bombardments. Civilian victims numbered over 6,000 and the damage to buildings and infrastructure was enormous. Also severe were the psychological consequences: the population lived in terror. On one hand they saw the weaknesses of their country’s regime, and on the other the extraordinary technical capabilities of the enemy.

​​Bombing was a key element of the Second World War. It was tactical, used to support military actions and to target industrial establishments and infrastructures, but it also had another purpose. With the availability of bases in North Africa, bombing campaigns were carried out with a ‘moral’ purpose, to terrorise the population.

The Allies had different bombing methods: the British forces bombed at night using carpet bombing, whilst the American forces bombed during the day in a more targeted but massive way. The results of these bombings were devastating. 

In addition to these bombings, Fascism showed itself incapable of defending its territory. Anti-aircraft batteries were few and inefficient, shelters rare and inadequate, and displacement directives contradictory. In 1943, even the Fascist regime's newspapers could no longer hide the damage suffered.

Sicily was hit early and particularly hard, due to its geographical poisition and strategic function. Palermo, Catania and Messina were the most scarred cities, however the other regional capitals were also targeted. Trapani lost half of its buildings, in Syracuse the Piazza Santa Lucia was hit on market day, and in Caltanissetta the cathedral was razed to the ground.

Smaller towns were also involved. On 11 May 1943, there were almost 900 victims in Marsala. On 10 July, there were over 300 victims in Caltagirone. In Regalbuto on 26 July, 134 people were killed. In general, coastal areas and small airports (such as Gerbini, Sciacca and Comiso), were constantly under fire.

Overall, there were more than 6,000 victims (although it is not easy determine a reliable figure), and the injured counted 70,000.

The damage to homes, production facilities and works of art was also very heavy. Less obvious but no less important were the psychological consequences: the enemy's demonstration of its technological ability, even more so than its propaganda, led to a collapse in morale and trust in the Fascist regime. Panic and false news spread, for example the news that the Allies used female pilots.

The bombings in Sicily have long been a painful memory, which has only received its due attention in recent years. Many Sicilian cities, thanks especially to the National Association of Civilian War Victims, have collected documents and testimonies, and inaugurated dedicated monuments and plaques.