Il bombardamento aereo di Cassino

La ricerca è sempre in corso e la pagina potrà subire modifiche e integrazioni.

Per chi non conosce questo tragico evento e il contesto in cui avvenne, è consigliabile un passaggio informativo preliminare tramite la lettura sia della Cronologia delle operazioni sia, eventualmente, degli articoli correlati.

Premessa.

Questa operazione prevedeva l'impiego di un numero molto elevato di aerei e fu largamente più complessa del bombardamento dell'Abbazia, avvenuto un mese prima. Quindi, per il momento, ci limiteremo a prendere in considerazione solo i gruppi da bombardamento medi e pesanti.

La ricerca.

Analogamente alle modalità utlizzate nella ricerca su Il bombardamento aereo dell'Abbazia di Montecassino, anche questo esercizio utilizza come punto di partenza delle autorevoli fonti bibliografiche, a nostro avviso da considerarsi di riferimento.

WEDNESDAY, 15 MARCH 1944
MEDITERRANEAN THEATER OF OPERATIONS (MTO)
STRATEGIC OPERATIONS (Fifteenth Air Force): In Italy, 300+ B-24s and B-17s bomb Cassino, the area S of Cassino and areas near Venafro in support of the US Fifth Army; 250+ other heavy bombers return to base without bombing because of complete cloud cover of their target areas; extensive fighter cover over the Cassino area is provided by P-38s, and P-47s fly 2 sweeps over the Viterbo-Canino area; there is no fighter opposition. ...

TACTICAL OPERATIONS (Twelfth Air Force): In Italy, medium and fighter- bombers, together with Mediterranean Allied Strategic Air Force (MASAF) heavy bombers and other aircraft of the Mediterranean Allied Tactical Air Force (MATAF) in the greatest air effort yet made in the MTO, rain bombs upon enemy concentrations in Cassino and surrounding areas as the New Zealand Corps begins the third battle of Cassino; light and medium bombers also hit a command post E of Ceprano and the town of San Benedetto de Marsi; fighters on patrol and a sweep over Anzio, Cassino and Rome meet no air opposition.

Combat Chronology of the US Army Air Forces - March 1944

[...] First to arrive at 0830 were the medium bombers, B-25's and B-26's, in flights of a dozen or more, escorted by fighters flying high above them and marking the sky with vapor trails. The bombers approached the target, almost passed, then turned left. The bellies of the planes opened, and the bombs tumbled out. Then the planes wheeled again, this time to fly home.
About 80 percent of the bombs dropped by the aircraft in the first wave fell into the heart of Cassino. The others landed nearby, a few short ones coming to earth on the Allied side of the Rapido River. As the bombs struck, "stabbing flashes of orange flame" shot through a holocaust of erupting smoke and debris.
Next, at 0845, came the heavy bombers, the Flying Fortresses, along with the dive bombers. As the pilots roared over the town, already obliterated from left with any fight in them. Surely it would be but a question of bodies and prisoners, perhaps very few of either.

Between 0830 and 1200, 15 March, 72 B-25'S, 101 B-26's, 262 B-17s and B-24's-a total of 435 aircraft-bombed the Cassino area. The planes dropped more than 2,000 bombs, a total weight of almost 1,000 tons, in an unprecedented bombardment of awesome proportions.

There was little flak at Cassino, and no German planes appeared to oppose the bombing. The Allied aircraft suffered no losses.
The medium bomber attacks were generally punctual, their bombing concentrated and accurate. The heavy bombers were often at fault on all three counts. Thus, the target received less than the full weight of the bombs dropped. Only about 300 tons fell into the town of Cassino. The remainder landed on the slopes of Monte Cassino and elsewhere. Only half in all found the target area. In addition, there were frequent and long pauses between the attacking waves.
Even this imperfect bombardment demolished Cassino, toppling walls, crushing buildings, and covering the streets with debris.
Some heavy bomber pilots were unable to identify the target, and twentythree returned to their bases with their bombs intact; two jettisoned their loads in the sea. Rack failure on the leading plane of one formation sent forty bombs into Allied-held areas, killing and wounding civilians and troops. These short bombs and others inflicted about 142 casualties-28 were killed-among able the Allied units in the Cassino area.
Ten air miles away, several planes bombed Venafro by mistake, killing 17 soldiers and 40 civilians, and wounding 79 soldiers and 100 civilians. The bombing errors were an "appalling" tragedy that General Clark attributed to "poor training and inadequate briefing of crews. [...]

More aircraft 120 B-17's and 140 B-24's arrived over Cassino early on the afternoon of 15 March to help the ground troops, but heavy cloud formations covered the area and prevented the pilots from finding their targets. They returned to their bases without releasing their loads. Lighter planes had better success. Between 1300 and 1500, 49 fighter-bombers dropped 18 tons of bombs on the railroad station in Cassino. Between 1345 and 1630, 96 P-47's, A-36's, and P-40's struck the base of Monte Cassino with 44 tons. Between 1500 and 1700, 32 P-40's and A-36's hit the forward slopes of Monte Cassino with 10 tons. And 66 A-20's and P-40's loosed 34 tons on various targets at different times during the afternoon.

Blumenson Martin, Salerno to Cassino, - pp. 439..443

On the morning of 15th March air power, terrifying when used against material targets, struck the town of Cassino from which, most fortunately, the civilian inhabitants had been removed during the closing months of 1943. All the serviceable heavy day bombers of Mediterranean Allied Strategic Air Force and almost all the medium bombers of Mediterranean Allied Tactical Air Force were engaged, in all 164 Liberators, 114 Fortresses, 105 Marauders and 72 Mitchells, a total of 455 aircraft. The attacks began at 8.30 a.m. and ended at noon, and in these three and a half hours the aircraft dropped 2,223 one-thousandpound bombs, or 992 tons of high explosive.l The bomb plot confirmed that 47% of the bombs fell within one mile of the centre of the town and 53% near the town and on Monastery Hill. Some other aircraft went astray and four Fortresses and thirty-nine Liberators bombed Vcnafro, Pozzilli, Montaquila, and other places, all situated, as was Cassino, on the western side of a river. The similarity may have misled the pilots. Ninety-six Allied soldiers and one hundred and forty civilians were killed in these mistaken attacks. So much for the cold figures. On this morning in roaring explosions and invisible blast, under clouds of black smoke and yellowish dust the town of Cassino was blown asunder and beaten into heaps of rubble studded with the tottering remains of houses. [...]

Although the weather became dull and overcast during the afternoon of 15th March the Allied air forces were not yet finished with Cassino town and its neighbourhood. One hundred and twenty Liberators and Fortresses were unable to bomb because of poor visibility, but between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. a formation of eight fighter-bombers became airborne every ten minutes and, flying below the overcast, attacked targets west, southwest, and south of Cassino. In these attacks 32 Mustangs, 16 Thunderbolts, and 140 Kittyhawks, all from U.S. XII Air Support Command, dropped 69 tons of bombs. Twenty-four Boston light bombers from this Command joined in with eight tons of bombs as did 48 Mitchells from M.A.T.A.F. with 75 tons. In addition 59 R.A.F. Kittyhawks of the Desert Air Force dropped 41 tons of bombs at Aquino in the Liri valley. Although the German Air Force had not been much in evidence of late and in fact did not appear on 15th March, its interference was guarded against during the bombing of Cassino by 200 Lightning fighters from M.A.S.A.F. and 12 Spitfires from U.S. XII A.S.C., while a further 100 Thunderbolts swept the sky between Viterbo and Cassino. The 15th March was a day of large, complex, and entirely successful air operations. [...]

C.J.C. Monoly, The Mediterranean and the Middle East, (History of the Second World War), Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, London, 1973 - pp. 785, 786

Siamo giunti a definire l'elenco dei gruppi da bombardamento che operarono su Cassino partendo dalle unità aeree presenti sul teatro italiano ed andando poi a ricercare per ogni gruppo almeno una traccia documentale della partecipazione, tentando di definire l'ordine di arrivo su Cassino.

Le ondate

Il generale Jacob L. Devers in una lettera a Washington in data 22 marzo 1944 parla di 16 gruppi (ondate n.d.r) di aerei che presero parte all'azione, distinguendoli per tipologia:

“Ho creduto che il 15 marzo con l’attacco contro Cassino avessimo raggiunto il nostro scopo e che saremmo riusciti finalmente a penetrare la Valle del Liri. Abbiamo impiegato l’aviazione, l’artiglieria e i carri armati, seguiti immediatamente dalla fanteria. Assistetti all’attacco dall’altra parte della valle: ebbe inizio con un tempo splendido. Il bombardamento fu centrato molto bene e fu pesante; il fuoco dell’artiglieria che seguì fu ancora più pesante e più preciso. Vi presero parte 900 cannoni. Due gruppi di bombardieri medi gettarono le prime bombe alle 8:30 in punto; vennero seguiti da 11 gruppi più pesanti e poi tre gruppi di apparecchi medi. Fino alle 9 i gruppi si susseguirono ogni dieci minuti, dopo, ogni 15 minuti. Nonostante tutto ciò, nonostante l’eccellente appoggio dei cacciabombardieri e dell’artiglieria, che durò tutto il pomeriggio, le truppe terrestri non riuscirono a raggiungere i primi obiettivi del loro attacco….” (1)
(1) “The War Reports of General Marshall”.

...

Continua, lavori in corso.

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Testimonianze e commenti, la stampa e i comunicati.

Rudolf Bohmler, MONTE CASSINO, Baldini e Castoldi - 1963, pag. 451

"Per effettuare il bombardamento su Cassino il Generale Eaker aveva concentrato la più ingente flotta aerea che fosse mai comparsa sul teatro di guerra del Mediterraneo.
Parteciparono all’attacco 775 aerei, di cui 575 bombardieri medi e pesanti e 200 caccia e cacciabombardieri. Sopra Cassino e Rocca Ianula, una zona dai 400 ai 1.400 m., 260 “Fortezze volanti” del tipo B17, 220 “Mitchell” e “Marauder”, 45 A20 e 50 A36 lasciarono cadere il loro carico: 1.250 tonnellate di bombe (1) colpirono la città, le sue immediate vicinanze e la Rocca Ianula.”
(1) Numerose fonti dichiarano 2.500 t. di bombe.

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Articoli

IL BOMBARDAMENTO DELL'ABBAZIA DI MONTECASSINO E DELLA CITTA' DI CASSINO

La Sovrintendenza italiana ai musei dell’Italia meridionale aveva posto in particolare rilievo il valore storico di Monte Cassino e il Comando della 5ª Armata aveva ribadito dal canto suo la necessità di preservare l'edificio dai bombardamenti.

24/07/2002 | richieste: 10385 | MARTIN BLUMENSON
Le battaglie | #febbraio 1944, #marzo 1944, bombing, cassino, montecassino-abbazia

15 MARZO 1944: LA DEVASTAZIONE DI VENAFRO

Gli aerei colpirono un ospedale militare marocchino uccidendo o ferendo quaranta soldati. Quarantaquattro vittime vi furono fra le artiglierie alleate. .... Per i soldati in attesa nelle zona vicina al bersaglio fu uno spettacolo tanto pericoloso quanto impressionante.

13/03/2007 | richieste: 3926 | GIOVANNI PETRUCCI
Le battaglie, I luoghi | #marzo 1944, bombing, venafro

I BOMBARDAMENTI DI MONTECASSINO E CASSINO IN UNA TESTIMONIANZA DEL MARZO 1944

The bombings of Montecassino and Cassino in a report of March 1944.

15/05/2008 | richieste: 3172 | PIERRE ICHAC
Testimonianze | #febbraio 1944, #marzo 1944, bombing, cassino, montecassino-abbazia

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