80 Years Ago: US-UK Forces Unleashed Destruction on Sofia in WWII

Culture | January 10, 2024, Wednesday // 10:40|  views

January 10 marks the 80th anniversary of one of the most sinister and bloodiest bombings of Sofia during the Second World War. Then the first combined one was performed, i.e. day-night attack on the capital.

750 people died and more than 700 people were injured - mostly civilians, peaceful citizens and much less military. Over 900 buildings were hit, half of them completely destroyed.

Over 1,700 bombs were dropped on the capital, hundreds were killed and injured, mostly civilians. The destruction was incredible.

During the day, American bombers carried out the raid and at night - British planes.

Bulgaria entered the war on March 1, 1941 on the side of Germany, joining the Tripartite Pact (a treaty signed on September 27, 1940 in Berlin by Germany, Italy and Japan).

In August 1943, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and US President Theodore Roosevelt launched Operation Tidal Wave, the aim of which was to neutralize Germany's allies - Romania and Bulgaria - and force them to capitulate.

Systematic bombings begin over the territories of both countries. From November 14, 1943 to April 17, 1944, 11 air raids were launched over Sofia.

The bombardment of 10 January was the first combined, i.e. day-night, attack on the city. Against 180 bombers guarded by 100 fighters, Sofia's anti-aircraft defense sent only 39 fighters.

According to the official communique of the Ministry of War, the Bulgarian Air Force lost one plane, 31 allied planes were shot down.

A total of 1,784 bombs were dropped on the city. 750 people died, 710 were injured, 93 state and 3211 private buildings were destroyed, including the Ivan Vazov National Theater.

The terrible January 10, 1944

The Christmas holidays passed in cold and darkened Sofia.

The frosty and sunny January 10, 1944 arrived.

Around 12:30 in the afternoon, a formation of about 200 American B-17 and B-24 bombers was on the approaches to Sofia.

They were accompanied by no less than 100 twin-engine R-38 "Lightning" fighters.

The bombers hit Sofia at 12:35 p.m., and at 10 p.m. at night, 80 British "Wellington" bombers repeated the attack and dropped another 1,000 bombs, mainly in the eastern districts.

750 people were killed, about 700 were injured.

3304 buildings were completely destroyed, 427 partially.

The communication and water supply networks were interrupted, the southern wing of the National Theater, the Bulgarian Academy of Science building, the neighboring buildings were on fire...

This was the first joint day-night attack, in which the British air force attacked at night and the American air force, which had better fighter cover, attacked during the day.

The day bombing was carried out by 330 American aircraft.

The city was attacked by two American B-24 and B-17 Flying Fortress bomber regiments - about 220 bombers and 110 Lightning fighters.

The bombing took place at 13:00 when the bombers, the so-called "Flying Fortresses", attacked.

The participation of 143 B-17 Flying Fortresses, 37 B-24 Liberators and 110 P-38 Lightning fighters had been confirmed.

A total of 73 planes took off against them from air fields Bozhurishte, Vrazhdebna and Marno Pole near Karlovo - 43 Bulgarian planes from the 6th fighter regiment and 30 German fighters.

From Sofia airfields - 2/6 fighters with 23 Dewoitine D.520 and 3/6 fighters with 16 Me-109G[47] and from Karlovo one wing (flock of four fighters) Dewoitine D.520 of 4/6 fighters, led by non-commissioned officer candidate Todor Rozev.

The German squadron I./JG 5 "Eismeer" with 30 Me-109G fighters, led by its commander capt. Gerhard Wengel.

1,958 shells were fired by the air defense. In the air battle, the Bulgarians shot down 6 "flying fortresses" and 5 fighters, the Germans shot down 3 more bombers, the defenders of Sofia suffered 2 casualties - non-commissioned officer Simeon Mihailov died / his plane suddenly flew to the ground and crashed near the village of Malo Buchino, probably loss of consciousness and the German fighter capt. Gerhard Wengel, killed near Radomir in a fight with several enemy fighters.

3 more German airmen were wounded: Oberleutnant Robert Müller and Oberfeldwebel Kalweit, Unterofitzer Holtkötter. [48] At 10 p.m. that night, Sofia was attacked by about 80 more British planes, and despite the 1,310 shells fired by the anti-aircraft artillery, the enemy managed to inflict more damage on the city.

As a result of the day and night attack on Sofia, 947 people died and 710 were injured

3,731 buildings were badly hit - 93 state and 3,211 private buildings were destroyed and 427 were half-destroyed. A total of 1,784 bombs were dropped over Sofia.

The brutal airstrikes on January 10 greatly disrupted public life in the capital and an evacuation began.

By January 16, 300,000 residents left the city.

However, the Bulgarians made the self-confident in its huge numerical superiority opponent also pay the heaviest price.

B-17F "flying fortress" with commander Lieutenant Finch had the most casualties and crashed near the village of Kladnitsa, Pernishko.

The first wave of American bombers did not hold out and turned the course towards Italy, taking the rest of the crews with them.

Their bombs were dropped without the necessary aiming with the clear desire to leave the sky over Sofia as quickly as possible.

The BBC reported that 31 American planes did not return to their bases after the "mission" over the Kingdom of Bulgaria.

On January 24, a new attack was launched on Sofia, but on that day nature was on the side of Sofia residents.

The entire Sofia Field was engulfed in a thick layer of fog.

Aircraft of the US 15th Air Force did not have the blind bombing devices of the Royal Air Force (RAF) night bombers.

And after circling over Vitosha for 45 minutes, the bombers took off in different directions.

One group bombed Skopje, then part of the Kingdom of Bulgaria.

Another formation of 84 bombers hit Vratsa. 124 people died and 250 were injured. Other settlements in Northern Bulgaria were also bombed. In total, about 800 bombs were dropped over the country.

After a lull, the bombing was resumed on the night of March 16 by a British tactical bombing group. It dropped about 4,000 incendiary magnesium bombs on the central part of the capital, causing more than 70 fires.

At night, a second strike followed on targets in the area of the Central Railway Station and in the area of the Lozenets district.

45 were destroyed and 13 buildings and structures were affected, and the victims were estimated at 19 killed and 76 injured. The most deadly and powerful attack

On the clear, cloudless day of March 30, the most brutal bombardment followed. A bombing formation tasked with bombing Sofia consisted of about 450 Liberator, Flying Fortress, Mitchell and Halifax bombers. They were accompanied by 150 Lightning fighters. 3,000 destructive and a large number of incendiary bombs were dropped, 3,575 buildings collapsed.

139 people died, more than 2000 fires ignited.

The buildings of the National Theater, the Council of Ministers, the Ministry of Justice and Finance, the National Library, Hotel "Bulgaria", the State Printing Office, the Holy Synod and other "military sites" burned for a long time.

"Dondukov" Blvd., "Targovska" St. (today "Pirotska"), "Maria-Louisa" St., "Klementina" St. (today "Al. Stamboliyski" Blvd.), "Lege" St., Battenberg Square...

The grim tally: - 45,265 destructive and incendiary bombs were dropped. Some of them had a delay to explode later, when people have left the hiding places.

  • Bombs in the form of toys and pens designed to kill and maim children were also used.
  • More than 2,477 people died, 99 percent of whom were civilians, women and children. The wounded were twice as many.

Over 12,000 buildings were destroyed.

The 4,350-ton bomb load that was dropped on the capital collapsed nearly 1/4 of its building stock.

The material damages reached the astronomical amount of BGN 24 billion. Churchill welcomed the information from the destructive bombings over Bulgaria with the words: "Excellent!".

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Tags: sofia, bombs, US, british


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