Parma, 24/25 August 1944 (Page 73)

On 5 July 2000, the Gazzetta di Parma published an article about a bombing raid which damaged the church of San Giovanni Evangelista on the night of 24/25 August 1944.

A Benedictine monk, Father Martino Marinosci,watching from the 76 metre church tower where he had spent each night since Allied raids on Parma began, spoke of seeing a plane take off from Vigatto, 10km to the south, and set course for Parma. The night was quite clear and he said the lone aircraft overflew the old Barilla Company factory on the western outskirts, curved in toward the church and dropped its bombs at 22.30, some of which breached the roof of the nave, blowing out windows and hit the choir and choir chapel as well as the monks' cells.

Father Marinosci's opinion was that this had been done by a German aircraft with a view to blaming the allies for wanton damage to a historic and cultural treasure.

Giorgio Tanzi's letter to Jet & Prop about the newspaper article was the first I had heard of the incident. None of my documentary sources had pointed to such an action by any German aircraft and no surviving NSG 9 veteran could remember an attack on Parma. This was a dark moon period and NSG 9 had not been operating for a week, indeed their only activity on 24 August of which I am aware was a 20-minute practice flight from Cavriago at 20.10hrs.

Giuseppe Finizio looked into the records of the US 47th Bomb Group and the RAF's 232 Wing, finding to suggest an aircraft operating over or near his home city that night.

War is not always logical but one wonders why the Germans might want to stage such an act of vandalism when the Allies were dropping bombs all over Axis-held Italy, no doubt with abundant "collateral damage" for propagandists to exploit. If the Germans wanted a spectacle for propaganda reasons, would incendiary bombs not have been a better choice? The reportedly clear night notwithstanding, could Father Marinosci really have watched an aircraft from its take-off 10 km. away to its target—in the blackout and with no moon?

Apparently, many local writers have dated the attack to 13 May 1944 (the reason for this is unclear—an earlier raid perhaps?) but Giorgio Tanzi has written that the Gazzetta di Parma reported the bombing of San Giovanni Evangelista in its edition of 26 August, i.e. in the first possible issue after the night of the 24/25th.

New sources: letter from Giorgio Tanzi in Jet & Prop issue 4/01; letter from Tanzi to NB, 2 February 2002; exchange of emails with Giuseppe Finizio, February and September 2002; Air War Italy 1944-45.

 

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