On 5 November a single plane flew over Vatican City and dropped bombs. The identity of the plane was never established despite a series of investigations launched by the Secretary of State, Cardinal Maglione and responses made by the British, American and German governments. Amidst the documents is a telegram sent by Maglione to the Apostolic Delegate in Washington, Amleto Cicognani, that there was a rumour that Stalin had congratulated Churchill for ordering the raid! The British government promptly denied the rumour.
The three governments denied responsibility and reaffirmed their committment to observing Vatican neutrality. The Allies accused the Germans, who counter-accused the Allies of bombing the Vatican for propaganda purposes. On 9 December the British and American governments informed the Vatican that Allied pilots had been ordered to avoid flying over Vatican territory.
The timing of the bombing was significant. Rome was occupied by the Germans, the Jews of Rome were either in Auschwitz or hiding, the city was hungry with the very real spectre of famine hovering ominiously, the partisans were stepping up anti-German activity and Naples had been liberated a few weeks but not before the Germans wrecked a savagery on the city not witnessed outside of Eastern Europe. The Vatican remained visibily neutral hoping Rome would be spared.
The Zenit article proposes a new theory based on new documents that suggest the source of the raid lay in orders given by Roberto Farinacci from the Salo Republic in an attempt to silence Vatican Radio. According to the new information, Farinacci was convinced the Vatican was sending information to the Allied. It will be interesting to read the book which has received some coverage in the Italian press.
The Bombing of The Vatican during World War II happened on the evening of 5 November 1943 when a Fascist Italian aircraft, departing from Viterbo, dropped five bombs on Saint Peter’s Basilica.Only four out of the five bombs detonated. The Vatican City was neutral during the whole of the war;both Allied and Axis bombers were told not to attack the Vatican when bombing Rome. Two months before the bombing, the Kingdom of Italy signed an armistice with the Allies. Nazi Germany responded quickly by driving the royal government from Rome, freeing Benito Mussolini, and establishing the Italian Social Republic. The bombing occurred while the city was under German occupation.
It was discovered in 2010 that the attack was a deliberate attempt to knock out the radio station, but the raid did not succeed. The Fascists were under the impression that Vatican radio was sending coded messages to the Allies. The attack was orchestrated by leading Italian Fascist politician and anti-clericalist, Roberto Farinacci, who wished the bombing to remain anonymous, so as not to give the nascent RSI a bad name. Damage from the raid can still be seen today, but it is not signposted in any way. There was no actual loss of life during the raid but several windows and a mosaic were destroyed, there was also severe damage to the Vatican’s train station and water-system.
The attack was the only breach of Vatican neutrality during the Second World War.