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Old 26th September 2012, 19:19
Horst Fliegel Horst Fliegel is offline
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Italian bombing of Tel Aviv

http://www.jpost.com/Features/Magazi...aspx?id=286107

" The Italians’ initial bombing runs from their Mediterranean bases were directed at Haifa in July, killing several people. Throughout August and early September, there were frequent air raid warnings in Haifa and Tel Aviv.

The Italian planes swooped in low. The neighborhoods of Tel Aviv were in their sights, totally unprotected. It was five in the afternoon on September 9, 1940, when, unchallenged, this squadron of death flew over the city. Just three minutes later, after dropping 62 bombs, the pilots turned back to the sea, leaving 137 people dead and 350 wounded. World War II had struck at the heart of the Yishuv.

Seventy-two years ago, the lightning victories of the German military machine during the first year of the war, along with the evacuation of British and French forces from Dunkirk, completed on June 4, 1940, prompted Italy, the Germans’ principal ally, to enter the war in that month. Mussolini was anxious to rack up some quick victories so he could share in the spoils he thought the Germans would be getting with their conquests in Europe.

The Italian duce focused on the Middle East because of Italy’s foothold in Ethiopia, which it had conquered in 1935. Italy also had air force bases in Rhodes and the Dodecanese islands in the Mediterranean. Mussolini assumed that he could march across North Africa and drive the British out of Egypt. Palestine would then only be a stone’s throw away.

As early as 1938, preparations were made in Palestine both by the British authorities and by the leadership of the Yishuv to guard against air attacks. Numerous appeals were also made to the British authorities to allow the Jews to bear arms, but this request was regularly refused.

The initial pamphlets issued in English on this subject that year were entitled “Air Raid Precautions,” or ARP. Community courses were offered in emergency first aid and residents were told to be prepared for any eventuality. “In air raids, keep calm, obey orders, take cover,” were the bywords of the era.

One pamphlet, issued in Hebrew, advised its readers how to protect themselves not only against air raids but from gas attacks. Regular drills were held in the three major cities, but the city which took the preparations most seriously was Haifa, which, because of its refineries and heavy industry, seemed a more natural target for the Italians.

Behind the scenes, the leaders of the Yishuv had secretly developed what became known as the “Masada Plan,” which would ensure the evacuation of the residents of the major cities to safe haven in the Galilee.

One group intensely involved in planning how to care for possible refugees was the Association of American Palestine Jews. A plan was formulated to house American Jews evacuated from Haifa, Tel Aviv and other places in Jerusalem if bombings occurred along the coast.

Through the efforts of Dr. Judah Magnes and Professor I.L. Kligler of the Hebrew University, places were found for 100 refugees in Jerusalem at the old Hadassah children’s hospital, at Deborah Kallen’s school and at a Hebrew University clubhouse. They had beds, but refugees would have to bring their own sheets, one letter noted.

The issue of bombings was soon brought close to home for this American group. On July 23, one of its Jerusalem representatives was in Haifa securing accurate figures about the number of Americans there. “While I was having my discussions,” he wrote to Magnes, “an air raid occurred. No one was hurt; only property was damaged.”

A Tel Aviv writer in the weekly Palestine Review at the end of July captured the spirit of the times. “Urged along by a calm, relentless, invisible power, life goes on. Its hurrying stream, endless and evanescent, seems perfectly normal. Should a man from Mars appear (and succeed in escaping the vigilance of the anti-parachutists) it might take him some time to find the emotion beneath the surface.

“Drawn features would first betray the feelings of the people about him. Then he would note the piles of sandbags and burrowings of workmen in basements and trenches. Finally at night he would find the country reduced to utter darkness. By then he would know that Palestine is a land ready to meet the worst, should it come.”

The tension continued to heighten in Eretz Yisrael as the Nazi bombings of the British Isles and the Italian attacks on several countries were front-page news every day. The Jews of Palestine were most anxious to be able to defend themselves, but they could not legally bear arms. Thus, they placed a great deal of emphasis on air-raid precautions.

A 45-minute simulated bombing drill in Tel Aviv was even reported in the newspaper. “At the scene of each ‘incident,’ electric current was immediately disconnected. In some cases water pipes and telephone lines were ‘repaired.’ Casualties were rushed in buses to the hospital where volunteers treated their ‘victims.’ ‘Relief gangs’ moved quickly to the sites of the ‘explosions.’ All wardens and volunteers wore steel helmets.”

Unfortunately, these precautions were not completely effective. The Italians’ initial bombing runs from their Mediterranean bases were directed at Haifa in July, killing several people. Throughout August and early September, there were frequent air-raid warnings in Haifa and Tel Aviv but no actual attacks. While Haifa seemed to be a target because of its refineries and industry, Tel Aviv residents assumed that they would not be attacked because the closest military targets in the area were 40 kilometers away.

The morning of September 9, 1940, was warm, without a cloud in the sky, and business went on as usual. Children were still on vacation and the British constabulary force continued its routine patrols through the city. At 4:58 p.m., planes suddenly appeared from the northwest. They crossed the shoreline and began bombing central and southern Tel Aviv indiscriminately, quite far from the Jaffa harbor. Within three minutes, all the bombs had been dropped and the planes turned back over the coastline and were gone. Left in their wake were death, destruction, fires and anguish.

One Tel Aviv native recalled what the experience of the destruction was. He was working in Tel Aviv when the attack occurred.

“All of a sudden, we heard the sound of planes and explosions. Smoke billowed up in a number of places. We ran for cover to the nearest shelter. It seemed that we stayed in that haven forever, but in actuality it was only 10 minutes.

“We quickly made our way to the nearest burning building and started to clear away the rubble to find the dead and wounded. We cursed the Italians for the bombing, but we were even more angry with the British, who had not let us arm ourselves openly. Secret arms stores we had in abundance, but we could not understand why the British did not want us to serve in the ranks with them.”

Shortly after the planes departed, the air-raid wardens sprang into action, aiding the injured and sifting through the debris to search for dead and wounded. The Jaffa harbor was not touched – the residential areas of Tel Aviv were the target. The Italians, however, issued a post-attack bulletin emphasizing that “during the raid on Jaffa, port installations were hit and large fires started.”

Australian soldiers on leave in Tel Aviv quickly volunteered their services and began to aid in any way they could. Hundreds of people assisted the wounded; ambulances, cars and trucks carried those still alive to hospitals and clinics. With each passing hour the toll of the victims rose – by the next morning over 100 were known to be dead – 53 of them children. Those numbers would rise as the badly wounded succumbed.

The bodies of the Jewish victims were taken to the Balfour Municipal School in the heart of the city and laid out there. From early in the morning on Tuesday, September 10, men and women came to look for their loved ones. “There were poignant scenes when the remains of relatives were identified,” noted The Palestine Post correspondent.

The victims wore shrouds, covering the clothes in which they had been killed. At 11 a.m., 65 bodies were loaded on the back of nine open lorries as memorial prayers were recited in the schoolyard by Moshe Avigdor Amiel, chief rabbi of Tel Aviv-Jaffa.

At noon, the streets of Tel Aviv were lined as the lorries carried the victims to their final resting place. The burials were all held in the Nahalat Yitzhak cemetery just off the Petah Tikva road. Beginning at 12:30, there were continual burials for almost seven hours. Twenty-five more victims were brought in during the afternoon and were also buried.

“That day,” the bombing survivor recalled, “the anguish of Tel Aviv and all the Yishuv was expressed in the funeral procession. At one point, when the bearer of a stretcher carrying a body to the grave passed out, I jumped in and took his place. Those Limeys – they had permitted the blood of Jews to be spilled.”

The British high commissioner, Sir Harold MacMichael, attended the funerals and called for boosting the air defenses. Winston Churchill sent a telegram stressing that “this act of senseless brutality will only strengthen our united resolve.” President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s secretary sent condolences.

Ironically, the bombing of Tel Aviv occurred the same week that the British finally gave permission for the Jews of Palestine to be trained to fight in the British army. Recruitment posters calling for Jewish volunteers blanketed the city, a stark contrast to the death notices. Outwardly, it seemed as if only the killing of Jews prompted Winston Churchill and his government to grant Palestinian citizens the right to bear British arms.

Today, historians see the air attacks on the city of Tel Aviv as a “minor incident” in the wider scheme of things. In the fall of 1940, the Italians were already having serious problems – Mussolini had overextended his forces, making them vulnerable to counterattacks by the British. Thus, the Italian air force was never able to mount an attack of this sort again. A year later, in June 1941, another bombing run on Tel Aviv was launched from pro-Axis Vichy-occupied Syria in which 13 people died.

The physical scars from the bombing on that September day have long since disappeared. The memory of the vicious assault, too, seems to have disappeared. Ask Tel Aviv residents about the bombing of their city – they will probably recall the 1948 bombings by Egypt, in which fewer than 20 people were killed. But the 1940 bombing, in which six times that number died, is hardly a footnote in the history of the Yishuv.

Seven decades ago, innocent Jews died in their homes and on the streets of Tel Aviv, victims of a tyrannical leader. It is an event that should forever be seared into the consciousness of the Jewish people.

When I made aliya, I was too old to be a regular soldier, but I was drafted into the reserves. Almost 30 years ago during my basic training, I was instructed on how to deal with the issues of an attack on the home front. In the Gulf War our unit was involved in assisting those in the areas where the Scuds hit. As a new year begins hopefully all of us and our grandsons and granddaughters will not have to deal with war on our soil terribly projected from the heavens. "
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File Type: jpg Bombing_of_haifa_11.jpg (71.6 KB, 32 views)

Last edited by Horst Fliegel; 26th September 2012 at 20:13.
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Old 26th September 2012, 21:31
Stig Jarlevik Stig Jarlevik is offline
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Re: Italian bombing of Tel Aviv

Is anyone of our Italian friends game to identify the units and from where they came? I suppose Rhode Island is the best alternative since I doubt any aircraft could be "wasted" from Libya or Ethiopia.

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Old 26th September 2012, 21:38
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Nick Beale Nick Beale is offline
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Re: Italian bombing of Tel Aviv

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stig Jarlevik View Post
Is anyone of our Italian friends game to identify the units and from where they came? I suppose Rhode Island is the best alternative since I doubt any aircraft could be "wasted" from Libya or Ethiopia.

B Rgds
Stig
Stig, you probably mean Rhodes — Rhode Island is an American state and that would require extra fuel!
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Old 26th September 2012, 22:29
Horst Fliegel Horst Fliegel is offline
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Re: Italian bombing of Tel Aviv

Did the British have any fighters or AA based in Cyprus or Palestine at this time?

Clip of Italians bombing Haifa
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b9bwfR3FKWU
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Old 27th September 2012, 00:06
Larry deZeng Larry deZeng is offline
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Re: Italian bombing of Tel Aviv

Here is the source that would definitely provide the answers:

Dust Clouds in the Middle East - The Air War for East Africa, Iraq, Syria, Iran and Madagascar, 1940-42
by Christopher Shores
London: Grub Street - 1996
ISBN 1-898697-37-X

Regretably, this is just about the only Chris Shores book that I do not have or I would look up the answers for you.

L.
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Old 27th September 2012, 01:28
Alex Smart Alex Smart is offline
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Re: Italian bombing of Tel Aviv

Hello,
"Courage Alone" by Chris Dunning has some details.
Page 9: 1st raid dated as 22nd June 40.
Page 87: 41 Gruppo BT: Z1007's against Haifa & Tel Aviv.
Page 95: 50 Gruppo BT: Z1007's, post May 41.
Page 114: 87 Gruppo BT: Z1007's, SM 82's(?), post 15th December 42.
Page 116; 90 Gruppo BT: Z1007's, 42-43.
Page 131: 104 Gruppo BT: SM 79's, Recon against Haifa in August (?) 42.
"Spitfires Over Israel" by Cull, Aloni & Nicolle.
Quotes -
"Tel Aviv suffered its first raid on 9 September at least 120 inhabitants were killed".
"Palestine - Haifa in particular - 24 July 1940 Italian Cant Z1007 bombers from Rhodes carried out a raid against the lightly defended city and its harbour. 48 fatalities"
"others on 6th August, 27th August(1 killed), 21 September (32 killed) and 29 September. During the latter attack an a/c of 204 Squadriglia hit by AA force landed near Damascus in Syria".
"RAF in Palestine were -
RAF Haifa : Free French Flight - MS406's Potez 63's.
RAF Lydda : 33 Sqdn Gladiators & Hurricanes.
RAF Ramleh : 6 Sqdn Lysanders & 14 Sqdn Blenheims."
"FF Flt 1st operational sortie from Haifa was 6 Sept when they scrambled to intercept 4 Italian bombers".

Hope this is of use.
Alex
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Old 27th September 2012, 01:35
Horst Fliegel Horst Fliegel is offline
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Re: Italian bombing of Tel Aviv

Anything about the Vichy bombing of Tel Aviv in 1941?
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Old 27th September 2012, 13:24
Laurent Rizzotti Laurent Rizzotti is offline
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Re: Italian bombing of Tel Aviv

I don't remember anything about French aircraft raiding Palestine during the Syria campaign: they flew bombing sorties mainly (if not only) against British ships and Allied troops on or close the battlefield. They flew recon sorties over Palestine on the other hand.

No German or Italian bombers were based in Syria, but they flew sorties in the area during this period, and wikipedia has the following (that should be checked, of course...):
"There was even another small bombardment of Tel Aviv in June 1941, done by the Italians together with some airplanes of the German Luftwaffe." given source: http://vilmes.altervista.org/vilmesj...6amp;page\\x3d

According to this, the second raid was on 12 June 1941.

The link below is precising that a bomb hit a invalid home, killing 12 and wounding others, three of which died later. There is also the list of the people killed and wounded.
https://groups.google.com/group/soc....50%26sa%3DN%26
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Old 27th September 2012, 21:01
Stig Jarlevik Stig Jarlevik is offline
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Re: Italian bombing of Tel Aviv

Nick

Good point and nudge taken... Indeed I ment Rhodes. Not sure why I wrote Rhode Island, guess it sounded pretty OK in my brain...and after all there was quite a lot of Italian in the USA at the time so maybe they were working on a super plane, ehh?....

Larry
I DID check the Shores' books, but was not able to find anything.

Alex
Thanks, I admit I did not check any of those sources, but also admit I was hoping to get some more substance then what you extracted. Especially I would be interested in the reasoning of the Italians at the time, since to me any attack on Palestine would be a waste of military sources, and if the Italians thought the British would withdraw any troops/aircraft units from more important places, even I would not have done so at this threatening moment.

Horst/Laurent
I doubt very much we will find any French "strategic" bombing during the Syrian campaign. It's been some time since I read the story, but I don't have any recollection it was done.

Thanks anyway for your interest, but a bit surprising that not a single one of our Italian friends are interesting to expand the topic....

Cheers
Stig
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Old 27th September 2012, 23:23
Horst Fliegel Horst Fliegel is offline
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Re: Italian bombing of Tel Aviv

From Rhodes to Tel Aviv and back is 1000 miles over featureless hostile water with no islands or land masses at all. They must have been good navigators and have had faith in their Alfa Romeo engines.



Tel Aviv was a new all-Jewish small city devoid of British and of no military or strategic value at all. Mussolini was not as zealous an anti-semite as Hitler and the Italian people were not known for their anti-semitism and this was 11/2 years before the Wannsee Conference. One wonders what was the motivation for this raid, even as a "terror raid"?

Last edited by Horst Fliegel; 28th September 2012 at 00:01.
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