Battleship and cruisers hit as U.S. bombers raid Naples (12-4-42)

The Pittsburgh Press (December 5, 1942)

Battleship and cruisers hit as U.S. bombers raid Naples

Fliers trail Axis planes and confuse gunners at Italian port
By Leon Kay, United Press staff writer

Screenshot 2021-12-05 085400
Raids on Naples begin.

Cairo, Egypt –
Long-range U.S. bombing planes carried out a devastating surprise attack on Naples, it was announced today, scoring direct hits on an Italian battleship, two cruisers and other major objectives in the great Axis southern supply port for Africa.

The attack was made at dusk yesterday by heavy Consolidated B-24 bombers of the U.S. 9th Air Force.

The first attack of the war by U.S. planes on an Italian objective was directed against shipping, Italian fleet units in the harbor, and rail installations supplying the Naples docks.

The U.S. communiqué reported:

There were excellent results with direct hits by heavy caliber bombs on all objectives.

Catch Italians by surprise

The big American bombing planes, making a flight of several hundred miles across the Mediterranean, struck Naples at dusk yesterday and caught Italians by surprise.

U.S. planes had trailed Italian aircraft across the Mediterranean and the Italians were apparently not aware of the approach of the U.S. raiders until the attack was launched.

The Americans centered their attack on the Porta di Massa Quay, a communiqué revealed, and upon ships moored alongside.

Start huge fires

The communiqué said:

Numerous hits were scored among the ships resulting in explosions and huge fires.

Other hits were made on the Molo Angioino, starting fires and sending up great clouds of smoke.

Direct hits were scored on a battleship and two cruisers in the harbor, the communiqué said, as well as on docks and railroad facilities.

All bombers return

U.S. planes encountered no Italian fighters due to the surprise of the attack but said they met “considerable inaccurate anti-aircraft fire.” All of the bombers returned safely.

The Middle East Command called the raid a success and the Italian High Command admitted it caused heavy damage, 159 deaths and 358 casualties in wounded.

The Italians described the attack as “short and violent” and asserted that one of the raiding planes was shot down.

The raid brought to sudden reality Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s warning to Italy of the heavy air blows which the Allies had in preparation.

Big Axis supply center

The attack on Naples was regarded as of exceptional importance because it is Italy’s largest southern port and a center for shipment of supplies and reinforcements to the Axis air forces in Africa.

With Genoa regarded as largely out of commission due to heavy Royal Air Force attacks, the knocking out of Naples would severely handicap efforts to send more Italian and German troops to Africa.

Naples has been out of range of Britain’s long-range bombers for the most part except for flights in which the bomb capacity of planes was reduced severely so that sufficient gasoline for the roundtrip flight could be carried.

The flight from Benghazi, the most forward base which the Fortresses would be likely to employ, to Naples is 700 airline miles – about the same as the bombing route from London to Berlin.

However, it would be possible for the big planes to utilize Malta as a stopping-off point if necessary.

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