Mistake bombing by Fortresses kills 1,200 (12-4-44)

The Pittsburgh Press (December 4, 1944)

Mistake bombing by Fortresses kills 1,200

Rome, Italy (UP) –
Flying Fortresses accidentally bombed the center of Belgrade April 16, killing between 1,200 and 2,000 civilians, it was revealed officially today.

The target of the raid was the Ikarus aircraft factory, three miles from the heart of Belgrade. The group leader was shot down before the Fortresses reached the target area, and they inaccurately dropped 348 bombs of 500 pounds each over a wide area.

Photographs showed that 130 bombs were scattered across the heart of the Yugoslav capital, and no hits were scored on the factory. A Swiss Red Cross representative reported 1,200 civilians were killed, but residents of Belgrade said the figure was closer to 2,000.

Lt. Gen. Ira C. Eaker, Allied air commander in the Mediterranean, ordered complete reports.

Correspondents said the incident caused considerable resentment among the inhabitants, but two days later Marshal Tito sent Gen. Eaker a message thanking him for his air support generally.

Gen. Eaker said at a press conference:

It is inevitable that civilians who live in the vicinity of vital industries serving the enemy are likely to suffer from the bombing of industrial targets.

The losses have not been entirely on one side. The 15th Air Force lost 480 heavy bombers and 155 fighters over the Balkans. We suffered these casualties willingly because we knew they were bringing nearer the day when the Balkans would be free.