During WWII, many cities were heavily bombed, some of them completely destroyed. However, Rome, the center of the Catholic Church and the capital of Fascism remained untouched by the Allies bombs until July 19, 1943. Why?
In a war in which the destruction of the enemy’s morale was a purpose, the capitals were obviously a possible target for attacks. And yet, Rome was left untouched by the Allies for several years.
Strategic or Religious beliefs?
Although it was the capital of Fascism, Rome was also to Eternal City – the center of the Christianity (from the Catholic perspective). Probably this special status of Rome was the basic reason why the Allies hesitated to bomb the city. Some Roman citizens believed that their city was sacred and untouchable. But since the spring 1943 when the raids have become more and more frequent and violent, they began to be afraid of a possible bombing.
The idea of the sacred city was also found in some of the reports sent to Mussolini by fascist informants. They reported that the confidence of the Romans was “supported” by the protection of Vatican. This belief that the pope was a mediator between Italy and the Allies is also supported to concrete facts.
Indeed, the bombing of Rome was an important and constant subject between UK, US and Vatican until the liberation of the city in June 1944. However, the final decision to bomb the city was taken only after a long discussion with the Catholic Church. As a normal reaction, the Church feared that an international scandal would break out.
The discrete joy
There is also this idea among the Italians that Rome was responsible for everything. More exactly, they believe that the fascist capital led Italy to war and thus attracted all the airstrikes from the rest of the country. The strange fact is that when the Allies bombed Rome, the cities of Northern Italy received the news with discrete joy. Almost everywhere in Italy, except Rome, people began declaring that they want Mussolini’s city to be bombarded because Rome is responsible for all the suffering of Italy. Even in the capital, fascists informants stated that the Romans behaved deplorably, constantly cursing Hitler and Mussolini.
Finally, the decision not to bomb Rome war primarily based on strategic needs. From the Allied perspective, the city became strategically important only after the invasion of Sicily and the southern Italy. However, it was also important that the Allies were afraid of the reaction of the international opinion and that is why they constantly tried to justify the raids.
In WWII Rome was bombed approximately five different times, but the most heavily bombing occurred on July 19, 1943 by 521 Allied planes causing thousands of civilian casualties.