Did you know the Vatican was bombed in World War II?

Shrapnel damage on the wall of the Vatican railway station
(Photo: Reinhard Dietrich / Wikipedia)
Vatican City, the principial episcopal see of the Catholic Church, pursued a policy of neutrality in World War II. In exchange, the Allies made an effort to avoid hitting the city-state even when bombing Rome, and Mussolini's regime also respected its neutrality, even though threats of occupying it were made during the war. Despite its neutrality, the holy city was bombed not once but twice.
 
The first incident occurred on November 5, 1943, when an unidentified plane circled Rome for hours, then dropped four bombs on the Vatican, causing considerable damage but killing nobody. Public opinion blamed the Fascists or the Germans. The Americans believed that the plane was one of their bombers that got lost and dropped its bombs on the wrong target, and secretly admitted so to the Vatican. The British also thought it might have been one of their own errant planes, but a later investigation disproved the idea.
Damage done to the Palace of the Governorate of the Vatican City State
(Photo: Vatican News)
The event remained a mystery until the 2010s, when new research found an explanation. It turns out the mission was ordered by Roberto Farinacci, a leading anti-clerical Fascist politician. Farinacci believed the Vatican was using its radio to send coded message to the Allies with military information, and supposedly ordered the bombing of the city's radio tower. (In fact, one of the bombs did fall very close to the radio.)
An Italian Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 Sparviero, the type of plane that apparently bombed the Vatican
(Photo: unknown photographer)
However, another explanation was also raised. In September 1943, the Allies launched a series of false propaganda claims that the Nazis have invaded the Vatican and imprisoned the Pope. The false claims caused an outburst of anti-Nazi sentiment in Latin America, and Argentina was considering breaking off diplomatic relationship with Germany. It's been suggested that the Italian bombing of the Vatican was a false flag operation to blame the event on the Allies and counter their propaganda.
 
The city was also bombed a second time, in March 1944, but that was a much simpler case of a British bomber missing its target.

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WWII veterans celebrated in Normandy
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On the occasion of the upcoming Veterans Day, we are offering all our available tours with a discount of $500 if you book and pay in full until November 11, 2023. Note that this offer applies only in case of new bookings, and it cannot be combined with other special promotions. If you have any questions related to this promotion or our tours, please contact our travel consultants at info@beachesofnormandy.com
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