Saturday is the 70th anniversary of one of the blackest days experienced by the Czech lands during WWII, when US planes dropped some 150 bombs over Prague, leaving 700 people dead and levelling around 100 buildings. Foggy conditions had led the American airmen to mistake the city for Germany’s Dresden, over 100 kilometres to the north. I discussed the tragic error – and other aspects of the events of February 14, 1945 – with historian Jan Adamec.
Clean-up work has begun in the town of Pardubice near the mineral oil refinery Paramo on Monday. According to pyrotechnical experts there may be up to 180 unexploded bombs from Allied air attacks during World War II in the soil. In case the bombs are discovered local authorities are prepared to evacuate the area within two hours. As many as 10,000 people may have to be evacuated from their homes, and trains going through the town may have to be stopped and potentially re-routed.
For all the suffering that Bohemia and Moravia endured during WWII, relatively little of the damage was physical. Prague escaped the terrible bombing that left so many of the ancient cities of Europe wasted. There were incidents, however - two in particular in the last year of the war that brought large-scale destruction and great loss of life.
Sixty-five-years ago, shortly after midday on February 14th, 1945, a fleet of 62 U.S. Air Force bombers dropped their deadly cargo on Prague in the mistaken belief they’d reached their intended target Dresden. A total of 701 civilians were killed and dozens of buildings – including Prague’s largest synagogue - were destroyed. As soon as the all-clear sounded a Red Cross photographer named Stanislav Maršál went out into the streets to document the aftermath; he was so traumatised by what he saw that he hid the photos away for sixty years. Now, five
The scene is Prague. It is just before midday on St Valentine’s Day, February 14, 1945. An air-raid siren begins to wail. In previous weeks, Czechs have got used to the sirens, as Allied bombers have launched raid after raid on German cities, but so far the German-occupied Czech capital has been spared. This time it is different. Not long after the sirens stop a fleet of American Flying Fortresses appears in the skies. 152 tons of bombs are dropped on the densely populated centre of the city. The result is 701 people killed and over a thousand
On February 14, 1945, the American Air Force carried out an air raid over Prague which ranks as the most futile attack on Czech territory of the Second World War. Sixty years later it is still not clear whether the attack was an accident caused by bad weather conditions and the fact Prague and Dresden looked similar from the air, or whether it was a deliberate attack.