Catalogue of WWII Bomb Damage Along via dell’Abbondanza

237 Bomb dSome of the darker days in the history of Pompeii occurred during the Second World War.  After the Allied invasion of Sicily during the summer of 1943, the focus of the conflict moved to the southern Italian mainland.  The US Fifth Army (comprised of the US VI Corps, British X Corps and US 82nd Airborne Division) landed on the beaches of Salerno in the early hours of September 9. 1943.  The mission of Operation AVALANCHE was to seize the port of Naples, trap Axis troops in the south and link with the British Eighth Army.

Although the invasion was initially successful, German forces counter-attacked the entire front between 12 and 14 September.  Although the Allies sustained heavy casualties, reinforcements and air support stalled the Germans advance.  By 17 September the Germans began to withdraw to the North.  The Fifth Army captured Naples on October 1, 1943.

350 Bomb Map dThe US Twelfth Air Force Bomber Command provided strategic and tactical air support to Operation AVALANCHE.  The Combat Chronology of the US Army Air Forces published by the Office of Air Force History cites bombing missions on Pompeii and other nearby towns (Torre del Greco, Castellammare di Stabia, Torre Annunziata, Sarno and Nocera) against highways, railways, marshalling yards, barracks and gun positions on 13, 14, 15, 17 and 23 September.  Inclement weather prevented further missions after 26 September.

An article in Il Giornale d’Italia (No. 205, 27 August 1943) reported that thirty bombs fell on Pompeii in the vicinity of the forum on August 24, 1943. This bombing mission is not listed in the Combat Chronology.

Amedeo Maiuri was the Soprintendente Archeologica di Pompei during this period.  He authored articles in the American Journal of Archaeology (No. 48, 1944) and La Rassegna d’Italia (Anno I, n.1 Gennaio 1946) about war damage at Pompei.  Maiuri reported:

  • The first attack was on 24 August 1943.
  • The BBC broadcast that a German command post was located in a hotel outside the Porta Marina.
  • There were local rumors of a military stronghold and anti-aircraft units in Pompeii.
  • There actually were only two anti-aircraft batteries in the area, both outside the walls, and some German trucks parked to the south of the excavations.
  • Heavier bombardments were experienced between 13 and 26 September.
  • No fewer than 150 bombs fell on Pompeii.

Maiuri directed that selected statues and other artifacts be stored in an underground chamber.  During one of the raids, he received shrapnel wounds to his leg while cycling outside the excavations.

“Sometimes after the Allied landings at Salerno, it became apparent that the Allied command, in its selection of targets, failed to distinguish between the ruins of Pompeii and the modern town.  In the large piazza of the latter there had been indeed an enemy command post housed in the hotel diametrically opposite from the famous Santuario della Madonna del Rosario.”[1]

237 IX 1 20 wpwar 0056 dOn 9 November 1943 The Times of London reported in an article entitled Damage At Pompeii:

“We have received from a British officer, who recently visited Pompeii, an account of the damage done to the place during September, when the Germans were encamped on the site and allied aircraft were obliged to treat it as a military objective. The following is a summary of the damage observed:

There is one crater in the arena of the Amphitheatre, and several near misses. The wall of the Gladiator's Training School was hit in three places. There is a crater in the eastern end of the Via dell' Abbondanza, to which incomplete excavation had prevented further damage. The houses of Rex Tiburtinus and of Trebius Valens were hit. The Cenacoli and house of Epidius Rufus were destroyed. The houses used for restorations north of the Via degli Augustali and the adjoining house were destroyed. The Temple of Jupiter on the western side of the Forum was hit. The Temple of Apollo and the House of Triptolemus north of the Via Marina were badly damaged. The Museum is now in ruins, but how much of the contents perished remains to be disclosed. The director of the excavations at Pompeii, Professor Maiuri, whose contributions to The Times will be remembered, was last heard of in a hospital at Torre del Greco with a leg injury received in an air raid.

The officer was told that two bombs had fallen on the Temple of Hercules in Region 8, and that the Houses of Sallust and Pansa in Region 6 had also received direct hits.”[2]

Catalogue of WW II Bomb Damage

Three data sources were consulted in order to compile a catalogue of the locations of bomb damage along the street.  Background information about each publication is presented in the text describing The Names of the Structures Along Via dell’Abbondanza.  The sources are:

Catalogue Heading:  Eschebach, L.

Reference Publication - Gebäudeverzeichnis und Stadtplan der antiken Stadt POMPEJI

Catalogue Heading:  CTP Pars IIIA

Publication Reference - Corpus Topographicum Pompeianum

Catalogue Heading:  Spinazzola

Reference Publication - Pompei alla luce degli scavi nuovi di Via dell'Abbondanza (anni 1910-1923)

    The catalogue is organized by “Pompeii Address” in two tables.  The lists begin at the forum and move eastward on the north side of via dell’Abbondanza, and repeat this pattern on the south side of the street.

    Links to the WWII Bomb Damage tables are below and in the menu at the top of the page:

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    [1] Information sources and a discussion of the bombing of Pompeii can be found in:

    Halsted B. Van der Poel, Corpus Topographicum Pompeianum, 5 vols.,  Rome: Edizioni dell'Elefante, 1977-1986, Pars IIIA, p. XVI.

    [2] Archives of The Times, 9 November 1943 and as quoted in:

    Joanne Berry, The Complete Pompeii, London: Thames & Hudson, 2007, p. 60.