80 years ago today: the US Dropped Bombs on Nice!

Last Updated on May 30, 2024 by Allison Coe

B-24 bomberIn the spring of 1944, the situation in Nice was dire.  Nice was not only under German occupation, but after the townspeople frequently foiled the Gestapo’s efforts to ferret out hiding Jews, the SS had recently sent a new commandant, the brutal and sadistic Alois Brunner, who was now ruling Nice with an iron hand, and submitting the town to daily horrors.

Imagine the buildings along the Promenade painted in camouflage and the empty beaches lined with bunkers and bales of barbed wire.  Armaments built on top of the Chateau hill were ready to fire upon Old Nice at a moment’s notice.  The Hotel Excelsior on Ave Duranty near the train station was being used as Nazi torture headquarters, and by that point over 3000 Jews had been packed into freight trains in Nice and sent to their deaths.

At the same time, the Allies had started a bombing campaign targeting strategic military sites in occupied France, including supply depots and train lines sending supplies to the North, and had already bombed Toulon and Saint-Laurent-du-Var.

The morning of May 26, 1944, it was Nice’s turn.  Around 10am there was an ominous buzzing in the air, then over the next 20 minutes 4 waves of American B-24 bombers dropped their payload on the neighborhood of Saint Roch, just behind the Nice Port.

Map of Saint Roch neighborhood in NiceThere were 29 bombers in all, each carrying 5-6 tons of explosives.  The targets were a Saint Roch warehouse stocking metal (from the Jette de la Casino?) and the Saint Roch train station which sent the supplies to the North.  But the bombs were dropped from such a high altitude, especially with the resulting smoke, that precision was not possible and the bombs fell everywhere…

The catastrophic result:  an entire quarter destroyed: 384 people killed, 480 injured, and 600 buildings damaged or completely destroyed.

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