73 years ago – bombing of Sofia (17 April 1944)
This bombing is known as “the black Easter” (the second day of Easter) for the citizens of Sofia. The raid was carried out by 350 bombers (B-17 and B-24) with an escort of 100 fighter planes –Mustangs and Lightnings. About 2500 bombs were dropped over the target – railroad marshaling yards. 749 buildings were totally destroyed. Casualties were 128 people killed and 69 wounded.
The Bulgarian capital of Sofia suffered a series of Allied bombing raids during World War II, from late 1943 to early 1944. United Kingdom and the United States declared a token war on Bulgaria on 13 December 1941. The Southern Italy-based Allied air forces extended the range of their strategic operations to include Bulgaria and other Axis allies in 1943.
The bombing raids in 1943–1944 resulted in the death of 1,374, with an additional 1,743 being injured. The amount of buildings damaged were 12,564 (of which 2,670 completely destroyed). Sixty motor cars and 55 trailers were also destroyed. The Allies lost a total of 117 aircraft.
Among the historic buildings destroyed were several schools and hotels, as well as the State Printing House, the Regional Court, the Small Baths and the National Library. These were not restored to their original appearance. The Bulgarian National Theatre, the Bulgarian Agricultural Bank, the Theological Faculty of Sofia University, the Museum of Natural History, the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and other buildings were damaged but subsequently reconstructed.
Captain Gerhard Wengel (1915–1944) was a German Luftwaffe pilot (kommandeur I/JG 5) who was killed in the sky over Radomir, while defending Sofia. He was the only foreign pilot killed in battle while defending Bulgarian airspace during World War II. He was part of the Jagdgeschwader 5 “Eismeer” fighter wing.