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The "Forgotten Bombardment" by Mathieu Ficheroux. The sculpture, commemorating the Allied bombing of Rotterdam on 31 March 1943, was unveiled in 1993.

While the Germans occupied the Netherlands during the Second World War (1940–1945), the Allied air forces carried out a number of operations over Rotterdam and the surrounding region. These included bombing strategic installation, leaflet dropping, and during the last week of the war, the dropping of emergency food supplies.

In one unfortunate incident, during a raid on the shipyards and dock area, the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) accidentally bombed a residential area killing hundreds. Until the 1990s, the raid that took place on 31 March 1943 was not mentioned in local school history lessons about the regions war time experiences. In the run-up to the 50th anniversary of the raid, newspaper articles and a television documentary by Mr. van der Wel broke the taboo and the raid is now acknowledged with a memorial in a local park to the "Forgotten Bombardment".[1]


The Allied air forces (the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF)) carried out scores of raids on Rotterdam and the surrounding area. About half the raids were within the city limits, the others were clustered around Nieuwe Waterweg, Schiedam (shipyards) and Pernis (petrochemical industries and fuel storage tanks). During the 128 raids casualties amounted to 884 killed and a further 631 wounded.[2]

An attack on city of Rotterdam on 31 March 1943, was made by 102 USAAF bombers. Their target was the shipyards and dock area, in the west of Rotterdam. The bombing took place at 12:25 (BST) in cloudy conditions and only 33 B-17's drop 99 tons of bombs. [3] The industrial area between Keilehaven and Merwehaven was hit.[2] "A combination of strong wind and overcast conditions also caused great damage to the nearby residential areas, especially in the Bospolder-Tussendijken District".[2] The death toll was between 326 and 401[lower-alpha 1] and made between 10,000 and 20,000 people homeless.[1] This bombardment became known as the "Forgotten Bombardment".[4] Gijzing park contains a memorial in remembrance of those killed and maimed by the attack (the monument was created by Mathieu Ficheroux and it was unveiled by the then Dutch Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers on 31 March 1993).[2]


Allied raids on Rotterdam during Second World War
Rdl Date Target/Type Notes
RAF roundel.svg 11 June 1941/12 June 1941 Diversionary raid at night 339 bombing sorties were flown to a number of targets of which 3 were flown to Rotterdam and Emden.[5]
RAF roundel.svg 14/15 January 1942 Diversionary raid at night The main target was Hamburg. Rotterdam was attacked by 11 aircraft. One of several diversionary raids.[6]
RAF roundel.svg 28/29 January 1942 Diversionary raid at night The main targets were Munster and Boulogne. 29 Whitleys to Rotterdam as a diversionary raid.[6]
Patch 8thUSAAF.png 21 August 1942 Shipyards This is mission 4 for Bomber Command of the 8th Air Force of the USAAF (the first 8th Airforce Bomber command mission was 4 days earlier on 17 August 1942). 12 B-17s were to bomb the shipyards at Rotterdam, but the mission was aborted due to an attack by 25 Bf 109s and Fw 190s; the bombers claim 2-5-6 Luftwaffe aircraft (2 confirmed destroyed – 5 unconfirmed destroyed – 6 probably destroyed) for the loss of one damaged bomber, one airman killed and five wounded. The failure of the mission was put down to lack of coordination with the Spitfire escorts.[7]
Patch 8thUSAAF.png 27 August 1942 Shipyards 8th Air Force mission 6: At at 17:40, 7 out of 9 B-17s bomb the shipyards at Rotterdam, 3 B-17s are damaged and one airman is wounded.[7]
Patch 8thUSAAF.png 7 September 1942 Wilton shipyards As part of Mission 11, 15 B-17s attacked Wilton shipyards at Rotterdam. The weather was and only four bombers bombed near the target. The USAAF claimed to have shot down 8 enemy aircraft, probably downed four more and possibly one, and sustained damage to four bombers, with one man killed and three wounded. [8]
Patch 8thUSAAF.png 4 March 1943 Shipyards As part of mission 39, 28 B-17s raided the shipyards at Rotterdam. The target was hit with 70 tons of bombs starting at 10:20. The last bomber completed the mission about a minute later.[3]
RAF roundel.svg 28 March 1943 Docks 24 Venturas bombers, escorted by fighters, bombed Rotterdam docks. At least six ships were hit and a fire was started in a dockside warehouse. No bombers were lost.[9]
RAF roundel.svg 29 March 1943 Dock 61 Ventura bombers flew two raids on the Rotterdam docks and another one on a railway at Abbeville, but due to bad whether only the second raid on Rotterdam delivered its bombs on target. No bombers were lost.[9]
Patch 8thUSAAF.png 31 March 1943 Shipyards and dock area Mission 48: 78 B-17's and 24 B-24's raid the shipyards and dock area. The target was clouded and only 33 B-17's drop 99 tons of bombs at 12:25. The USAAF lost one B-24 and three B-17s, with three more damaged beyond repair. One B-24 and four B-17's were damaged. By the end of the raid sixteen American airmen had been killed, ten were wounded and ten were missing.[3] Because of inaccurate bombing hundreds of Dutch civilians were killed (see above)
RAF roundel.svg 4 April 1943 Shipyard in daylight 60 Ventura bombers attacked 3 diverse sites. The 24 allocated to bomb a shipyard at Rotterdam did so successfully, losing thee aircraft during the operation.[10]
Patch 8thUSAAF.png 15 May 1943 Fighter sweep As part of Mission 57, 116 P-47 Thunderbolts flew high altitude sorties over the Amsterdam/Rotterdam area to clear the airspace of German fighters. The USAAF claimed that they damaged to enemy aircraft for the loss of one of their own with the pilot listed as missing. [11]
Patch 8thUSAAF.png 3/4 November 1943 Leaflet drop at night Mission 120: two B-17's drop 1.5+ million leaflets on Antwerp at 19:15 and on Rotterdam at 20:08.[12]
Patch 8thUSAAF.png 19 March 1944 Leaflet drop Mission 267: Six B-17s drop 300 bundles of leaflets on The Hague, Rotterdam, Leeuwarden, Utrecht and Amsterdam, between 12:14 and 21:33. No USAAF losses.[13]
Patch 8thUSAAF.png 21 March 1944 Leaflet drop Mission 272: Six B-17s drop 300 bundles of leaflets on The Hague, Amsterdam, Leeuwarden, Rotterdam and Utrecht, between 21:02 and 21:33. No USAAF losses.[14]
Patch 8thUSAAF.png 22 May 1944 Leaflet drop Mission 363: Four B-17s drop 320,000 leaflets on The Hague, Haarlem, Rotterdam and Utrecht. 3. No USAAF losses.


Patch 8thUSAAF.png 6 September 1944 Strafing Mission 607: As part of a regional sweep by 49 P-38s and 165 P-47s, the rail and highway traffic in the Rotterdam area is strafed. In the overall operation one P-38 and three P-47s are shot down by flak batteries. A further five P-38s and seven P-47s are damaged.[16]
RAF roundel.svg 29 December 1944 E-boat pens. 16 Lancaster bombers of No. 617 Squadron attacked the E-boat pens at Rotterdam and hit the pens several times. No were aircraft lost.[17]
Patch 8thUSAAF.png 1 May 1945 Food drop Mission 973: As part of a relief effort flown by 396 B-17s to the Netherlands, 237 B-17s dropped food supplies into Rotterdam.[18]


  1. The estimates of the total killed varies between sources: "326 killed and "400" injured (Stalk 1993), 341 killed(Kuper 2011, p. 77) and 401 killed (Rotterdam municipal staff 2008).


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