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Destruction in Sofia in 1944 after the bombing as photographed by Tsanko Lavrenov

The Bulgarian capital of Sofia suffered a series of Allied bombing raids during World War II, from late 1943 to early 1944. Bulgaria declared a token[Clarification needed] war on the United Kingdom and the United States 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.


April 1941

During the invasions of Yugoslavia and of Greece, the Yugoslav and British air forces targeted strategic points in Bulgaria, from which German troops had staged the invasions.

On 6 April, Yugoslav Dornier Do 17 aircraft bombed the industrial section of Sofia and Kyustendil. In Sofia 8 people were killed. In the bombing of Kyustendil 58 civilians, 2 Bulgarian and 8 German soldiers were killed and 59 civilians, 5 Bulgarian and 31 German soldiers were wounded.

Between 20:05 and 21:40 on 6 April, the Royal Air Force (RAF) carried out bombing raids over Bulgaria. Bristol Blenheim aircraft bombed Petrich and Haskovo and six Vickers Wellingtons dropped bombs over Sofia and nearby villages. During the bombing of the capital 18 people were killed and 28 were wounded; 14 building were destroyed and 3 fires were started.[1] Sofia was bombed a second time on 13 April, provoking a large exodus.

14 November 1943

The air raid was carried out on 14 November 1943 by 91 B-25 Mitchell bombers.[2] 47 buildings and structures were destroyed, 59 civilians and military men were killed and over 128 were injured.

24 November 1943

A new bombing followed on 24 November, this time executed by 60 B-24 Liberator aircraft. 87 buildings in the vicinity of the Central Railway Station were destroyed with 5 people dying and 29 being wounded.

10 December 1943

The 10 December raid was carried out by 120 aircraft. About 90 bombs were released over the Hadzhi Dimitar, Industrialen, Malashevtsi and Voenna rampa quarters, another 90 hit Vrazhdebna Airport and the nearby villages. 11 people were killed during the bombing.

20 December 1943

One of the most destructive raids followed on 20 December the same year, with over 113 buildings being razed to the ground, the belt line being cut off, over 64 people being killed and another 93 injured.

30 December 1943

A day bombing in the Sofia railway junction area was executed on 30 December 1943, claiming 70 victims and injuring 96.

10 January 1944

Sofia suffered another bombing on 10 January 1944, carried out consecutively by 143 American [B-17]s (during the day) and 44 RAF Wellingtons (during the night).[2] 448 buildings were destroyed. 947 people were killed and 611 were wounded.

16 March 1944

During the night 50 British bombers attacked Sofia. 43 people were killed, 58 wounded and 72 buildings were destroyed.

24 March 1944

During the night about 40 British bombers attacked Sofia. There were no casualties.

29 March 1944

During the night about 50 British bombers attacked Sofia. There were no casualties.

30 March 1944

The most severe bombing of Sofia ever occurred on March 30, 1944. Some 370 American heavy bombers flew ovver Sofia destroying 3575 buildings. Over 3000 high explosive bombs and 30000 incendiary bombs were used. There were 139 people killed. The casualty figures were relatively modest due to preliminary evacuation of the civilians. The targets of the bombing were neither military installations, nor armed forces, but historical downtown 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.


Gerhard Wengel memorial in Sofia, Bulgaria

The bombing raids in 1943–1944 resulted in the death of 1,374, with an additional 1,743 being injured. 12,564 buildings were damaged (of which 2,670 completely destroyed). 60 motor cars and 55 trailers were also destroyed.[3] The Allies lost a total of 117 aircraft.[4]

Among the historic buildings 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.[3]

Captain Gerhard Wengel (1915–1944) was a German Luftwaffe pilot who was killed in the sky over Radomir, while defending Sofia, Bulgaria from a bombing raid.[5] He was the only foreign pilot, killed in battle, while defending Bulgarian airspace during World War II.[6] He was part of the Jagdgeschwader 5 "Eismeer" fighter wing.

See also


  1. Milanov, Iordan. Въздушните Войски на България през войнните 1912-1945 г. Air Group 2000, 2008 ISBN 978-954-752-125-4 (In Bulgarian)
  2. 2.0 2.1 Schaffer, Ronald Wings of Judgment: American Bombing in World War II. Oxford University Press, 1988 ISBN 978-0-19-505640-2
  3. 3.0 3.1 Kiradzhiev, Svetlin (2006) (in Bulgarian). Sofia 125 Years Capital 1879-2004 Chronicle. Sofia: IK Gutenberg. p. 196. ISBN 954-617-011-9. 
  4. Essential History of Bulgaria in Seven Pages, Lyubomir Ivanov, p. 7, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Sofia, 2007
  5. Ст. Стоянов, Ние бранехме тебе София, С 1986г.

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