1945 Bombing of Prague

The Bombing of Prague occurred during the end of World War II (February 14, 1945) when the US Army Air Forces carried out an air raid over Prague. The city was the capital of Czechoslovakia and (since the Nazi occupation in 1939) the main city of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. According to American pilots, it was the result of a navigation mistake—at the same time, a massive bombing of Dresden was under way, 120 km north from Prague.

Forty B-17 Flying Fortresses of the 8th American Air Force dropped about 152 tons of bombs on many populated areas of Prague. The carpet-bombing hit Vyšehrad, Zlíchov, Karlovo náměstí, Nusle, Vinohrady, Vršovice and Pankrác. The bombing resulted in the deaths of 701 people and the wounding of 1,184. About a hundred houses and historical sites were totally destroyed and another two hundred were heavily damaged. All the casualties were civilians, and not one of the city's factories, which might have been of use to the Wehrmacht, was damaged.

Many homes and national sites were destroyed. Some of Prague's most famous modern buildings, like the Dancing House or the Emauzy church, were constructed in locations where the bombs destroyed existing buildings.

The pilot of the lead ship was Harold Van Opdorp, a Czech citizen "born and bred in the city" of Prague. Two members of his family were included in those killed as a result of a direct attack.

The Americans voiced their regret many times. The history of 398th Bomb Group based at RAF Nuthampstead which carried out the raid, indicates the attack was an accident. Radar navigational equipment on the aircraft was not functioning correctly, and high winds en route produced a Dead Reckoning navigational error of some 70 miles causing the formation to arrive over the supposed "target" which was believed to be Dresden at the time bombing commenced. Prague was mostly obscured by broken cloud, with occasional glimpses of the Vltava river. Prague and Dresden also looked similar from the air, with rivers running through both cities. The bombing was carried out as a "blind attack" using radar.

After the war, the Americans were charged to pay for some of the damaged historical buildings. The raid was used for anti-American propaganda purposes both by the Nazis and the subsequent Communist Regime in Czechoslovakia.


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