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U.S. Air Force deadly 1944 bombing of Nijmegen accidental

Study settles controversy

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

NIJMEGEN, the Netherlands - The deadly U.S. Air Force bombing of the city on February 22, 1944 was a mistake. Over 750 people perished in the raid which has caused controversy ever since.

The conclusion that the bombing was accidental is substantiated in a recent report by the NIOD, the Dutch Institute for War Documentation. According to its researchers, the pilots assumed they were flying over Germany, which only is a few kilometres to the east of the city. Miscommunication between the various planes added to the confusion. The bombing mission devastated a part of Nijmegenís core and also hit Deventer, Arnhem and Enschede where another 250 people perished.

Ever since the deadly events in February 1944, many local people had been wondering whether the attack had been accidental or had served an obscure purpose. Although some people claimed to have seen some twin-engine planes coming over soon after the incident, the report concludes that these eyewitness accounts must be erroneous. Reports of people seeing pilots and open bomb doors were based on confusion and subsequent sightings, including low-flying German planes, or perhaps Allied planes on missions elsewhere.

An earlier book, ĎThe Fatal Attack,í by Alfons Brinkhuis, extensively details the tragic February 22, 1944 bombing. The author extensively researched especially U.S. and German archives. His conclusions also point to mistakes and confusion and dispel any notion of intent by the inexperienced pilots of the 446th Bomber Group of the 8th US Air Force. Such high-altitude and daylight raids by the USAF only aimed to hit pre-determined targets and perhaps also targets of opportunity. Because of bad weather over German targets, the Bomber Group had turned back, searching in the crowded confusion for such targets of opportunity. They found them mistakenly in the bridges of Arnhem and the railyard in Nijmegen.

Nazi propaganda

The NIOD researchers and Brinkhuis dispel any notion of Allied terror attacks, blaming Nazi propaganda, which seized on the issue to spread misinformation and use it to influence public opinion. According to Brinkhuis, everyone in the U.S., England and Germany he interviewed about the incident was forthcoming. Many admitted to having made mistakes.

A commission of experts installed to help search for the definitive answers concludes that no questions remain and that the report of the NIOD, which fully confirms Brinkhuis personal research, lays to rest any lingering doubts. No further research or investigation is warranted, a conclusion officially adopted by Nijmegenís mayor and aldermen.