Within the last month a new factor has been introduced into Italian warfare: the day-bombing by the ‘Liberators’, Already after Cagliari, Naples and Trapani, the Italians had begun to realize that new daylight air-raids were different, not in degree, but in kind, from any experienced before. And now, Grosseto. On Easter Bank Holiday at two pm, a squadron of twenty-six Liberators flew over Grosseto. Having dropped some bombs on the airport, they then proceeded to fly very low over the main street of the little town, leading from the central square to the ‘amusement park’; this was already crowded, with the merry-go-rounds in full swing.
Owing to the suddenness of the attack, the alarm did not sound until the planes were already overhead, so that the street was full of people in their Sunday best, and all the way down the street the crowd was machine-gunned. The planes then went on to the amusement park, and machine-gunned the tents containing the merry-go-rounds, where children were riding, and even pursued some people who tried to escape into the surrounding wheat-fields, two cars racing down the road, and four children in a field, herding some geese. Then, wheeling back over the town, they again swooped over the square. There a small crowd had gathered round the parish priest, who was giving absolution to the dying under the church porch – and this crowd was machine-gunned once again. One of the bombs fell upon the surgery of the hospital, destroying most of the first aid kits, so that as the wounded began to pour into the hospital the surgeons and nurses found themselves without bandages, swabs or ligaments. Subsequently the wounded were moved to the hospital at Montepulciano; and their photographs (especially those of the wounded or mutilated children) have been published in the papers.
These tales have done great harm. Yet I do not think that, when all is over, the dispassionate historian will be able to maintain either the Fascist thesis – that these air-raids have at last aroused the Italian people to hatred of the enemy – nor certainly the Allied one, that they have only awakened resentment against Fascism. I have met, of course, individuals who have bitterly felt one or the other of these emotions. But in the great mass of the nation, the keynote still appears to be a dumb, fatalistic apathy – an acceptance of the doom falling upon them from the skies, as men living in the shadow of Vesuvius and Fujiyama accept the torrents of boiling lava. All this, they seem to feel, is merely part of war – of the war which they did not, do not want. But they are not ready to do anything about it – not yet.