Sometime in 1945, close to the end of the War, in the morning the regular radio programming stopped and after a short pause one heard Cuckuck Cuckuck, a pause and then again Cuckuck Cuckuck and this went on for several minutes. The wireless radio had gone off the air and we were now on Drahtfunk, Wired Cast so not give approaching bombers a radio fix. Then a male announcer with: Achtung,Achtung bitte ein feindlicher Kampf- verband im anflug auf . . . . . . . . .(Attention attention please an enemy battle group approaching . . . . . . .).
My family lived in Graz during the war years, in fact we lived near the outskirts of the city on the east side. Beyond us were hills and parks and villas. Across the street from us was a small bakery in a small one story building. Grosmutter would often send me over there to pick up bread or rolls, so I knew the place and people well. In the store customers were lined up to change their ration cards into bread products. Behind the counter were three people, one of which was a girl, a relative of the owners. Happy Birthday !! the customers were congratulating Liesl, the girl. She was fourteen today. Ach danke schoen, aber nur keine Bomben heute (Thank you very much but no bombs today).
At 8:39 the first warning came, the Voralarm (Prealarm). The sirens would scream the standard 12 seconds and then 12 sec. of silence and 12 sec. of scream and 12 sec. of silence and the final 12 seconds of the scream. Several cycles of warnings and all clear went on during the morning until about 11:30 when a full alarm was sounded. This day 15th AAF had 500 plus B-24's and B-17's in the air, all of them headed for targets in Austria. One of the targets was the railroad marshaling yards at Graz.
The first bombs fell at 12:14. Fifty-six B-24's spread over 6 waves dropped about 320 bombs, mostly 500 pounders with some 1000 pound bombs. Of these 320 bombs, 56 fell on the railroad grounds and 15 of them were duds. All the other bombs were strewn all over the city. The bombing was over at 15:20.
The bakery is 2.7 Km (~1.7 miles) from the nearest railroad tracks. In the bakery's basement Liesl and 15 others were dead. The date was 14 February 1945.
Happy Valentine's Day.
The number of civilian deaths in WW2 exceeded the number of military deaths (30 million vs. 25 million). Most of this was the result of the relentless bombing of civilian populations by both Allied and Axis air forces. Even when the target was purely military, such as a bridge or factory, civilians often fell victim to misplaced bombs outside the target area.
Bill Kettler was living in Graz, Austria during WW2. Graz had a railroad marshaling yard which was often a target for Allied bombers. Bombing can be an impersonal affair, unless you happen to be on the receiving end. Below is Bill's account of a bombing mission as experienced from the ground. Many thanks to Bill for sharing this.