As I start to write this piece, thousands of residents of the Thessaloniki neighborhood Kordelios are being evacuated from their homes and the surrounding area. The story of the WWII era unexploded bomb (UXB) has been covered by the media and told worldwide. A brief rundown… a 500 lb bomb dropped on Thessaloniki in September 1944 didn’t go off. Due to its weight the bomb came to rest several meters in the earth. It was uncovered a few days ago by construction workers digging a pit for new storage tank at a filling (petrol) station.
Sometime later today a military bomb squad will attempt to defuse the thing, take it away and neutralize the bomb by blowing it up.
That’s the short and pretty much the complete version of the story so far.
Unfortunately there are unexploded ordnance all over the world, some dangerous and some, like the Thessaloniki bomb, hopefully harmless.
UPDATE -the bomb was removed without a problem.
In the meantime we followed up on some thoughts about the whole affair. Whose bomb and why Thessaloniki?
From one report:
“The bombing was done by English and American planes on September 17, 1944. It was Sunday lunchtime,” said Giorgos Gerasimou, 86, whose home is half a mile away from the bomb site.
He said the Allies were targeting local German rail facilities and he remembers the day clearly because one of his 10-year-old friends was killed in the bombing.
With due respect to Kyrios Giorgos, he might have the wrong Sunday. Records of the 485th Bomb group, 15th Air Force, US Army Air Corps indicate that on Sunday September 24, 1944 a mission of 364 B-24 heavy bombers set out from Venosa Italy to bomb targets in Greece; Eleusis airfield, Kalamaki airfield, Tatoi airfield, and the ‘marshalling yards’ in ‘Salonika’. The lost/found bomb probably came from that mission.
From the summer of 1944 the Wehrmacht had been withdrawing troops northwards out of Greece to escape the possibility of being cut-off by the Red Army advancing through Bulgaria. The air raids were to disrupt their evacuation. The rail yards hit were the same lines that the Germans used to carry 50,000 Greeks from Thessaloniki to Auschwitz between March and mid-July 1943.
By the end of October 1944 the occupation was over for most of Greece.