On February 14, 1945, the American Air Force carried out an air raid over Prague which ranks as the most futile attack on the Czech territory of the Second World War.
Seventy five years later it is still not clear whether the attack was an accident caused by bad weather conditions and the fact Prague and Dresden looked similar from the air, or whether it was a deliberate attack.
At precisely 12:35 p.m., forty B-17 Flying Fortresses of the 8th American Air Force dropped about 152 of high explosives rained down on the central city and two suburbs, destroying around a hundred houses and many historical monuments.
The raid killed 701 civilians and injured 1,184. 11,000 people were left homeless. All the people killed were civilians and none of the buildings were factories that might have been used by the Germans.
The carpet-bombing hit Vyšehrad, Zlíchov, Karlovo náměstí, Nusle, Vinohrady, Vršovice and Pankrác. About a hundred houses and historical sites were totally destroyed and another two hundred were heavily damaged.
Two buildings became symbols of the bombing. The first one was the largest synagogue in Prague located in Vinohrady. The building remained but it was torn down by the Communists in 1951.
The second building was the Emauzy monastery, founded by King Charles IV in 1347. Only in 1968, the building got a new façade, roof, and two towers. The design was done by an architect František Černý.
One of the bombed houses belonged to a butcher called Maceška. In the course of clear-up, rescuers uncovered one cellar which was empty. However, in 1970, when the building was excavated, workers discovered another cellar with 23 human skeletons inside.
The Americans voiced their regret many times. 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 clouds. Prague and Dresden also looked similar from the air, with rivers running through both cities.