Bombing of Bahrain in World War II

The bombing of Bahrain in World War II was part of an effort by the Italian Royal Air Force (Regia Aeronautica) to strike at the British interests wherever possible in the Middle East.[1] While the mission caused little damage, it was successful in forcing the diversion of already-limited Allied resources to an obscure theater originally thought to be safe.[2]

Italian bombing of Bahrain
Part of World War II
SM82s similar to those used in the Italian raid on Bahrain
Date19 October 1940
Result Italian victory
 Kingdom of Italy  British Empire
Commanders and leaders
Ettore Muti Unknown
4 Savoia-Marchetti SM.82s Unknown
Casualties and losses
None Damage to Bahrain oil facilities
Dhahran slightly damaged


On 10 June 1940, the Kingdom of Italy declared war on the French Republic and the United Kingdom. The Italian invasion of France was short-lived and the French signed an armistice with the Italians on 25 June, three days after France's armistice with Germany. This left the British and the forces of the Commonwealth of Nations for the Italians to contend with in the Middle East.

In summer 1940, the Italian leader and Prime Minister Benito Mussolini received a plan to destroy the oil fields in Bahrain in order to disrupt the oil supplies to the British Navy. The plan was suggested by the Italian test pilot, Air Force Captain Paolo Moci[3] and promoted by Ettore Muti, who was in charge of the attack.

Bahrain (and Dhahran, Saudi Arabia)Edit

Early on October 19, 1940, three of four Italian SM.82s bombers attacked American-operated oil refineries in the British Protectorate of Bahrain, damaging the local refineries.[4] Meanwhile, the fourth bomber which trailed behind struck Dhahran in Saudi Arabia, but causing only some minor damage.[4][a]

Indeed, in order to strike the British-controlled oil refineries at Manama in the Persian Gulf, these SM82s bombers undertook a flight of 4,200 km (2,610 mi), lasting 15 hours at 270 km/h (170 mph), that was for the time arguably a record for a bombing mission. Each aircraft carried a load of 1,500 kg (3,310 lb).[5] This long-range action was successful, taking the target totally by surprise, and the SM.82s landed without problems at Zula, Eritrea. The Italian airplanes started their flight from Europe, attacked refineries in Asia and landed back in Africa (Italian Eritrea).

During the attack were dropped 132 bombs of 15 kg, that heavily damaged 2 refineries [6]

The raid caused the Allies some concerns, forcing them to upgrade their defences. This, more than the limited amount of damage caused, further stretched Allied military resources.

The Italian Command intended to employ the special SM82s to bomb the English oil plants of Manama, in the Persian Gulf, in order to show the potential ability of the Italian air force. It was a long and difficult mission involving a 4,000 kilometre flight. Ettore Muti and his comrades spent four days working on a complete revision of the plans and established a complex flight plan....On December 18, at 5.10 pm, after filling both the normal and the supplementary tanks, they loaded three out of four SM82s with 1.5 tons of incendiary and explosive bombs weighing 15, 20 or 50 kilograms. Then the four three-engine bombers took off.In command of the first aircraft, which gained height with difficulty from the Rhodes- Gadurrà runway because it was overloaded with 19,500 kilograms, was Lieutenant Colonel Muti. He was assisted by Major Giovanni Raina and by Captain Paolo Moci, who had previous experience in flying planes overloaded up to 21 tons.....The SM82s, after gaining height (a manoeuvre which took remarkable efforts because of the enormous weight of the aircraft) headed east, flying over Cyprus, Lebanon and Syria, bending to the southeast as they went past Jordan and Iraq until they reached the Persian Gulf. During the very long outward flight, the role of Muti's SM82 pathfinder proved its essential function in leading the squadron..... At 2.20 am, just before reaching the Bahrain Islands, Lieutenant Colonel Federici's aircraft suddenly lost sight contact with Muti's SM82 and had to drop its bombs on different Saudi Arabia targets in the vicinity of Manama, while the other planes hit the fixed target. As bombardier Raina later told "the operation of spotting the target was easy thanks to the total illumination of the extractive and refinery plants" which were partially damaged by the bombs (half a dozen wells and some oil deposits were set on fire). As soon as they perceived the glares of the first explosions, the Italian planes made off along the escape route landing to the Zula runway (Eritrea) at 8 8:40.The whole Italian formation had flown 2,400 kilometres in 15.30 hours. At the Eritrean airport, along with a small crowd of Italian aviators, the brave pilots found the fourth SM82 squadron which, in the meantime, had come from Rhodes as a support plane on the way back, should one of the crafts make an emergency landing in the desert.

— Alberto Rosselli, [7]
Ettore Muti

Rome declared that their bombers had set a new distance record, covering 3,000 miles on the outgoing trip from bases located in the island of Rhodes in the Italian Islands of the Aegean. American magazine Time wrote that the Italians insisted that the planes had been refueled from submarine tankers,[8] though in actuality the planes had simply been loaded with more than 1,300 gallons of fuel.[4]

Ettore Muti, party secretary of the National Fascist Party, took part in the Bahrain raid (as commander) and in at least one of the bombings of Haifa.[9]

In the early days of the major success that went a long way to allowing the Italians to make a major fight in north Africa was the long-range bombing missions launched by Lt. Colonel Ettore Muti on Palestine and Bahrain which did severe damage to British port facilities and oil refineries. This caused the British considerable logistical problems but also forced them to divert resources to defend the Middle East which were badly needed elsewhere. It also helped relieve the threat to the shipping lanes in the Mediterranean, allowing Italian forces to be moved to north Africa with very few losses.

— Bjr-Researchomnia, [10]

The Bahrain raid was followed by other long-distance Italian raids on Ethiopia and Eritrea in 1942.

It would have been repeated -with an advanced SM.82 bomber- in a raid on New York City in summer 1943 had Italy not capitulated in 1943. Even a commercial aerial trip was done between Rome and Tokyo in summer 1942.[11]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Wallace Stegner mentioned in his Discovery! The Search for Arabian Oil that British ground personnel at the nearby airports assumed that the bombers were friendly, hence they switched on the runway lights in the early morning darkness. Stegner wrote that they "lighted up like a California supermarket opening".[4]


  1. ^ "Missione Bahrein". Archived from the original on 2016-08-02. Retrieved 31 May 2016.
  2. ^ 1940 Italian bombing of Bahrain & Dhahran
  3. ^ "Map of the attack". Archived from the original on 2017-10-22. Retrieved 2017-02-22.
  4. ^ a b c d "Air Raid! A Sequel". Aramco World. Vol. 27 no. 4. July–August 1976. Archived from the original on 2012-10-03.CS1 maint: date format (link)
  5. ^ Lembo 2002, p.5.
  6. ^ "History of the Bahrain bombing (in Italian)". Archived from the original on 2016-08-02. Retrieved 2012-02-27.
  7. ^ "Italian Raid on Manama 1940 – Comando Supremo". Retrieved 31 May 2016.
  8. ^ "Record Raid". Time.
  9. ^ "Daily Damage". Time.
  10. ^ Italian military tradition. Section: WW2
  11. ^ "The Secret Italian Air Raid Rome-Tokyo – Summer 1942". Retrieved 31 May 2016.


  • Lembo, Daniele. SIAI SM.82 Marsupiale. "Aerei Nella Storia", Issue 22. Parma, Italy: West-ward Edizioni, 2002, p. 10–31.

External linksEdit

  • Ala d'Italia - 1940: Bahrain bombing ([1])