Italian bombing of Bahrain
Part of World War II

SM.82s similar to those used in the Italian raid on Bahrain
Date19 October 1940
Result Italian victory
 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

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.


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.[2]

Bahrain (and Dhahran, Saudi Arabia)

Early on 19 October 1940, four Italian SM.82 bombers attacked American-operated oil refineries in the British Protectorate of Bahrain, damaging the local refineries.[3] The raid also struck Dhahran in Saudi Arabia, but causing only some minor damage.[3]

Indeed, in order to strike the British-controlled oil refineries at Manama in the Persian Gulf, these SM.82 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 kgs (3,310 lbs).[4] 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 132 bombs of 15 kgs each were dropped, that heavily damaged two refineries.[5]

The raid caused the Allies some concerns, forcing them to upgrade their defenses. 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 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[6]

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. American magazine Time wrote that the Italians insisted that the planes had been refueled from submarine tankers[7] though in actuality, the planes had simply been loaded with fuel.[3]

Ettore Muti, party secretary of the National Fascist Party, took part in the Bahrain raid and in at least one of the bombings of Haifa.[8]

The Bahrain raid was followed by other long-distance Italian raids on Ethiopia and Eritrea in 1942, and 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.[9]

See also


  1. ^ "Missione Bahrein". Archived from the original on 2 August 2016. Retrieved 31 May 2016.
  2. ^ Map of the attack
  3. ^ a b c Air Raid! A Sequel Archived 29 September 2012 at the Wayback Machine Saudi Aramco World, Volume 27, Number 4, July/August 1976.
  4. ^ Lembo 2002, p.5.
  5. ^ "History of the Bahrain bombing (in Italian)". Archived from the original on 2 August 2016. Retrieved 27 February 2012.
  6. ^ "Italian Raid on Manama 1940 – Comando Supremo". Retrieved 31 May 2016.
  7. ^ "Southern Theatre: Record Raid". Time. 28 October 1940.
  8. ^ "In the Air: Daily Damage". Time. 4 November 1940.
  9. ^ "The Secret Italian Air Raid Rome-Tokyo – Summer 1942". Retrieved 31 May 2016.