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The Fifteenth’s primary mission was to bomb targets in the Balkans, Italy and especially Germany. Luftwaffe strength was increasing, not decreasing, over Germany.The Fifteenth Air Force was intended to take some of the pressure off the beleaguered Eighth.Old Bari, clustered on a fist of land that jutted out into the Adriatic, boasted such famed landmarks as the Castello Svevo, a brooding medieval fortress dating to Norman times, and the Basilica San Nicola, which allegedly contained the bones of St. In contrast, new Bari had broad boulevards and modern buildings.These new buildings included a sports facility nicknamed ‘Bambino Stadium,’ which had been built by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini as a reward to the citizens for producing the most babies in a specified period of time.The port was under the jurisdiction of the British, in part because Bari was the main supply base for General Bernard Law Montgomery’s Eighth Army. ‘Jimmy’ Doolittle had arrived in Bari on December 1.But the city was also the newly designated headquarters of the American Fifteenth Air Force, which had been activated in November of that year. The Americans had championed daylight precision bombing, but the Eighth Air Force in England was suffering terrible casualties in order to prove the theory valid.
At first, British anti-aircraft batteries fired a half-hearted round or two, but eventually they ignored the German flights altogether. Responding to rumblings about lax security measures, British Air Vice Marshal Sir Arthur Coningham held a press conference on the afternoon of December 2 and assured reporters that the Luftwaffe was defeated in Italy.The bombs were meant as a precaution, to be used only if the Germans resorted to chemical warfare.