Every capital city has its secrets, but Bucharest has a couple of unusual ones.
One of them is this monument, currently located in the downtown Cismigiu Park.
To understand why it’s there, we have to go back to the dark days of World War 2.
Operation Tidal Wave
As I’ve written about before, one of the strangest bits of historical trivia is that Romania is the last country that the United States formally declared war upon.
In 1943, Romania was still a staunch ally of Nazi Germany despite having been ordered by Hitler to cede Northern Transylvania to Hungary. At the time, however, it must’ve seemed like a fair trade as Romania had made incursions into Bessarabia, the Budjak Peninsula, and Odessa.
Beginning in August 1943, the United States began bombing Ploiesti, primarily targeting petroleum refineries and oil storage facilities.
Despite the use of heavy B-24 “Liberator” bombers, the Nazis had Ploiesti well-defended with anti-aircraft guns and a squadron of fighter planes, including a few of them operated by Romanians.
As such, the operation largely failed as the Americans lost 53 aircraft and 440 airmen, with an additional 220 pilots captured or missing. On the ground, 16 people were killed and 50 were injured.
Despite this, the Americans decided to honor their defeat with a monument officially called the “Monument of the American Heroes” or Monumentul Eroilor Americani in Romanian. It was carved in 1999 by Romanian artist Remus Claudiu Botar and officially unveiled in 2002.
Originally, it was located in the “Ferdinand 1” military museum in Bucharest, but it now sits in Cismigiu Park.
As you can see, there’s a sign adjacent to the monument that says “Please protect this monument!” in giant capital letters. Underneath that text, it says “Any violations will be punished according to the law.”
But that’s not the only monument glorifying the American attacks on Romania to be found in Bucharest.
This one is in Kiseleff Park, and I had difficulty finding a clearer picture, which is why I’m using this Instagram post.
As you can see, an American tourist was surprised to note that there are three different monuments dedicated to Americans in Kiseleff Park, the other two paying tribute to Michael Jackson (the singer) and Mark Twain (the author) respectively.
But why is there a second monument to American soldiers in Bucharest?
I tracked down a PDF detailing the dedication ceremony in 2007. The monument was paid for and commissioned by the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts. At the unveiling was the American ambassador to the United States, Nicholas Taubman. You can read what he said (in Romanian) here.
In 2009, there was a second ceremony, this time involving Viorel Oancea, then a senior official in the Romanian Defense Ministry, and Jeri Guthrie-Corn, the acting American ambassador to Romania.
Of course, nobody mentioned that Kiseleff Park is named after a Russian general who fought to defend Romania rather than attack it.
Down the Memory Hole
The grandiose speeches given at the unveiling of both American war monuments made reference only to the bombings of Ploiesti even though they were a complete and total military failure.
What neither the grandees in attendance at the unveiling of the monuments or the text written thereon mention was the intense American bombing campaign of Bucharest.
Beginning in the early afternoon of April 4, 1944, approximately 200 American “Liberators” appeared over the skies of Bucharest, causing people to scatter in panic. By the time night fell on the capital, thousands of people had been killed, wounded, or left homeless.
The primary target for the Americans was Gara de Nord, then as now the biggest train station in the country.
But there were other targets as well, including factories, government buildings, secondary train stations, and petroleum deposits. Over 3,000 bombs were dropped in the course of 16 separate attacks, the majority of which were incendiary, designed to cause widespread destruction by fire.
One of the buildings destroyed by the American bombardment was the Athenee Palace, now rebuilt and owned by the American luxury brand Hilton Hotels.
Other bombs landed throughout downtown Bucharest, including heavily populated areas. By the time the dust cleared and the flames were extinguished, 5,524 people had been killed, 3,373 were injured, and 47,974 left homeless according to official statistics.
Neither the monument in Kiseleff Park nor in Cismigiu Park makes any mention of the Romanian civilians who lost their lives in those bombing raids.
Today, of course, Romania remains a pliant and obedient ally of the United States, willing to overlook every insult, including honoring American pilots with two monuments in the same city they helped destroy.