Saturday, February 6, 2016

1943 BISCARI MASSACRE

While dealing with a very strong defense of Gela in southern Sicily -please read the January issue on "Battle of Gela & Livorno Division counterattack"- some of the Allies troops committed massacres of Italian military and civilians.

May be because enraged by the many US casualties, some US soldiers committed murders of some defenseless civilians and many surrendered soldiers....and later justified themselves accusing general Patton to have given orders to "kill all of them".....

All this cruelty -according to senator Augello in his famous book "Uccidete gli Italiani"- was originated by the hateful declarations of general Patton to his US Division, just before the Allies landing on Sicily: "Pay no attention to the raised hands (of the Italians who surrendered). Aim your gun between the third and fourth rib, then shoot. Fuck, no prisoners! Gone is the time to play, now it is time to kill! I want a division of killers because the killers are immortal!"

Here it is a resume of four articles dealing with these massacres:

1) The BISCARI MASSACRE & other shameful murders of Italians during the 1943 Sicily invasion, by Gianluca Di Feo

What happened in Sicily between July 12 and 14, 1943 is one of the blackest pages in US military history. A page on which US historians have been discussing for many years, while in Italy this event is almost unknown. In North American universities there are courses in 2004 devoted to these massacres, such as the one held in Montreal «From the Biscari massacre to Guantanamo». And these weeks US military law experts evaluate the responsibility of the "Abu Ghraib warders" on the basis of the military courts that judged the «killers of Italians». Because – according to the trial proceedings – the US soldiers defended themselves by saying to have obeyed Patton’s orders. «We had been told – they stated – that the General (Patton) wanted no prisoners».


The Italians murdered at Biscari were almost all infantry of Lombardy (mostly from Brescia) or Veneto (mostly from Vicenza); with them fifty airmen who came mostly from Sicily, some from Lazio and Umbria. Senator Andrea Augello has also discovered the fate of Carl Ludwig "Lu(t)z" Long, German Olympic long-jumper, notable for winning Silver in the Olympic Games of 1936 who went down in history for the handshake with winner US black Jesse Owens: "There is clear evidence that Lutz Long was killed on July 14 and buried at Biscari". In the above famous photo Lutz Long is behind the winner Jessie Owens, in the 1936 Olympic ceremony

THE FACTS-No one knows the exact number of Axis servicemen killed after surrendering. The most important episodes are five, with at least two hundred victims. Two of them, occurred at Biscari airfield near Ragusa, are known in every detail. In Fall ’43, the US Court Marshal held, in the utmost security, two trials: Sgt. Horace T. West gunned down 37 Italians, Capt. John C. Compton’s firing squad at least 36. The trial records state: «All prisoners were disarmed and collaborative». Two more slaughters were described by an eyewitness, British journalist Alexander Clifford, in talks and letters now disclosed to the public. They took place at Comiso airfield, that would become famous half a century later for NATO missiles. At the time it was a Luftwaffe base, contested in a bloody battle. Clifford reported that sixty Italians, captured in the first lines, were unloaded from a truck and machinegunned. A few minutes later, the same scene was repeated with a bunch of Germans: fifty of them were killed. When a Colonel, called in by the reporter, stopped the killing, only three were still breathing.Clifford reported everything to Patton, who promised him that the culprits would be punished. But there was no trial and the journalist refused until his death to testify against the General. Finally, the last atrocity in the Narbone-Grilli soap factory at Canicatti against civilians that were pillaging it. According to the statements compiled in those confused days of 1943, US MPs, after ordering to halt and firing warning shots, opened up on the crowd killing six people. But the records discovered in 2002 by Prof. Joseph Salemi of New York University – whose father was an eyewitness of the facts – relate the testimony of some soldiers who were there. «Just as we came in, the Colonel yelled to shoot at the crowd that had entered the plant. We did not move: it was a chilling order. Then he reached for his pistol and fired 21 shots, reloading three times. Many civilians died: I saw a boy with his stomach torn open by bullets».

THE ORDER – But the trial records pertinent to «the Biscari facts» give to understand that the victims may be many more. All crimes were work of the 45th «Thunderbirds» division, units originated in the Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona National Guard. Their members are described as cowboys, some with Native American origins. But they participated courageously in some of the hardest battles of WWII. Their baptism of fire took place in Sicily: they were to get hold of the three airfield nearest to the coast, strategical for the move of Allied air units. Instead, the desperate resistance of two Italian divisions and few German units held them off for four days. Many G.I.s lost their nerve. And everybody was convinced that Gen. Patton had ordered not to take any prisoner. Dozens of enlisted men, NCOs and officers testified: «We’d been told that Patton did not want to get them alive. Aboard the ships sailing towards Sicily, we heard Gen. Patton’s speech over the loudspeakers: [...]If your company officers in leading your men against the enemy find him shooting at you and when you get within two hundred yards of him he wishes to surrender – oh no! That bastard will die! You will kill him. Stick him between the third and fourth ribs. You will tell your men that. They must have the killer instinct. Tell them to stick him. Stick him in the liver. We will get the name of killers and killers are immortal. When word reaches him that he is being faced by a killer battalion he will fight less. We must build up that name as killers.

THE HORROR – First to discover and report the atrocities was the Division chaplain, Col. William E. King. Some distraught G.I.s summoned him and showed him the heap of bodies riddled by Sgt. West: «It’s crazy – they said – they’re killing all prisoners. We’re at war to fight this brutality, not to do this filth. We’re ashamed on what’s going on». King rushed to the Regiment HQ. But while on the road leading to the airport he saw a stone fence, probably a sheepfold, full of Italian POWs. So goes the chaplain’s statement: «As I neared, the Corporal on guard greeted me: “Father, have you come to bury them?”. “What are you saying?” I replied. The Corporal said: “They’re there, I’m here with my Thompson, you’re there. And we were told not to take no prisoners». At that point, Col. King got on a rock, called all the present G.I.s and improvised a sermon to convince them to spare those men: «You cannot kill them, prisoners are a precious intelligence source. And their comrades might retaliate on our fellow soldiers that they have seized. Don’t do it!». Capt. Robert Dean’s tale is almost as poignant: «I was stopped by two unarmed stretcher bearers. They said: “We’ve got two wounded Italians, send for somebody to finish them off”. I yelled them to tend those soldiers, otherwise I’d make them pay for it».

THE SENTENCE – It was the will of Col. King himself to originate the two trials on the Biscari atrocities. King reported everything to the Army inspector (something like a District Attorney or Italian “Pubblico Ministero”) that reported to Omar Bradley. The trial against Sgt. West started in September. Charge: «wilful murder, for killing deliberately and in full awareness 37 POWs, with unbecoming behavior». The Italian infantrymen – a little less than fifty – had been captured after a long fight in a cave near the Biscari airfield. The CO handed them over to the Sergeant with an order presumed «vague» by judges: to take them away from the landing strip, where the fighting was still ongoing. Nine witnesses reconstructed the slaughter. West lined up the Italians, after a few kilometers of marching took five or six of them from the rest of the group. Then he got hold of a submachine gun and took the others away from the road. There he killed them, chasing the ones running for their lives while he reloaded: one of the bodies was found 50 meters away.Before the court, Sgt. West defended himself by appealing to battle fatigue: «I was on the frontline for four days, with no sleep». He declared to have witnessed the execution of two G.I.s captured by th Germans, which made him «uncontrolledly furious». His defending counsel spoke about «temporary mental infermity». In the end, West said to the judges: «We had been ordered to take prisoners only in extreme cases». But his defence did not convince the Court, that sentenced him to life emprisonment. The sentence, however, was never served. In fact, the US Governement were terrified by the possible repercussions of the atrocities. They feared the image loss on the Italians, with who an armistice had just been signed – and the risk of retaliations on Allied POW in Germany. They decided not to jail West in a US penitentiary but to keep him under arrest at a base in North Africa. Then his sister started writing to the Ministry and urging the County Congressman to intervene. The Army High Command feared that the affair might end up on newspapers. On February 1, 1944, the War Ministry head of Public Relations pressed the Caserta Allied HQ for an «act of mercy» for Sgt. West: «We cannot – says the letter published by Stanley Hirshsohn in 2002 – allow that this story be made public: it would give help and support to the enemy. It wouldn’t be understood by civilians, that are too far away from the violence of the fightings». Thus, after six months only, West was released and sent back to the frontline. According to some sources, he was killed at the end of August 1944 in Brittany. According to others, he ended the war unscathed.

THE ACQUITTAL – Instead, on October 23, 1943, Capt. John C. Compton didn’t try to find any excuse before the military court: he just said to have obeyed orders. During the trial was reconstructed the battle for Biscari, fought all night through. There was a hidden emplacement on a hillside that kept firing on the strip. It was a ferocious fray, with machinegun and mortar shots, without any front line. Compton’s outfit had had twelve KIA within a few hours. At some point, a G.I. saw an Italian in uniform and another in civilian clothing coming out of a shelter: they were waving a white flag. The G.I. came closer and about forty men in the trench raise their hands. Five wore civilian jackets and blouses over their military pants and boots. The soldier handed them over to the Sergeant but the Captain came over. Compton wasted no time and decided to kill them. Many of his men volunteered: 24 of them shot hundreds of rounds in the bunch of the Italians. The exact number of the casualties is uncertain but the enquiry ended with the indictment of the sole officer for 36 murders, freeing his subordinates. And Compton declared in courtroom that the order was to kill the enemies that kept resisting at close range. Furthermore he specified that those Italians were “snipers”, hence they had to be shot: a defensive line that was reportedly suggested him by Patton himself. «I got them killed because this was Patton’s order – the Captain concluded – Right or wrong, the order of a three-star-General with combat experience is enough to me. And I carried it out to the letter». All eyewitnesses – among them several Colonels – confirmed Patton’s statements, that terrible «Kill them if they surrender only when you’re close».Others also referred that Patton had said: «The more men we take, the more food we need. We’d better do without it». Compton was acquitted. The responsible for the enquiry William R. Cook was tempted to appeal. «That acquittal was so far from the American sense of justice – he wrote – that such order had to appear clearly illegal». But in the meantime Cook had been killed in action. By a twist of fate, he was reportedly hit by a sniper while he was approaching some Germans who were waving a white flag.Compton’s acquittal, however, became a legal case that began circulating among the personnel of US military courts after the end of the war. A precedent deemed “confidential” also to prevent it from influencing the Nazi war crimes trials. Then, in 1973, a trace was found in Patton’s diaries published by Martin Blumenson and in 1983 the first complete description in Gen. Bradley’s autobiography.Today, some American historians – absolutely beyond suspicion of revisionism – believe that, on the basis of the Compton sentence, the SS shot for murdering US POWs were to be acquitted. And while studies on the «Biscari massacre» and its repercussions have been published in the United States during the past twenty-five years – the first in 1988 by James J. Weingartner, the latest in 2002 by Hirschson – the facts were substantially ignored in Italy. Twenty years ago, in the volume written by American historian Carlo d’Este on Operation Husky, translated by Mondadori, the matter was consigned in the beginning of a paragraph. Then, lately, two hard-to-find works of Sicilian historians and one page in the well-documented volume by Alfio Caruso. However no initiative was ever taken to remember those nameless soldiers. While even Biscari does not exist any longer: today the town is named Acate.

Gianluca Di Feo (Corriere Della Sera, June 23, 2004)

2) Allied war crimes of the Campaign of Sicily, by Gianfranco Ciriacono

About a month ago (on 23 and 24 June) the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera published an article by the journalist Gianluca Di Feo about some American war crimes made during the Campaign of Sicily: - two massacres of POWs (36 and 37 men) in the airport of Biscari by men of the 180th Regimental Combat Team, 45th Division. - two massacres of POWs in the airport of Comiso: about 50 Italians and about 60 Germans were killed by men of the 45th Div. - 6 civilians killed while they were plundering the Saponeria Narbone-Garilli at Canicattì. The article provides new interesting info.

The massacres of Comiso were witnessed and denounced by the British journalist Alexander Clifford; Patton granted that the guilty soldiers would be put on trial, but no enquiry was ever done.

The civilians killed in Canicattì were among a crowd plundering a factory, but while this action of the American MPs could look as a harsh but legitimate way to stop them, it seems instead that it was done by a colonel with the intent of murdering people: in 2002 prof. Joseph Salemi (University of New York), whose father had been a witness, has found the original verbals of the inquiry that followed the massacre, included this testimony (I'm re-translating from Italian): "As soon as we arrived, the colonel shouted to shoot at the crowd that had entered the factory. We stood firm, it was an apalling order. So he [the colonel] took the pistol and shot 21 bullets, changing the cartridge clip 3 times. Many civilians died: I saw a child with the stomach opened by the bullets." Canicattì, unlike Comiso and Biscari, was not under the control of the 45th Div., but, AFAIK (the article doesn't tell it) of the 3rd.

The massacres of Biscari are more known, but not very known is the involvement of Gen. Patton.They were denounced by the chaplain of the 45th Div., col. William King, to Gen. Omar Bradley. He soon urged the opening of an enquiry, and told Patton of the crimes. Patton wrote in his diary: "Bradley, a man too correct and very nervous, has come to me to tell me that the captain [John C. Compton] has taken seriously my order of kill those [enemies] who kept on shooting when we are at less than 200 yards. The captain has killed almost 50 prisoners, at cold blood and grouping them, an even greater error. I replied that probably the news were exaggerated. Nevertheless I told him to tell to the captain to declare that those men were snipers or that they had tried to escape, because there is the danger that everything will go on the newspapers and civilians will become furious. Whatever happened, they are dead and there is nothing more to do."Since Patton did nothing to arrest them, Bradley spoke again with Patton on 9 Aug. and then, since he did nothing again, personally ordered the arrest. In those same days Patton was removed from the command in Sicily.

This time two trials were opened.

Sgt. Horace T. West, who had killed 37 POWs at Biscari, told that he did it because of battle stress and because he was ordered to take prisoners only in extreem situations. The judges found him guilty and sentenced him to life prison. But he was released because of the intervent of his sister (in fact Capt. Compton was not imprisoned, read below) after only 6 months and, according to some sources, died in Brittany in Aug. 1944, but other sources state that he survived the war. The chief of the public relations office of the Ministry of War wrote this letter (published by Stanley Hirshson in 2002) to the Allied command of Caserta on 1 Feb. 1944: "We cannot let that this story will be publicized: it would give help and support to the enemy. It wouldn't be understood by the citizens who are so far from the violence of the fightings.".

Capt. Compton instead followed Patton's advice: he simply told that he had followed the orders of killing snipers. He, along with 24 volunteer soldiers, had killed 36 Italian POWs in Biscari. The soldiers were not even put on trial. He told: "I killed them because this was the order of Patton. Right or wrong, the order of a 3-stars general with battle experience is enough for me. And I followed it to the letter.". All the witnesses, includes some colonels, confirmed the order. Already in June 1943 Patton had been informed by the magistrate of his army that he should have changed the texts of his proclaims. The order of Patton quoted during Capt. Compton's trial was: "When we land against the enemy, don't forget to hit him and hit him hard. When we meet the enemy we will kill him. We will show him no mercy. He has killed thousands of your comrades and he must die. If you company officers in leading your men against the enemy find him shooting at you and when you get within two hundred yards of him he wishes to surrender- oh no! That bastard will die! You will kill him. Stick him between the third and fourth ribs. You will tell your men that. They must have the killer instinct. Tell them to stick him. Stick him in the liver. We will get the name of killers and killers are immortal. When word reaches him that he is being faced by a killer battalion he will fight less. We must build up that name as killers."The prosecutor, Maj. William R. Cook, wanted to make an appeal, but he was KIA soon after.

The Corriere published also the testimony of Giuseppe Ciriacono, son of one of the men killed in Biscari and then member of the Carabinieri (Italian military police) and eyewitness of the massacre (he was 13). He told that 6 civilians were among the killed (and this might explain why Compton told that five of the men he had killed were wearing civilian jackets), moreover one of the killed was a boy just older than Ciriacono.

Le stragi dimenticate - Gianfranco Ciriacono

3) An excerpt on 45th Division murder of POWs from "The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944", by Rick Atkinson

“…By early Wednesday morning, the airfield was at last in American hands. Bodies lay like bloody throw rugs on a runway gouged by more than two hundred bomb craters. The charred cruciforms of ruined airplanes smoldered near the hangars; enemy snipers had hidden in the cockpits, taking potshots until a platoon of Sherman tanks exterminated them, fuselage by fuselage. Flames crackled in the grain fields east and west of the airfield. Through the billowing smoke U.S. soldiers could be seen like wraiths in olive drab, dragging wounded comrades to safe ground or snatching first-aid kits and ammunition from abandoned packs. Sniper fire still winked from the shadows along the packed-dirt Biscari road. Companies A and C of the 180th’s 1st Battalion had landed five days earlier with nearly 200 men each and now counted 150 between them... ‘We had the killing spirit,’ one sergeant later observed. Another rifleman wrote his father that the summer dust ‘tasted like powdered blood,’ then added ‘Now I know why soldiers get old quick.’ By midmorning on Wednesday, the 1st Battalion had pushed through the smoke and dancing flames, flushing German and Italian laggards from caves along the thready Ficuzza River. Soon Company A had rounded up forty-six prisoners, among them three Germans. Frightened and exhausted, the captives sat naked but for their trousers on a parched slope above the Ficuzza, all shirts and shoes having been confiscated to discourage escape. A major separated nine prisoners for interrogation – the youngsters were considered most likely to talk – then turned both them and the other captives over to Sergeant Horace T. West with a small security detachment for removal to the rear. West proved a poor choice. Born in Barron Fork, Oklahoma, he had joined the army in 1929, then switched to the National Guard, training on weekends and working as a cook in his antebellum civilian life. Now thirty-three, he had two young children, earned$101 a month and had gained a reputation, one superior said, as the ‘most through non-com I ever saw in the Army.’ But the past few days had badly frayed Sergeant West. ‘It was something sitting on me,’ he later said, ‘just to kill and destroy and watch them bleed to death.’ In two shuffling columns, the prisoners marched four hundred yards down the road toward a stand of olive trees above the creek. West halted his charges – with being told, they executed a ragged left face – and separated out the smaller group designated for interrogation. Turning to the company first sergeant, Haskell Brown, he asked to borrow his Thompson submachine gun to ‘shoot the sons of bitches.’ Brown handed him the weapon with an extra clip. ‘Turn around if you don’t want to see,’ West advised, and opened fire. They fell, writhing and jerking in the dust, then lurched to their knees, begging, only to be shot down again. Cries filled the morning – ‘No!No!’ – amid the roar of the gun and the acrid smell of codite. Three prisoners broke for the trees; two of them escaped. West stopped to reload, then walked among the men in their pooling blood and fired a single round into the hearts of those still moving. When he was done, he handed the weapon back to Brown. “This is orders,” he said, then rousted the nine chosen for interrogation to their feet, wide-eyed and trembling, and marched them to find the division G-2. Thirty-seven dead men lay beside the road, and their shadows shrank beneath the climbing sun as though something were being drawn up and out of them. Five hours later, it happened again. As Sergeant West herded his surviving charges to the rear, German tanks and half-tracks counterattacked, recaptured the Biscari airfield, and drove the 180th across a ravine south of the runway. The brawling would continue throughout Wednesday afternoon until the enemy was again routed, this time for good. During the fight, Company C of the 1st Battalion swept down a deep gulch, taking a dozen casualties from machine gun fire before white flags waved from an expansive bunker carved into the slope. At one p.m., three dozen Italians emerged, hands up, five of them wearing civilian clothes. Ammunition boxes, filthy bedding, and suitcases lay strewn about the bunker. In command of Company C was Captain John Travers Compton. Now twenty-five, he had joined the Oklahoma National Guard in 1934. Compton was married, had one child, earned $230 a month – minus a $6.60 deduction for government insurance – and had consistently rated ‘excellent’ or ‘superior’ on performance evaluations. Standing on the hillside, bleary with fatigue, he ordered an lieutenant to assemble a firing squad and ‘have these snipers shot.’ The squad soon formed – several men volunteered – and Compton barked the commands even as the Italians pleaded for his mercy: ‘Ready, aim, Fire.’ Tommy-gun and Browning Automatic Rifle fire swept down the gulch, and another thirty-six men fell dead. The next day at 10:30 a.m., Lieutenant Colonel William E. King drove his jeep up the Biscari road toward the now secure airfield. It was said that King had been temporarily blinded during World War I, and the ordeal had propelled him into the ministry as a Baptist preacher. He now served God and country as the 45th Division chaplain, admired for his generosity and the brevity of his sermons. A dark mound near and olive grove caught his eye, and he stopped the jeep, mouth agape, to investigate. ‘Most were lying face down, a few face up,’ King later recalled. ‘Everybody face up has one bullet hole just to the left of the spine in the region of the heart.’ A majority also had head wounds; singed hair and powder burns implied the fatal shots had come at close range. A few soldiers loitering nearby joined the chaplain, protesting that ‘they has come into the war to fight against that sort of thing,’ King said. ‘They felt ashamed of their countrymen.’ The chaplain hurried back to the division command post to report the fell vision. Omar Bradley had already got wind of the massacre, and he drove to Gela to tell Patton that fifty to seventy prisoners had been murdered ‘in cold blood and also in ranks.’ Patton recorded his reaction in his diary: ‘I told Bradley that it was probably an exaggeration, but in any case to tell the officer to certify that the dead men were snipers or had attempted to escape or something, as it would make a stink in the press and also would make the civilians mad. Anyhow, they are dead, so nothing can be done about it.’ Two war correspondents who had seen the bodies also appeared at Patton’s headquarters to protest these and other prisoner killings. Patton pledged to halt the atrocities, and the reporters apparently never printed a word. To George Marshall on July 18, Patton wrote that enemy troops had booby-trapped their dead and ‘have resorted to sniping behind the lines’; such ‘nefarious actions’ had caused ‘the death of quite a few additional Italians, but in my opinion these killings have been thoroughly justified.’ Bradley disagreed and, Patton told his diary, ‘feels that we should try the two men responsible for the shooting of the prisoners.’ An investigation by the 45th Division inspector general found ‘no provocation on the part of the part of the prisoners…They had been slaughtered.’ Patton relented: ‘Try the bastards.” Captain Compton contracted malaria soon after the Biscari killings, and not until he had recuperated in late October would he be secretly court-martialed. The defense argued that Patton’s pep talk in Oran had been tatamount to ‘an order to annihilate these snipers.’ ‘I ordered them shot because I thought it came directly under the general’s instructions,’ Compton testified. ‘I took him at his word.’ The military prosecutor asked not a single question on cross-examination. Compton was acquitted and returned to the 45th Division. Killers are Immortal, Patton had declared, but that too was wrong. Compton would be killed in action in Italy on November 8, 1943. A fellow officer in the 45th provided his epitaph: ‘Good riddance.’ Sergeant West’s case proved more convoluted. Like Compton, he was examined by psychiatrists and declared sane. He, too, claimed that Patton’s rhetoric had incited him to mayhem, while conceding that he ‘may have used bad judgment.’ His conduct, he told the courts-martial, ‘is something beyond my conception of human decency. Or something.’ The tribunal concurred and ruled that he had ‘with malice aforethought, willfully, deliberately, feloniously, unlawfully and with premeditation, killed 37 prisoners of war, one of whose names are known, each of them a human being.’ West was sentenced to life in a New York penitentiary. Yet he never left the Mediterranean during the war, nor was he dishonorably discharged, and he continued to draw his $101 a month, plus various family allowances. Colonel Cookson, the 180th regimental commander, later said ‘The whole tendency in the thing was to keep it as quiet as possible.’ A few weeks after West’s conviction, Eisenhower revied the case. If West were sent to a federal prison in the United States, the Biscari story would likely become public; if he were kept confined in North Africa, perhaps the enemy would remain ignorant of the massacre. Eisenhower ‘feared reprisal to Allied prisoners and decided to give the man a chance,’ Harry Butcher wrote in his diary. [West] will be kept in military confinement…for a period sufficient to determine whether he may be returned to duty.’ That period amounted to a bit more than a year. West’s family and a sympathetic congressman began pestering the War Department for news of ‘the most thorough non-com’ in the U.S. Army. On November 23, 1944, he was granted clemency on the grounds of temporary insanity and restored to active duty, though shorn of his sergeant’s stripes. Classified top-secret, the records of the courts martial would remain locked in the Secretary of the Army’s safe for years after the war lest they ‘arouse a segment of our citizens who are so distant from combat that they do not understand the savagery that is war.’ Those who knew of the killings tried to parse them in their own fashion. Brigadier General Raymond S. McLain, the 45th Division artillery commander, concluded that in Sicily ‘evil spirits seemed to come out and challenge us.’ Patton wrote Beatrice, ‘Some fair-haired boys are trying to say I killed too many prisoners. The more I killed, the fewer men I lost, but the don’t think of that.’ And a staff officer in the 45th wrote, ‘It was not easy to determine what forces turned normal men into thoughtless killers. But a world war is something different from our druthers.’ Nobody Really Knows What He Is Doing, Bill Mauldin had written of his first week in combat with the 180th Infantry. Yet other primal lessons also could be gleaned, from Licata to Augusta. For war was not just a military campaign but also a parable. There were lessons of camaraderie and duty and inscrutable fate. There were lessons of honor and courage, of compassion and sacrifice. And then there was the saddest lesson, to be learned again and again in the coming weeks as they fought across Sicily, and in the coming months as they fought their was back toward a world at peace; that war is corrupting, that it corrodes the soul and tarnishes the spirit, that even the excellent and the superior can be defiled, and that no heart would remain unstained.”

Rick Atkinson

4)Testimony from the son of a victim, by Joseph Salemi

I am the source of the information concerning this incident, which I learned about from my father, Salvatore J. Salemi. I first gave this documented information to Prof. Stanley Hirshson, who used it in his recent biography of Patton. Since then the information has been picked up and publicized by various researchers in Italy. I would like to give a very brief precis of what occurred for the benefit of those in this website forum who may be confused about the incident. The massacre in question took place at 6 PM, on July 14, 1943, in the town of Canicatti, Sicily. The specific location was the Soap Factory and Warehouse of Narbone-Garilli, on Via Carlo Alberto, in the parish of Redentore. A large crowd of civilians had gathered at this partially bombed factory-warehouse to steal liquid soap, which was stored in a large open pit. Most had been dispersed by American MPs, but a number of them were held as prisoners. These civilians were unarmed and unresisting; a number of them were women and children. An American Lieutenant-Colonel arrived on the scene. He was a Civil Affairs officer in AMGOT (Allied Military Government of Occupied Territory), but attached to the Third Infantry Division. He was accompanied by several other American officers and G-2 interpreters, including my father. My father at that time was a corporal, serving in the Third Division as an interrogator of Italian POWs, and as a general translator for G-2. When the Lieutenant-Colonel arrived, he ordered the MPs who were holding the captured looters to shoot them all. This order was refused by the commanding officer of the MP detachment, and also by all of the individual MPs present. The Lieutenant-Colonel then directed the same order to the other American personnel who had accompanied him to the scene of the looting. They too refused. At that point the enraged Lieutenant-Colonel drew his service pistol and fired point-blank into the group of captured, unarmed, and unresisting looters. He emptied one magazine, and reloaded, emptied that one, and reloaded again, and emptied that magazine as well. He fired over twenty rounds, killing at least seven or eight people and severely wounding many others. One of the victims was an eleven-year-old schoolgirl whose stomach was blown out. Since the publication of Prof. Hirshson's book, I have been able (with the help of an Italian researcher in Sicily) to learn the identities of most of the victims of the Canicatti shooting. The incident is now quite well documented. I have also decided that it is now time to reveal the identity of the AMGOT officer who was responsible for this atrocity. He was Lieutenant-Colonel George Herbert McCaffrey, the SCAO (Senior Civil Affairs Officer) for Agrigento Province. Colonel McCaffrey was 53 years old at the time, and a veteran of the First World War who served in the 78th Division. He also served briefly during the Korean Conflict.

Dr. Joseph S. Salemi (New York University)

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