The Murder of 15 Italian Americans
|The historic center and castle of Ameglia with the Apuan Alps.|
|The rugged Ligurian coast SE of Framura Station.|
Mission Ginny IIOn the cloudy and moonless night of March 22, 1944, two PT boats from the American OSS base on Corsica appproached the rocky Ligurian coast near Framura, a tiny town 6 miles north of Monterosso in Cinque Terre. This began the Operation codenamed Ginny II. Working silently, the boats' crews launched three rubber boats holding a commando team of 15 American soldiers in field uniform, their weapons and equipment, including 650 pounds of dynamite. As the team paddled toward shore, they struggled to ascertain their position relative to their objective: a small promontory south and east of Framura Station where two railroad tunnels on the critical Genoa-La Spezia line joined in a vaulted arcade with openings toward the sea. They knew their starting position from the radar carried on one of the PT boats, and they planned on using radio contact for further direction. In a disastrous turn of events, radio transmissions were unreliable that night and German torpedo boats appeared, forcing the American PT boats to leave. The final approach was visual on the darkest of nights with unknowable ocean currents.
The team consisted entirely of soldiers who had volunteered for the OSS, Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner to the CIA. These well-trained soldiers had been chosen for covert operations on the Italian front because they were qualified, of Italian heritage, and they spoke Italian to some degree. At least one even spoke Genoese, the dialect of Genoa that would be quite similar to the dialect spoken around Framura. Several had been born in Italy and emigrated with their parents, most were born in America to immigrants from Italy. They were a cohesive unit and had tried this very mission before. On the previous lunar cycle in February, they had put ashore near here on the mission known as Ginny I, but were unable to find the target. After more aerial surveys were flown, they were confident of success this time.
|The Ginny II mission objective, vaulted|
tunnel arcades that open to the sea, Framura.
The mission plan called for the OSS team to make contact with the PT boats at prearranged radio contact times before setting off the explosives. On the evening of March 23rd however, the mission took another bad turn - the PT boats ran into trouble. One had a mechanical breakdown on the trip from Corsica and had to return to base. The second encountered enemy activity as it approached the coast, and was also forced to turn back. Lacking a coordinated means to escape after the attack, the team was forced into another day of hiding.
CaptureIn the morning light of March 24, an Italian fisherman noticed the rubber boats pulled up along the shore, and mentioned them to authorities at nearby Bonassola. Soon a search of the area began, involving both Italian and German personnel. Eventually, as the search area widened, searchers encountered an Italian girl who had seen strangers with rifles on a road near her home. Quickly the area was sealed off, the farm building surrounded, and the American team forced to surrender. They were questioned briefly by Italian Fascist authorities in Bonassola, then turned over to the German military, and transferred to the German headquarters of the 135th Fortress Brigade in La Spezia. There interrogation began in earnest. Details of the interrogation methods are lacking, but eventually at least one of the soldiers divulged the details of the mission. Ominously, the information that it was a commando raid was relayed up the German hierarchy.
|Memorial at Punta Bianca, Ameglia.|
|Memorial at the site of the mass grave/|
La Ferrara area, Bocca di Magra.
JusticeIn the days after Liberation, the investigation into the disappearence of the OSS commando team was given priority. Notice was given to American forces that General Dostler and Colonel Almers were wanted, and should be taken alive if possible. Several investigators were assigned and began interviewing at Framura. Information was gathered from local Italians and then German Army personnel. Gradually the story was pieced together and the grave located. Dostler was subsequently captured and brought to trial before an American Military Commission in Rome on October 8, 1945. His defense was that he had simply obeyed Hitler's order, and if he had not done so, he would have been brought before a German court martial. The defense of 'Superior Orders' was rejected and the Commission unanimously found General Dostler guilty and he was shot by a firing squad near Naples on December 1, 1945. Anton Dostler was the first German General brought to trial after the war, and the first executed. This case became a precedent for the Nuremberg war crime trials of German generals, officials and Nazi leaders beginning in November, 1945. The precedent thus contributed to the codification of Principle IV of the Nuremberg Principles, which rejects 'Superior Orders', and a similar principle found in sections of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The Men Who Loved Two Countries
|Memorial to the executed American soldiers.|
Piazza della Liberta, Ameglia.
1st Lt. Vincent J. Russo, Montclair, NJ Sgt Alfred L. De Flumeri, Natick, MA
T/5 Liberty J. Tremonte, Westport, CT T/5 Joseph M. Farrell, Southport, CT
T/5 Salvatore DiSclafani, Brooklyn, NY T/5 Angelo Sirico, Brooklyn, NY
T/5 Thomas N. Savino, Brooklyn, NY T/5 John J. Leone, Poughkeepsie, NY
T/5 Joseph Noia, NY, NY 1st. Lt. Paul J. Traficante, NY, NY
Sgt. Dominick Mauro, NY, NY T/5 Rosario Squatrito, Staten Island, NY
T/5 Joseph A. Libardi, Stockbridge, MA T/Sgt. Livio Vieceli, Manor, PA
T/5 Santoro Calcara, Detroit, MI
The Sites TodayFramura. The tunnels in use in 1944 between Framura and Levanto were replaced with wider tunnels after the war. The original 1874 tunnels are now open as a recreational bikeway / walkway (Pista Ciclabile) between Framura and Bonassola and Levanto and visitors can rent bikes at several locations along the line. The area is well served by Trenitalia. There are also numerous well-marked hiking trails with stunning views, and there are good tourist amenities at Bonassola and Levanto. Remember to tip your hat to these brave soldiers as you pass the brick-vaulted arcades between Bonassola and Framura. We have a map of some of the Ginny II locations.
Ameglia. We have a Map of Ginny II Plaques showing the memorial locations. There is a small entry about Punta Bianca in our story, Liberation Day and the Liberation of America. We also have an overview map of the Caprione Promontory which has commentary on the towns, points of interest and some restaurants.
More InfoThe story we have told has been simplified to suit this format, and many details have been left untold. We've done our best to be accurate, but since many facts of this story were determined well after the events, there are significant discrepancies, errors, and gaps in available records and published descriptions. Plainly, no one knows the whole truth.
A Hero's Story by Joseph Squatrito. A family member's earnest account of the Ginny II mission and his Uncle's life based on the factual record, family memories, and educated supposition. Mr. Squatrito deserves much credit for delving into the factual record.
Italian-Americans in the OSS. An American cinematographer, Nancy Schiesari, has done extensive work on the OSS and the contribution of Italian-Americans on the Italian front. Italian-Americans in the OSS is a very interesting film excerpt of interviews with veterans, photos of the Ginny mission team, footage of the sentencing and death of General Dostler, and other period material. Or watch just the Ginny II material by itself. Her website Behind the Lines has fascinating material on the subject of the OSS and the Partigiani. The quote above, "the meaningfulness of their life itself" came from one of her interview subjects, Frank Zabatta.
Anatomy of Perjury: Field Marshal Albert Kesserling, Via Rasella, and the Ginny Mission. The Commander-in-Chief of German forces in Italy was in La Spezia on the day of the executions. He confirmed the execution order, but he was not prosecuted for this war crime because records were falsified and destroyed to hide his presence and his complicity, as presented in this book by Richard Raiber.
AMEGLIA Informa, (Newsletter in Italian) Giugno-Ottobre 2004, four part series excerpted from the Italian book 'Missioni- SOE ed OSS, Gli Alleati e la Resistenza in Liguria, Emilia e Toscana 1943-1945' by Pierangelo Caiti.
The Execution of a War Criminal.The death by firing squad of General Dostler for his war crime was filmed, and the preceding link is one of many available. It is a short, grainy, black and white record of the death of a human being.
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* Our source is the Epilogue to Mr. Squatrito's book, 'A Hero's Story', which states that US Army autopsies of the remains showed that thirteen of the executed had fractured skulls, but only two of those thirteen were caused by gunshot wounds to the head. The remaining two victims had no evidence of wounds. The autopsy report from May 27, 1945, by Major Pedro Souza, Medical Officer of Company A of the 2671st Battalion, was classified for many years. Many descriptions of these executions, as well as Ameglia's memorials, mention death by firing squad due to reports from American and German sources that were manifestly inaccurate, for whatever reason.
** In his book "Ameglia Nella Storia Della Lunigiana" (Ameglia in Lunigiana History) the historian Ennio Silvestri presents details from a report by a priest, Don Nilo Greco, to the American Commission investigating (page 305 note 20). In part:
"Someone said that they (the Americans) were stripped of insignia and dressed in civilian clothes, as though to justify the execution as one treats common spies." and "Also this (the burial) happened with a special artifice, however it didn't remain hidden. The workers that labored as employees of the Germans were ordered to dig a large ditch of the type used to construct bunkers. When they finished they were sent home, but when they returned to work the next morning, the ditch had disappeared. Plants, grass, stones, all were put in order as before the digging and it was very difficult to imagine that under that terrain lay the bodies of 14 (sic) people."
Written by Martha Bates