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News from CNREURAFCENT

Never Forgotten

18 July 2022

From Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kegan E. Kay, Naval Air Station Sigonella Public Affairs Office

Seventy-nine years ago, after a long and tedious fight in North Africa, the U.S. Army and British allied forces decided to take on enemy forces in Sicily, known as Operation Husky. During this expedition, many American men fought valiantly and died tragically at Ponte Dirillo. This year, six ceremonies were held in the nearby town of Gela and at the historic battle site, to honor not only the sacrifice of the American and Allied forces but the lives of the Sicilian and Italian people who died during the conflict.
Seventy-nine years ago, after a long and tedious fight in North Africa, the U.S. Army and British allied forces decided to take on enemy forces in Sicily, known as Operation Husky. During this expedition, many American men fought valiantly and died tragically at Ponte Dirillo. This year, six ceremonies were held in the nearby town of Gela and at the historic battle site, to honor not only the sacrifice of the American and Allied forces but the lives of the Sicilian and Italian people who died during the conflict.

Lt. Cmdr. Peyton Price, U.S. Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station executive officer, Lucio Greco, mayor of Gela, Franco Città, past president of the Rotary Club, Gela Kiwanis Club Representative Dr. Giuseppe Abbate, Gruppo Archeologico Geloi (an association of history enthusiasts) , Proffesor Nuccio Mulè , a local historian, the Marinai d'Italia (an association of retired sailors), Giacomo Giurato, the coordinator of the Gela-based Perfetta Letizia Polyphonic Choir, service members from Naval Air Station Sigonella, and several Italian citizens commemorated the anniversary of this valiant effort during the six ceremonies.

Operation Husky was a massive amphibious campaign to liberate the island of Sicily from the Axis powers. The 82nd Airborne Division sent paratroopers from Tunisia on July 10, but severe weather blew members of the 1st Battalion of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment off course. They landed among heavily fortified German forces, including three pillboxes and several Tiger tanks.

Nevertheless, the American Soldiers, led by Lt. Col. Arthur Gorham, fought the Italian and German forces through the night and into the morning of July 11. By the end of the battle 39 men, including Gorham, lost their lives, but not before wreaking havoc on their enemies. In recognition of his heroism, Gorham was posthumously awarded two Distinguished Service Crosses, the second highest award for bravery bestowed by the United States Army.

Operation Husky ultimately succeeded in bringing Sicily under Allied control.

“It was 79 years ago that 38 Army Paratroopers and a Navy Nurse prepared to board a plane to parachute onto the island of Sicily. We do not know the thoughts or preparations that went through each paratrooper’s mind,” Price said during the July 9 ceremony held at Ponte Dirillo. “We also do not know their final thoughts before giving their lives to this cause of freedom. Putting aside their individual needs, they each stepped up and did their duty to ensure that the world remained free. It is that sacrifice that we remember and honor today.”

Through all six ceremonies, the message of continued remembrance of their sacrifices rang throughout them all. Each ceremony demonstrated everyone’s determination to commemorate the fallen of both sides. Together, the two nations are now allies, fighting shoulder-to-shoulder against tyranny and oppression around the world.

“These events must always be kept alive because they have the great significance of reminding the new generations of those events and that the freedom we enjoy today is due to that event and must be held dear,” said Città in his speech, “and we must make sure that those sad moments are never repeated.”

The Gela mayor echoed Price and Città words during his speech at the Rotary Club ceremony on July 10th.

“In a rapidly changing world, it is important that some things would never change,” said Greco “One of these is the importance of memory preservation, of the facts of the past that led us to be who we are in the present. Knowing them, giving them their proper value, and how we know how to learn a lesson from history so as not to repeat its mistakes, is the basis for a conscious future.”

Preparations have started to make next year’s 80th commemoration an international and important event to truly remember and honor all the lives lost during Operation Husky.

“Our words here today may be long forgotten,” concluded Price, “but may our actions set the example that others follow to ensure that the death of these Soldiers and Sailors will be remembered, and I pray that they know that they can rest easy in the certainty that we now carry, and will pass on, the responsibility of ensuring that liberty and freedom prospers in the United States, Italy and our NATO allies.”
 
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