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No Man Left Behind-Escaping Sardinia-

Discussion in 'Italy, Sicily & Greece' started by GRW, Jul 27, 2020.

  1. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist WW2|ORG Editor

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    Just found this amazing story-
    "One of the most powerful aspects of studying World War II is the virtually unending supply of stories involving heroism, self-sacrifice and duty. Today we recount one of these tales which almost feels too incredible for reality, but as the saying goes, truth is often stranger than fiction. The setting for our story is the picturesque island of Sardinia, in the Tyrrhenian Sea just 300 or so miles south west of Rome on the Italian mainland. It is August, 1943, just a few weeks shy of the Armistice of Cassibille, where Italy formally surrendered to the Allies. Italians were in their third year of conflict and all too aware of the likely outcome – it was just a matter of when. Indeed, the Italian Armed Forces were in a critical state, with their air force, the Regia Aeronautica, nearing collapse. At this point in the war, few serviceable combat aircraft were available, or qualified flight crews capable of flying them, but perhaps most importantly, the fuel supply was virtually exhausted. In Sardinia, given its isolation from mainland Italy, the crisis was even more precarious.
    At the beginning of August 1943, the Regia Aeronautica transferred three Macchi MC.205 Veltro fighters from 310° Gruppo (310th Squadron), along with four pilots and nine airmen to Decimomannu airport, near Cagliari, Sardinia. Here they were to conduct strategic photographic missions over Tunisia, Algeria, the Sicilian Channel, and Malta. Technicians had already modified each of these fighters with camera equipment to fulfill their reconnaissance role. The legendary double ace, Capitano (Capt) Adriano Visconti, was the man in charge of 310° Gruppo. He was perhaps the most famous Italian pilot in World War II. Visconti brought fellow pilots Sottotenente (2d Lt) Sajeva, Marshal Magnaghi and Sergente (Sgt) Laiolo with him. With three pilots, two per shift with one in reserve, the Veltros carried out daily reconnaissance missions over the ports and airfields of Bone, Philippeville, Bougie, Bizerte, the Isle of Dogs, La Calle, and Kairouan (on Sicily) with its group of airfields. Upon returning to Decimomannu, a Macchi MC.202 fighter would transport the freshly-exposed, reconnaissance film to Guidonia airport, near Rome, for developing and analysis.
    On September 7th, 1943, Visconti made a reconnaissance flight over the the port of Bizerte in Tunisia. The following day, Sottotenente Sajeva flew an uneventful mission over Tunis. But that same evening, 310° Gruppo received the news of the armistice. The Armistice of Cassibile, as it became known, was signed in secret in Cassibile, Sicily on September 3rd, 1943. U.S. Army General Walter Bedell Smith, representing the Allies, and Brigadier General Giuseppe Castellano, signing for the Kingdom of Italy, were the two men responsible for concluding this momentous occasion. The news became public on September 8th, and caught everyone at Decimomannu by surprise. Unprepared, and confused about what should come next, the officers of 310° Gruppo tried to communicate with headquarters on the Italian mainland. They were unsuccessful in this endeavor, so Adriano Visconti gathered his men and they decided to return to Guidonia, on the outskirts of Rome, to save their aircraft and await future orders. However, Visconti and his men faced a major problem; with just three single-seat fighters, how could they move all 12 men in the reconnaissance flight off the island of Sardinia. They discussed the problem in depth, but some of them remembered how others had escaped from Tunisia during a previous surrender in North Africa earlier in the war. On that occasion, pilots had ferried some of their airmen to safety by having them sit on their laps during the flight from Tunisia to Sicily. Using this idea, an armorer proposed removing the bulky photographic apparatus and heavy armor in order to reduce weight and make room so that two men could huddle together in the aft fuselage, facing each other on a small custom-built bench. He also suggested removing the pilot’s seat and discarding his parachute. This configuration would then allow for two men in the fuselage behind the pilot, while another sat on his lap. It was a crazy idea, but it just might work!"
    No Man Left Behind, Escaping Sardinia
     
  2. ColHessler

    ColHessler Member

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    Damn. Talk about togetherness.
     
  3. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    very good story:
    --the Italian area--very interesting in that they were in between a rock and a hard place....
    -----one of my favorite theaters and year=1943
    --the ''out of the way'' area and story
    --I've been to Sardinia--I need to read up on it's WW2 stuff more....
    ...no pilot seat!!??
     

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