Allied war crimes of the Campaign of Sicily

Discussions on the Holocaust and 20th Century War Crimes. Note that Holocaust denial is not allowed. Hosted by David Thompson.
Joseph Salemi
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The Massacre at the Narbone-Garilli Soap Factory, 1943

Post by Joseph Salemi » 09 Feb 2005 18:04

I recently discovered this Axis History Forum website, and noticed that last year there was a discussion of Allied atrocities committed in Sicily during the early days of the invasion of that island (July 1943). In particular I noticed several references to the killings of unarmed and captured looters in the town of Canicatti by an American officer.
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

David Thompson
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Post by David Thompson » 09 Feb 2005 18:39

Thank you, Dr. Salemi, on behalf of the readers and myself for your very informative post.

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biscari and santo pietro

Post by gianluca » 23 Apr 2005 01:16

Some strongpoint about Biscari massacre, after nearly one year studing this matter. FIRST: San Pietro and Biscari are the same place. I've seen original battle maps from Us 180th regiment and 45th division, I've compared them with italian military maps (so called Igm), and I've talked with one survivor of the killings. Allied forces called Biscari the airport built in a wood near SAN PIETRO DI CALTAGIRONE, and so not in Biscari (then called Acate) city area, but in one close to it. For italian and german forces, that airport was San Pietro: nothing remains today of it.
SECOND: according to many sources and expecially according to Us soldiers questioned as witness during Compton and West trials there were many "incidents" in the area between Biscari (Acate) and San Pietro di Caltagirone. On july 13-14th 1943 small units from many regiments - italian and germans - moving to Caltagirone and the second defence line created by Axis forces has been involved in clashes with american paratroopers and infantrymen. It's impossible to know the exact names of units involved.
Giuseppe Giannola, who survived to one of the killings, gave me detailed information only about the battle for that airport with original documents.
After surrending, Giannola has been wounded three times but he survived even if last shot passed only few centimetres from his heart.
Anyway, is there a possibility that De Roit and Giannola, where among soldiers killed by West. Giannola's story has many elements similar to Court documents of West trials.
But Giannola has been shot again - even if wounded during firs killing of prisoners - by an american platoon hours after the end of fightings in that area: it gives an idea of cruelty in that day. But it seems that all the massacres has been made by 180th regiment.
All soldiers from Brescia were in De Roit unit: they leave the airport pillboxes in the night between 13 and 14 th july. Probably they have been captured on the road to Caltagirone.
THREE The battle for Biscari was the hardiest fought by 180th regiment, with two germans counterattack and a strong resistance by italian soldiers and artillery. Italian trench warfare - on the lesson learned during I WW - was considered as "sniping"
by americans. But it was the only way of fighting for second line soldiers or airmen without experience. The air force unit of Giannola - for an example - has spent months only watching fuel tanks in the airport: they just had very old 91 gun and handgrenades. When Giannola saw weapons from Us paratroopers he was shocked.
FOUR Piano Stella (where civilian as been killed without apparent reasons) was used as redeployment area by italian forces - soldiers and airmen - leaving San Pietro (Biscari) airport from 10th to 12th july. Many Us paratroopers captured by the italians - Giannola personally made two prisoners - has been taken there. But in that area there were even bodies from Us paratroopers killed - mostly - by american AAA: probably soldiers from 180th regiment thought that they have been all killed by Axis. West told in his defence that he saw the killing of two american prisoners.
Thanks for the attention

john h
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Post by john h » 26 Apr 2005 19:38

you may be intrested to know that the american 45th thunderbird division who were responsable for the atrocities in sicily were present on april 29 1945 when dachau concentration camp was liberated where more atrocities were committed

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Re: Allied war crimes of the Campaign of Sicily

Post by offizier1916 » 14 Mar 2019 18:49

didnt know until now about these attrocities. i was watching footage of Anton Dostlers execution as someone in the comment section mentioned the massacres commited in sicily. it seems that basically nobody is talking and interested in that. when im thinking about how big the media is interested in the malmedy incident or the shooting of canadians by the 12. SS.

Im actually reading about US massacres commited in Vietnam. And this happened like 25 years after the attrocities of WW2, commited by ordinary us citizens who grew up and were educated in a democratic society. It just shows how war, even a few month of war, can change the charakter of a person.

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Re: Allied war crimes of the Campaign of Sicily

Post by vchiappa » 12 Apr 2020 12:59

Hi I’m doing some research into these massacres and am trying to get into contact with Gianluca Di Feo - I have only just joined this forum so cant send him a private message yet .... would anyone know his work email address please ?

Many thanks ...


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Re: Allied war crimes of the Campaign of Sicily

Post by Stiltzkin » 12 Apr 2020 15:39

This order was refused by the commanding officer of the MP detachment, and also by all of the individual MPs present.
Interestingly nobody of the personnel that was present saw the need to intervene in order to stop McCaffrey.
m actually reading about US massacres commited in Vietnam.
Which pale in comparison to the atrocities committed by fascist and communist regimes and are often the subject for relativizations. Unfortunately there are almost no documentaries available, not to mention that information is scarce and withheld by the participants, contrary to the US case - so I beg to differ.
American atrocities in Vietnam have been documented to a certain degree, repeatedly so on history channels (e.g. aired on ARTE). This level of transparency does not exist elsewhere.
I was rarely confronted by any randoms bringing up communist atrocities, on the contrary it seems that Vietnam is repeatedly portrayed as a victim. Vietnam was not a victim of US intervention, it was a victim of communist aggression.
From a jurisdictional and legal standpoint we have to distinguish between politically motivated mass murder, ordered from the top of the chain and individual incidents (theory of control).
Did McCaffrey act on behalf of his superiors, or was it his own will?

I wonder how many musicians and celebrities visited Vietnam with the intention of protesting against the Vietcong, ah right: Zero.

Sid Guttridge
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Re: Allied war crimes of the Campaign of Sicily

Post by Sid Guttridge » 12 Apr 2020 17:39

Hi DrG and gianluca,

Good work. It is important that such events are exposed and with strong evidence to back them.



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