Mercoledì, 26 Settembre 2018
ROME

El Alamein battle site turned into historical park

English
© ANSA

Rome, October 30 - The WWII El Alamein battle site
has been turned into a historical park to show visitors key
points in the showdown in the Egyptian desert where Italian
heroics have been recently recognised and celebrated.
The 1942 battle turned the tide in the Allies' favour
despite what is now recognised as uncommon resistance by the
Italian soldiers who won praise from Winston Churchill by
fighting as fiercely as the Germans against high odds and their
own limitations in equipment and weapons.
Padua University has worked with 266 volunteers on the
three-year project, wholly funded by private donations, which
also aims to protect the site from oil exploration and coastal
building development.
"The El Alamein Project aims to study, document and
preserve the battle front," said project chief Aldino Bondesan
of the northern Italian university.
"It is threatened by an increase in oil-extraction
activities and uncontrolled urban development along the coast".
On October 23 Italian dignitaries marked the 70th
anniversary of El Alamein, about 100km west of Alexandria, after
an upsurge of interest in the battle in recent years and a
greater awareness in Italy and abroad of the courage shown by
the Italian soldiers who fought there.
A major exhibition on the battle was staged in Milan in
2008, when documentaries were shown on national TV and the movie
'El Alamein' came out.
The conviction that Italian troops fought heroically at
El Alamein had been championed most visibly by the now-defunct
rightwing National Alliance party, which evolved from Italy's
post-war Italian Social Movement (MSI) neo-fascist party.
But politicians on the centre left have also said that,
despite having been on the "wrong side," Italian soldiers at El
Alamein saved the honour of the army.
Non-Italian war historians also revised a traditionally
negative view of the nation's military, typified by jokes about
Italian tanks having nine reverse gears and only one to go
forward.
A 2007 on El Alamein by two British historians, John
Bierman and Colin Smith, had several good things to say about
Italian soldiers in the North African campaign.
''The Italian tank regiment, despite the prattle about
the abundance of reverse gears, fought with great audacity,
just as the 'Ariete' artillery regiment did,'' Bierman told
Italian TV in an interview.
According to American historian John W.Gordon, whose
book Behind Rommel's Lines was recently translated into
Italian, the British special forces were so impressed by the
methods and tactics of the Italian desert corps that they
actually copied them.
Italy's crack paratrooper regiment, the 'Folgore,' sent
some 5,000 of its men to El Alamein. Only 304 returned.
''The paratroopers threw themselves against oncoming
tanks with Molotov cocktails and live mines,'' said Francesco
Marini Dettina, a survivor of the battle who was awarded a
silver medal for valour.
Interviewed for a documentary, Dettina said: ''They
urged us to surrender but the only answer they got came from
the artillery with our last remaining shells. The British
were surprised by the Italians' behaviour.''
Churchill said in a speech to the House of Commons a month
after El Alamein: ''We must honour the men that were the Lions
of the Folgore''.
This year's international ceremony commemorating the start
of the battle on October 23 was organised by Britain.
Italy was represented by House speaker Gianfranco Fini,
army chief Biagio Abrate and numerous members of parliament.
Commonwealth nations, Austria, France, Germany and Greece
were also present with delegations.
The ceremony was attended by veterans of the 13-day battle
that pitted Allied soldiers under the command of British Field
Marshal Bernard Montgomery against Italian and German troops led
by Erwin Rommel from October 23 to November 4, 1942.
The Allies' victory turned the tide in the North African
Campaign, ending Axis hopes of occupying Egypt and capturing the
Suez Canal.
There was also a separate ceremony at the Italian war
cemetery.

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