About Italian Allies in Iraq.
|October 10th, 2005||#1|
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Italian Allies in Iraq. info
Brigata Sassari, our Italian allies in Iraq
Born in 1915 in Sardinia, this famous Italian army brigade has fought its way from the bloody mountains along the border with the Austro-Hungarian Empire to defending Rome against German attack to Bosnia, Kosovo and now southern Iraq. The Sassari Brigade is now located at Camp White Horse in Nassiriya, as part of the British-commanded Multinational Division (South-East). It has taken casualties, but remains in place demonstrating the honor, integrity and courage that is this brigade’s legacy. While many Italians at home question the deployment of their sons and daughters to Iraq, these brave soldiers nonetheless acquit themselves with distinction as part of the coalition that is working tirelessly to institutionalize freedom for all Iraqis.
December 7, 2003
On November 16, 2003, we carried a news brief entitled, “We share the grief of our Italian allies, they did not die in vain,” and alerted our readers to the fact that the Italian coalition force in Iraq had been hit hard on the morning of November 12 by a suicide bomb-truck attack against the headquarters of the Italian Carabinieri in Nassiriya. Eighteen Italians (2 civilians, 4 army and 12 carabinieri) and over 10 Iraqi civilians unfortunate enough to be nearby were killed. Several dozen Italians and Iraqis were also wounded, several of them seriously. Nassiriya is in southern Iraq.
We wanted to follow-up on this report to provide you some additional background about the Italian army contingent. The barracks they employ in Nassiriya is an old Iraqi base that was renamed Camp White Horse by the US Marines who had earlier occupied it. That name has stuck with the 1,700 Italian and 360 Romanian soldiers now stationed there, both allies in the coalition against the terrorist regime of Saddam Hussein.
The Italian unit stationed there is known as “Brigata Sassari,” or the Sassari Brigade.
It is from Sardinia, named after the town of Sassari, at last count, population about 130,000. Sassari is situated to the northwest on a vast limestone platform that slopes toward the sea, surrounded by olive groves. The first references to the founding of the city of Sassari date back to 1131. By the 13th century it had become an important trading port for goods bound for Genoa.
Sardinia, of course, as an island in the Mediterranean, has been a battleground for much of Europe. French troops sacked it in 1527, it was involved in the war of Spanish succession, it passed under Austrian dominion and became a part of the Kingdom of Savoy in 1820. The city today is an important industrial and commercial center and also a grand place to visit for its historic roots.
The Brigata Sassari is from Sardinia, and soldiers who have worked with the brigade say that the Sassari troopers speak a distinct dialect that is often hard to understand if your forte is Italian. When the Brigade comes to attention, the troopers all shout at the top of their voices “forza paris,” which we believe means, “let us go forward together.”
Brigata Sassari was created on March 1, 1915 at Tempio and Sinnai with two regiments made up of nearly all Sardinians. Because of the legend of Mussolini in World War II, many Americans might think that Italy fought with Germany in World War I. Not so. Even in World War II, once the Italian army's Garabaldi Brigade arrested Mussolini, the Italians fought against the Germans. The history is interesting.
In the 19th century, Italy and Germany became important powers because each was able to consolidate many smaller territories into one. Italy wanted to increase its influence in world affairs and in 1882 became part of the Triple Alliance, along with Austria-Hungary and Germany. Italy hoped to obtain a colonial empire in North Africa. In 1911, Italy declared war on the Ottoman Empire over the rights of Italians living in Libya. Italy defeated the Ottoman Empire, and in 1912, the Ottomans signed a treaty that gave Libya and the Dodecanese Islands to Italy.
World War I began in 1914. Germany and Austria-Hungary were eager to have Italy's support against the Allies, consisting of France, the United Kingdom, and Russia. But Trieste and Trentino, the territories Italy wanted most, belonged to Austria, and Italy's relations with France were friendly. As a result, Italy stayed out of the fighting for almost a year, even though it belonged to the Triple Alliance.
The war became another source of political division in Italy. Some Italians favored neutrality, but others wanted to support the Allies. Finally, on May 23, 1915, Italy entered the war on the side of the Allies. The Allies promised in a secret agreement that if they won the war, they would give Italy Trieste and Trentino, and portions of Albania, Dalmatia, and Istria. They also promised financial aid and territory in Africa.
Italy's task was to take on the Austro-Hungarians along Italy's northeast border. In July 1915 Brigata Sassari crossed the Isonzo River in present-day Slovenia, on Italy’s eastern front, and started fighting straight away.
The problem for Italy’s army was that most of its 400-mile Front was mountainous and heavily fortified and defended by Austro-Hungarian forces. This particular photo shows an emergency Italian fortification in the mountains.
In the first two weeks of the Isonzo Offensive of 1915, Italy’s army lost 60,000 men. By the time the offensive was called off in the winter, Italy had lost 300,000 troopers.
In two years of bloody fighting, the Italian army moved only about 10 miles into Austrian territory. Then, in 1917, German and Austrian troops began an attack that forced the Italians to retreat. With the aid of the Allies, Italy rallied. The Italian army was reorganized and won important victories before the war ended in 1918.
Brigata Sassari earned its first titles of honor at places such as Cappuccio Woods, Lancia Woods and Triangular Woods. They moved from Carso to the Asiago plateau, in June 1916 they re- conquered Mount Fior, Mount Castelgomberto and Casera Zebio.
Italian trench on the Piave river. In this area Hemingway was hit by a shell from an Austrian mortar and later by fire from an Austrian machine gun
In June 1918, The Austro-Hungarian Army launched a major assault across the Piave River, located close to Venice, Padua and Verona. By this time, the Italians had managed to regroup and set up their defense, and, with allied support, re-equip. The "Sassari" opposed the enemy vanguards up to the Piave. Its "Musino" Battalion was the last of the entire army to cross the Piave. The Italians fought bravely and aggressively, and the Austro-Hungarians had to retreat on June 19. There were battles throughout the area during this period, but at the end of the day, the Austro-Hungarians had suffered such major defeats that it effectively disintegrated as a cohesive army. At the Battle of Vittorio Veneto that followed, the Italians, supported by the British, French and Americans, destroyed the vestiges of the Austro-Hungarian army, which heralded the end to its empire.
The Great War cost the "Sassari" over 15,000 dead and wounded. Of every 1,000 that were enlisted, 138 "Sassarini" fell. The Sardinians won six Military Order of Savoia, nine Gold medals, 405 Silver medals, 551 Bronze medals, and the flags under which they fought were decorated with two Gold Medals for Military Valor.
Following World War I, the brigade was renamed several times. But in May 1939, the Sassari Division was created, with its first two regiments and the 34th Artillery Regiment.
From 1935 to 1945, Italy was at war almost continuously, namely in Africa and Spain and, of course, throughout WWII. In 1939, Italy agreed to fight on Germany's side in case of war. World War II began on September 1, 1939, when Hitler's troops marched into Poland. The United Kingdom and France immediately declared war on Germany. Italy stayed out of the fighting for more than nine months. On June 10, 1940, less than two weeks before France fell to Germany, Italy entered the war.
Italy was unprepared economically or militarily for modern war. The Italian army suffered defeats in North Africa, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Greece. The Allies invaded Sicily on July 10, 1943. Under orders from King Victor Emmanuel III, the Italian government overthrew and imprisoned Mussolini. German commandos rescued Mussolini, and he fled to northern Italy. The Allies landed on the Italian mainland on September 3, and Italy surrendered that same day. On October 13, Italy declared war on Germany.
But German forces took control of Italy and installed Mussolini as head of a puppet government. As the Allies moved northward, civil war broke out between the remaining Fascist forces and the Resistance, a growing movement of anti-Fascist, anti-Nazi Italians.
The Sassari Division had earlier been sent to Yugoslavia, Croatia and Dalmazia, from April 1941 until April 1943. But it then was sent to defend Rome from the Germans. In September 1943 the Division was broken up.
The Sassari Brigade was recreated in Sardinia on December 1, 1988, named the Sassari Motorized Brigade. In January 1992, it became a Mechanized Brigade. Its 151st Regiment went to Bosnia in 1998-1991 and its 152nd Regiment went to Kosovo in 1999.
Now the brigade is in Iraq, serving with the British-commanded Multi-National Division (South-East). The brigade is located at Camp White Horse in Nassiriya. The Carabinieri are mostly located in the downtown area of the city. It is especially sad that the Italians were attacked in November, because most accounts indicated they were relating well with the local population, and were trying to serve more as a peacekeeping force than an occupation force. This is the largest number of soldiers Italy has lost in any of its peacekeeping missions.
The Carabinieri especially had their “base” inside the city and did not set it up as a fortress. They worked hard to avoid a confrontational approach, following models that had worked well for them in Bosnia and Kosovo.
Soldiers from the Sassari Brigade could most often be seen walking slowly down the streets of the city on their patrols, shaking the hands of merchants. Most of the city people were thought to view the Italians as friends rather than occupation forces. The Italians have had confrontations, but they have earned the reputation of being able to settle them without the use of force. That said, in the rural areas things have been different. Italians are seen as foreigners and their patrols have interfered with banditry and arms trafficking. The Italians have made many arrests.
Let's take a brief look at the brigade in Iraq:
U.S. Army general John Abizaid, Head of the US Central Command, right, and Italian general Bruno Stano, commander of the Italian Joint task Force Iraq, inspect a formation of Italian soldiers upon Abizaid's arrival at the Italian "White Horse" base in the Southern Iraqi town of Nasiriyah, December 5, 2003. Photo credit: Pier Paolo Cito, AP
An Italian soldier of the Sassari Brigade, Valeria Monachella uses her binoculars to inspect flames and thick black smoke coming from a damaged oil pipeline near the Southern Iraqi town of Nasiriyah, Saturday, Dec. 6, 2003. There was no immediate explanation about what had caused the fire but the leakage may be caused by the obsolete conditions of the pipeline. Photo credit: Pier Paolo Cito, AP
An Italian Army soldier of the Sassari Brigade looks at a pistol found after a search to Iraqi motorists at a checkpoint outside the Southern Iraqi town of Nasiriyah, Thursday, Nov. 27, 2003. Photo credit: Pier Paolo Cito, AP
An Iraqi trainee of the ICDC, Iraqi Civil Defense Corp, takes part in a joint patrol with Italian Army soldiers of the Sassari Brigade during a patrol of the roads of a village near the Southern Iraqi town of Nasiriyah, Thursday, Dec. 4, 2003. Photo credit: Pier Paolo Cito, AP
Italian soldiers of the Sassari Brigade drive towards flames and thick black smoke coming from a damaged oil pipeline near the Southern Iraqi town of Nasiriyah, Saturday, Dec. 6, 2003. Photo credit: Pier Paolo Cito, AP
Tamara Onnis, 22, an Italian soldier with the Sassari Brigade, sits in a military vehicle during a patrol in the Southern Iraqi town of Nasiriyah, Saturday, Dec. 6, 2003. Photo credit: Pier Paolo Cito, AP
Iraqi youths run towards Italian soldiers of the Sassari Brigade patrolling the roads of a village near the Southern Iraqi town of Nasiriyah, Thursday, Dec. 4, 2003. Photo credit: Pier Paolo Cito, AP
Italian soldiers of the 'Sassari Brigade' are silhouetted at a check point in the Southern Iraqi town of Nasiriyah, Saturday, Dec. 6, 2003. Photo credit: Pier Paolo Cito, AP
Italian Army soldier Antonella Fancellu, 23, of the Sassari Brigade, receives a "thumbs up" from an Iraqi youth during a patrol of the roads of a village near the Southern Iraqi town of Nasiriyah, Thursday, Dec. 4, 2003. Photo credit: Pier Paolo Cito, AP
An unidentified local sheik shakes hands with Carmelo Burgio, commander of Italy's carabinieri contingent, during a meeting with sheiks from the area around the southern Iraqi town of Nasiriyah at the Italian base "White Horse", Sunday, Nov. 23, 2002. Photo credit: Pier Paolo Cito, AP[/img]
"Freedom is the sure possession of those alone who have the courage to defend it".
|October 10th, 2005||#3|
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