Today the city of Licata marked the 67th anniversary of the Allied Invasion of Sicily, which contributed to the liberation of Italy form the Axis, the crushing, ruthless domination of Nazi Fascism. My considerations in remembering this historical milestone are however far from being didactic, as the military strategies and phases of Operation Husky are public domain and the chronology widely available everywhere, in any form of media.
My musings on today’s marking are dictated by purely personal reasons that are twofold, as both my parents and their families had literally front-row seats right in Licata while taking refuge in the countryside and saw the invasion unfold before their eyes, and as an American citizen living in Sicily. Just children back then, what little memories of the past are however very vivid. My mother clearly remembers, as a 6-year-old, waking up one morning and seeing what seemed like thousands of ships in the sea in front of her. She also recalls being approached together with her siblings and cousins by American soldiers who offered them gum, peanut butter, and chocolate, which they all too gleefully accepted – met by the scorn, however, of their grandmother, who had ordered them not to take that “stuff from the devil”. They also remembered the courtesy and respect of the soldiers even when appropriating houses to set up their headquarters. Stories of how almost all the local men buried or burned their “black shirts” – the de riguer symbol of Fascist proclivities – the instant the troops set foot on land and greeted them with cheers and applause is exemplary of how reaction to the invasion was met.
Yes, it can be said that the opportunism ran rampant, but one only has to study the complex history of Sicily to understand the nature of the gesture: three thousand years of invasions and oppressions created a mentality where the next ones coming in were often seen as liberators from the status quo – even if, subsequently, they often revealed themselves to be more belligerent than the predecessors – therefore the appreciation for invaders became an automatic reflex.
But if the Allied Invasion of 1943 was met at the time with a sense of relief, today much of the local media see things differently, barking words and declarations such as “destruction….atrocities….bombings….horrors” from their anchor chairs and paper columns to indicate what happened on that day. Granted, no war is ever fair, nor does it not leave scars, and many were left around Sicily, as evidenced by the bombings of sites and monuments lost forever (never mind the fact however that nearly 70 years later local governments in succession have done little or nothing to restore what is still salvageable). There was, is, and always will be bloodshed and senseless deaths during a war, as happened in the Biscari (now Acate) Massacre, for which Sargent H.T. West was court marshaled for erroneously interpreting the over-the-top orders of General Patton. The battle cry of the commentators today has the underlying innuendo that Americans literally handed over Sicily to the Mafia, which, they lament, is why the island now finds itself in its current state.
Before playing the blame game, a very popular sport in these parts, and even though history does ascertain that the larger-than-life types of the Sicilian-American underworld did have a hand in the skulduggery of the Invasion, I can’t help but ask myself if these detractors of the United States – many of whom despise it yet would sell their mothers down the river to live there – are familiar with the history of the time, and the choices Sicily faced in 1943. For those who still choose to bury their heads in the sand, I’ll refresh their memories: it was either be “handed over” to the Mafia (and nearly becoming annexed to the United States) or fall into German control and ultimately become a Russian satellite country. To those who still choose to be in denial, it would have meant that Sicilians today would not have been unlike the citizens of the former Soviet bloc they so deride for being uncouth, vulgar, and “third world”. It would have meant that if Hitler had carried out his grand plan to eliminate the Mediterranean “race” yours truly would probably not be writing this, nor would these two-bit journalists be alive to express their disdain. In contemplating the lesser of the two evils I certainly do not condone in any shape or form the outcome post-Invasion, as the consequences and ramifications are still more than blatant today, but it baffles me as to why many choose to ignore the course of history, or how they could have benefited from a totalitarian regime not unlike the one they were freed from.
Posted by Conchita Vecchioat 7:06 PM
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