Saturday, July 21, 2007

Ponte Dirillo

On July 13, 2007 I had the privilege of attending a ceremony remembering the 39 American paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne that died at Ponte Dirillo in World War II.

"On July 10, 1943 nearly 3,400 members of the 82nd took to the skies in support of Operation Husky, one of the larges amphibious operations during WWII. However, due to foul weather and poor navigation, the troopers missed their drop point in Gela and were scattered for several miles, many coming upon direct fire from German occupied pillboxes located at strategic points along the countryside. 'As they landed they were picked off by the Germans with machine-guns and thirty-nine of these brave American gave their lives defending this bridge from a German counter-offensive that was supposed to bring tanks along its roadway,' said Cdr. Scott Fields. 'Had they not been able to hold off that counter-offensive, its very possible that the landing could have been a lot more difficult than it turned out to be.'" (MC2(AW) Jason T. Poplin, The Signature, Vol. 24, No. 29, July 20, 2007).

The ceremony took place on the hillside next to the memorial site, above the bridge at Ponte Dirillo. The hillside behind us was dotted with the remains of the German pillboxes.

German Pillboxes

Several American and Italian officials paid tribute to the sacrifices made during the ceremony.

Colonel Gordon Davis, former company commander within the 82nd Airborne

Deputy Mayor of Gela

Giovanni di Martino, Mayor of Niscemi

The most moving part of the ceremony was the "calling of the roll" where the names of those who gave their lives were read.

John Hoffpauir, formerly of the 82nd Airborne, calling the roll

Immediately following the "calling of the roll" Taps was played.

Les, my husband, playing Taps

The Ponte Dirillo Memorial

The Ponte Dirillo memorial site is maintained without assistance from the Italian or American governments by the landowner, a local farmer.


Doug Hosking said...

Thanks for directing me to this Angela. I looked with some interest. My father was there at the same time, in a different part of the island. It is interesting to see pictures of this area. Doug Hosking

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