SIGONELLA, Sicily (NNS) -- Members of Naval Air Station Sigonella (NASSIG) took part in a historic event Sept. 5 that honored a turning point in World War II.
The town of Cassible, outside the city of Siracusa, held a parade and memorial honoring the 60th anniversary of the signing of the armistice between Italy and the Allies.
Sept. 3, 1943, the process for peace began between Italy and the Allies during World War II. The Italian Gen. Giuseppe Castellano, acting on behalf of Prime Minister Pietro Badoglio and Gen. Bedeli Smith, acting on behalf of Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, secretly signed a "Short Military Armistice" in Cassibile, Sicily. This included a clause for the immediate transfer of the Italian fleet and airplanes to places designated by the Allies for their disarmament. This was to remain secret.
It remained secret until Badoglio made the following radio announcement at 7:45 p.m., Sept. 8, 1943: "The Italian Government, recognizing the impossibility of continuing the uneven struggle against the overwhelming enemy power, with the intent of saving further and more serious calamities to the nation, has asked Gen. Eisenhower, commander-in-chief of the Allied forces, for an armistice. The request has been accepted."
The event in Cassibile honoring this armistice began with a parade, which included members of Naval Air Station Sigonella, NASSIG's Stephen Decatur School Naval Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (NJROTC) color guard, the Italian Army color guard, Italian officials and others. Many locals looked on as the Americans and Italians walked side by side through the streets.
After the parade, a memorial honoring those who served during the war, and recognizing this historic event, was held at the very site where the armistice was signed. A wreath, blessed by Father Vincenzo Marino, a local pastor, was placed on the monument marking this historic site. Marino gave a speech during the ceremony remembering those who gave their lives during World War II in hopes of peace.
"Recalling their virtues of strength, courage and sacrifice," said Marino, "grant, oh Father, this day on which the memory of those who died during the Second World War call to mind. That we may also contemplate and dedicate ourselves to the creation of a new world. A world where the plagues of terrorism, persecution and oppression will be defeated. In their place, there will be a world where all of humanity is free."
"It was a very significant anniversary, and very moving as well," said Paolo Romano, Siracusa city counselor and initiator of the event. "Our aim is to try and add more value everyday to this event...to make it more important."
Romano said a museum is in the works to archive the struggle during the war in Sicily, "so that Cassibile will be a meeting point for all the experts and historians in contemporary history."
He was happy with the American participation in the event. "The attendance of the American delegation means a lot to us, because [it symbolizes] a really good kind of brotherhood, solidarity and cooperation with the host nation," Romano said.
The NJROTC color guard had a once in a lifetime experience participating in this event. "We're really glad that they picked us to be the color guard for this historic event," said Laura Corey, a member of the NJROTC color guard. "We're really happy that we were able to be a part of it."
Corey liked the reactions their presence inspired in the locals. "When we were walking by, a lot of the Italians clapped for us," she said. "We even had a little Italian boy carry our flag covers. It was great representing the Americans."
"[The color guard] did outstanding, for not knowing what to expect along the parade route," said retired Marine Master Sgt. Anel Montero, naval sciences and NJROTC instructor. "They represented the whole Sigonella community with pride."
"It makes me feel proud to have the opportunity to participate in this parade," said Montero. "[The Italians] reacted well to the American military personnel. They came up to talk to me, shook my hand and said 'good job.'"
For more news from around the fleet, visit the Navy NewsStand at www.news.navy.mil.