- Part I: Background
- Part II: Seeking the Truth
- Part III: We Will Not Forget
Even after 68 years, the ripples from Damiano's loss resonate through my family. Anyone who has dealt with the unexpected loss of a loved one, whether military or civilian, without proper closure will understand how these wounds echo through time. I am sure that many of you will recall your own personal connections with tragic loss throughout history as you read this story. All such events deserve to be honored in their own way. This particular story is fundamentally about a group of people scattered across the world who came together against the odds to discover the truth. We are linked by the gruesome deaths of our fathers, grandfathers, brothers, uncles, etc. who were among the 4,046 Italian prisoners of war who perished in a tragic shipwreck in the very early hours of February 12, 1944 while being transported by the Nazis from Rhodes to the Greek mainland. Our goals are to:
- Inform the thousands of families who are still unaware of the fate of their loved ones.
- Properly memorialize these men
- Protect artifacts and human remains associated with the shipwreck
After so many years of painful ambiguity, this is the least that can be done.
The Lost of February 12, 1944 - Part I: Background
|Mariantonia De Ruvo & Damiano De Virgilio|
(circa early 1938)
|Damiano presumably in Rhodes|
With the Italian Armistice of September 8, 1943, Italian soldiers like my grandfather were faced with the choice of either continuing to fight alongside the Nazis or risk the unknown outcome of the alternative. I am proud to say that many Italian soldiers chose the latter, often with dire consequences, such as the Massacre of the Acqui Division. My grandfather made his choice and was taken prisoner by the Germans on September 11, 1943. Reports on his whereabouts ceased as of late January 1944. For decades, nothing more was known of his fate.
|Mariantonia & her son Francesco (circa 1942)|
For about 40 years, my family was forced to content itself with this nebulous information. In my next post, I'll recount how the power of Google, social media, and mere serendipity ultimately brought the truth to light.