Garrison staff share WWII history with Italian community members

By Rick Scavetta, U.S. Army Garrison ItalyApril 8, 2024

Tony Quaglia, right, a former Italian Army sergeant major and Kevin Shea, left, a U.S. Army Reserve officer, worked with local Italian historians and
collectors to piece together information about a Dec. 28, 1943 battled where 
10 B-24 Liberators were shot down while bombing Vicenza. Both Quaglia and
Shea now work in the garrison's operations directorate, but it was their
love of history that brought them together on this project.
Tony Quaglia, right, a former Italian Army sergeant major and Kevin Shea, left, a U.S. Army Reserve officer, worked with local Italian historians and
collectors to piece together information about a Dec. 28, 1943 battled where
10 B-24 Liberators were shot down while bombing Vicenza. Both Quaglia and
Shea now work in the garrison's operations directorate, but it was their
love of history that brought them together on this project.
(Photo Credit: Scavetta, Richard (Rick) A., CIV USARMY IMCOM EUROPE (US))
VIEW ORIGINAL

ARCUGNANO, Italy – History came alive recently in Arcugnano as U.S. Army Garrison Italy employees revisited the story of a World War II air battle that took place on Dec. 28, 1943 in the skies above Vicenza.

Tony Quaglia, a former Italian Army sergeant major and Kevin Shea, a U.S. Army Reserve officer, have worked with local Italian historians and collectors to piece together additional information on the tragic day when 10 B-24 Liberators were shot down while bombing Vicenza. Both Quaglia and Shea now work in the garrison’s operations directorate, but it was their love of history that brought them together on this project.

More than 110 people attended the evening event recently in the Arcugnano town hall. The Mayor of Arcugnano, Paolo Pellizzari, offered opening remarks.

(Photo Credit: Scavetta, Richard (Rick) A., CIV USARMY IMCOM EUROPE (US)) VIEW ORIGINAL

Shea, speaking with Quaglia translating, shared information about the 15th Air Force and its subordinate command, the 376th Bombardment Group, who were tasked with conducting long-range missions in southern Europe in WWII. They attacked factories, airfields, refineries and other enemy targets that were important to the axis war machine.

Quaglia and Shea worked on the project for three years. For Quaglia, who now serves as the garrison operations’ host nation coordinator, the historical research confirmed for him what he imagined, but had no certainty, he said.

Tony Quaglia, right, a former Italian Army sergeant major and Kevin Shea, left, a U.S. Army Reserve officer, worked with local Italian historians and
collectors to piece together information about a Dec. 28, 1943 battled where 
10 B-24 Liberators were shot down while bombing Vicenza. Both Quaglia and
Shea now work in the garrison's operations directorate, but it was their
love of history that brought them together on this project.
Tony Quaglia, right, a former Italian Army sergeant major and Kevin Shea, left, a U.S. Army Reserve officer, worked with local Italian historians and
collectors to piece together information about a Dec. 28, 1943 battled where
10 B-24 Liberators were shot down while bombing Vicenza. Both Quaglia and
Shea now work in the garrison's operations directorate, but it was their
love of history that brought them together on this project. (Photo Credit: Scavetta, Richard (Rick) A., CIV USARMY IMCOM EUROPE (US))
VIEW ORIGINAL

“The target of bomber missions was never to hit civilian population and historical places, but only railroad junctions and airfields, so as to sap enemy logistics,” said, Quaglia adding that mistakes made during that era was often due to the technology of the time.

In Vicenza, their target was the railway marshaling yards, Shea said. They flew from airfields on the very boot heel of the Italian peninsula. This event’s 80th anniversary was recently commemorated at the Fimon Lake Memorial by U.S. and Italian veterans on December 28th, 2023.

“The mission was only supposed to last about four hours,” Shea said.

Shea showed photos from “Obiettivo Vicenza,” by Mauro Passarin and Giovanni Sandrini, a book the destruction on the ground that day. Vicenza’s Borgo Casale, Via San Bastiano, Strada Valmarana and the Riviera Berica were featured. People gaped and pointed, whispering loudly amongst themselves as they recognized the areas.

It was also emphasized, that population centers and heritage sites were never purposely targeted. Poor technology from that time unfortunately led to indiscriminate destruction, suffering and death.

Their mission was interrupted when dozens of Bf-109 Messerschmitt fighter planes and ground flack batteries attacked the U.S. formation of aircraft as they approached the Colli Berici hills, just south of Vicenza.

The crew of "Ready, Willing and Able," a B-24 that crashed just north of
Lago di Fimon, near Vicenza.
The crew of "Ready, Willing and Able," a B-24 that crashed just north of
Lago di Fimon, near Vicenza.
(Photo Credit: Scavetta, Richard (Rick) A., CIV USARMY IMCOM EUROPE (US))
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Using flight data, Shea detailed the approximate locations of 10 downed aircraft, to include “Ready, Willing and Able” that crashed just north of Lago di Fimon. A large black and white photo on display showed the smiling crew members before the ill-fated mission. Shea named each crewmember and showed their positions on the aircraft. When the fate of the Americans was discussion, it met whispered discussion among audience members.

“Half the crew died that day and survivors were quickly captured,” Shea said.

One older Italian man, a witness to the bombing raid, spoke of being a boy in the fields and fearing that the crashing plane would hit him. Another woman called out from the back row, “I was 10 years-old and I remember everything!”

Local historian Claudio Ghiotto, shared decades of his research which described the Allies theater of operations in Africa and Southern Europe. His collection of archival maps, rare photos, period propaganda and movie footage offered a glimpse into a forgotten time. Corrado Cariolato and his wife Maria Pia Rizzetto, both retired educators, are deeply connected to the community and the region’s history. Their support was instrumental identifying surviving witnesses and reading their first-person accounts during the event, Shea said.

A vertical tail stabilizer from the B-24 Liberator "Ready, Willing and Able" was built into a bird hunting tower near Arcugnano, Italy. The plane was shot down Dec, 28, 1943 while conducting a bombing raid over Vicenza.
A vertical tail stabilizer from the B-24 Liberator "Ready, Willing and Able" was built into a bird hunting tower near Arcugnano, Italy. The plane was shot down Dec, 28, 1943 while conducting a bombing raid over Vicenza. (Photo Credit: Kevin Shea) VIEW ORIGINAL

That evening, several attendees came forward and shared more details of the crash from their family’s recollections. Parts of the plane’s metal were turned into children’s toys, one Italian community member shared afterward.

Another part of the plane, specifically a piece of the tail rutter, was incorporated into the construction of a “Roccolo,” an Italian hunting cabin, hidden deep in the nearby Berici hills – which can still be seen today. Traces of original paint, holes from machine gun and flak-cannon fire are immediately recognized.

“While many historians have written about these events before, I don’t believe it’s ever been pulled together and shared like this evening,” Shea said.

A vertical tail stabilizer from the B-24 Liberator "Ready, Willing and Able" was built into a bird hunting tower near Arcugnano, Italy. The plane was shot down Dec, 28, 1943 while conducting a bombing raid over Vicenza.
A vertical tail stabilizer from the B-24 Liberator "Ready, Willing and Able" was built into a bird hunting tower near Arcugnano, Italy. The plane was shot down Dec, 28, 1943 while conducting a bombing raid over Vicenza. (Photo Credit: Kevin Shea) VIEW ORIGINAL

Arcugnano is aligned with the 207th Military Intelligence Brigade under the U.S. Army Garrison Italy Community Alliance Plan. The large turnout and community response was amazing, Shea said.

“Everyone has been so welcoming, and it’s wonderful to see so many people still interested in our shared history," Shea said.