by Eugenio Battaglia

"Campo della Memoria" (Field of Remembrance)is dedicated to the fallen soldiers of the RSI. Many of the dead were transferred from other sites, as the cemetery was constructed privately by former veterans only in 1993. However, now it is an official Italian Military Cemetery.

For the new myth of Italy, focused on the resistance, the state of the RSI is not supposed to exist. Only the resistance existed, which brought Italy to the side of the victors of WWII and defeated the Nazi-Fascists. As you know, a myth can be an unproven or false collective belief that is used to justify a social institution: the present "lay, democratic and antifascist" republic in our case.

On 22-23 January 1944, 50,000 combatants, mostly from the US, UK, and Canada under the command of US General John Lucas, debarked at Anzio-Nettuno at the start of Operation Shingle. The idea was to circumvent the Gustav Line and destroy the encircled enemy forces.

Initially, the German forces facing the Allies numbered only 10,000. Soon both sides received reinforcements, the Allies reaching some 150,000. The Axis forces succeeded in keeping the Allies, in spite of their overwhelming power in the sea and the skies, stuck on the beachhead for four months. The Allied losses were enormous.

Among the reinforcements to the Germans were the forces of the RSI on their first fight against the Westerners (they had already been deployed against Tito's partisans). Specifically the Battalion "Barbarigo" of the X MAS, with 1180 men. The parachutists of the "Nembo," 350 men, were also rushed in, but they were without appropriate uniforms which were supplied by the Germans. The men of the Nembo accepted the arms and uniforms but not the heavy jackets, because they featured a swastika emblem. Immediately the Germans corrected this error, and the "Debica" battalion of the Italian Waffen SS Division was supplied with Italian uniforms. Also, the 50,000 of the Flak antiaircraft batteries had Italian uniforms, while the Italians in the Baltic States, Prussia, and elsewhere always maintained their Italian insignias.

Later the glorious "Folgore" division arrived. On the other side in the Allied South, a "Folgore" division also beat the Germans in various battles as they moved up the Peninsula. The RSI Navy and the Air Force, even if small, contributed with many attacks on the supporting Allied ships.

The RSI forces, after the fall of the Gustav Line, remained to defend Rome to the last moment, when they were ordered to withdraw on the afternoon of June the 4th. Such stubborn resistance was mostly against the British Army, permitting General Mark W. Clark, the American Eagle of the US Army, to win the prestigious "Race to Rome" against his own general commander British General Harold Alexander.

For us of the RSI, raised in the myth of Rome, a real great myth, having Rome conquered by the Americans was psychological very bad but if the British had arrived first it could have been much worse.

The fighting from Anzio-Nettuno to Rome destroyed part of the great works of Mussolini to reclaim the Pontine Marshes. The British historian Sir Antony Beevor in his book The Second World War accused the Germans of starting a biological war against the Italians when he reported that the Germans destroyed the dikes to inundate the battlefield to punish them for the unconditional surrender of 8 September 1943. Such an act permitted, therefore, the return of malaria. Most probably it was only a means to block the Allied tanks and trucks in the renewed marshes. The Italians with their panzerfausts could destroy plenty of them.