A different D-day

6th Jun 1944, D-day. Elsewhere in the theatre of war, another story…

A couple of years ago my big brother Umberto, whilst researching the deeds of derring-do of my grandad’s unit (a small Air Force squadron of torpedo bombers) during WWII, came across this news’ footage from Jun 6th, 1944.

The night before D-day, the Italians who’d stuck with Mussolini after the Armistice in 1943 had planned a daring attack against the Allied fleet amassing in the Mediterranean, with many warships docked in Gibraltar. The aim of the successful mission, which involved going across France and Spain and back overnight, flying very close to the ground and sea to remain undetected by radar, was to grab the headlines and give a boost to the sapping morale of the armies of the Axis.

… alàs – and for the good of the world – they were somewhat upstaged by the storming of Normandy’s beaches.


What makes this movie special is that, much to our surprise, my grandad features clearly for a couple of seconds: between 15-17”, shaking hands with the pilot after the landing and then turning to face the camera 🎥.

Nonno Stefano was a topographer and officer in charge of logistics and flight planning. Unfortunately my brother came across this a couple of years after he died (RIP).

*Note: – a friend found these references to the Gibraltar attacks in wikipedia (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_history_of_Gibraltar_during_World_War_II#Italian_bombing_of_Gibraltar).

– here’s a brief history of the squadron’s famous airplanes, whose unique feature was the ability to fly – despite their bulk – very close to the ground, thus below radar detection and difficult for fighter planes to fire-on: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Savoia-Marchetti_SM.79_Sparviero. Nonno Stefano served in this air-force unit during the RSI period 1943-45.

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