“Bombed Sicily” seems like the plot of a neorealist film. Old black and white images, never worn out by the years, because they are accompanied by an almost subliminal “sound” in the background. Dull noises, dark rumbles, which you seem to hear together with the piercing whistle of sirens, screams of pain, cries of fear, cries of children and liberating laughter of hope. A book that can be “felt”, that of Nello Musumecia journalist even before being a politician, because he manages to make the hearts of readers listen to him. It will be presented today at 6pm in Messina at the “Marina del Nettuno” yachting club.
Scrolling through the 188-page volume, written for Rubbettino, one immediately realizes that the author has created a small masterpiece: he has managed to condense a thousand other small and large human stories into a history book. A universe of emotions, which accompany the lives of all Sicilians in the most intense period of the Second World War. AND a moving journey, let us say it, in the time machine, where the precise narration of the facts intersects with the description of ways and styles of life that no longer exist. All this, while in the journalist’s narration, objects, colours, smells and flavors of a dear, now distant Sicily appear, almost emblems of an anthropological memory, which is the salt of our culture.
Musumeci, then, beyond the “particular”, was able to distill the essence of an ancient reflection as much as the world, but which too often the “greats” of the Earth forget: perhaps there is no “just” war, but there are only tragic wars. Even those that are fought by going after the totems of the most mystical and captivating ideals. Specifically, Musumeci “revisits” the role of Sicily between 1940 and 1943, until the Allied landing, fully embracing some of the latest historiographical interpretations, considered “revisionist”. Of course, history is written by those who win, but time, since the time of Tacitus, has taught us to always wait for “new truths”. And the realities uncovered by Musumeci demonstrate this: they can annoy the “politically correct” and the high priests of the “single thought”.
In war, there are no absolute dividing lines between “good” and “bad”. The Anglo-American carpet bombings of civilian targets in Sicily were the result of “a pure terrorist strategy”. Point. The author has no doubts about this aspect of the Allied plans. Infrastructures were not targeted, the aim was massacre, to weaken the morale of the populations and force them to revolt against fascism. Well, we add, it would mean “nothing new under the sun”. Who doesn’t remember the devastating bombings, with hundreds of thousands of deaths, on German cities, Dresden style? And the Monte Cassino Abbey scandal? A monument of humanity buried by over 350 tons of high explosives, dropped by 230 American planes. They were convinced that German paratroopers had taken refuge inside the monastery. But the excuse turned out to be a sensational fake.
Like all journalists, compared to the more “sophisticated” approach of academics, Musumeci has the advantage of getting straight to the point. And to make yourself understood. His “realist” narration of the bombings suffered by the island unfolds against the backdrop of much more complex historiographical scenarios, which the author enriches with “alternative” evaluations, even if, for the most part, shareable. It is true that the Allied troops were also occasionally guilty of behavior in which the laws of war were not respected. Just as Musumeci’s strategic analysis of the substantial failure of the invasion of Sicily (in the relationship between forces used and time taken to reach the objectives) is in fact correct. Despite absolute air superiority and overwhelming forces in the field, the allies, the US Fifth Army and the British Eighth Army, slowly advanced along the two coastal axes of penetration. And, as Musumeci points out, they were not even able to prevent the Italian-German contingent from crossing the Strait of Messina, to take refuge in Calabriafrom where he would continue to give a hard time to a much more numerous, equipped enemy, but fatally undecided and hesitant on the choices to make.
Musumeci’s book has another advantage: it sweeps away the myth, constructed on the drawing board, of “invincible” allied commanders, such as Clark, Montgomery or, in cauda venenum, even the overrated Patton. Because, you see, history is written (and signed) by those who win. But you can be great and, above all, dignified, even when you lose. As the entire Sicilian people demonstrated, under the bombs.