Of Rape and War

by Daniel Russ on April 25, 2020

 

 

From “The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944 (The Liberation Trilogy Book 2)” by Rick Atkinson.

 

 

“Another chaplain cited specifics: a fifteen-year-old girl raped by eighteen colonial soldiers; a twenty-seven-year-old raped by three soldiers; a twenty-eight-year-old raped by five. An American artillery battalion commander described an Italian woman shot in the right ankle and raped by four Moroccans while her daughter was shot in the left foot and also raped. In Ceccano, he added, “approximately 75 women ranging in age from 13 to 75 years had been raped; one woman claimed to have been raped 17 times on the night of the 29th and 11 times on the morning of the 30th.” Another battalion commander described a three-year-old shot dead by French colonials after his mother resisted their advances. “A delegation of frenzied citizens and priests” begged GIs to post guards in Pisterzo to forestall further butchery, he reported. American soldiers “came in as crusaders to save Europe from such things,” he added. “The occurrences are seriously affecting the morale and willingness to fight in my men.” The U.S. commander of the 13th Field Artillery Brigade, attached to the FEC, advised Clark that all thirteen of his battalion commanders could testify to similar depravities.”

 

“Italian authorities tallied seven hundred crimes of “carnal violence” in Frosinone province alone. “All over the mountain,” a woman in Esperia reported, “you could hear the screaming.” Among many affidavits from victims was that of a sixteen-year-old girl in Lenola: “I was taken and violated four times by Moroccans. There was a 12-year-old girl with me… who suffered the same violation.” Norman Lewis, the British intelligence officer and author, investigated various allegations and found “wholesale rape” in many villages. “In Lenola, which fell to the Allies on May 21, fifty women were raped, but—as there were not enough to go round—children and even old men were violated,” Lewis wrote. “At any hour of the day or night, men and women, old and young, are subject to acts of force of every type, which range from beatings to carnal violence, woundings to murder,” an Italian general wrote Clark on May 25. “I beg your excellency… intervene for the honor of the Allied cause.” Vengeful Italians occasionally retaliated, Lewis noted. Near Cancello, five colonial soldiers were reportedly poisoned, then castrated, then beheaded. Some French officers responded with what an American officer described as “a ‘so-what’ shrug,” or proposed that Italians were collecting the just deserts”

 

of making common cause with Hitler. J. Glenn Gray, a U.S. counterintelligence lieutenant with a doctorate from Columbia University, wrote that “the complaints have been taken to the French general in charge, who merely laughed and said, ‘This is war.’

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