Sicily-Rome American Cemetery Visitor Film
Seen in the visitor center at Sicily-Rome American Cemetery, this film tells the story of those Americans who fought in the Italian campaign and gave their lives in the fight for freedom. This visitor center opened in May 2014 and is free and open to the public.
NARRATOR: When World War II came to the Italian mainland, it arrived with a vengeance. In the summer of 1943, Allied forces landed and fought their way North—their courage, competence and sacrifice would turn the tide of battle and free the peninsula from fascist regimes.
Those who fell in battle, those who sacrificed to shape a better future for Italy and the world, we honor all of them here in the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery.
July 1943: Determined to gain a foothold on the European continent, the Allies plan Operation Husky: The most ambitious amphibious assault yet attempted.
The goal: To capture Sicily as a stepping stone to the Italian mainland. A massive fleet assembles in newly won North African ports—bringing together land, sea, and air contingents form around the globe.
They set off into gale-force winds. Seaman First Class Ralph Austin is manning one of the first landing vessels. Facing a barrage of enemy fire, shelling and dive bombing his ship makes it onto the beach. Austin is hustling embattled troops onto land when he is fatally hit by a 20-millimeter shell.
Ralph Austin Seaman First Class
The Allies fight their way ashore and for weeks the battle rages.
RADIO ANNOUNCER: The battle for Sicily is under way. The combined forces of the United Nations are sweeping forward.
NARRATOR: But when the allies finally drive the Axis forces from the island, the victory has an immediate impact. The Mediterranean is safer for Allied shipping.
The Italians depose Dictator Benito Mussolini, and the door opens for the liberation of Italy.
September 1943: The Allies launch a daring assault on Italy’s southwestern coast. Landing at Salerno, they are soon locked in heavy combat. Within five hours of the landing, Sergeant Thomas Sullivan and his fellow Rangers capture a key pass dominating Nazi supply routes.
In the German counterattack, Sullivan will fall to artillery fire.
Sgt. Thomas Sullivan 3rd Ranger Battalion
But the Allies soon seize Naples, and the critical Foggia airfield complex. Their bombers are now in range of much of central Europe. And when the Italian government joinS the Allies, together they grind their way North against German occupation forces.
RADIO ANNOUNCER: Their order was push North through the German lines and liberate Rome.
NARRATOR: January 1944: Stalled in their fight up the spine of Italy, the Allies make a bold move; they land at Anzio, behind the formidable defenses of the Germans’ Gustav Line. The surprise amphibious assault catches the Germans unprepared. But soon fierce counterattacks are launched.
Over the next five months hundreds of thousands of soldiers are locked in long and bitter battles. With casualties mounting, medical personnel put their own lives at risk to help those in need. Serving in the 56th Evacuation Hospital at Anzio, Second Lt. Ellen Ainsworth is not far from the front lines.
When German shells hit her hospital she calmly continues helping patients despite the extreme danger to herself. Two days later she is severely injured in another attack, and dies of wounds soon after. For her actions she is awarded the Silver Star.
2nd Lt. Ellen G. Ainsworth 56th Evacuation Hospital
By May of 1944, the Allies break through the German defenses in southern Italy, and break out of Anzio. By early June, Rome is liberated.
RADIO ANNOUNCER: With the Germans in head long retreat, Yanks of the Fifth Army enter Rome in triumph.
NARRATOR: The first European capital freed from Axis domination.
Spring 1944: Even as the Allies battle on the ground, a massive air offensive is underway as Allied forces continue their bombing campaign against Germany itself. The impact will be devastating, pounding cities, factories, oil supplies and transportation lines.
RADIO ANNOUNCER: The military consequences of the oil attacks were immediate. But Allied air crewS also suffer heavy losses.
NARRATOR: Staff Sergeant James Williams is manning the nose turret of a B-24 Bomber during a raid on Romania’s Ploesti oil fields.
RADIO ANNOUNCER: American air power mad a daring but costly attack upon the Romanian refinery.
NARRATOR: His plane goes down over the Adriatic Sea. Williams and the rest of the crew bail out, but none survive.
SSgt. James Williams 461st Heavy Bomb Group
Dangerous as they are, these missions—many based out of Italy—will force the Luftwaffe into a life and death struggle, diverting Germany’s resources, and heavily damaging its economy.
The tide of war is turning for the Allies. In all, more than 23,000 Americans, including hundreds of Italian-Americans, died to liberate Italy. Hundreds of thousands more sacrificed in other ways. The Sicily-Rome American Cemetery serves as a reminder of their heroism and their lives:
To acknowledge those who fell, to honor their sacrifice, to memorialize who they were and what they did when freedom hung in the balance.
7,861 soldiers, sailors, airmen, and civilians are buried here at the Sicily-Rome Cemetery. The Wall of the Missing honors the memory of 3,095 more whose mortal remains were not found. Each one paid the cost; each one earned our freedom.