Alfonso Felici, the
extraordinary history of a any man
Medals to the Military Value, the Second Class Iron Cross, the French War
Cross, the American Silver and Bronze Stars, Solemn Encomium of the
Congress of the United States of America. This is not only the list of all
the conferible honors during the Second World War, but all those conferred
to a man, in addition an Italian, Alfonso Felici, class 1923.
14th 2002 in his native country, Villa S. Stefano (FR), his biography "Fighting
Paisano, Alpines called me Balilla, the American soldiers Paisano" has
been introduced. To the presentation were present, for the Association,
Alessandro Campagna and I. The book is really fascinating and complete,
it’s really amazing to ascertain the military history lived from Felici;
passed through all the fronts of the Second World War. Even his personal
knowledge has been important, in fact I have verified that he is a really
helpful and simple person, in the truest sense of the term.
Surely if his history had been lived by an American soldier, it would be
already object of a successful film; but since it deals with an Italian,
still nothing. Synthesize his history into a few words is really
impossible, then I will make a chronological account of the events,
integrally bringing the more extraordinary experience, to my notice, lived
from Felici, that makes us understand also his greatness:
1940 - he participates with the G.I.L. Battalion to the March of the
12th 1940 - at the Station in Padua he jumps hiddenly on a train of
alpine of the "Julia" in departure for the Greek-Albanian front;
30th 1940 - Greek-Albanian front, Sella Pelikani, first Silver Medal;
1940 - hospitalized for wounds in the military hospital in Piacenza and
then in Cremona;
1941 - he reaches the 8th Alpine Department to Udine;
29th 1941 - he returns in Albania;
19th 1941 - allotted to the 4th Company of the Skiers Battalion "Monte
Cervino" in departure for the Russian Front;
1941 - he fights in Russia to Karkow;
1941 - Battle of Christochenaja, admitted to the 3rd Regiment
1941 - advance and entrenchment on the Don;
23rd 1941 - second Silver Medal to "Quota 232,2";
1942 - transported to the field hospital 230;
1942 - reentry in the "Cividale" Battalion, 16th Company;
26th 1942 - conferment of the German Iron Cross;
24th 1943 - Battle of Nikolajewka and third Silver Medal;
1943 - hospitalization in a german hospital in Vienna;
1943 - military hospital in Bologna;
1943 - Celio military hospital in Rome;
8th 1943 – withdrawn by police and led to Cecchignola barracks;
1943 - battles against germans, taken imprisoned, he runs away and hides
himself in Villa S. Stefano;
1943 – release of Leoni and Battistini from the jail of Castelfranco
1943 - clandestine enlistment with the O.S.S. in Capua, transfer to Fort
Dix in New Jersey for training, return in Italy and share to sabotage
actions against germans;
22nd 1944 - landing of Anzio;
1st 1944 - allotted to the 88th Infantry Division;
4th 1944 – arrival in Rome;
8th 1944 - conferment of the Silver Star for the battle of Volterra;
18th 1944 - landing to Saint Tropez with the Observation Battallion;
1944 - allotted to the 90th Division of the III Army commanded by the
1945 - liberation of Czechoslovakia with the III Army, conferment of the
1945 – transfer application and embarkation for Japan with the 25th
1945 – taken prisoner by the japanese in Luzon;
2nd 1945 - freed and transported in America to San Francisco;
1945 - hospitalized in San Francisco;
of the dual nationalty;
30th 1984 - attribution of the Bronze Star for the following operations
to the landing of Anzio.
I have integrally transcribed a passage of the biography that brings a
worthy episode, alone, to be reported in a film.
A defeated Soldier
arrived on the Casilina after having left the Appia, the whole zone
swarmed with germans means, and I was forced to hide myself every time I
felt a noise of cars, I tried to cross fields and gardens always finding
something to eat, like fruit and tomatoes. Suddenly, in Via Prenestina, I
found an infantry platoon that was lying in wait on both sides of the
street, they were well armed and ready to intervene. I got closer and
asked to the lieutenant, who commanded the platoon, information on the
situation. He answered that they were out of every contact and they were
waiting orders that never arrived, then he asked me if I wanted to join
them. I answered that I was a wounded of war and that the evening before I
had been raked up from the road with other soldiers and ordered to fight
doing everything in my power. Then he recommended me to return to "Celio"
hospital even if on the road I would have taken many risks. The officer
assured me that till then the germans weren’t seen.
I wandered till I reached a desert house and inside I found an infantry
sergeant who was eating canned meat and tomatoes. He greeted me and said
to stop there for the night because the situation was chaotic. He fled
from "Macao" barracks before the germans occupied it and now he was
missing. For that evening we slept in the abandoned house; to turn we did
the guard; we scraped up civilian clothes and rubber sandals and we were
prepared to flee to any eventuality. On the morning of 10th of September
there was a comings and goings of italian soldiers who fled in all
directions. The germans had overwhelmed every resistance and all Rome was
Instead of going by my sister-in-law Angelina, in S. Lorenzo district, I
preferred to return to Villa S. Stefano, by my mother. After six days,
walking between fields and mountains to avoid to be taken prisoner by the
germans, I finally succeeded in reaching my home.
After some days from my return, the germans arrived and fixed their
command in San Marco, in the palace of Angelino Palombo; at the same time
they commandeered five palaces of the Vigna to use them as hospital. They
started to paint on the roofs the Red Cross symbol and internally they
equipped the rooms with hospital wards.
The germans didn't disturb us at all, we had only to respect the curfew
imposed by the Feldgendarmerie. I hated, despite everything, their
presence in town because it reminded me their cruel ways during the
retreat of Russia. They didn't stop with their trucks, and when we tried
to climb up they struck us to the hands with the kick of their rifles.
Villa S. Stefano was invaded by the evacuees coming from Rome, Frosinone
and other towns. The reason was that, here, the germans were organize the
hospital and consequently, according to the conventions of Geneva in
progress among the belligerent states, the country would’nt have been
During the day, to deceive the boredom, we gathered with some friends and
spent the time sat on the parapets of the walls of Porta speaking of war
and the germans, who stole the livestock to slaughter it under the Loggia.
I remember that the pigs were skinned, that the germans threw the skins
away and that all the peasants picked up and ate them. One day arrived
from Rome the Battistini family composed by four daughters and two sons,
the mother Armida and the father Umberto. Mister Umberto was an associate
of Angelo Leoni, who had married a woman of Villa S. Stefano, Emilia "Frusina",
and together they managed a garage near Via Taranto in Rome.
My friend Vittorio Articoli and I began to frequent the youngest daughters
of the Battistini, Silvana and Anna. I went with Anna, seventeen years
old, a brunette with whom I took long walks on the river Amareno. I knew
her mother and then her father Umberto, who promised me a job in his
garage in Rome. I was madly in love with Anna! But soon, the allies began
to bombard with their airplanes the road from Via Priverso to river
Amareno, where the german convoy of restocking stirred toward the front.
We saw the allied fighters fly low in the Amareno valley and strike with
the tracer bullets the germans means that caught fire, but the allies
never bombed the hospital respecting the convention of Geneva. Meanwhile
arrived the first wounded german. Many of them died and were buried in our
cemetery where it could be seen, together with the crosses of our darlings,
the different black crosses with the swastica and the helmets.
Day after day the situation considerably changed, because suddenly the SS
arrived, taking prisoner the men and bringing them to work on the
fortifications that the germans were erecting on the front of Cassino.
Many of my friends were captured. Remained at a distance, we decided to
take refuge in the caverns and in the ravines of the mountain.
One day Anna came to see me in my refuge and I saw she was crying. I asked
her what had happened and she told me that her father Umberto and his
partner Angelo Leoni had been arrested by the germans in Rome. She told me
that, while they were driving their van, they had been stopped at a
roadblock by the germans who, after having frisk them, found weapons and
munitions directed to a roman partisan group. They were arrested and
transferred to the jail of Castelfranco Emilia, in the province of Modena,
waiting for judgment. Naturally they would have been judged by the Court
Martial and shot for betrayal.
Together with Mrs. Battistini and Mrs. Leoni we went to Rome to see clear
on the situation. The first thing to do was talk with the person who
informed the ladies about the arrest of their husbands. The person was
Mario Muzi, a family friend, who answered us with evasive words, but I
forced him to tell all the truth. On my insistence he fixed an appointment
with a person who would have explained us everything. The day after the
ladies and I were accompanied by Mario Muzi in an apartment in Lungotevere
della Vittoria. There, a distinguished gentleman, doctor Ailati, received
us and assured to the ladies that he would have referred to two great
lawyers for the defense of their husbands in the german Court Martial,
obviously without paying for the bill. In his discourse, doctor Ailati
wasn’t very clear about the reason for which Mr. Battistini and Mr. Leoni
had been persuaded to transport that dangerous load on their van. Doctor
Ailati told us that someone had well paid them to transport that material,
that them were unaware of the dangerous load and that they believed it
dealt with black market commodities. I wasn’t convinced of that story and
I asked him why they wanted to apply to two famous lawyers, even knowing
that the ladies wouldn’t have been able to pay the bill. The answer was: "
We do that for humanitarian reasons!"
I realized and asked to doctor Ailati if, by chance, they were members of
some clandestine group that fought for the germans. I hit the mark, I told
him that I hated the germans as well and I told him everything of my past
as Alpine. Doctor Ailati became more convincing and answered: "I was an
Alpine, too, captain of the 5th".
He trusted in me and confessed that he was the responsible person of the
C.N.L. (National Corp of Liberation) and that I could rely on him. The
defence of Battistini and Leoni was made by the lawyers Camelluti and
Sotgiu and on our side we had a judge who was part of the german Court.
Unfortunately the things went from bad to worse and, after the Session,
the german Court transeferred the case to the german Military Court in
Bologna. It was the worst moment of my life. Two hopeless families,
thirteen children afraid that their fathers would have been shot by a
I remembered that at home, in Villa Santo Stefano, I had a german uniform
that had been given me when I was in the german military hospital of Wien;
furthermore I was in possession of the german 2nd class Iron Cross
certificate, conferred me on the Russian front.
Went back home, I put in a rucksack the german uniform, hid the boots and
I told to my mother that I had to go to Rome to bring groceries to sell to
black market. I kissed Anna and said her that I would go to Rome to try to
do something for the release of her father.
I didn’t know what I have would done, but my brain was in search of some
idea to help those two poor devils. Arrived in Rome I rushed to doctor
Ailati begging to get for me a fake permit of the Werhmacht to my name, as
soldier who had to reach a Northern Italy hospital. I explained him that
with such a permission, speaking german, decorated with the distinctive
ribbon of the Iron Cross and suit with the Werhmacht uniform, I would have
been able to enter and visit the prisoners in the jail of Castelfranco
Emilia and to know more about the situation. He admired my courage and
tried to dissuade me for the risk I ran. At the end, I won.
The case was submitted by the C.N.L. to the American Intelligence Service,
and in a week was delivered me a release act for Battistini and Leoni
carrying the forged signature of the judge of the german Court of War in
Rome, Richter Von Krieg, in which was stated that the two prisoners had
been declared innocent and therefore absolved from every accusation.
I would have had personally deliver this release act to the german
commander of the jail of Castelfranco Emilia, who was responsible for the
release of the prisoners. I had all the documents to face the journey, the
identification plaques and the membershipbook to the Werhmacht, registered
to sergeant Alekssis Paasikivi, of Finnish nationality, in order to cover
my strange german accent. In fact a lot of Finnish, Croatian, Pole or
Dutch were join up in the german army as collaborators.
The personnel of the American Intelligence Service knew how to forge to
perfection documents and stamps of the Werhmacht. It was necessary only my
courage to deliver them, seen the risk toward which I went. In two days,
they gave me a pass for the german hospital of Riva del Garda, with all
the stamps and the signature in order, printed in a clandestine typography.
Doctor Ailati told me that, as soon as I arrived in Bologna, I would have
had to contact a barman, named Oreste, at the "Industria" cafè, in Via
Guglielmo Marconi, and to ask him about "Nemo", another member of the
The day after, worn the Werhmacht uniform with the "feldwebel" (master
sergeant / staff sergeant) degrees, I caught the first train directed to
Bologna. The train was full of german soldiers of every army and there
were some authorized civilian. During the travel I avoided to talk and I
answered only to the usual questions. I didn’t have any problem but I
trembled a little when a soldier of the Feldgendarmerie asked me to show
mine "ausweis" (pass) and, after a quick look, he asked me "krank?" (sick),
and I responded him "ja" (yes). Everything had gone very smoothly.
I arrived to Bologna station in the early afternoon and a german officer
asked me the permit, I showed it and he said me I could go to take the "marchverflegung"
( dried provisions). Seeing that I hesitated, he took me to the place
where I received some bread, canned meat, margarine and cigarettes as well
as a stamp on my document. I could scarcely believe my eyes!
Greeted the german officer, who took care to tell me that the train to
Verona would have departed at six o’clock p.m. from the patform two, I
went immediately to a toilet to wear civilian clothes and to put back in
the rucksack the german uniform. After having found a cheap hotel, I went
to the cafè to look for "Nemo". I asked to the barman Oreste to look for
him. He understood immediately and asked me to wait. Later "Nemo" arrived
and he told me that doctor Ailati had informed him about everything. He
brought me in a basement of the cafè to talk in safety, but then he
preferred to go togheter in his bookstore in Via Guglielmo Marconi.
While we were speaking, he explained me that all the member of the C.N.L.
had pseudonyms to avoid the identification and, therefore, even that of
doctor Ailati wasn’t real (doctor Ailati was in fact the honorable Ivanoè
Bonomi). In regard to the Battistini-Leoni case, he informed me that the
jail of Castelfranco Emilia was controlled by some elements of the "M"
battalion (Mussolini blak shirts battalion), armed to the theet. He added
that only a little german command was settled inside and that, besides
political prisoner, there were about forty deserters that didn’t wanted to
enlist in the army of the Social Republic of Salò.
Afterwards I took care to leave the german uniform in the basement of the
cafè because, the day after, I would had go out in uniform to go to the
jail. It was dangerous to go out from the hotel since I had entered in
civilian clothes. I had two telegrams with me that I made to send, with
absolute urgency, from the german postal office three hours before, in way
to have the necessary time. The telegrams were addressed one to the german
director of the jail of Castelfranco Emilia, written in german language,
and the other to the Prefect of Modena, who had the jurisdiction of the
zone, compiled in Italian language.
Both the telegrams, signed by the forgery colonel "Truder", german
commander of the Emilia garrison, commanded to execute the release act of
Battistini and Leoni and that the feldwebel Alekssis Paasikivi (me), was
authorized to take them in custody.
I waited still another hour to let time to the telegrams to reach
destination, afterwards I caught a taxi toward Castelfranco Emilia that
leaved me in front of the jail. Once arrived I told the driver to wait up
to my return and, taken the number of his license, I set out toward the
entrance of the jail with self-assurance. Arrived to the guard, ignoring
the soldiers of the "M" battalion, I walked towards a german marshal,
saluting and delivering him the "ausweis". Immediately, the marshall
brought me by the commander of the garrison that I saluted with a powerful
After returning my salute, the commander read the release act, that I
delivered him, and after a quick look to my decorations he told me: "Gut
Soldaten" (good, soldier), and added that he, too, had participated in the
Russian campaign on the Orel front. The interest of the commander on the
Russian campaign reassured me and the fear to be recognized disappeared.
Looking, then, at my Werhmacht membership-book he noticed that I was
Finnish and told me: "Gut, Pinne" (good, Finnish).
I cannot describe my anxiety and my fear for what could happen. For me it
was easier to fight in war than risk my life in that way. In war you face
the enemy seeing him in front of you and you have more probabilities to
save yourself, there, instead, I was in front of some uncertainties and I
could be captured like a mouse. I decided to face all that could happen to
All proceeded well and this meant that the commander received the telegram.
After some instant, the commander ordered to an italian officer of custody
to release the two prisoners. I went out saluting the commander with "heil
Hitler" and, following the officer of custody, I prepared myself to have o
consignment the two prisoners. The tension became intense when I had in
front of me the two men ready to leave. They recognized me, but with a "tyrannical"
sign I ordered "Schnell, schnell!". They understood that I was there to
free them and for this reason they remained impassive, doing so they saved
my life too, in fact, a little of euphoria or an embrace would have been
enough and we were ended. Obviously, they didn’t know about mine risky
plan that, up to that moment, seemd to have perfectly worked. In harry, we
earned the exit and, passing by the german commander and his soldiers, I
saluted them with a strong "Heil Hitler". Once out of the jail we found
the taxidriver that was still waiting for us. While we were approching to
the taxi, I told my friends not to speak to me, because it could be
Minutes never passed and I said to the driver to accelerate toward
Bologna. I was still restless and I expected, at any moment, the germans
to the heels. As soon as we arrived in Bologna I made to stop the taxi one
hundred meters away from "Nemo’s" bookstore. I gave four thousand liras to
the driver thanking him and I went by "Nemo", who didn’t believe in his
eyes. He told me that twenty-two young deserters of the Italian Social
Republic, guarded in that jail, had been shot for high treason in the
With a cheeky fortune, we reached Rome travelling by trucks and train.
Immediately we arrived in Torpignattara by a trusted friend of Umberto
Battistini, who hid us for five or six days. Meanwhile we advised doctor
Ailati that came to see us and the most beautiful thing that he told me
was: " you are really a good brave alpine!". He had helped me, in this
mission, financially too and, without saying, he was proud of me.
I cannot wait to let Anna know that her father was freed, but we had to
wait because the germans were lay in wait. One day we made arrive, to the
hide-place of Torpignattara, a friend of ours, Armando Filippi, nephew of
Leoni, nicknamed "nga, nga" because of his stutter. We entrusted Armando
of going to Villa Santo Stefano to communicate the news of the liberation
to the Battistini and Leoni and also to my mother. We implored him to tell
only them about it and not to others. Armando, however, for the euphoria,
confided the news to some relatives. For this irresponsibility, alla the
town came to knowledge that I, dressed up as a german, had released Mr.
Battistini and Mr. Leoni. Meanwhile, also the german command of Villa
Santo Stefano knew about this daring liberation, and immediately began the
researches from the GESTAPO (Nazi Secret Police).
My mother and my brother Antonio were called and underwent to hard
interrogations and abuses with the guns aimed at the nape of the neck.
They, however, were in the dark about everything. We have to thank the
intervention of the then Podestà, Luigi Bonomo, who convinced the germans
to leave my parents alone, because they were unaware of the plan and I had
acted alone because I was in love with the daughter of Battistini.
Then intervened the SS (Schutz-Staffeln. Squad of Defence, personal
militia of Hitler) that, viewed the documents that I showed at the jails
of Castelfranco Emilia, convinced themselves that I was the author of the
whole mission, helped by the clandestine organizations of the Resistance,
in collaboration with the Intelligence Service. The investigations,
besides in Villa Santo Stefano, moved also to Rome. After having seen
their husbands in Torpignattara, the wives of Battistini and Leoni
returned to Villa Santo Stefano, not to cause us any problems.
Doctor Ailati made us change our hideplace and brought us nearby Via
Ostiense. The SS and the P.A.I. (Afro-Italian Police) forced the door of
Battistini’s home in Via Taranto n. 132 and that of Leoni’s in Via
dell’Acquedotto Felice n. 11, and turned the apartments upside down. The
investigation carried on nonstop. We lived days of fear also thinking
about our darlings that could be submitted to hard tortures from the
News from Villa Santo Stefano didn’t arrive, we only knew that Armando,
the unaware provocative of our vicissitude, ran away to depart from the
germans that were looking for him in order to interrogate him.
During this event, we were always assisted by doctor Ailati with money,
provisions, garments and also with cigarettes that we, afraid to be
captured, smoked in abundance.
One day, I wanted to risk, going to Villa Santo Stefano to examine the
situation from closer. I caught some means on Via Casilina and even some
german trucks, that stopped to take on women and children. I arrived in
the proximities of the town passing through the woods and places not
frequented by the people. Near the church Madonna dello Spirito Santo, I
met Ersilia Palombo, the daughter of Augusto of "Carminuccio" and Rosa
Iorio "il deto".
Ersilia immediately told me that the germans were looking for me
everywhere and that, about two hours before, two soldiers asked to "B’cailla
Mi l’naro" (Bicailla Poggiassi) if he had seen me somewhere. In town had
been interrogated almost all the citizens. I asked to Ersilia if, with the
due precautions, she could tell to my mother and Antonio to come by me.
I climbed on a cliff that was in the land of my aunt Domitilla, in front
of the Santuario della Madonna dello Spirito Santo, and waited. While I
was there, I saw some women that went to pray in the church. I recognized
Maria Fasani, Iolanda di Gelsomina, za juccia Mantella, za lucciola di
Cianno and my aunt and godmother Maria, "la Madonna".
After about half an hour, I saw my mother went down toward the Sanctuary
reciting the Rosary. I called her, I went down and we embraced each other.
Anna wasn’t traceable and I begged my mother to greet her. I had also the
time to see my brother Antonio, that was flocked, informed by Ersilia, and
reproved me saying: "Bastard! What on earth got into you, to risk your
life in this way?". He embraced me and understood I didn't have other way
out considering that I was inside a very dangerous game. I greeted them
both and returned to Rome with the available means of transport and always
with the fear to be stopped by the germans in some roadblock. Returned in
my hideplace on the Ostiense, I communicated to Battistini and Leoni that
we were wanted.
of Roberto Molle (31-03-03)
-- Traslated into English by Silvia Sarracino --