The Navy in the War of Liberation: the frigate captain Jerzy Sas Kulczycki and the naval engineer Gerolamo Spezia

(To Marina Militare)

During the War of Liberation, the Navy made a great contribution with over 10.000 men who sacrificed themselves, both on board and on land, between 8 September 1943 and 8 May 1945, in combat as well as in silent resistance among those prisoners by the Germans in Venice, Pola, in France, in the Balkans, in Greece, in Crete, in the Aegean, very often after having fought hard, and subsequently interned in Germany, Poland, Austria, France and Yugoslavia.

Under co-belligerency, the Italian Navy performed 63.398 missions, covering 4.518.175 miles, equal to 209 times the length of the Equator; the lost ships amounted to 24 units, for a total of 6.959 tons, not counting the means requisitioned by the Germans and the 199 ships and warships under construction which were sabotaged so as not to fall into enemy hands.

The commitment and sacrifice of the personnel of the Regia Marina was recognized with the granting of 52 Gold Medals for Military Valor and about 3.000 decorations for valour.

The Navy remembers its fallen and all the combatants who, with their loyalty to the institution, played a decisive role in the War of Liberation.

In memory of their sacrifices and their determination, on the occasion of April 25, two examples among the many brave ones of that conflict are remembered: one of the most experienced commanders, and one of the youngest fighters, both decorated with the Gold Medal for Valor Military

Jerzy Sas Kulczycki - frigate captain

He was born in Rome on December 24, 1905. Of Polish origin, he was a student at the Naval Academy of Livorno from 1921 and in 1927 he was appointed ensign.

His involvement in the history of national liberation began after the armistice of 8 September 1943, when, embarked on the ship Count of Cavour in the rank of frigate captain, he organized the first groups of soldiers for the resistance in the Veneto region. He first became commander of the Armed Forces of the Fatherland (FADP), but his work was abruptly interrupted due to the arrest, on December 22, 1943, in Venice, of some of his collaborators and the seizure of a lot of material relating to the FADP.

He moved to Milan, and gave life to Italian Armed Volunteers (VAI), a body conceived and wanted as a single block of all patriotic forces with exclusively military and apolitical characteristics of which he was appointed chief of staff. The VAI had branches throughout northern Italy and seems to have reached a considerable number of 5000 men, who carried out an extensive information service in favor of the allied armies and operated with guerrilla and sabotage activities. Two other reasons reinforce the belief that it was a serious and important organization: the interest of the Social Republic, which deemed it appropriate to report Commander Kulczycki's activity to the Germans, and the large bounty (initially half a million and, subsequently, a million lire) which was placed on the head of the commander himself.

A spy infiltrated the organization and, for money, had other collaborators close to Kulczycki arrested by the SS in Genoa on 31 March. All the heads of the Milanese VAI also fell into German hands. Kulczycki was captured in Genoa on April 15, 1944, and immediately transferred to the San Vittore prison in Milan, from where he still managed to continue his work as a fervent patriot. He was subsequently transferred to the infamous Fossoli concentration camp, where he resisted all torture and was shot on July 14, 1944. He was decorated with the Gold Medal for Military Valor in memory.

Below is the motivation for the award of the "Gold Medal":

"A senior officer of exceptional military and moral virtues, already distinguished in war operations and pervaded by deep love of country, he faced the Armistice to the enemies of the country, starting without delay the organization of the first military resistance groups in the Veneto region.

Subsequently recognized as chief of staff of the movement of the Italian Armed Volunteers, he gave life in the Northern Regions to considerable military and sabotage activity against the oppressor and his acolytes.

Subjected to large ransom, indifferent to the imminent risks, he carried out the active work of animator and leader for seven months. Actively wanted, he was only arrested following denunciations. Superb example to those present for serenity and greatness of mind in front of the firing squad, he gave the country an existence entirely dedicated to his greatness and to his duty as Soldier and Sailor ".

(Fossoli, 14 July 1944)

Gerolamo Spezia - naval engineer

He was born in Vezzano Ligure (La Spezia) on June 21, 1925. Apprentice turner worker in the MM Arsenal of La Spezia, enrolled in the sea service, eligible for the enrollment visit and registered for the call after the assignment of the freshman and the category ( Naval engineer) and placed on unlimited leave pending the call of the class. At the declaration of the armistice on 8 September 1943, he abandoned his job so as not to collaborate with the German invader, he gave himself over to the clandestine resistance struggle, joining a partisan formation which had arisen in the Vezzano Ligure - Calice al Cornoviglio area, in the in which he first assumed the position of squad commander and then of company, with the equivalent rank of second lieutenant. He participated in numerous war actions against German armed units and fell in combat on 8 October 1944, while boldly opposing superior German forces which, by means of an encirclement action, aimed at the annihilation of the battalion to which he belonged. 

Among the first to start the struggle for the liberation of the country, he fueled, in the burning pain for the unjust shooting of his father, the proud indignation against foreign tyranny. Superbly audacious, he never hesitated before the risk and he carried out numerous acts of sabotage, armed with hand grenades and explosives, causing havoc and destruction in the enemy rear.

In command of his partisan squad, fighting strenuously against the pressure of the German hordes, he sustained their impact for long hours and, although wounded, he refused any help to remain alongside his battalion commander and fight like a lion to protect the retreat of his comrades , until struck in the heart, fell electrocuted offering the young life in supreme holocaust for the liberation of Italy.

Ligurian area, 8 September 1943 - 8 October 1944