The German reinforcement was facilitated by the decision of General Gandin to abandon the village of Kardakata, manned by units of the 3rd Battalion of the 317th Infantry and the 2nd battalion of the 17th Infantry, where the Germans controlled the roads from the North of the Isle and from the Paliki peninsula. The decision was taken during the negotiations between our Command and the German one, in order to demonstrate the willingness of avoiding an armed battle.
It was an important tactical mistake that gave the Germans the advantage of operating undisturbed in that area of the Isle: they could disembark men and equipment in the bays of Aghios, Kiriaki and Mirtos.
Later a dispatch by the Navy of Brindisi said to consider the German troops as enemies and, when the Germans asked for the surrender for the last time, General Gandin replied that the "Acqui" Division would not have surrendered and they would have expelled by force the enemy.
On 15th September 1943 at 2.00 p.m. the Stukas started to arrive from Greece and they bombed all the Italian coastal positions. The airstrikes have been continued undisturbed for a few days.
Soon after the German Air Force destroyed all the Italian reserves of ammunitions, food and war material.
Their best preparation and best armament compensated for their numerical inferiority; meanwhile the German reinforcement had already outflanked our positions and they prevailed over our courageous soldiers.
On 22nd September, after having called to the war Council for the last time, General Gandin ordered the surrender without conditions. After seven days of fighting our losses were about 1300 units including Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers and soldiers. In view of their crushing victory, the Commander of the German forces granted the freedom to act to his men against the Italian surrendered soldiers.
The Germans arrested the Italian surrendered soldiers in the courtyard of Mussolini Barracks and in Argostoli prisons.
On 24th September about 180 Italian Officers were brought into the courtyard of a small red house just outside the city of Argostoli and shot in a natural pit.
The executions lasted all the morning until when the enemy soldiers granted the grace to the last 36 Officers if they had fascist cards or they were from the Southern Tirolo.
In that night the tortures forced 17 sailors to load the dead people in the pit onto the trucks, take them to the port of Argostoli and load them onto rafts. When our soldiers arrived offshore the islet of Vardiani, they were forced to burden the bodies with barbed wire and throe them into the sea. Those 17 sailors were killed to have been witnesses of barbarism.
At the beginning of October the Germans organized the embarkations that had to take the prisoners in internment camps of Europe. The ships were overloaded with prisoners (800/1200 in each embarkation), many of which never reached the destination because they were sunk by the allied bombings or by the Italian mines. In that occasion 2500 soldiers died.
The dramatic events finished in the isle of Cephalonia.
In fifteen days the "Acqui" Division has lost thousands of its men. Only a few Italian soldiers saved themselves from the massacre and then from the sinking; two-thirds of them were sent to the European prison camps and a third was imprisoned on the island and forced to labour. There were also sabotages and collaborations with the partisans of the Greek Resistance. The survivors returned to Italy in November on British ships.
*Historical pictures from the "Apollonio" photographic Archive, given to the "Acqui" Division National Association