Giovanni Nebbia’s partisan identification card, issued in 1950 by the Associazione Nazionale Partigiani d’Italia, or National Association of the Italian Partisans, acknowledges his involvement with the Banda Gran Sasso from September 25, 1943 to June 20, 1944
Captain Giovanni Nebbia’s activity as an I.S.9 “helper” took place along the Adriatic coast of central Italy, including the port towns of Termoli, Manfredonia, and Vieste.
In 1943 Captain Nebbia spearheaded an operation to save the fishing fleet of San Benedetto del Tronto, which was under threat of seizure by the Germans, who were due for arrival in the town the next morning. On completion of the mission, Radio Bari broadcast news of the successful event, today described in Italian history books as ‘Operazione Nebbia.’”
An account of “Operation Nebbia” in Giovanni Nebbia’s own words, translated into English by Annelisa, is below. The original document in Italian is at the end of this post.
To Major R. E. ITALO POSTIGLIONE
Commander 23rd and 24th Patriot Groups
Having returned home after my departure from San Benedetto del Tronto in the night of 4-5 October 1943, I hasten to give you notice of the mission entrusted to me by you and of subsequent events.
According to the orders that you had given to me, on that date I immediately proceeded with the help of other officers from the groups of patriots to steal the fishing boats/trawlers and minesweepers requisitioned for certain capture by the Germans; such vessels in the port of San Benedetto del Tronto were equipped with local elements, and we launched them for the ports of southern Italy that were already in the hands of the Allies.
In all there were about 20 fishing boats, but only 16 of them set off. The rest fled a few days later in dribs and drabs.
At 9:00 p.m. we began to alert the owners and captains [of our impending departure], who in turn informed the crews. Then we began a hasty boarding of the most essential things for navigation and supplies for a stay that we hoped should not last for more than a month. Some trawlers’ owners also took their families on board, especially children and the young men who might be subject to round-up by the Germans.
At 1:00 a.m. on 5 October 1943, the trawlers embarked.
As we had agreed, I earlier had given orders to the captains to make an east-bound route out of the harbor and keep the course for two hours so as to get at least 12 miles from the coast, then to go towards the Tremiti so as to be in that neighborhood by broad daylight.
Everything went as planned; the trawlers sailed in no particular order, with lights off, and in complete silence yet at a distance where it was possible for us to see each other with the naked eye; nothing came to disturb the peace, nor were any ships sighted or did anything else happen that could make us deviate from our route.
At 10:00 a.m. on October 5 we were in view of the Tremiti islands. Considering we had already passed the danger zone, the vessels scattered; three of them, including the one on which I had embarked, headed for Manfredonia where they arrived at about 5 p.m., while the others made their way to the port of Termoli.
I learned later that the boats were not able to enter that port because battle was still raging and so they were forced to wait outside Vieste, while some others headed for the port of the Tremiti. However [in time] they all arrived happily and safely.
Towards the second half of October, I left on the trawler from Manfredonia to take food to the Tremiti Islands under the order of an A.M.G.O.T. American officer who sailed with us; after three days we returned to Manfredonia.
On 28th October 1943, Mr. Elio Tremaroli arrived at the port from San Benedetto del Tronto and told me that in Termoli the Allies were looking for a man who was an expert on the coast north of this port, [who would be] able to fulfill missions in the territory occupied by the Germans on behalf of “A Force”.
We set off for Termoli overland, but when we arrived there the English Command told me I had to return with the trawler.
We went back to Manfredonia, and on 2nd November I left for Termoli with the boat. We stayed there a few days with nothing to do and finally, tired of waiting, I took advantage of a fishing boat that was leaving for a mission to the north, and together with Mr. Tremaroli I embarked.
We landed near the river Tronto at night and from there I made my way to the mountain of the Ascension [Mount Ascensione], Ascoli Piceno, in the hope of finding groups of patriots from San Benedetto del Tronto.
In fact, I found the group under the orders of Capriotti Augusto (then aspiring to become an ensign) and from him I learnt that I was being actively sought by the fascists and the Germans concerning the escape of the boats. Therefore I decided to stay with the group, but since there were no orders to attack the Germans and as I was forced to stay in hiding all day—living like a cave-dweller—I decided to leave for the south.
On 6th December I left the group and, walking only by night and in the fields, on the 12th I came to the mouth of the river Tronto and hid nearby.
Having gotten in touch with resistant elements from Martinsicuro, on 22nd December 1943 I was able to leave on a trawler called “THREE BROTHERS” heading south and under fire from the Germans, who were aware of our escape.
On the morning of the 23rd we were in Termoli, and I immediately left again aboard the trawler “SAN NICOLA” for Manfredonia, to which most of the boats that had escaped from San Benedetto del Tronto had fled.
I reached Manfredonia on 24th December and, embarking on the “STELLA MARIS,” I left that town for Molfetta. On 5th January 1944 I decided to go to the Authorities of Regia Marina, but a strong bout of flu and bronchitis caused me to delay my turning up until 24th February 1944; I then went to the Naval Command of Bari and on the 25th they sent me to Taranto, where I presented myself to the Ministry of the Navy and I was taken into service.
San Benedetto del Tronto, 3rd August 1944
Ensign Giovanni Nebbia
In another post on this site, Nicola Lagalla recounted his and his brother Liberato’s role in transporting Captain J. H. Derek Millar and dozens of other escaped POWs down the Adriatic coast from San Benedetto del Tronto to Allied-held territory. It was an operation in which Giovanni Nebbia played a role. (See “Nicola and Liberato Lagalla—Rescue by Sea.”
It seems reasonable to assume that the boats used by the Lagalla brothers to transport former prisoners were two of the four that Captain Nebbia said remained in San Benedetto del Tronto after October 25—ships that left days later “in dribs and drabs.”
“My brother and I knew nothing of the prisoners until we were approached by Commander Nebbia—my nautical professor—and Mr. Antonio Marchegiani.
“Prior to their approaching us, my brother and I had already decided that we were going to escape [from San Benedetto del Tronto] with our boats within two days. The boats belonged to my nonno [grandfather] Emidio Lagalla.
“They were the only two boats left on the wharf—and due to be sunk by the Germans.
“When Nebbia and Marchegiani came to us, they asked what we were planning to do with the boats. We trusted them and so told them that we had planned to escape with them.
“Nebbia and Marchegiani told us that there were a lot of prisoners waiting to escape. It would be very risky, but would help the prisoners?”
Captain Nebbia and Marchegiani then arranged for the boarding of the prisoners, which the teenagers skippered to Termoli.
See also “Captain L. C. Giovanni Nebbia.”
Giovanni Nebbia’s original document in Italian