When the Navy and politicians in Sicily decided to have a ceremony in honor of the heroes of Operation Husky they found because of the high powered political involvement that security concerns and the demonstrators mentioned before would make a Ponte Dirillo ceremony difficult. Therefore the decision was made to not have the traditional ceremony and wreath laying there. This was unacceptable to the family of LTC Arthur F. Gorham who gave up his life there. His name is on the top of the memorial there. The family chose to organize its own ceremony with the help of Sicilian friends.
On the evening of 9 July the Clarke family (Colonel Bruce Clarke is LTC Gorham’s son.) gathered at the Ponte Dirillo memorial for a meaningful ceremony. The ceremony started with a procession lead by Alex Clarke and Philip Zurn (Colonel Clarke’s grandsons) carrying flowers followed by a local priest and a group of volunteers carrying the wreath with LTC Gorham’s name on it. Senor Ventura who owns the site of the memorial placed the bouquets of flowers at two locations where American soldiers had fallen. The priest then conducted a short set of prayers and then blessed the memorial. A local Italian then played the Italian version of taps. It was very moving.
Colonel Clarke, following the ceremony, presented Senor Ventura a specially minted coin in remembrance of the event. Colonel Clarke also presented coins to the priest and other Sicilians who were instrumental in arranging the ceremony. Everyone there wanted pictures with LTC Gorham’s direct family (only a two year old grandson and his mother were missing.) The entire contingent was wearing polo shirts with the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment Crest on them and a reference to the 70th Anniversary of Operation Husky.
Following the ceremony there was a three hour dinner with the over 40 Sicilians in the courtyard of Senor Ventura’s farm. There were multiple courses of locally grown produce, pizza and this was topped off with a special cake and champagne.
The kindness and outgoing thanks for the American contribution to the freedom of Sicily was obvious.
This ceremony at Ponte Dirillo, the critical battle of the Sicilian invasion, highlighted the efforts of the brave warriors who began the effort to rid Italy and Europe of the scourge of Fascism’s two evil dictatorships. It also reminded us that as we contemplate the sacrifices made 70 years ago that each of us needs to insure that these warriors’
lives continue to be relevant in our search for freedom from the tyranny that terrorists
would impose on us. We as an international community must remember that for without
victory there is no survival. Those brave men and women of 70 years ago understood
Let me close by reassuring the families of those who gave their lives for freedom that we understand their sacrifice by quoting The Absent Legions by – Edgar A. Guest
Somewhere, far away, ‘they heard us
When the word of Victory stirred us.
Safe within God’s Holy keeping,
Heard us cheer and saw us weeping;
Shared in all we did or said-
Freedom’s glorious, youngest dead.
Never doubt it, there was gladness
Where the dead are done with madness,
Hate and hurt, and need for dying.
As they saw our banners flying
On our day of joyous pride,
” ‘Twas for this,” said they,
What if tears our eyes had blinded.
As of them we were reminded?
Never doubt it. they were voicing
Somewhere. songs of great rejoicing;
Glad to look on earth and see
Safe our country. still. and free.
Next will be the ceremony held on 10 July in Gela, Sicily.