Salvo D'Acquisto

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Salvo D'Acquisto

Salvo D'Acquisto (15[1] or 17 October[2] 1920 in Naples – 23 September 1943 in Fiumicino[3]) was a member of the Italian Carabinieri during the Second World War. He was posthumously awarded the Gold Medal of Military Valor and is being considered for beatification for sacrificing himself to save 22 civilians from being executed by German soldiers.


Salvo D'Acquisto was born in Naples, the eldest of eight children, three of whom died in infancy, and another as a child. His father worked in a chemical factory. He left school at the age of 14, as was customary for working-class boys at the time.[4]

He volunteered to join the Carabinieri in 1939 and left for Libya the next year, a few months before the start of the Second World War. After being wounded in the leg, he remained with his division until he contracted malaria. He returned to Italy in 1942 to attend officer school. He graduated as a vice-sergeant and was assigned to an outpost in Torrimpietra, a little rural center on the Via Aurelia not far from Rome.

On 25 July 1943, Benito Mussolini was overthrown, and the new Italian government negotiated secretly with the Allies to switch sides. An armistice was officially announced on 8 September.


Around 8 September, a division of German SS troops camped near an old military installation previously used by the Guardia di Finanza, in the vicinity of Palidoro, frazione of Fiumicino which was in the territorial jurisdiction of the station of Torrimpietra, another frazione of the same municipality. Here, on 22 September, German soldiers were inspecting boxes of abandoned munitions when there was an explosion. Two died and two others were wounded.[4]

D'Acquisto's tomb in Santa Chiara, Naples

The commander of the German division blamed the death on "unnamed locals" and demanded the cooperation of the Carabinieri, at the moment under D'Acquisto's temporary command. The next morning, D'Acquisto, having gathered some information, tried in vain to explain that the death was an accident, but the Germans insisted on their version of events and demanded reprisals, according to the order of Feldmarschall Kesselring issued a few days before.

On 23 September, the Germans conducted searches and arrested 22 local residents. An armed squad took D'Acquisto by force from the station to the Torre di Palidoro, an ancient watchtower, where the prisoners were gathered. Under interrogation, all of the civilians said that they were innocent. When the Germans again demanded to know the names of the responsible persons, D'Acquisto replied that there were none – the explosion was accidental. The Germans ridiculed, insulted, and beat him, and tore his uniform.

Suddenly, the prisoners were handed shovels and forced to dig a mass grave for their own burial after execution. The digging went on for some time; when it was completed, it was obvious the Germans meant to carry out their threat. D'Acquisto then "confessed" to the alleged crime, declared that he alone was responsible for the "murder" and that the civilians were innocent, and demanded that they be released right away. One of those freed, 17-[4] or 18-year-old[5] Angelo Amadio, witnessed the execution by firing squad. D'Acquisto was 22. His remains are preserved at the Church of St. Clara in Naples, in the first chapel on the left, near the entrance.


Statue of Salvo D'Acquisto, located in front of the train station at Cisterna, Italy
Memorial plaque to Salvo D'Acquisto

He is considered to be a Roman Catholic martyr and has been proposed for beatification by the Holy See. On 26 February 2001, Pope John Paul II in his Address to the Italian Carabinieri stated, “The history of the Italian Carabinieri shows that the heights of holiness can be reached in the faithful and generous fulfillment of the duties of one's state. I am thinking here of your colleague, Sergeant Salvo D'Acquisto, awarded a gold medal for military valor, whose cause of beatification is under way.”[6]

A film, Salvo D'Acquisto (1974), was made about his sacrifice, directed by Romula Guerrieri and starring Massimo Ranieri.[7] A 2003 TV mini-series was directed by Alberto Sironi and starred Beppe Fiorello.[8]

An Italian postage stamp was issued in 1975 to commemorate him. The portrait was painted by the Italian artist Silvano Campeggi.[9]

There are monuments honoring D'Acquisto, including in his native Naples[10] and on the Via Aurelia near Rome.[11] There is a monument to Salvo D'Acquisto in front of the train station at Cisterna.


“We have to conform ourselves to God’s will whatever the cost in suffering or sacrifice.”[citation needed]


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