OSS Missions and Partisans Guerrilla Behind Enemy Lines in Northern Italy

By Alessio Parisi, Battlefield Tour Guide

In the morning of January 18th, 1945, a cold and sunny day over north-western Italy, a C-47 escorted by four Spitfire fighters taken off from Rosignano airfield, dropped a small group of men behind enemy lines on the Appennines between Genoa and the Po River valley.

They were the advanced party of Office of Strategic Services’ 2671st Special Reconnaissance Battalion mission Peedee, led by Capt. Leslie J. Vanoncini. “Van” and his men had one of the most dangerous targets of all:  operate in occupied territory with local underground movement and British SOE Mission “Clover II”, to coordinate guerrilla against German and fascist troops following the guidelines of the 15th Army Group, to prevent destruction of railroads, power plants and other strategic locations and to organize aerial supplies for the Resistance.

Most of Peedee members were Italian-American volunteers that joined OSS since its foundation in 1942, to help regular Army in the task of liberating the land of their parents or of their ancestors.  

Snow was high all over the Drop Zone in Monte Antola and, during winter 1944/45, the OSS Mission fought both against cold climate of the Appennines, the hunger and the continue German effort to capture the Mission and the partisan’s HQ who were based in Carrega Ligure town, 3140 ft. on the top of Borbera river Valley. From January to April 1945 Peedee, received other OSS agents to improve its job on the field and personally handled over 115 airdrops on the 19 drop zones spotted in the early days after their jump.

Bazooka, TNT demo blocks and modern weapons were dropped in this area, with tons of equipment and uniforms, to improve guerrilla warfare and the mission organized different courses to instruct the partisans on how to use these weapons properly and to teach them anti-scorch techniques.

Peedee’s targets were all accomplished: bridges and tunnels have been interrupted and a huge number of trucks, locomotives and railroad cars were destroyed by partisans and Peedee’s members to prevent German retreat to Po River valley and to hit their supply lines from Genoa’s harbor to northern Italy.

During the final days of the war in Italy, Peedee’s intelligence info helped USAAF and RAF to set targets for their bombing missions and, when the 92nd Division arrived in liberated Genoa, on April 27th, Peedee contacted Divisional G-2 to give them the set-up on roads and bridges of the entire area.

After the war most of Van’s team has been awarded with Bronze and Silver Stars and got the honorary citizenship of Genoa, the city they helped to liberate and the only city in occupied Europe where local German HQ surrendered to local partisans instead of regular Allied Armies.

The final report of the mission reports that “the conduct of the men at all times was that which would reflect honor on the Army of the United States”.

A special part of our Italy tour is dedicated to OSS missions over northern Italy and our guide Alessio Parisi will bring you to some of the places where Peedee operated during the struggle for victory.

Photos from Italy - FBT Tours

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