On 11 November 1961 in Kindu, Congo, a serious tragedy took place for the Italian Air Force. On the border with Katanga, the Congolese region from which the civil war that threatened the existence of the then Republic of Congo – proclaimed just over a year earlier – brutally died thirteen Italian aviators. Sixty years after the terrible massacre, the Blue Army commemorates its fallen today, at the headquarters of the 46th Air Brigade in Pisa, with the new Chief of Staff, General Luca Goretti . A laurel wreath was placed at the Kindu shrine in the Tuscan capital and mass was celebrated by the military ordinary, Archbishop Santo Marciano . THE COMMEMORATION
“We are in Niger, the problem is not over in Africa, and Italy will be present, in relation to government decisions, and will do its part as it has always done in all these years, with pride, passion and competence”, Goretti explained. In fact, in these days, the 46th Brigade itself, together with the Folgore, is engaged in Niger in a training mission for the paratroopers battalion and local security forces. And also for the current commitments, said the head of the Armed Force, the victims of Kindu “have been an example of humanity, and as such they should be remembered and recognized; and a tribute that we owe them and their families who have never tired of remembering ”. For the occasion, a C-119 was restored, the same aircraft used for the peacekeeping mission in Congo, The plane has been restored to its original color. “We wanted to make something that lasted for the next sixty years; and the largest aircraft restored by the Air Force “, explained the commander of the 46th Brigade, the generalAlessandro De Lorenzo , discovering the aircraft at the military airport of Pisa. THE STORY
It was 11 November 1961 when two C-119 transport planes (‘Lyra 5’ and ‘Lupo 33’) of the 46th Italian Air Force stationed in Pisa, departed from the capital Leopoldville, landed at Kindu airport. The two aircraft were part of a support contingent for the stabilization operation of the Congolese territory of the United Nations, transporting the necessary supplies to the small Malaysian peacekeepers garrison that controlled the airport. Apparently a mission like many up to then, considering that for more than a year the Italian aviation had been providing about 70% of the air transport needs for the UN contingent. Once the unloading operations were completed, the two crews of the aircraft plus a medical officer left the airport to go to the nearby UN garrison canteen. As relations with the indigenous population were good, the aviators moved unarmed, sadly unaware of the massacre that would take place shortly thereafter. Indeed, it was during lunch that they were surprisingly attacked by a group of about 80 mutinous Congolese militiamen. The medical officer lost his life in the clash, while the airmen were forcibly loaded into a truck and taken to the local prison in the city, where they were brutally killed in the night.TRAGEDY IN TRAGEDY
The news about the tragedy of the killing of Italian aviators arrives late within the Italian national borders. The information arrived fragmented, and only on November 16 was the official news of the Kindu massacre broadcast by radio. The news went around the world, while in Italy people clung to the families of the victims. The exact circumstances of the massacre remained confused for a long time. Unfortunately, there were no traces of the bodies of the victims, and there was a fear that the rebels had wreaked havoc on them and threw them into the river. Only a long time later it was discovered that the bodies were buried in two mass graves, thanks to the intervention of a graduate of the Congolese police. The bodies were only exhumed four months later, thanks to the identification of some colleagues.
Finally, on 11 March 1962, the bodies arrived in Pisa aboard a US plane escorted by the Italian Air Force. The following day, in the presence of the then President of the Republic Antonio Segni , the solemn funeral rites were celebrated in commemoration of the fallen. The bodies are still preserved today in the shrine of the fallen of Kindu, the aeronautical temple built ad hoc in Pisa. To commemorate the victims and keep their memory alive in the collective memory, a stele was also erected at the entrance to Fiumicino airport in Rome. THE END OF THE OPERATION IN CONGO
The out-of-area operation in Congo officially ended on June 19, 1962 for the 46th aircraft. Although the operating theater was very complex, the note from the Ministry of Defense recorded very high numbers for the Air Force: “2,177 sorties for a total of 9,165 flight hours, necessary to transport 8,100 passengers and about 4,700 tons of material”. The first peacekeeping mission of the Italian Air Force on behalf of the United Nations and cost a lot to the 46th aerobrigata, which saw the loss of 21 men and three aircraft. The 13 killed in the Kindu massacre were awarded the gold medal for military valor in 1994.

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