USS DeSoto County LST 1171
is a translation of the article that appeared in
the Italian Naval magazine,
di CAORLE E GRADO"
di ALDO DE FLORIO
The translation was
graciously provided by the Italian Consulate
in Boston, Massachusetts.
We offer our sincere thanks and appreciation for their work.
Caorle and Grado
Their demolition closes an historic cycle of the amphibious division of the Italian Navy
By Aldo De Florio
When the naval
vessel "Grado" was relocated to Naples for its demolition, its twin, the
"Caorle" followed the same fate. The "Caorle" crossed the Navigable Canal
("Canale Navigabile") for the last time on December 23, 1999, with the extraordinary
opening of 14.45* to reach Naples, having struggled after four days of travel.
was not a Merry Christmas for that ship, who, having been built for war,
found itself involved in a primarily humanitarian act, ironically subjected to the "death"
during this symbolic time of year.
sentimentality, it must be said that the two ships, "Caorle" and "Grado"
represented for the Italian Navy the utmost in training vessels for the formation of the
amphibious crafts. This was in part due to the intense preparation by special landing
forces, configured in the current Saint Mark "Reggimento San Marco". Their
contribution is also significant in planning terms to the construction of three
amphibious units, "San Giorgio", "San Marco", and "San Giusto" currently in service.
Italy, in fact,
did not have any specific experience with amphibious crafts until the
1950's; the first amphibious operations conducted "garibaldina"** occurred after the
attempted landing at Lissa and were organized by Persano (1866) in 1911 when a
group of sailors under command of Captain Umberto Cagni occupied Tripoli. Another
event that reminds us of the massacre of General Tellini's delegation in Janina, the
work of Greek rebels.
of significance occurred after that episode, yet the attempt to
organize the landing at Malta during World War II emphasized the utility of the state-
owned railroad's ferry boats.
Italy had no
amphibious structural organization at the end of World War II while the
major powers gave strength to the "wide range" operations, and also gave strong
impulse to the construction of naval vessels capable of transporting large quantities
of equipment and officers to undertake the operations over and above the usual
levels of gravitation.
government began to recognize the need to become up-to-date, and for
financial reasons, the problem was resolved with the acquisition of a number of U.S.
logistic units for a "symbolic price".
The U.S. launched
a first phase of vessels, an organizational phase lasting until the
1970's, comprised of "Etna" (the former USS Whitley), "Andrea Bafile" (the former
USS St. George), "Anteo" (the former USS Alemada County), and "Cavezzale" (the
former USS Oyster Bay). "Cavezzale" was utilized with the transformed corvette "Ape"
for training the special attack forces in the "Comando Incursori".
early 1960's, the Italian Navy planned to construct themselves a set of
three small amphibious vessels, but only the first of these, the "Quarto" was ever
placed in the water of the scab*** N.1 of the Military Arsenal of Taranto in 1967.
In 1972, the
U.S. released to the Italian Navy two amphibious vessels of medium
tonnage of the "DeSoto/Suffolk County" class launched in 1957 and tested in
Viet Nam. The DeSoto County was renamed "Grado", and the York County was
renamed "Caorle". The two units were used not only for training, but also in
assisting natural disaster areas and transporting contingents of peace during peace
is the assistance rendered in 1978 to the Friulian population hit
by an earthquake, and that given in Yugoslavia for the earthquake in Montenegro.
The logistic support rendered with the Italian-Maltese in 1980 and more import-
antly the two missions in Lybia prove the technical capacity of the two vessels.
"Libano 1" (August 21-September 15, 1982-October 19, 1984) established a
more direct support of the Italian land contingent under the command of
General Franco Angioni, was instrumental in the Multinational Peace Forces.
test was conducted with the notable naval diplomatic skill of Captain
Pierluigi Sambo who traveled with the "Grado" from Brindisi, and of Catain
Francesco Rollo, who traveled with the "Caorle" from La Maddalena, interrupting
the ceremony in honor of the anniversary of the death of Garibaldi.
On that occasion,
the "Caorle" reached the port of Jounieh and landed, saving
350 civilians, 80 of whom were Italians.
to a permanent berth in Brindisi, the two ships continued to
operate in accordance with the Third Naval Division: The "Grado" until 1988,
and the "Caorle" until 1989. The years show their durability in the "Quadro del
ten years waiting on the docks of Grupnul, the "Grado" was
aquired by the Simont Company, and the "Coarle" was acquired by the Rotrafer
Company, and were then on their way to being destroyed.
One other unit of the Italian Navy had the name of "Grado", a destroyer.
This ship was
assigned to Italy in 1920 following the Versailles treaty, together
with six other vessels of the "Tatra" class. They took the names "Fosana", "Zenson",
"Monfalcone", Cortellazzo", "Pola", and "Muggia".
operated primarily in Alto Adriatico performing an intense representative
and training activity, and was taken out of the Torpedo class in 1929 when it was
used for exercises combined with MAS and until 1937 when it was destroyed.
*The opening of the Canale Navigabile
was extraordinary since it had specific times at
which it would open during the day. From that context, 14.45 was not a specific time
for the Canal to open.
**"Garibaldina" cannot be accurately
translated. It refers an operation or task done with great
heroics and enthusiasm, but with no skill or practice.
***Speculation here. An offered
opinion is that the water referred to is the Bay of
Naples, and the scab is Mount Etna. Italians refer to volcanoes as "scabs of the land".
Anyone with a better solution to this phrase is welcome to voice it.
I did not include the ship's stats, i.e. length, width,
We already have that noted elsewhere.
I hope you enjoyed this final chapter in the life of the
USS DeSoto/York County and how they fit into Italian Naval history.
Update - 6/12/2002
A veteran of the Italian Navy
found this site and signed my guest book.
I wrote back to him and he was kind enough to clarify some information
from the article that the Embassy was unsure of. My thanks to Maurizo Matellicani
for his information and extra pictures. He sent me one, and linked me to another.
First, his explanations:
1. "The translation
about 'garibaldina' is quite correct. 'Fare qualcosa alla Garibaldina'
(to do something 'alla garibaldina') is a popular expression to indicate an action done bravely,
boldly, with impetus; this expression comes from Giuseppe Garibaldi, a "Two World's Hero",
because all his battles were fought this way. In the contest about the first amphibious operation
conducted in 1866 and 1911, the author puts in evidence the lack of landing ships, but not
of heroism and enthusiasm."
Maurizo corrected my misinterprutation of his first email - "Giuseppe Garibaldi was
the main creator of Italy's reunification in the 1860's; he also fought in South America
(Colombia, Argentina, Peru, and Chile). He was born in Nizza (now Nice, France) in
1807 and died on June 2, 1882 at Caprera, Sardinia.
More on Garibaldi can be found at: http://www.sc.edu/library/spcoll/hist/garib/garib.html
2. "My knowledge about
LST Quarto's history is quite sufficient: from 1969 to 1971
I was embarked on the Nave Bafile (USS St. George AV16), flag ship of the 3rd Division
that included Nave Etna (USS Whitley), Nave Anteo (USS Alamada County), Nave Quarto,
and later, Nave Grado and Nave Caorle (USS DeSoto and York Counties). Nave Quarto
was built in the Naval Shipyard of the Military Arsenal in Taranto in 1967. After a few
years service in the 3rd division, was assigned...out from the first line, owing to heavy
problems on the structure.
"I don't know the meaning
of the word 'scab'...Probably a misunderstanding: The
Quarto was probably placed in the water from the dry dock n.1 of the Arsenale di
Taranto. The Etna, in Sicily, is really the most active volcano in Europe. I don't
know, at this time, the real end of the Quarto, or the date and place of destruction."
I am very grateful to Maurizo
for taking the time to add these notes to our
understanding. And again, he sent me a picture of the Grado that he had, and
gave me links to pages where I found another picture of the Nave Grado. I will
search further to see if I can also find another picture of the Nave Caorle.
Click to see larger image
Amphibious ops off
1980 - Brindisi, Italy
The Grado's home port
Foto by Nicola
Return to the DeSoto County