Stories from the past
During the last year of the second world war, from April 1944 to April 1945, the Garfagnana area was the scene of intense bombing by the anglo-american forces; their target was the destruction of bridges, roads and railways, in order to disrupt the connections behind the enemy lines. The protagonists of these operations were the fighters P47 “Thunderbolt” belonging to the 66° fighter squadron stationed at Grosseto air base. The pilots of this group were engaged in various air missions in central and northern Italy. Among these operations, many Garfagnana citizens still remember the so called “fourth term operation” which took place on February 8th 1945: it was an air support mission to the 92° Buffalo infantry division. That day, in Garfagnana skies, there were also the P47 fighters of Lieutenant Theodore Matula and of the second Lieutenant Alfred R. Lyth. The first plane crashed in the village of Caprignana, after being hit by the german anti-aircraft emplacements (the deadly Flak). The pilot saved himself by jumping out with his parachute. The second plane, piloted by the second Lieutenant Lyth, was hit by a previous explosion (more specifically, the explosion of a train loaded with ammunitions that was previously bombed). His plane crashed above the village of Torrite, right in front of the Pruneta di Sopra farmhouse. Even in this case, the pilot managed to jump with his parachute. The two unfortunate soldiers were later captured by the Monterosa Alpine Division and conducted to their military headquarter in Camporgiano. At the end of the war, only Lieutenant Matula returned home while the second Lieutenant Lyth was killed by Captain Simonitti of the Monterosa division, in unclear circumstances, during the period of his captivity.
In May 1945 a special american delegation started to investigate about Lyth death, collecting several statements of many witnesses. At the end of investigations, Captain Simonitti, General Carloni, Lieutenant Peruzzi, Sergeant Smith and Sergeant Pilon were brought in front of the american martial court. The positions of Peruzzi and Rossi were carved out from the trial; the General Carloni was demoted to colonel and acquitted, Captain Simonitti and Sergeant Pilon were considered guilty for the murder of second Lieutenant Lyth. Sergeant Pilon was sentenced to life imprisonment while Simonitti was sentenced to death.
Today, Lieutenant Lyth rests in the american military cemetery of Impruneta (near Florence). Only few fragments of the Lyth plane were found in Pruneta di Sopra property (and in nearby properties) by some local people over the years.