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A Capua Sailor: Osvaldo Conti

Osvaldo Conti

On the first landing of the staircase entrance of city hall in Capua, lies for many decades now, a majestic marble slab, which faithfully records the events that occurred in World War Two to five of our citizens who were awarded Gold medals for their actions.

It is  just and proper to remember that many Capuans were awarded high military honors.  But due to the insensitivity of our contemporaries or for other reasons, the memory of these brave people are becoming hopelessly lost.

Regarding our five Capuans (in alphabetical order are Gen. Amico, Lt. Andreozzi, the Sergeant Conti, Gen. De Carolis and the young Santagata), we want to concentrate on Osvaldo Conti, because he is the least known and to pay tribute to the Italian Navy which gave Capua few, but brave and worthy sons.

The documents from which I conducted this research were provided in part by the Historical Office of MMI, through the benevolent assistance of the former Chief of Staff, Admiral Umberto Guarnieri. I welcome this opportunity to thank one of the most illustrious, dutiful Capuans who made our city proud.

Osvaldo Ulderico Conti was born in Capua, at 12:00 on 11 May 1915, in Via Pier delle Vigne 45.  His father, Biagio, was 34 and a railroad employee.  His mother was Anna Delli Bovi.

Just as most fathers, Biagio documented the happy event with the Registry Office of the City of Capua, on 13 May 1915. Accompanying him as witnesses, were relatives Godfrey, 24 years old and a dealer, and Dominic D’Ettore, an employee of 33 years.

Regarding what we know so far of the Conti family, there is very little. Certainly as early as 1932, the family became residents of Aversa and no longer resided in Capua.

In fact, in August of that year, Osvaldo suspended his second year of work to voluntarily enlist  in the Regia Marina  under service number 30537.

When he volunteers in Regia Marina, he was sento to Pola for Mariscuole (Navy Schools), to attend a course in “Cannoniere Armaiolo” from 3 September 1932 to 19th September 1933.

On 01 October 1933, he earned a promotion to 1st Class. Exactly 3 years later he was promoted to Sottocapo Cannoniere Armaiolo and the following October 4, 1937 he ended his four years of voluntary service.

Ultimately, the young Osvaldo, decided to remain in the Navy an additional two years. He never realized that this would be a fatal decision.

One month prior to his promotion to Comune di 1^ Classe, specifically on 20 September 1933, Osvaldo Conti’s fate became inextricably tied to one vessel: the Royal Heavy Cruiser ‘Fiume’ of the Zara class.

On that cruiser, he sailed as far as Italian East Africa. In fact it was mobilized for mission related duties from 3 October 1935 until 30 July 1936.  However, he wasn’t always on board because he had a license from the 28th January to the 13th March 1936

Between 1936-1937, he continued to serve on the ‘Fiume’ along the Iberian coast  while participating in the Spanish Civil War.

On 1 October 1938, at just 23 years, he became Sergente Cannoniere Armaiolo.

On 7 April 1939 the Royal Cruiser ‘Fiume’ makes port in Durazzo, Albania

In that mission, which was part of a vast attack on Albania, Osvaldo Conti was one of the first to land ashore.

Our fellow citizen, leading a platoon of machine gunners as the team leader, rushed like a madman on an enemy position which was decimating them, using himself as an example to his men and encouraging them with his vocal commands.

Despite being hit twice, he continued to show courage and encouragement to those around him.

Shortly after being killed due to a mortal wound to his head, his platoon successfully completed the task entrusted to it.  Osvaldo Conti, died on the beaches of Durazzo on 7 April 1939.

His courage and the way he faced death was an act of exemplary devotion to the oath to the flag.  So much so, that Vittorio Emanuele III of Savoy, almost immediately wanted to point it out to the whole nation.

In fact, with a speed which would have been the envy of even our most powerful media, a Royal Decree giving Osvaldo Conti the Gold Medal for Military Valour, was ready to be signed on 22 May 1939.

The Royal Decree was later annexed to the order form No 134, Department of the Navy 11- 12 June 1939, that all were made aware of the exploits of this gallant young sailor, so that future generations of Italians will remember with pride and admiration.

Official account of Conti’s Gold Medal of Military Valor award

Belonging to the Royal cruiser Fuime, he took part in the landing operations in Durazzo as the squad leader of a platoon. During the action and while receiving enemy fire, he advanced forward ahead of the others, without hesitation, providing great inspiration to his men.

Hit almost immediately by a bullet to the leg, he never stopped firing and continued on with great courage and steadfastness, even after being struck by a second round. Due to his serious injuries, he was no longer able to join his fellow soldiers advancing towards the adversary. He continued providing cover and firing rounds towards the adversary, never breaking away from his machine gun until he was mortally hit on the head.

A shining example of serene and cold courage with noble devotion to duty.

Durazzo, 7 April 1939.

Article written by Pietro Montagna
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