Italian OG page  

  Italian OG Missions:
  5th Army Detach.  
  Bathtub II  
  Fourth Group  
  OP 2  
  Polar 1  
  Polar 2  
  OP 1(aka Seneca)  
  Chicago I  
  Chicago II  
  Ginny I  
Balkis I
  Balkis II  
  Ginny II  
  Walla Walla  
  5th Army Detach.  

Late August 1943 the first contingent of the Italian OGs had recently arrived at Algiers, their initial overseas base. At that time General Donovan was also in Algiers participating in the presentation of the OGs to the Allied Military Command. Also Lt. Colonel Serge Obolensky was there in anticipation of getting Allied approval for assignment of a French OG contingent to work out of England; to which he would be the Commanding Officer. When the OG mission for Sardinia was conceived General Donovan assigned that mission to Obolensky.

Parachute into Sardinia to make contact with the General Basso, commanding officer of the Italian Army of Sardinia; contact the headquarters of His Majesty the King of Italy; and establish liaison with them and General Bodaglio of Allied Headquarters.

Induce General Basso to attack the German Military during their evacuation of Sardinia, covering routes to the north of the island, across the island and the straits of Bonifaccio toward Corsica.

Obtain approval to send OSS Operational Group (OG) units into Sardinia to help harass and destroy the enemy.

Operational Plan:
The mission was provided with two letters: One was from General Castellano to General Basso, to be handed to him personally. The other letter was from General Eisenhower stating that Lt. Colonel Serge Obolensky was the bearer of a special message from His Majesty, the King of Italy and General Badaglio, to the Commanding General of the Troops of Sardinia.

Upon landing the mission's two radio operators, Lt. James Russell and British Army Sgt. William Sherwood were to remain in the area of the landing site for 48 hours. Obolensky with 1st Lt Michael Formichelli, serving as interpreter, were to proceed to the nearest Italian military Base and demand to be taken immediately to the Italian Army Headquarters. In case they failed to do so and did not contact the radio operators (who also had copies of the letters) within 48 hours, the radio operators should carry out the mission. In case the mission was a failure, those who were able to escape were to rendezvous for a submarine pickup at an identified time and place on the coast.

2100 hours 13 September 1943 Lt. Colonel Serge Obolensky, Commanding Officer, 1st Lt. Michael Formichelli, Interpreter, 2nd Lt. James Russell, Radio Operator and British Army Sgt. William Sherwood, Radio Operator departed Algiers in a Halifax bomber, parachuting at about 2330 hours to a drop area in the foothills of Sardinia about 15 miles from Cagliari.

When a suitable cover area was found for the radio operators and their equipment to remain in the foothills, Obolensky and Formichelli set out on foot in the direction of Cagliari. Before reaching Cagliari they encountered some friendly local inhabitants and three soldiers from whom they learned the German troops that had been in the area had left about noon the preceding day. They also learned there was an Italian Army base at Decimomannu. They reached the railway station near Decimomannu about 0900 hours on 14th September where they were able to contact a Carabinieri officer who put them in touch with the Italian Air Force at the Decimomannu Airport. There they met Colonel de Martiri, Chief Engineer Officer of the Italian Air Force who immediately contacted General Basso's headquarters at Bordigali. He was given instructions to give heavy protection to Obolensky and transport him to Bordigali. Before leaving, Obolensky dispatched Formichelli to return to the foothills to pick up the two radio operators and their equipment and join him at Bordigali. Then with a platoon of Carabinieri on trucks with mounted machine guns, Obolensky traveled without incident to General Basso's Headquarters arriving about 1700 hours that same day, 14 September. He was received with great courtesy by Colonel A. Bruno, Chief of Staff, who took him to General Basso.

After presenting General Castellano's letter, Obolensky told the General that Allied Headquarters wanted him to press the Germans in every way try to destroy them during their evacuation from Sardinia. And he told the General that we had some special units that we could send in to help in that pursuit - giving some description of OG activities. The general's response was that he was doing all he could to push the Germans out of Sardinia, that he had already given his troops orders to exert pressure wherever they could. But he objected to sending in American special units. Information gathered later suggested to Obolensky that General Basso's rejection of OG units was because the General was afraid of possible clashes between some elements of Italian troops and American troops working together.

To avoid any possible incident at that time General Bruno asked Obolensky to stay indoors for the next two or three days to avoid being seen by straggling German patrols before they cleared the region. The General agreed to meet with Obolensky twice a day to gather information on the progress of German evacuation.

With the arrival of Formichelli, and the two radio operators late 14 September, immediate efforts were made to send reports to Algiers Headquarters. Because of transmission problems, and the need to get new batteries which were later supplied by the Italians, regular radio communication was not established until the morning of the 16th. At that time reports that had been prepared by Obolensky and Formichelli to report the missions progress and local situation, plus information from papers that had been prepared by Colonel A. Bruno, General Basso's Chief of Staff, were sent to Headquarters.

18 September Brig General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. arrived as special AFHQ representative. He brought with him two more OG officers, 1st Lt Rocco J. Benedetto and 1st Lt Joseph J. Benucci to serve as interpreters and to help in establishing good will with the Italian military; and to collect information from the military and Sardinian population.

General Roosevelt appointed Obolensky to serve as his Executive Officer while in Sardinia to survey and identify immediate needs for follow-up missions. In response to their intensive survey of airfields, ports, mines, etc., and their subsequent reporting to Headquarters, Airforce engineers, Communications, Naval, Economic, Railway and Roads missions soon arrived in Sardinia.

On 6 October, based on recommendation of Gen Roosevelt, Brigadier Boulnois, leader of the economic mission, was appointed by AFHQ to assume leadership of Allied Forces Sardinia. And on that date General Roosevelt and Col Obolensky returned to Algiers.

Comment: Available reporting shows only Gen Roosevelt and Col Obolensky returning to Algiers on 6 October 1943. However, it is believed probable that Lt. Formichelli and Lt. Russell and Sgt. Sherwood of the original mission plus Lt. Benedetto and Lt. Benucci who went in with Roosevelt also returned at that time.

Summary compiled from EOM report by Lt Col Obolensky obtained from National Archives and from A book of memoirs ONE MAN IN HIS TIME written by Obolensky




Lt. Col Serge Obolensky
1st Lt. Michael Formichelli
2nd Lt. James Russell
Sgt William Sherwood - (British Army - non OG)

Gen. Roosevelt's OGs who served as interpreters/assistants to 19 day TDY mission:
1st Lt. Rocco Benedetto
1st Lt. Joseph J. Benucci





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