Posted by: SJS | June 12, 2015

Maddalena — the magic name

Maddalena base

Among my earliest childhood memories of my father’s PT stories, the name Maddalena took on a powerful, almost magical, hold on my imagination.  It was a forward operating base for the PTs of Squadron (Ron) 15 during the PT operations in the Mediterranean in the all-important summer of 1944.  From this small island of the northeastern edge of the Island of Sardinia, PT boats supported the invasion of Southern France and launched strikes against Nazi-occupied Italy.

How long Red Stahley was on Maddalena, or exactly what his base duties were during his first summer of war remain a mystery; my research continues.  Just pronouncing the name “Maddalena” continues to stir excitement and wonder about my father who, at the age of 19, helped to support a PT squadron that was in the thick of the action in the Mediterranean theater of war.

I have subsequently learned that in 1943,  Benito Mussolini was briefly imprisoned on Maddalena and that dating back to Roman times, the island played an important strategic role during military campaigns in the region.  The American sailors of Ron 15 were only the latest “visitors” from a foreign land who were using their island as a staging area for the war at hand.

From this photo, it is evident that the people of this small island were very familiar with warfare and its devastating consequences.  When my father spoke of his time on Maddalena, it was always clear that his time on the PT base there was life-changing.  He knew that he was a long way from Philadelphia, his parents, and the comforts of home.  The strafing raids of German fighter planes kept everybody awake, alert, and on edge.  Red Stahley found himself on a tiny island in the middle of a huge war.  Life became very serious very fast.

It all comes back to me when I say that word, “Maddalena.”  One day, I hope to travel there and breathe the air that he breathed and step in the waters that held the PT boats he supported.

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Responses

  1. Steve –

    This blog post again reminds us of the sacrifices and challenges that were endured by those in the PT service. To have been 19 at the time and to function this far from home under these conditions is difficult to imagine.

  2. Dudley,

    Thanks for your feedback. The deeper I delve into my father’s WWII experience, the more I understand the forces that shaped the rest of his life. Seeing this photo of the bomb-damaged harbor on Maddalena reminded me again of how precarious the life of a young sailor was during the summer of 1944. My empathy for him continues to deepen. Thanks for your continued support.

    Steve


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