Gandin, Antonio, born 13-05-1891 in Avezzano, graduated from high school and entered the military infantry and cavalry school of Modena. He was promoted tosecond lieutenant of the infantry, on 17-09-1910. He embarked with the troops for Tripoli on 09-11-1911 and after the conquest of Libya, he was repatriated on 08 -10-1912 and awarded with the bronze medal for military valor. He became a Lieutenant on 21-09-1913 and in May 1915 he was assigned to the war front. Promoted to captain on 09-09-1915 and on 14-10-1917, he became a major. After the battle of the Battle of Caporetto, also known as the Twelfth Battle of the Isonzo or the Battle of Karfreit, as it was known by the Central Powers, took place from 24-10-until 19-11-1917, near the town of Kobarid, on the Austro-Italian front of World War I, he received several decorations.He was demobilized in Carnia, after the armistice, on 19-12-1919. He was appointed to the General Staff of the Army in January 1920 in Turin. From 1935 until 1937, he was Commanding Officer 40th Regiment “Bologna” Gandin was assigned as secretary of the Chief of Staff Pietro Badaglio and made a quick career in fascistic Italy. Speaking the German language he was used for the contacts between Italy and Germany on military level. He was promoted to Brigadier General on 01-12-1940 with command of the Department of Operations and Planning until January 1943. He became the General Officer Commanding 33rd Infantry Division and received the Cross “Acqui” Ionian Island. In September of 1943, the Italian Acqui Division was stationed on Cephalonia, a picturesque island, located in the Ionian Sea. Cephalonia has an area of 301.54 square miles and has 157.82 miles of coastline. The island is rich in history, scenery and wildlife. It is, simply put, a tourist’s paradise. There were roughly 12,000 men in the division, including more than 500 officers. On 08-09-1943, it was announced that Italian troops should stop engaging Allied troops. The Italian soldiers of the Acqui Division rejoiced, believing that they would not have to fight anymore. They did not realize that this was not going to mean an end to their fighting. German soldiers quickly began thinking of Italian soldiers as traitors, an affront that was punishable by death in their eyes, long after the announcement was made, the German 11th Battalion of the Jager Regiment 98 of the 1stGebirgs, most of the soldiers of the German regiment were Austrians was sent to the island. They were under the command of Major Harald van Hirschfeld. Hirschfeld never stood trial for the orders he gave at Cephalonia as he was killed in action in a bomb attack, age 32 on 18-01-1945, in the Duklapass. On September 13, the Germans began engaging the Italian troops on the island and bombing their positions. The fighting between the Germans and the Acqui Division continued until September 21. By that time, roughly 1,300 Italian soldiers were dead. The Italians had no hope of winning. The Acqui Division was forced to surrender and the Austrians began taking prisoners. The day after the Aqui Division surrendered to the German/Austrian troops on Cephalonia, most of the men that had survived the fighting were massacred.
Death and burial ground of Gandin, Antonio.
The Austrians and Germans began taking their prisoners and shooting them in groups. Romualdo Formato, one of Acqui’s seven chaplains and one of the few survivors, wrote that during the massacre, the Italian officers started to cry, pray and sing. Many were shouting the names of their mothers, wives and children. According to Formato’s account, three officers hugged and stated that they were comrades while alive and now in death they would go together to paradise, while others were digging through the grass as if trying to escape. The fallen Italians were thrown into heaps of bodies, all shot in the head. In one place, Formato recalled, “the Germans went around loudly offering medical help to those wounded. When about 20 men crawled forward, a machine-gun salvo finished them off.” Officers gave Formato their personal belongings to take with him and give to their families back in Italy. The Germans/Austrians, however, confiscated the items and Formato could no longer account for the exact number of the officers killed. One of the first men to die was the leader of the Acqui Division, General Gandin, age 52 . Over the course of four hours, roughly 4.750 Italian soldiers had been massacred. When the massacre was over, or so it seemed, some 4,000 members of the Acqui Division remained. They were loaded into ships to be sent to German labor camps. Nearly all of them were killed when the ships they were imprisoned in hit mines in the Ionian Sea. In total, roughly 9.500 men of the Acqui Division were killed on Cephalonia in September of 1943. Only Hirschfeld’s superior commander, General Hubert Lanz, was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment at the so-called “Southeast Case” of the Nuremberg Trials for the Cephalonia massacre, as well as the participation of his men in other atrocities in Greece like the massacre of Kommeno on 16-08-1943. He was released in 1951 and died on 15-08-1982, old age 86, in Munich. Most bodies were disposed of in the sea, on Lanz’s orders, the other were buried in mass graves and in the 1950s, the remains of about 3.000 soldiers, including 189 officers, were exhumed and transported back to Italy for burial in the Italian War Cemetery in Bari.
The remains of General Gandin were never identified.