Italicus train massacre

"the Italicus train massacre can be ascribed to a neo-fascist or neo-nazi
terrorist organization operating in Tuscany
(Majority Report of the Parliament Board on the P2 Masonic lodge)

In the night between Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th August, 1974, in Italy, a bomb exploded on coach 5 of the 1486 Rome-Munich express train, known as "Italicus", causing 12 victims and 48 injured.
The investigations were disturbed by innumerable red herrings, even by state bodies, and in the end this crime went unpunished, despite the fact that the responsibility of the neo-fascists of Ordine Nuovo group clearly emerged.

The premises
The year 1974 was particularly active for fascist subversion in Italy, which carried out its "strategy of tension", a long sequence of terrorist acts which was meant to prepare a popular reaction in favor of a coup which would have established an authoritarian right wing regime. The coup was planned in the spring-summer of 1974, with the support of "National Socialist" officers stationed in the north-east, as reported to the investigating judge of Bologna by the neo-fascist Sergio Calore, reporting what was told to him by the other fascist terrorist Paolo Signorelli.
From January to August 1974, 42 attacks attributable to black terrorists took place, starting with January 29
th, 1974, in which a bomb failed to hit the Freccia del Sud train. A few days later, on February 9th, another unexploded bomb was found on a freight train heading from Taranto to Syracuse. Finally, on April 21st, a terrorist attack seriously damaged the Florence-Bologna railway line at Vaiano, in the province of Prato: a bomb exploded on the tracks and interrupted the railway, but this also stopped the next train that was due to pass, avoiding a massacre.
Then the Brescia massacre occurred: on May 28
th a bomb exploded in the square piazza della Loggia in Brescia, Lombardy, during a trade union demonstration, killing 8 people and wounding 102.
Two days later, on May 30
th, on the Pian del Rascino plateau, in the province of Rieti, the fascist Giancarlo Esposti died in a shootout against the Carabinieri police, while preparing, according to several of his comrades, to move to Rome with the plan of carrying out an attack against the President of the Republic Giovanni Leone, shooting him dead during the Republic Day parade on June 2nd.

The train
The Italicus train was scheduled to depart at 8:35pm on August 3rd from Roma Tiburtina station, headed to Munich, Germany, where, according to the official timetable of the Ferrovie dello Stato (Italian State Railways), it was scheduled to arrive on the morning of August 4th at 10:05am. It had actually departed seven minutes late, at 8:42pm, it had stopped at Chiusi-Chianciano Terme station and then for ten minutes at Florence Santa Maria Novella, departing again at 0:33am, 23 minutes late, and headed for Bologna, where it had to arrive at 1:24am and depart at 1:50am. The train had seventeen coaches, of which nine were passengers coaches, three sleeping cars, two couchette cars, one postal coach and two car-carrier wagons. The first was a couchette coach followed by a first class one, bound for San Candido, followed by a second couchette car for Brenner, then three coaches for Munich, of first and second class and couchettes passengers, then a baggage car, two coaches for Venice, five for Calalzo and at the end the two car-carrier wagons. At the departure from Florence the train had a total of 49 first class passengers and 293 second class passengers on board.
Coach 5 was bound for Munich, belonged to the German railways (DB - Deutsche Bundesbahn) with serial number AB3840063/8, and was part of a batch of forty, built between 1936 and 1939 by Dentz and DWV of Berlin. Due to its age it was only used in internal service, except in the summer, when it was also used for international service. The coach had three first-class compartments, with 18 seats, and five second-class compartments, with 40 seats.
(Sentence Italicus - Preliminary Investigation Judge Vella, from

The bombing
The explosion occurred at 1:17am in the third compartment of the fifth coach, first class, towards the head of the train. while this was 100 meters (300 ft about) from the exit towards Bologna of the Grande Galleria dell'Appennino (Great Apennine Tunnel), 18.507 km (11.5 Mi) long, which at the time was the longest railway tunnel in Italy. The train continued by inertia to the station of San Benedetto Val di Sambro - Castiglione dei Pepoli, which is located immediately at the exit of the tunnel.
The two police officers on duty at the San Benedetto station, direct witnesses of the massacre, recount: "Suddenly the tunnel from which the train was supposed to emerge was lit up as day, the mountain shook, then a deafening roar came. The convoy, by inertia, has arrived right in front of us. The flames were very high and dazzling ... we could not do anything because the external metal sheets were incandescent ...". A witness of the massacre narrates: "The coach torn apart by the explosion seems to fry, the sprays of the foaming agents bounce off it. The sweetish and nauseating smell of death hovers over the whole area". .
Below are the photos taken by the Fire Fighters during their intervention.

The bomb
No trace of the explosive from the attack was found on the remains of the train, on the walls of the tunnel and on the objects recovered at the site of the massacre. So there are only hypotheses about the composition of the bomb. The experts believed that the item was composed of 2.0-2.5 kg of amatol, an explosive mixture of trinitrotoluene (TNT) and ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3), together with thermite, an incendiary mixture of methyl alcohol (CH3OH) and ferric oxide (Fe2O3), which caused the fire which produced very high temperatures in coach number 5, and traces of which were found on the tunnel vault.
The bomb was probably activated by a timer, of which fragments were found, prepared by modifying a Peter brand alarm clock, built in 1973 by the Peter-Uhren GmbH company of Rottweil, in the Federal Republic of Germany, so as to use it as an "electromechanical switch, controlled by time from the alarm bell device”.

The victims
The fascist bomb killed twelve people: Nunzio Russo (49 years old) a State Railways lathe turner, his wife Maria Santina Carraro née Russo (47 years old) and their son Marco Russo (14 years old) all residing in Merano (province of Bolzano), Wilhelmus Jacobus Hanema (20 years old) from Kerkbuurt (Netherlands), Raffaella Garosi (22 years old) from Grosseto, which graduated 15 days before in ancient literature, Tsugufumi Fukuda (32 years old) from Maebashi, Gunma prefecture, Japan, Herbert Kontriner (35 years old) German worker from Tuttlingen, Nicola Buffi (51 years old) from Florence, Elena Donatini (58 years old) from Florence, Elena Celli (67 years old) retired from Rome, Antidio Medaglia (70 years old) an INAM (national health fund) official from Perugia, and the railwayman Silver Sirotti, 24 years, ticket inspector of the State Railways.

Silver Sirotti
One of the twelve victims of the Italicus massacre, the State Railways officer Silver Sirotti, born in Forlì on September 2nd, 1949, was on the Italicus train but was not affected by the explosion because he was in a different coach from the one in which the bomb had been placed. Despite this Sirotti rushed into coach 5, shouldering a fire extinguisher to help the wounded, but was killed by the very high temperature developed by the fascist bomb.
The testimony of two police officers on duty at the San Benedetto station recounts: «Standing in the center of the coach there was a railwayman, his skin was black covered with horrible red spots, he was trying to move something. Under him there must have been a person entangled. "Come away from there", we shouted at him, but just at that moment a flash hit him making him fall crumpled to the ground».
Sirotti however managed to save at least one person, the young Marisa Russo, whose parents and younger brother were among the victims of the massacre. Silver had thrown himself on her protecting her from a blaze of fire.
Sirotti had been hired for three months and didn't even have a uniform, just a hat, and he shouldn't have been on duty the night of the massacre, but due to an exchange of favors between colleagues he found himself instead on the Italicus.
On May 14th, 1975 Silver Sirotti was decorated with the gold medal for civil valor with this motivation: «Ticket inspector on duty, on the occasion of the criminal attack on the Italicus train, he did not hesitate to throw himself, equipped with a fire extinguisher, into the coach where the explosion occurred to rescue the passengers of the burning coach. In a noble attempt, he sacrificed his young life to the highest ideals of human solidarity. Shining example of exceptional contempt of danger and unconditional attachment to duty, pushed to the extreme sacrifice. To memory.».
Forlì, the birthplace of Silver Sirotti, has dedicated a park and a street to him, and other cities in Romagna, such as Ravenna and Forlimpopoli, have also named a street after him.

After the massacre
The Italian democratics immediately reacted to the massacre with demonstrations, both spontaneous and organized. The general strike was proclaimed and a joint trade unions demonstration was held in Bologna on August 6th, 1974 in Piazza Maggiore.
On August 9
th, 1974, the public funerals were held in the same Piazza Maggiore in Bologna for ten of the victims of the massacre, in which an immense crowd took part, which strongly contested the authorities who intervened, in particular those identified as contiguous to the fascists, such as the President of the Republic Giovanni Leone, elected in 1971 thanks to the votes of the Movimento Sociale Italiano, the neo-fascist party, the Prime Minister Rumor, criticized for his ambiguous role as head of government and interior minister during the 1969 massacres and the Secretary of the Christian Democracy Amintore Fanfani.
Instead, the banner of the municipality of Marzabotto, a martyr city of the Nazi massacres of July 1944, was applauded.
The official speech was given by the mayor of Bologna Renato Zangheri, one of the leaders of the Italian Communist Party, who harshly condemned terrorism and asked for greater attention and incisiveness in the investigations., and also the Secretary General of the Party, Enrico Berlinguer, took part in the funeral.

The investigations
The day after the massacre, August 5th, a typewritten flyer was found in a telephone box in the Porta San Mamolo area in Bologna in which the section entitled to Drieu de la Rochelle of the fascist organization "Ordine Nuovo" claimed the attack as revenge for the death of Giancarlo Esposti and claimed to be able to strike where and when he wanted. It was later discovered that the author of the claim was a fascist militant, but with problems of mental imbalance.
Five days after the massacre, a lotto office keeper from Rome testified of a phone call overheard a few days before the massacre in her shop, in which a girl spoke of bombs that were ready, of a train to Mestre, of a car and passports to cross the border. The girl was identified as Claudia Ajello, and she turned out to be a collaborator of the SID (secret service of the time), also infiltrated into a section of the Communist Party. When questioned, she explained the phone call was a simple chat with her mother in which a trip was planned, but she was indicted for perjury.
On December 15
th, 1975, three inmates of the Arezzo prison, Aurelio Fianchini, Felice D'Alessandro and Luciano Franci, escaped, with the intention of bringing Franci before the press to make him confess to the massacre, in exchange for help to expatriate.
During the escape Franci and D'Alessandro changed their minds and only Fianchini made statements to the police, recounting that during their joint detention Franci had told him that the massacre was the work of Mario Tuti, who had supplied the explosive, of Piero Malentacchi, who he had placed the bomb on the train in the Florence Santa Maria Novella station, and of Franci himself, who worked in the station post office, and so acted as a lookout. The device had been assembled by Malentacchi who had acquired specific expertise in explosives during his military service.
During the various trials that followed, numerous confirmations emerged of Franci's statements, referred to by Fianchini, which identified Tuti, Franci and Malentacchi as the perpetrators of the attack, together with Margherita Luddi, Franci's fiancée. The four, indicted in 1980, were also under investigation for the attack on the Terontola train station on January 6
th, 1975, for which Franci was in prison at the time of the escape.
Franci and Malentacchi were arrested on January 22
nd, 1975; two days later three police officers went to Empoli, near Florence, to search Tuti's house. The fascist killed two and seriously wounded a third with machine gun shots and fled, but was captured the following July in France.
The case of the attack on Italicus train saw the heavy involvement of the secret services and the deviated Masonic lodge P2, to which Mario Marsili also belonged, the public prosecutor of Arezzo in charge of investigating the Terontola attack, who was, among other , the son-in-law of Licio Gelli, grand master of the lodge and string-puller of many political and illegal traffics affairs.
In the Majority Report of the Parliament Board on the P2 Masonic lodge you can read: "it can be affirmed that the investigations carried out by the Bologna judges, just as they were the basis for an acquittal sentence for insufficiently proven personal responsibilities of the defendants, also constitute a very solid basis, when integrated with further elements in the possession of the Board, to affirm: that the Italicus train massacre can be ascribed to a neo-fascist or neo-nazi terrorist organization operating in Tuscany; that the P2 lodge carried out the work of instigating the attacks and financing of the groups of the Tuscan extra-parliamentary right; that the P2 Lodge is therefore seriously involved in the Italicus massacre and can even be held responsible for it in non-judicial but historical-political terms, as an essential economic, organizational and moral background".

The trials
The first investigation ended on August 1st, 1980 with the indictment of Tuti, Franci, Malentacchi, Luddi and, for other crimes, of four more persons. The Court of Assizes of Bologna on July 20th, 1983 acquitted Tuti, Franci, Malentacchi and Luddi due to lack of evidence.
On December 18
th, 1986, the Assize Court of Appeal of Bologna annulled the acquittals of Tuti and Franci and sentenced them to life imprisonment as perpetrators of the Italicus massacre. Malentacchi and Luddi were instead acquitted.
On December 16
th, 1987, the Court of Cassation, presided over by Corrado Carnevale, known as the "sentence killer", for having annulled many other convictions involving right-wing politicians and terrorists, annulled the convictions of Tuti and Franci.
The new trial before the Court of Appeal of Bologna acquitted Tuti and Franci, with a sentence that was definitively confirmed by the Court of Cassation on March 24th, 1992.

The time of the massacre
On many sites we read that the bomb was planned to explode in the middle of the great tunnel of the Apennines, making hundreds of victims, but the train was twenty-three minutes late and therefore the bomb exploded almost at the exit of the tunnel, and the shock wave found an escape outside the tunnel. Actually if the train had been on schedule it would have been much further on, beyond the tunnel, almost in Bologna (arrival was scheduled for 1:24am), and so it can be hypothesized that the fascists who placed the bomb had calculated blowing it up in the Bologna station, involving other trains, but at that time of night the effect wasn't sure.
Otherwise, another hypothesis can be made, given that it has been ascertained that the bomb was placed under a seat in coach 5 while it was at the Florence station. In this case the delay was known to the terrorists, and they would have set the timer in Florence calculating the 23 minute delay, to cause the explosion in the great tunnel of the Apennines, but the train, after leaving Florence, had made up for three minutes, and so it was almost out of the tunnel.
However, it must be considered that a little more than ten years later, on December 23
rd, 1984, on another train, the rapid 904, a bomb exploded, this time placed by the mafia, still in the Great Tunnel of the Apennines, still in the direction of Bologna, but after the Tuscan station of Vernio, which is located at the other end of the tunnel with respect to that of San Benedetto Val di Sambro. The explosion took place almost in the middle of the tunnel and caused 16 victims and 266 injuries, the number of deaths was therefore of the same order of magnitude compared to the Italicus massacre, which suggests that if in 1974 the bomb had exploded in the center of the tunnel probably the outcome would have been the same.
In any case, 12 or 16 dead are such a horrific number that it doesn't allow one to think that "it could have been worse", and in any case the claim of Ordine Nuovo did not express a trace of disappointment for the failure of the attack: the effect intended by the terrorists, fascists in 1974 and mafiosi in 1984, had in any case been reached.

In 1976 the singer-songwriter from Bologna Claudio Lolli (1950-2018) in the album "Ho visto anche degli zingari felici" ("I also saw happy gipsies") published the song "Agosto" ("August") (listen) inspired by the Italicus massacre and "Piazza, bella piazza" ("Square, beautiful square") (listen) dedicated to the funerals of the victims in piazza Maggiore, in Bologna (see page on the website "Canzoni contro la guerra" i. e. "Songs against the war").
In the film "Strane storie" ("Strange Stories") by Sandro Baldoni, of 1994, in the final sequences the characters, having got off a train in an abandoned station, pass next to carriage number 5 of the Italicus, a caption explains: "I rottami del vagone dell'Italicus, distrutto da una bomba anonima il 4 agosto 1974, sono abbandonati in un prato, tra i rifiuti, vicino alla stazione di Bologna" ("The wreckage of the Italicus coach, destroyed by an anonymous bomb on August 4
th, 1974, is abandoned in a meadow, among the rubbish, near the Bologna station").
On the square in front of the San Benedetto Val di Sambro - Castiglione dei Pepoli station, a monument was erected in memory of the massacre, made up of part of the wreckage of coach 5.

Bibliographic references:
BEDESCHI Giacomo (2020) “Mio fratello morì sull’Italicus. Vogliamo la verità sulla strage”. Corriere Romagna, August 3rd, 2020. link
DANIELI Ezio (2014) "Maledetto Italicus, in un attimo persi i genitori e il fratello". Alto Adige, August 5th, 2014 link
Orario generale ufficiale per le Ferrovie italiane dello Stato. Periodo estivo. May 26th, 1974. Pozzo Salvati Gros Monti, Turin, Italy.

Data banks:
Digital collection of journals of the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Roma (National Central Library of Rome) (Il Messaggero, Paese Sera, Momento Sera, Il Tempo)

Websites visited:
Municipality of Forlì
Rivista Il Mulino
mappe di memoria
Luca Innocenti
Italian Firefighters
YouTube - Provincia di Bologna
YouTube - Regione Emilia Romagna

Websited visited no more active or no more reachable on July 21st, 2023:
YouTube - Province of Bologna
Marco Paolini - YouTube

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page created: July 20th, 2023 and last updated: July 28th, 2023