OCTOBER 11, 2019

Leros, November 10, 1943

Frantsesko DiPierro

War Life Stories

My dear father, for two months now I have been serving in remote island of Leros as a sailor in the N. West naval artillery Farinata or Marcelo. It is located at an altitude of 262 meters from the sea. Everything here is difficult … Everything is different now from the previous letter I sent you… you remember, when mom was still alive.


Dear father, things have changed for us. A few weeks ago, we all knew that our enemy was the English. They would come with their planes and bomb us at night. But in the last month the scene has changed and I can’t understand what’s going on … Now the German stukas are bombing us and the English are in the same trenches as us! 


Frantsesko DiPierro

I have lost count of days and hours … every morning and evening, the enemy planes are flying above our heads. Giovanni was also injured yesterday. It was the lad in the next trench. A stray projectile hit his leg and he was screaming and groaning in pain. He was carried on a board to the underground hospital of Porto Lago. Since then, I have not seen him again… He is the fifteenth friend we have been losing lately and we have been left few and scared!  We haven’t slept for many many days, we eat our standing in the trenches and many times we have no food at all. Water is scarce and not enough for everyone. Dear father, I know that with what I write to you I upset you but I do not know to whom to speak and who can feel for me. We are having a hard time on this mountain and I don’t understand why all this is happening… 

It’s been a long time since I got a letter from my eldest brother and I am worried … I heard from Captain Accolla F that a convoy of ours the day before yesterday fell on mines. I hope Roberto is well, because I won’t bear another loss… I am scared.. and I know that with these words I do not make you proud at all! But I’m afraid father to go alone in the evening to the distant watchtower. It is almost 2 km away from the barracks, it is located at the other end of the mountain. It’s like a lonely eagle’s nest set up on a cliff, facing the sea! It blows from everywhere, it blows all the time and I get cold and I am scared. I don’t want to go there, but it can’t be any other way. 

I heard our captain say that they expect a ground attack from the Germans. I get scared when I think that maybe this is my last letter and that I might never see you again! Please take care of our little one and kiss Carmela for me! Tell them that I love them and I hope with God’s help that we will soon be together again. 

With respect and love,

Your son.

  • Ελληνικά
  • English

This will close in 20 seconds

Fortification of Leros

Among the islands of the Dodecanese, Leros, due to its geographical position in the eastern Mediterranean and its special morphology, was chosen for the creation of Italy's main air and naval base in the Dodecanese.

The purpose was purely strategic: the fortification of Leros and the creation of a large military base ensured the Italians control of an area of ​​vital interest to the Great Powers. This Base, according to the planning, would have facilities for the Navy, the Air Force and the Army, as well as the necessary workshops of private companies manufacturing military equipment.

The main construction projects of the Italians in Leros, for the fortification and defense of the island, were carried out as early as 1923 and were completed at the end of the 1930s.

Among these are:

  • "Gianni Rossetti" Seaplane Base in the area of ​​Lepida 
  • Submarine Base in the adjacent area of ​​Aghios Georgios
  • New town of Portolago (nowadays Lakki), created in order to cover the housing needs created by the construction of the Aeronautical Base
  • Centro Radio Lero – the installation of the Italian telecommunications center in the area of ​​Aghios Nikolaos in Lakki
  • The headquarters of FAM - DICAT, the “FAM -  Fronte A Mare” - Coastal Defense Command and the “DICAT - Difesa Contraerea Territoriale” -  Anti-Aircraft Land Defense Command on Mount Patella, with the unique installation of the Aerophone and the Acoustic - Parabolic Wall

Along with the other defense installations of Leros, the fortification of the island with artillery began already in the mid-1920s, initially mainly for naval defense. Gradually, until the middle and mainly at the end of the 1930s, 103 guns of caliber from 76mm to 152mm were installed on almost all the heights of Leros, most of them from decommissioned battleships and cruisers of the Italian Navy from WW I, composing a network of 25 batteries, responsible for the defense of the island, both from the sea and from the air. Along with the construction of the gun emplacements, other military facilities were developed in each artillery barracks, such as material and ammunition storages, shelters, barracks and logistics buildings, as well as various other facilities. The defense network of Leros is considered a model of interwar fortification architecture (1918 – 1939).

Especially since 1936, when military zones were officially created on the island, fenced with barbed wire, the mountains and heights of Leros acquired a purely military character. The granting of compensation stops, since the cutting of the bushes was first prohibited by decree, and thus the fields were turned into forest land, and by extension they are considered the property of the Italian State. Thus, livestock breeders and farmers, losing their properties, are forced to resort to day labor, since there is indeed a lack of labor force, due to the excessive number of projects in progress. For the construction of the defense and public works of Leros, artisans are transferred from Italy, with a daily wage of 40-50 italian lire, while the Greeks receive 6-10 italian lire.

The outbreak of World War II led to the expansion and improvement, on a large scale, of military installations, but this was opposed to economic criteria and above all the lack of availability of means and the difficulties in maritime transportations. The serious shortcomings of the hasty Italian military preparation led to the dispersion of the scarce available means in many areas, all of them of high importance and therefore did not allow the care imposed on any of them.

Thus, in the Dodecanese, although the level of preparation could be described as satisfactory, in relation to infrastructure and logistics facilities, the field of armaments, and especially that of Artillery, lagged far behind, since the Dodecanese had been sent almost exclusively old-style and dissimilar weapons caliber, which did not allow the organization of defense to develop to a sufficient and satisfactory degree, which will have a huge impact on the events of September - November 1943.

This will close in 0 seconds