“That night we launched fighter planes, fully armed. And, on their return to the ship, we noticed that they no longer had the ordinance they left with, a fact that could not be hidden from 5,000 men. Afterwards, Captain [James] Flatley informed us, on the ship’s speakers, that during our flight operations, two Libyan MiGs had headed us off in an aggressive formation and we had to push them back. That’s what they told us at the time, and for many years I believed it.”
This is one of the highlights of the interview conducted by Andrea Purgatori, which aired Wednesday night on La7, with a man referred to as B.S., a junior helmsman on board the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga. The American sailor had on-deck duties on June 27, 1980, the night an Italian civilian plane with 81 people on board disappeared from radar screens, never reaching its destination in Palermo. The wreckage was discovered near the island of Ustica. Now, an officer has come forward to shed more light on what might have happened.
More than 37 years have passed since that night, and a criminal trial and several civil suits were conducted and concluded. While they did offer partial compensation to the family members of the victims, they never managed to deliver a final version of the facts: what really happened, who was involved, who is materially responsible for the deaths of 81 Italian citizens, and who covered up, hid, and concealed the truth. An investigation by the head prosecutor of Rome is still ongoing, but at a slow pace, in part because of the lack of witness testimonies.