Report. On June 27, 1980, an Italian commercial airliner fell from the sky, killing 81 people. The presence of military fighters in the area at the time has raised the distinct possibility — continually denied — that war planes brought down the plane.

Ustica: The story of a massacre denied for 40 years

Saturday marked the 40th anniversary of perhaps the most singular tragedy in Italian history. Forty years is too long a time to be marked by a single and terrifying constant: the denial of the events by those who were in a position to immediately clarify how and why 81 of our fellow citizens had died, a few seconds before 9 p.m. in the sky between the islands of Ponza and Ustica.

Reconstructing the whole story in a few lines is an impossible task. That’s why we have chosen to write only about what, in practical terms (persons responsible, convictions, reparations), still remains a mystery, adopting one point of view—that of the geopolitical scenario in which everything took place—and two methodological approaches: namely, setting aside those who are echoing the military-approved line that “it was a bomb,” and using known facts alone.

The Itavia DC-9 took off from Bologna almost two hours late (which is why one cannot accept the theory of a bomb with a time detonator), headed for Palermo (fact). A few minutes before 9 p.m. local time, it announced to the Roma Ciampino tower that it was going to contact the air traffic control in Palermo for the descent, and then disappeared from the screens of all the radars in the area. The last sentence on the cockpit voice recorder, as recently confirmed by Rainews24, was the following: “Guarda…cos’è” (“Look… what’s”)—and then silence. This was said by the co-pilot, Fontana, who sat on the right side of the cockpit.

The radar track from Ciampino, rendered in paper form, shows a clear attack maneuver by a military fighter coming from the west, which intersected the course of the DC-9 at a 90-degree angle, flying east (this is also a fact, reiterated by all Italian radar experts plus two American experts, Macidull and Transue). In such a case, it would have been precisely the co-pilot who would have seen the fighter coming from his side and said, “Look…what’s.” Immediately afterwards, the DC-9 is no longer an airplane, but becomes, according to the radar experts, a free-falling object (fact). Contradicting all his military colleagues, Marshal Luciano Carico, on duty at Marsala’s radar station, said it clearly: “I saw the track of the DC-9 disintegrate and sounded the alarm.”

The fact that this alarm was raised, we should remember, was denied by the Air Force at all its levels—until the day when Judge Rosario Priore found the telephone conversations between the various radar sites of the air defense system and discovered that the statements that had been made to the magistrate who had investigated the case before him were all (or almost all) lies (another fact).

Well, what could have happened that was so unutterable as to convince an entire armed force to deny justice for 81 of its countrymen—civilians, whom they had sworn to defend at all cost, including with their lives?

Let us then look at the geopolitical scenario of the time, starting with Italy. We were caught in a vise between obedience to the Atlantic Pact and the lure of Libyan oil. This division, which saw fierce clashes, reproduced itself in the political realm. We had a pro-Atlantic Prime Minister (Cossiga), while FIAT (which was nothing less than an “Automotive Ministry” in itself at that time) had Gaddhafi on its board, who held 13% of its shares. Obviously, this division also manifested itself among the military, the secret services, and so on.

The Mediterranean was the new front of the clash between the blocs. Egypt had just left the Soviet camp and embraced the American one (fact). One of the reasons for this change was its turbulent and too-strong neighbor, Gaddhafi, from whom Egypt feared an attack. The US couldn’t wait to get rid of him as well; likewise France, for several reasons (not least the clash over Chad), and the UK just as much, since he’d had its embassy in Tripoli burned down.

In short, four countries and half of one (this being Italy) would have gladly wanted him dead. But the other half of Italy did not.

Now, let’s go back to the known facts for the days that are of interest to us. On June 26, while flying above Naples, a stewardess on the same Itavia flight but on the opposite leg—Palermo-Bologna—saw, together with the pilot, an aircraft carrier sailing in formation below them, together with the ships from its protection convoy.

However, on June 27, according to the official claims by all the navies, all the aircraft carriers were in port. The French claimed to have been in Toulon for some time, the American USS Saratoga was in port in Naples, having arrived, according to the captain’s logbook, on June 23, and the British were elsewhere entirely.

One of them is lying, because from the first minutes after the disappearance of the DC-9, military radar operators across half of Italy were exchanging phone calls looking for an aircraft carrier, calling the US embassy in the middle of the night, talking several times about fighter planes, even getting angry because they weren’t getting answers.

And there were indeed fighters in the air. The French took off late at night from the Corsican base in Solenzara. The Americans were there as well, according to the sailor Brian Sandlin and the recent testimony of some Italian soldiers who had been on duty at the base in Grazzanise (Caserta), who told the current investigators about a “scramble,” a take-off under high alert, heading towards an aircraft carrier present on the scene.

And so were the British. Yes, even them, who have been silent so far. The British were at Decimomannu in Sardinia, engaged until late afternoon in an in-flight refueling exercise. From the material handed over to the Italian judges by NATO, quite a few of Her Majesty’s planes were in the air in the minutes just before the accident (another fact). Finally, at Gioia del Colle in Puglia, there were the German Phantoms. In short, if we read between the lines, we can catch a glimpse of a joint operation in progress, probably against the Libyan leader.

Another piece of evidence is that, in the same context, the transit of an F-111 coming from the British base of Lakenheath to Grazzanise was expected (also a fact), which was cancelled (or was it?) at the last minute.

All this while the air bridge from Germany to Cairo was in full swing as part of Operation Proud Phantom, which started on June 26. Three hours after the DC-9 crashed, a C-141 Starlifter passed on the same route as the Itavia aircraft, a mammoth transport plane delivering the necessary equipment for the Phantoms arriving from the US air force base in Moody (another fact).

And still, they want us to believe that nothing happened, at 9 p.m. on June 27, 1980, in the sky between Ustica and Ponza. Nothing at all.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Your weekly briefing of progressive news.

You have Successfully Subscribed!