Italian Campaign a bond for soldiers in Kuwait

Article / November 20, 2019 / Project number: 19-0285

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By Steven Fouchard, Army Public Affairs

Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait — Italian and Canadian soldiers working side by side in Kuwait have formed a lasting friendship thanks in part to a little-known piece of Second World War history.

Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Nonato is Commanding Officer of the Royal Regiment of Canada, a Toronto-based Army Reserve unit, currently serving in Kuwait as part of Operation IMPACT, Canada’s training mission in the Middle East.

Master Sergeant Salvatore Corvo is an Italian Army telecommunications technician who was, until recently, on his first deployment in Kuwait. His hometown is Ispica, a community of about 15,000 on Sicily’s Mediterranean coast.

Ispica is notable in military history for being the first town Canadian troops entered during Operation HUSKY, the invasion of Sicily in the summer of 1943. It was just the start of the Italian Campaign, Canada’s longest of the Second World War.

Another notable part of the story is that a Canadian officer, Lieutenant Sydney Frost of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, was appointed interim mayor of Ispica, which was heavily damaged by the shelling and bombing that preceded the invasion.

Lt Frost would return to Ispica decades later and assist the townspeople in establishing a monument that still sits in the town centre. It was completed in 1991 and new additions were added in 2000.

MSgt Corvo, speaking through a translator, said he first learned of the town’s history from his mother, who experienced the events first hand at age 12. Ispica residents, he added, gathered at the site to mark the 50th and 60th anniversaries of the invasion. Another commemorative event, attended by Lt Frost, was held there in 2013.

“When I heard about working with Canadians I was really excited,” said MSgt Corvo. “The Canadians helped us and I'll never forget.”

LCol Nonato said that connection has resulted in a friendship both men say will continue beyond their time together in Kuwait.

That first contact came after an American padre tasked with leading English-language Catholic Masses was suddenly unavailable, LCol Nonato explained.

“I asked, ‘Can I come to your camp?’ And they said, ‘Yeah for sure,’ and all of a sudden the smiles broke out and then we ended up starting a friendship. They took the time to translate the entire Mass for me into English from Italian. So I felt very welcome.”

The relationship went many steps further when the pair decided to take part in a “shadow” Canada Army Run event – one of many organized by Canadians on foreign deployments in conjunction with the main Army Run held each year in Ottawa.

“We had people from all across the coalition running in something that was distinctly Canadian,” said LCol Nonato. “You hear about the Army run happening in Ottawa all the time but the shadow run happening over here also created unity. And then seeing that members of the coalition wanted to do it as well was especially touching.”

MSgt Corvo said his participation was a matter of being “thankful for what the Canadian Army did for Italy and Ispica.”

LCol Nonato said the friendship has had wider, positive implications for the multinational force in Kuwait.

“I think that after I started having this friendship with Salvatore, the other guys working with me felt a little more comfortable about approaching other coalition members and I hope that it keeps on going.”

MSgt Corvo, who will be back in Italy by the time of publication, said he has appreciated all facets of his time in Kuwait.

“This has been a professional experience and also a human experience,” he said. “I want to continue the friendship with the LCol. He is welcome, to visit me in Ispica any time.”

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