2007 UH-60 crash marked
November 9, 2008
SANTA LUCIA di PIAVE, Italy — The banks of the Piave River were associated with tragedy long before U.S. servicemembers called Italy home.
An estimated 80,000 Italian troops died during battles along the waterway with the Austro-Hungarian Empire in World War I. Countless others died in earlier conflicts.
The largest bases that the U.S. Air Force and Army call home in the country are named after Italian heroes killed there. Maj. Carlo Ederle was shot and killed in December 1917 at an observation point along the river; Caserma Ederle in Vicenza bears his name.
Later that month, Capt. Maurizio Pagliano and Lt. Luigi Gori were shot down while on a strafing run along the river after taking off from what Americans know as Aviano Air Base, although it’s officially named after the two Italian aviators.
Saturday, a few hundred Italians and Americans gathered to remember six more servicemembers who died along the river. On Nov. 8, 2007, a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crashed on the banks of the river, killing six U.S. troops and injuring five more.
A memorial dedicated to them — and the memories of the fallen from years past — was dedicated not far from the crash site.
"This symbolizes yet another bond between two nations tied together in history," said Brig. Gen. Craig Franklin, commander of the 31st Fighter Wing at Aviano.
Killed that November day were Air Force Capt. Cartize Durham, Staff Sgt. Robert Rogers, Staff Sgt. Mark Spence, Senior Airman Kenneth Hauprich, Army Capt. Christian Skoglund and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Davidangelo Alvarez.
Family members representing four of them traveled to Italy for the anniversary.
Four of the five servicemembers injured on the flight also attended — two of them with noticeable problems walking as they dropped flowers on the new memorial. Franklin said all five are still in the military, though several still face medical review boards that might require them to leave the service.
The injured and family members attended a private service at the crash site earlier in the day. They were later joined by several bus loads of airmen from the base along with an equal number of Italians at a dedication for the new memorial.
"It was very touching," Franklin said of the earlier ceremony.
The memorial consists of six metal bars set close together in a line, separating a stone slab with six indentations from a short walkway. A plaque lists the names of the Americans who died and the circumstances of their deaths.
Airmen on base raised about $10,000 to pay for part of the memorial and cover expenses for the family members traveling to the ceremony.
Italian artist Sonia Tadiotto was present at the second ceremony to dedicate her work and read a poem. Fiorenzo Fantiel, the mayor of nearby Santa Lucia di Piave, and Luca Zaia, vice president of the Province of Treviso, joined Franklin in making remarks.
Asked by an Italian journalist about the ties forged between local residents and the base because of the accident, Franklin nodded and replied: "Tragedy often brings together friends and family."