Fregattenkapitan Enzo Grossi – an Award Document with Folder to the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross of 1939
International Military History from 1919 | A89r | Live auction | 900 Lots
DescriptionLarge, double-paged parchment document with calligraphic text and national eagle dated 7 October 1942, the name of Enzo Grossi rendered in hand-executed gold lettering, beneath which is the ink signature of Adolf Hitler. The award folder in red leather with gold-embossed eagle on the front, inside with decorative gold edge lines and parchment insert, rear lower edge stamped in gold "Frieda Thiersch", dimensions 45 x 36 cm.Enzo Grossi (São Paulo, Brazil, 20 April 1908 - Corato, 11 August 1960) was an officer in the Regia Marina (Italian Navy). During World War II he commanded the submarines Medusa and Barbarigo. His first patrol on the Barbarigo on October 22, 1940, was unsuccessful. On the next patrol on January 23, 1941, Grossi met a lighted ship, but torpedoed and sank it nonetheless (it was the neutral Spanish ship SS Navemar). Grossi and his sub Barbarigo were sent to Brazilian waters next, departing Bordeaux on 30 April. He was responsible for the first Brazilian war action of World War II by attacking the Brazilian merchant ship Comandante Lyra on 18 May 18, 1942, without sinking it, and was chased by Brazilian aero-naval forces for five days. The submarine managed to escape two attacks by Brazilian B-25 aircraft.Grossi met the cruiser USS Milwaukee and the destroyer USS Moffett on May 20; wrongly recognizing the former as a Maryland-class battleship, Grossi fired two torpedoes at the cruiser. With himself and his crew convinced to having seen and felt the battleship being struck and sinking, Barbarigo sailed away, while the American ships had not even been aware of the attack. Grossi reported his sinking, and, despite the doubts and misgivings of BETASOM commander Romolo Polacchini, the action was widely publicized in Italian and German press; Grossi was awarded with a Gold Medal of Military Valour and promoted to Capitano di Fregata (Commander). On its way home, on May 28, the Barbarigo attacked and sank the ship Charlbury (4836 tls). On August 29 they sailed again for a mission around the African coast. On the night of October 6, Barbarigo and its "brave" captain met the corvette HMS Petunia. Grossi "recognized" it as a Mississippi-class battleship, fired four torpedoes, and again he was convinced he had successfully sunk the enemy battleship, while Petunia had escaped unharmed. He returned to port on the night of October 29. Again, Grossi's success was widely reported, and he was promoted to Capitano di Vascello (Captain) and awarded a second gold medal as well as the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross. He left the submarine to replace Polacchini as BETASOM commander. Grossi fled abroad after the war. A first enquiry in 1949 summarily concluded that Grossi and his crew had imagined everything and stripped him of the promotions and medals he had received for the actions. Subsequently, in 1962 a new enquiry (motivated by imprecisions of the first one, also accused of being motivated by political reasons) concluded that the crew of the Barbarigo might have been under the belief of a successful attack but criticized Grossi for his certainty about his sinkings and did not restore his promotions and awards.The awarding of the Knight’s Cross and Gold Medal of Military Valour was widely publicized as one of the most important heroic acts conducted at the time in Italy. Grossi was showcased to an extreme by press (e.g. Deutsche Ukraine-Zeitung №238 з 27.10.1942, Völkischer Beobachter, Nr. 281/8.10. 1 942, S. 1; Nr. 280/7.10.1942, S. 1; MOH-Nachrichten, Nr. 1 0/15.1 0.1 942, S. 137; Die Kriegsmarine, Nr. 2 111942; Nr. 22/1 943), film (Deutsche Wochenschau, Nr. 633/44/1 942) and shown with numerous dignitaries including the Duce and Doenitz, who personally awarded him the order. Only 43 Knight's Crosses of the Iron Cross were awarded to non-Germans, nine to Italian citizens.
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