Italy was the first nation to develop mass-drop parachute techniques, and S/Lt Cesare Milani became a leading instructor of paratroopers in the first school at Castel Benito, Tripoli, in 1938. By 1940 three battalions had been formed, Cesare was promoted to captain and, after testing different parachute designs, he was advising the German Fallschirmjäger (Parachute Light Infantry).
For his work in seven sorties for the mass drops on Crete in May 1941, he was awarded the Knight’s Cross, but the experience began to sicken him as he witnessed the fatalities. The next year he was with the Folgore Division of paratroopers defending the rear guard at El Alamein in October 1942, an heroic episode still honoured each year in Italy. He was wounded, repatriated, and spent the remainder of his 13 years in service establishing paratroop training on the mainland at Tarquinia using three-engined double-deck Savoia-Marchetti SM.82s.
When Italy capitulated in September 1943, Cesare chose to go with the Regio Esercito (Royal Army). He was captured by the Germans, escaped, and joined the partisans, retreating into Switzerland as an internee at Murren with other army officers.
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