World War II


LITTLE OVER A YEAR AGO, I was in Sicily on one of my numerous trips to the island—part of my research for a narrative history of the Allied campaign there that I was writing. There were some places I hadn’t seen before that I wanted to check out, not least the town of Trapani on Sicily’s west coast, where German fighter pilot Johannes “Macky” Steinhoff had been 77. Using Steinhoff’s diary as a guide, I climbed the winding road up the 2,500-foot mountain that looms over the town, Monte Erice, until, a few miles from the top, I saw a sheer rock face and, before it, a small plateau, just as he’d described it. Lo and behold, there were the remains of the operations base for the Luftwaffe fighters—several derelict stone buildings, long since abandoned, overgrown and forgotten.

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