Battlefield Archaeology: The WW2 Listening Wall of Leros – Interview with Luciano Alberghini Maltoni

Interviews, WW2, WW2 in Greece, WW2 Wrecks

By Pierre Kosmidis

Photos by Luciano Alberghini Maltoni 

The Dodecanese Islands in the Aegean Sea have a rich history, intertwined with the fate of the crossroads of Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

Since antiquity these islands have witnessed a long procession of conquerors, battles were fought for their control and during World War 2 the Dodecanese were the location where the Germans fought and won their last decisive battle in south eastern Europe, in 1943

The Dodecanese Islands (in red) are on the strategic crossroads of Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
The Dodecanese Islands (in red) are on the strategic crossroads of Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

www.ww2wrecks.com have reached out to Mr. Luciano Alberghini Maltonia distinguished historian and author from Italy, whose father served with the Regia Aeronautica (Italian Royal Air Force) during WW2 and was stationed in the Dodecanese Islands, under Italian occupation from 1912 to 1943.

Mr. Luciano Alberghini Maltoni started researching the history of the Dodecanese back in 1997. At that time very little was known of these islands so he decided to launch the site www.dodecaneso.org 

A very interesting project, which thanks to Mr. Luciano Alberghini Maltoni was recently completed, was the restoration of the Acoustic Wall (Muro d’Ascolto in Italian), a primitive way of locating approaching aircraft, in Leros island.

Here is what Mr. Luciano Alberghini Maltoni said about the WW2 Battlefield Archaeology in the Dodecanese Islands, as well as other interesting details on how these forgotten WW2 relics could boost tourism in the area. 

Mr. Luciano Alberghini Maltoni, please tell us about your project and site www.dodecaneso.org, covering the history of the Dodecanese islands (literally meaning “12 islands” in Greek)  from the 14th to the 20th century.

 

Going forward in my researches I started writing articles for some Italian magazines like Storia Militare, Rivista Aeronautica, Eserciti nella Storia and others. I traveled a lot in the Aegean Islands, especially Rodos, Kos and Leros and had the opportunity to meet many people there.

“Storia Militare” n.121 – 122 anno XI ottobre – novembre 2003, L. Alberghini Maltoni, Lero 1943( article about the battle of Lero)

“ Storia Militare” n.105 anno X giugno 2002, L. Alberghini Maltoni, Rodi 1943, (article about the battle after the italian armistice against Sturm Division Rodos)

The Italian newspaper La Gazzetta del Sud did a full page article to the Messina Listening Wall
The Italian newspaper La Gazzetta del Sud did a full page article to the Messina Listening Wall

In 2016 I participated as historian the documentary “Portolago – ghosts in the Aegean” by Ioanna Asmeniadou-Phocas.

Focusing on World War 2, why is it important to keep and display the monuments of that era?

During the restoration work at the Acoustic Wall of Leros
During restoration at the Acoustic Wall of Leros

The WW2 monuments, bunkers, barracks, trenches etc. are often destroyed due to development, in order to construct new buildings or simply because they are considered something to be destroyed because war is evil.

Of course we don’t like war and its consequences, we like to live in peace, but just because of that, the memories of war should be preserved to tell everyone how precious peace is.

In other words we want to preserve the memory not only through books or photos but through the physical evidence of these places.

One of your recent projects was the Listening Wall or the Acoustic Wall restoration. Please tell us a bit more about it, its uniqueness and what are your future plans.

 Luciano Alberghini Maltoni uncovers the restoration plaque of the Listening Wall at Mount Patella, Leros Island
Luciano Alberghini Maltoni uncovers the restoration plaque of the Listening Wall at Mount Patella, Leros Island.

The Listening Wall or the Acoustic Wall (Muro d’Ascolto in Italian) may be considered a relic of the “paleolithic era” even during WW2. While the British and the Germans started studies of the electromagnetic waves and developed the “radar” at the beginning of the Second World War, in Italy the defense against enemy planes relayed on the obsolete technique of detecting their acoustic waves.

Aerofono-Mod.-O.-G.

The Acoustic Wall together with the “Aerofono” (a kind of mechanical “big ears”) were means based on the acoustic techniques manned by a special Military Corps trained for this purpose.

This Military Corps (called MACA) was unique among all the belligerents, as it employed blind people, who were thought to have better hearing capabilities.

According my research, only two “parabolic acoustic walls” survived, one is in Mount Patella, Leros and the other in Italy, incidentally in the island of Sicily near the city of Messina.

Areofoni

It is very unusual that such rare historical buildings are located in two islands. The Italian wall is located in a vineyard of a public agricultural school. I’m working with the school management to get funding for its restoration.

What other projects have you done in the islands?

The restoration of the Leros wall took a lot of time to get permission by the local Authorities who didn’t have the necessary funds for this kind of work. The Municipality of Leros has been however able to provide part of the materials needed while I paid the rest from my personal funds.

In Leros the recent immigration has set a new priority in the resources allocation. This doesn’t help future projects due to the lack of money.

Luciano Alberghini Maltoni on the Messina Listening Wall, which has a quite preserved mimetization scheme
Luciano Alberghini Maltoni on the Messina Listening Wall, which is preserved in almost excellent condition.

There are many interesting sites in Leros like the old Navy radio station or the barracks and gun posts in Blefuti Bay which need an urgent environmental restoration, unfortunately the restoration is very expensive.

The only solution is to look for a European Union funding, based on a specific project to preserve this important cultural heritage.

Which is the most important element of the history of WW2 regarding the islands?

If Rodos wouldn’t have fallen into German hands until May 1945, the war would have ended much earlier, Turkey would have entered war on the side of the Allies and the way to the Balkans would have been opened.

 3D rendering of Listening Wall in Messina, which is identical both in shape and dimensions to its twin in Leros
3D rendering of the Listening Wall in Messina, which is identical both in shape and dimensions to its twin in Leros

Starting from this paradox it is clear that the Italian defeat after the Armistice of  8 September 1943 and the  Battle of Rodos is undoubtedly the focal point of the war in the Aegean islands.

Several Italian buildings have now been listed as cultural heritage, for example in Rodos or in Leros. How can they better tell their story and could the islands become a tourist attraction regarding battlefield tourism?

Battlefield Archaeology: The rare relics of Leros, 1943
Battlefield Archaeology: The rare relics of Leros, 1943 

I think that much more should be done in terms of marketing and promotion (internet, documentary etc..) as well as organizing guided tours in these sites.

An excellent example is the private travel agency Leros Active, which offers guided tours and trekking to the various military sites of Leros.

Aerial view of Listening Wall of Mount Patella during restoration work
Aerial view of Listening Wall of Mount Patella during restoration work

I have also produced a map of Mount Patella to be freely given. But again these are personal private initiatives not produced by the Local Tourist Offices which often promote only the classical or medieval archaeology.

With all due differences, I think of Normandy, which is the best “business case” to imitate, hundreds of thousands of tourists visit the beaches and the sites of Operation Overlord , so something similar could be done on a smaller scale for Rodos or Leros.

The forgotten WW2 barracks and the… sexy lady http://www.ww2wrecks.com/portfolio/the-forgotten-ww2-barracks-and-the-sexy-lady/
The forgotten WW2 barracks and the… sexy lady 

My work would have not be possible without the help of the following people:
Michael Kollias – Mayor of Leros
Enzo Bonanno – Secretary of AIAL Leros
Markos Spanos – Photographer, Leros
Ioanna Asmeniadou-Phocas , Producer Leros
Vincenzo Caruso –Director of Museum Forte Cavalli, Messina, Sicily
Pietro La Tona – Director of School Cuppari, Messina, Sicily
Michele Campo – Engineer at School Cuppari, Messina Sicily
Historical Archive of the Italian Navy (AUSMMI)

“Storia Militare” n.121 – 122 anno XI ottobre – novembre 2003, L. Alberghini Maltoni, Lero 1943( article about the battle of Lero)

“ Storia Militare” n.105 anno X giugno 2002, L. Alberghini Maltoni, Rodi 1943, (article about the battle after the italian armistice against Sturm Division Rodos)

FURTHER READING ON THE BATTTLE OF LEROS (CLICK THE LINKS BELOW TO READ THE STORIES AND SEE MORE PHOTOS):

 

The Battles for Kos and Leros, 1943 – the new edition of “Churchill’s Folly”

 

 

Autumn 1943: Operation “Taifun”, the Battle for Leros, the tragic end of the LRDG and the defeat of the British

 

 

Leros Island, 1943: The underwater museum of WW2 aircraft wrecks and shipwrecks

 

 

The Heinkel He111 of Leros, shot down on 14 November 1943

 

 

Then and Now: Operation “Taifun”, the Battle for Leros, 1943-2016

 

 

WW2 German Stuka Ju87 aircraft shot down in 1943 recovered in Leros

 

 

Hellenic Air Force Museum – The wings of history