A WWII Canadian Soldier Honored for Killing Allied Troops

The Normandy celebrations of the 80th anniversary of D Day commemorated the victory of the Allies against the Axis powers. But a very different recent celebration in Italy paid tribute to a WWII Allied soldier who shot and killed fellow Allied soldiers. The heroics of the young Italian Canadian officer Captain Tony Scotti shooting French colonial troops during the Battle of Cassino in order to protect women and children was recently recognized by the Italian government. Years after the late May/early June 1944 events, government officials as well as local villagers paid tribute to the courage of Scotti in one of the most courageous and unusual acts to have taken place during the fog of war and a reminder of fragile alliances.

The story begins at the end of May 1944, when the sixteen-year-old Antonio Grazio Ferraro was caught between retreating German soldiers and arriving French colonial troops. “With the retreat of the Germans and the advance of the Allied troops, we considered ourselves relatively safe because the area was under the control of Canadian soldiers,” the mature Professor Ferraro wrote years later in an interview in “CASSINO from the destruction of war to the rebirth of peace.”

That safety was an illusion. Rumors were spreading among the villagers about the violence of the advancing Allied troops, the Moroccan “goumiers,” mostly recruited from Berber tribes in the Moroccan Atlas Mountains. More than rumors, the advancing French troops even warned the locals that the North African troops were capable of violence.

Ferraro was rounded up by the colonial troops along with members of his family. They were forced to witness sexual as well as extreme physical violence. The 1960 film Two Women, starring Sophie Loren, describes the violence and rapes that took place in the region at the time. Arriving French soldiers made no effort to stop the beatings and rapes or punish the perpetrators.

Outraged by what had happened and what was happening, Ferraro and his family went to the nearby headquarters of the Canadian Military Police in Pofi. They met with the commander, Captain Tony Scotti, a former police officer in Westmount, Quebec, who spoke perfect Italian because of his family’s background.

The next day Scotti and several soldiers went to the cottage where the violence had taken place. Soon after, the locals started screaming as the dreaded Moroccans started approaching from across the Sacco River, the border between the Canadian Army and the French Expeditionary Forces. As Ferraro recounted: “Captain Scotti warned them not to cross the river, firing a few shots into the air with his pistol. After an initial moment of hesitation and surprise, the gaumiers tried to cross the river as if in a fit of madness, at which point the Canadian soldiers opened fire, fatally shooting several of them. The survivors and their wounded turned back and disappeared into the trees.”


Captain Tony Scotti in 1944.

How many were killed we will never know. But Ferraro later said the river ran red after the Canadians machinegunned their Allies. An official report estimated that around three hundred rapes were believed have taken place in the Castro dei Volsci area alone.

Adding to the heroic act of Scotti and the Canadians is a bit of serendipity. Several years after, in 1975, during ceremonies marking the Battle of Cassino, a delegation of Canadian politicians and soldiers attended a conference organized by the local municipality and the Mayor of Cassino, Antonio Grazio Ferraro.

Ferraro recollected what happened this way: “As I welcomed the convention participants with the ritual greetings of welcome, one of them stood up and welcomed himself as Colonel Tony Scotti of the Canadian Military Police.

No, it wasn’t possible. Was it really Captain Scotti I met in Pofi in May 1944? When I asked him if he was in command of the Military Police in Pofi and if he remembered the events that happened 31 years ago, after a moment of silence, he walked towards me, and we gave each other an emotional hug.”

“At the end of the conference, which obviously underwent a surprise change of program, I gave Colonel Scotti the Gold Medal of the City of Cassino, and he reciprocated, giving me the golden badge of his Corps.”

80 years after the events surrounding the Battle of Cassino, the Government of Italy formally recognized the descendants of Tony Scotti in two events, April 25 in Pofi and May 14 in Castro dei Volsci. At the first event, the mayor of Pofi presented Scotti’s and Ferraro’s daughters the key to the city and honorary citizenship. April 25 is “Liberation Day” in Italy and this year, like D Day, marks the 80th anniversary. The key was designed and produced especially for this occasion. A monument was put up near where it all happened.


Scotti’s daughter Carol Kohler Scotti with family, key to the city of Pofi and honorary citizenship.

The second ceremony took place at the train station in Castro dei Volsci on May 14, 2024. Scotti’s two daughters and family were there with twenty-four veteran Canadian soldiers and local survivors of the war.


Carol Kohler Scotti with veteran Canadian soldiers before the monument.

As one of the monuments honoring these two men put it so well: “In these places, during the early days of June 1944, two young men proved their courage and altruism. Through their actions they saved the citizens from dreadful brutalities and abuses.”

Scotti stayed in the provost corps after the war and become the Commandant of the Canadian Provost Corps School (1960-62) and the Canadian Army Provost Marshal (1962-64). He retired from the military in 1968 and died in 1995 at 80.

Based on what was happening in 1944, Scotti and Ferraro understood that so-called “allies” could not be trusted. In his remarks at the American cemetery at Coleville-sur-Mer on June 6, President Biden said; “We proved something else here as well: the unbreakable unity of the Allies. Here with us are men who served alongside the Americans that day, wearing different flags on their arms but fighting with the same courage, for the same purpose. What the Allies did together 80 years ago far surpassed anything we could have done on our own. It was a powerful illustration of how alliances — real alliances — make us stronger — a lesson that I pray we Americans never forget.”

Biden was probably not aware of what Scotti and Ferraro did. For beyond Biden’s extolling the “unbreakable unity of the Allies,” Scotti’s and Ferraro’s heroics highlight that seeming allies and alliances are not always “real” and cannot always be trusted. Their courage in protecting innocent civilians even against allied troops is more than worthy of commemoration against the background of the “Us” against “Them” celebrations on D Day.

Daniel Warner is the author of An Ethic of Responsibility in International Relations. (Lynne Rienner). He lives in Geneva.