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Umberto Pugliese

PUGLIESE, UMBERTO (1880–1961), Italian-Jewish patriot and scientist, a genius in the field of naval architecture. Pugliese was born in Alessandria, Piedmont, and joined the Italian navy in 1898, later being transferred to the naval corps of engineering. After various positions both in the royal arsenal and aboard ship he served for ten years on the committee for naval projects, and was appointed general inspector of the Naval Corps of Engineers. Pugliese planned and was responsible for the construction of most of the great Italian battleships ("Garibaldi," "Vittorio Veneto," "Roma," "Impero," "Littorio," and others). His most remarkable invention was a device known as the Pugliese Water-Line capable of enabling bombed battleships to float and, in many instances, to resume service.

On December 31, 1938, while his battleships were still in the dockyards, Pugliese was dismissed from the navy because of his Jewish origin, in compliance with the new racial laws. He nevertheless remained in Italy and, when the British bombed the Italian Navy out of service in November 1940, the chief of staff, Admiral Cavagnari, did not hesitate to appeal to Pugliese for his assistance in refloating the battleships. Pugliese fulfilled the mission and, when asked what reward he demanded for his services in saving the Italian Navy, he requested the honor to don his naval uniform again. His request was partially granted in 1942.

In 1943, he was arrested and questioned by the Germans, who had hoped to use his valuable knowledge in Germany, but Pugliese was adamant in his refusal, declaring that he was, and would stay faithful to, the oath he had given to the monarchy. When the Germans occupied Rome in 1943, they sent the Jewish Admiral Augusto *Capon to Auschwitz, where he was gassed despite the fact that he had a personal letter from Mussolini, but Pugliese was spared. When he died in Sorrento in 1961, Pugliese was buried with full military honors.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.