Italy enthralled by ship's tale of two captains

Wed Jan 18, 2012 11:12am EST
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By Philip Pullella

ROME (Reuters) - The Coast Guard officer who ordered the captain of the capsized Italian cruise ship to go back aboard unwittingly became an instant hero on Wednesday, credited with saving the national honor on one of its darkest nights.

Italy has become enthralled with the tale of two captains.

One is Coast Guard Captain Gregorio De Falco, who furiously ordered the skipper of the Costa Concordia to return to his ship and oversee the rescue operations.

The other is Captain Francesco Schettino - whom newspapers have branded a coward for fleeing in the face of adversity and who is now under house arrest, accused of multiple manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship.

"Listen Schettino, perhaps you have saved yourself from the sea but I will make you look very bad. I will make you pay for this. Go on board (Expletive!)" De Falco yelled at Schettino during a 4-minute radio exchange made public on Tuesday.

The Italian word De Falco used, "cazzo" in Italian, is slang for the male sexual organ but it is commonly used to emphasize something, equivalent to "Go on board, damn it."

The imperative phrase in Italian -- "Vada a bordo, cazzo!" -- was already on T-shirts by Wednesday morning.

"Thank You, Captain" was the more sedate headline the country's largest national newspaper, Corriere della Sera, chose on Wednesday, reflecting the gratitude of Italians who see Schettino's behavior as a national embarrassment.   Continued...