– We’re proudly republishing this poignant note by Rick (Russo) Hayden of the 36th Division Association, in light of yesterday’s annual Memorial Day celebration in the United States.
Italy… birthplace of so many who left to the US a century ago and who – scarcely forty years later – sent their sons back to liberate their homeland from the Axis oppression and German occupation during the darkest days of World War Two.
The Italian campaign was an Allied effort which began in Sicily consisting of U.S., free French, British, Polish, New Zealand and Canadian troops. The winter of ’43-’44 was one of the worst on record in Italy, and to the G.I. fell the task of fighting Northward, objective Rome. The German Army was a fierce opponent, having had years to prepare defensive positions along and across the “Boot”, each of these taking their toll at places that have become synonymous with American and Allied sacrifice: San Pietro, then Monte Cassino, the Rapido River, Anzio… a toll which continued for another 17 months until Germany’s surrender in Italy on 29 April 1945.
The families of over twelve thousand Americans have elected to let them rest in the land that they fought and died for, at The Sicily-Rome American Cemetery and Memorial in Nettuno, south of Rome, and at the Florence American Cemetery and Memorial just south of Florence.
A visit is a transforming experience, walking among the commemorative statuary, the mosaic murals tracing the battles, the walls of the missing, the peaceful gardens and, yes, the endless white crosses. One becomes more Italian, if you will, after some reflective moments here on American soil, understanding more fully the true meaning of the word rispetto (respect).
More info available at the American Battle Monuments Commission website.
(– Written by and photos courtesy of Rick (Russo) Hayden, 36th Division Association. Thanks again!)