Memorial Day – Italian Style

May 30, 2016 / Local Interest

– 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!)


8 Responses to “Memorial Day – Italian Style”

  1. CeciliaBelenardo

    Thank’s for this information, I had three uncles who fought there in 1943.

  2. Judy Bozza

    Rick, thank you for sharing your words and pictures. I am a 1st generation American on my fathers side and have chosen to identify myself as Italian American. I am so proud to be of Italian heritage, I have seen the cemetery near Florence and perhaps on another visit I can actually walk through and pay my respects.

  3. Linda Boccia

    I honor all the fallen soldiers, the men and women, in ANY WAR as having made sacrifices, some not even their choice to fight and others willingly joining the conflict. Yet war is never the solution as it only identifies who GAVE UP first and not the resolution to the conflict. So many lives destroyed, so much pain and suffering for everyone. Americans have only fought one great war on their soil, a terrible war dividing a nation with ramifications yet today, and it cost so many lives. May we look to negotiation rather than combat for solutions to political and territorial aspirations.

  4. Carolyn Bellanti

    We have walked reverently through the Cemetery near Ortona (Abruzzo). Each marker contains the name and regiment of the fallen service man, and each contains words chosen by the surviving family member(s). Each row of stones is surrounding by the flowers of the season, carefully tended, with manicured grass between. We love as well the WWII monument in the family hometown of Città Sant’Angelo (PE).
    The statue depicts an angel holding a dead person. The gender of angel and body are not clear, and the inscription (translated) says, “To All the Fallen.”

  5. Marianna Raccuglia

    A sad article – thank you for printing this for your readers

  6. An interesting historical account, pictures and comments, so apropriate for Memorial Day weekend. A local young man died in Italy in this fight.


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