|Commander K. at the American Cemetery, Florence, Italy|
Florence, Italy offers many delights for the visiting tourist...wonderful art and architecture, juicy bistecca fiorentina, fabulous wines and many delicious gelato options. Everyone needs to see the statue of David at the Academia if only once in a lifetime. On the teeming cobblestone streets of Florence you really can hear "the women come and go, talking of Michelangelo".
If one cares to, it is possible, however, to make an escape from the crowded galleries and piazzas in to experience a quiet and peaceful world of surpassing beauty and poignancy. I recently had an opportunity to visit three World War II cemeteries just outside of Florence.
At the American cemetery on the road to Chianti country one can find the graves of 4,402 US military dead. The quiet Greve river flows nearby the 70 acre site.
|Commander K. with statue of American soldier by an Italian sculptor|
361st Infantry, 91st Division ("Pine Tree"), US Army
The Italian government changed sides shortly after the invasion of the Italian mainland. Mussolini was captured by the new Italian government and then rescued by Hitler's commandos led by Otto Skorzeny. Many Italian partisans aided the allied cause in the fighting which took place in Tuscany and all over Italy. There were also many horrific Nazi reprisals against the Partigiani.
Over 327,000 Allied soldiers were killed during the Italian campaign -- more than in the campaign in the West from Normandy to the Rhine. In spite of this, Allied veterans of the Italian campaign never really got their share of glory or media credit for helping win the war. Few books were written and films made chronicling their exploits. The strategic highlight of the campaign, the liberation of Rome, took place on June 4, 1944 -- only two days before D-day. The Viscountess Astor allegedly disparaged Italian campaign veterans as the "D-Day Dodgers" (see video below).
|Commander K. at the Commonwealth War cemetery near Florence|
You may be surprised to find women as well as male combatants including this 28-year old Canadian Radio Officer, Maud Steane...
|Maud Steane, 28 year-old Canadian Radio Officer aboard the SS Vigo Hansteen|
"Her life was a wordless sermon in courage and understanding"
|Guest registry from Commonwealth Grave Cemetery near Florence, Italy|
|Stone tablet at German cemetery|
|German cemetery near Florence|
Very occasionally one can find a grave decorated with fresh flowers.
|American Cemetery Florence, Italy|
General George S. Patton, who is himself buried surrounded his troops in a cemetery in Luxembourg, said, "It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived."
You can now purchase Commander Kelly's
And now Italy Invades: How Italians Conquered the World...
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