DAD IS HERE TO VISIT!!!@#$%^&*!! That’s right he came all the way from ‘Merica to visit and I was so excited to see him! 🙂 I haven’t seen my parents since I moved to Italy in May of 2014. As soon as I found out mom would be hesitant to make the trip because she didn’t wanted to fly that long on a plane, I decided it would be a Father-Daughter WWII Italy extravaganza. Where we could drive North of Naples and check out some WWII sites while we nerd out and catch up.
And so that’s just what we did!
Here are the highlights:
NETTUNA SICILY-AMERICAN WAR CEMETARY
I had visited the Nettuno Sicily-American War Cemetery for Memorial Day in May and it would be a must see for dad.
The cemetery itself contains 7,861 graves of American members from WWII. The majority of these individuals died in the liberation of Sicily (July 10 to August 17, 1943). In the landings in the Salerno Area (September 9, 1943). And in the landings at Anzio Beach and expansion of the beachhead (January 22, 1944 to May 1944). The names of over 3,095 MIA military members are also listed in the cemetery, so we may always remember them and their sacrifices.
In a room at the front monument of the cemetery is a wall that shows you exactly how the liberation of Italy began.
After dad got the tour and we went through the welcome center, we headed over to Anzio to tour the Beach Head War Museum.
ANZIO BEACHEAD WAR MUSEUM
After walking through the cemetery we headed to Anzio which is about a 15 minute drive from Nettuno. We decided to check out the Anzio Beach Head War Museum. It was a very interesting setup. Inside there were many rooms with old artifacts excavated from Italy and only one small room on the right side with war artifacts from WWII.
You weren’t supposed to take photos inside the museum so I only snapped 2, but this is the room full of posters, pictures, uniforms, and artifacts in cases. There’s really no rhyme or reason to where things are placed and for any explanation it’s written in only Italian so its hard to find out much about things.
After exploring the museum and driving down the main road at the coast, we headed East and a bit South East, backtracking a bit to go to Monte Cassino. In 1944, the advance on Monte Cassino was considered an important push to take Rome during the Italian Liberation. If they could take this city, they could move to take Rome.
At the beginning of 1944, Germans had full control of Rapido, Liri, and Garigliano valleys which made up the Gustav Line. Monte Cassino, the abbey that dominated a hilltop overlooking the town of Cassino was an entrance point to the Liri and Rapido valleys.
Repeated artillery attacks against German troops, allowed allied forces to conclude that the Germans must be using the abbey as an observation point. The abbey would have to be taken out. Allies attacked the Abbey of Monte Cassino on 15 February 1944 with over 1,400 tons of explosives. Taking the hilltop quickly and efficiently was the objective, and things were not as easy as that. German forces were able to set up defensive positions amongst the rubble of the Abbey bombings and hold out for quite some time up on that hilltop. From January till May there were 4 attempts to finish the battle by allied forces and the 4th attack spread out over 20 miles.
Casualties were high on both sides after this battle ended. Allied forces lost some 50,000 forces in the attemps to take control of Monte Cassino and Axis powers lost 20,000.
MONTE CASSINO GERMAN WAR CEMETERY
Looking at google maps we saw the Monte Cassino War Cemetery and decided to check it out. Just outside of the town you won’t be able to get there without a car and a pretty good GPS.
To think, this cemetery is set up in a small town where Italians are going about their every day business, while the remains of a war stand on a hill overlooking Monte Cassino. Its a very odd thing to think of as you walk up into the cemetary.
Just as you enter the gate there is a small building that was unlocked to the public. Inside you’ll find these archived binders that lists all the people who were buried in the cemetery and where you can find them.
As you walk inside the building that has steps leading up to the area with the graves, you’ll see this etched into the stone. The grid that you can use along with the folders to find a person you are looking for. It’s a pretty easy to use system and it won’t be hard to find someone this way.
My grandfather was a very big member of the Rotary Club which was established back in 1905. If you don’t know what the Rotary Club is then click the link for the history. Any time I bring it up in conversation people know of it about 50% of the time.
So my grandfather was at a Rotary function up in Munich with his friend Bernie and they were sitting with 2 German Rotary Club members for dinner. Of course they got to talking about the war. My grandfather explained that he was stationed on Iwo Jima after they took the island and Bernie said he was stationed in Europe flying for the airforce. One of the Germans was in the Luftwaffe (German Airforce during WWII) and the other was a soldier in England.
A couple of minutes into the conversations one of the Germans looked over and said, “Wait a minute, Bernie, were you dropping bombs on us?”
Bernie smiled shyly and said, “Yes I think so.”
Could you imagine being thrown into war at a very young age and then years later sitting at a dinner with people who were once your enemy? Its a very different concept.
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Also, get excited because next we are off to the Abby of Monte Cassino to take a look at how bad the bombings were during the war when allied forces tried to flush them out of the area as they made moves to take over Rome.