Nettuno Cemetery, Memorial Day, 1945

From The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944, Volume Two of the Liberation Trilogy, by Rick Atkinson (Henry Holt, 2007), Kindle p. 578:

The muddy field, redeemed with bougainvillea and white oleander, soon became the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery, a seventy-seven-acre sanctuary where almost eight thousand military dead would be interred.

Here, on Memorial Day in 1945, just three weeks after the end of the war in Europe, a stocky, square-jawed figure would climb the bunting-draped speaker’s platform and survey the dignitaries seated before him on folding chairs. Then Lucian Truscott, who had returned to Italy from France a few months earlier to succeed Mark Clark as the Fifth Army commander, turned his back on the living and instead faced the dead. “It was,” wrote eyewitness Bill Mauldin, “the most moving gesture I ever saw.” In his carbolic voice, Truscott spoke to Jack Toffey, to Henry Waskow, and to the thousands of others who lay beneath the ranks of Latin crosses and stars of David. As Mauldin later recalled:

He apologized to the dead men for their presence here. He said everybody tells leaders it is not their fault that men get killed in war, but that every leader knows in his heart that this is not altogether true. He said he hoped anybody here through any mistake of his would forgive him, but he realized that was asking a hell of a lot under the circumstances…. He promised that if in the future he ran into anybody, especially old men, who thought death in battle was glorious, he would straighten them out.

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Filed under Germany, Italy, military, religion, U.S., war

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