Livorno troops participate in Lucca liberation ceremonies
September 12, 2008
LUCCA, Italy - It was a typical hot September day here in this Tuscan town, much like it was six decades ago as World war II raged on.
And the dust being kicked around by tanks rumbling into Napoleon's Square on Sept. 5 certainly didn't stop the crowd from cheering on their liberators - back in 1944 and again in 2008, including several present-day Soldiers from U.S. Army Garrison Livorno.
For Ivo Cardelli, who was at the original liberation of Lucca 64 years ago, the anniversary parade of historic vehicles, re-enactors and U.S. Soldiers brought tears to his eyes.
"I was a child ... someone told me the Allies were coming, so I went in to the hills to look for them," recalled Cardelli, who now resides in San Francisco. "I found a small patrol of [four Soldiers] ... who were kind to the children and gave us extra food. I still remember the first time I was given a Hersey's chocolate bar."
Staff Sgt. James Brooks, a military policeman currently assigned to Livorno's Camp Darby, said the Army's participation in the parade - and other similar events held annually throughout the European country - strengthens the bond between Italians and Americans.
"I spent some time talking to people who were here during the 1944 liberation," said Brooks, "and it was amazing to listen to their stories. It was especially flattering to be able to march in the parade bearing the U.S. colors; I didn't realize there would be such a large crowd clapping and cheering."
Fellow Darby Soldier, Capt. Antonio Valenti, of the staff judge advocate's office, added that he was surprised to learn about the role of Italian partisans in freeing Lucca.
"Aside from the French resistance, the role of partisans is often over looked so I'm glad I met men and women who played a part in liberating Lucca," Valenti said.
The re-enactment of that moment began at 8 a.m., just as in 1944 when Col. Raymond Sherman ordered two companies of his men to take the town. Right before the Company E re-enactors entered Lucca's historic center square at noon, Staff. Sgt. Thomas Garrard, another MP participant from USAG Livorno, turned to Cardelli, shook his hand and said "memories never stop."