National Geographic : 1945 Mar
Return to Florence 1'. S. Army Air Forces, Official As Nazis Shell Florence, Dust of Renaissance Architecture Rises above Ponte Vecchio Palaces, as at the left, have been mined and demolished. Now the enemy, in retreat, bombards famous churches; one shell killed 40 persons leaving Mass. When flying in, the author told a fellow bombardier, "You can pick up the Baptistery in front of the Cathedral pretty easily. It's very white in the sunlight" (page 279). A pyramided roof is another distinguishing feature. Giotto's square Campanile in center. the steel shutters blown. There was broken glass everywhere. Either the Fascists or the retreating Germans had done this. Walking through the streets and seeing the crowds, I still found it difficult to reconstruct the past, the afternoons five years gone. I was impressed at last that it would never be possible, that there was no use trying to go back. Perhaps later, but not now. The route by which I had returned to Flor ence in the hot month of August, 1944, with Britain's Eighth Army sweating and toiling in the streets and up the highway, had been long and devious. I had lived in Grenoble in south eastern France for the year after Munich and had come down to Florence at Easter in 1939, and then again in August just before the war broke out. I had left Florence and gone up through Austria and Germany to England and had been in London when the Germans went into Poland. A month later I had gone back to France to study at the Sorbonne and had spent the strange winter of the waiting war in France. I had been in Oslo when the Germans in vaded Norway and had stayed under the oc cupation for five months before being able to return on a refugee ship which left Petsamo, Finland, for New'York. In August, 1942, I had been in flying school in the West and in October, 1943, had come overseas with a medium-bombardment squadron. In the pause between the fall of France and Pearl Harbor, I had put in a year at Harvard working for my M. A. in literature and another year teaching English at the Uni versity of Wisconsin. There seemed no connection among any of the things I had done or the places I had been in the five years-no connection, but a certain inevitability.