National Geographic : 1957 Jun
Here Rest in Honored Glory . . . a grass-carpeted peristyle. Here on a ped estal stride two life-size bronzes of a soldier and a sailor, each with an arm on the other's bare shoulder. Now in a friendly land they walk free of war, their duty done (page 755). At the Nettuno monument one warm July afternoon I joined about 2,000 Italians and Americans on the mall before the memorial building. A U. S. color guard and honor guard took up positions to the right of the main steps. In full-dress blue with red-plumed cocked hats, a company of carabinieri (Italy's military police) formed on the left. Between them Gen. Alexander A. Vande grift, a wartime Commandant of the U. S. Ma rine Corps, presided on the speakers' stand. Italy's Prime Minister Antonio Segni said: "It was in the logic of things that the men of America should fight together with us, in the name of liberty and independence." And he declared that those who fell in the struggle should encourage us to defend together the hard-earned liberty and peace. Tribute to Italian Assistance In his dedicatory address, the Honorable Charles S. Thomas, then Secretary of the Navy, recalled the military and political events that followed the landings at Nettuno and Anzio. He could not overestimate, he said, the value of Italian assistance, springing naturally from the traditional ties between Italy and the United States. "Our fellow citizens of Italian origin," said Secretary Thomas, "have played a large part in the building of the United States.... To day our countries stand shoulder to shoulder for the common defense of our ideals...." The ceremony ended with a stirring fly-past of United States Navy planes. But many guests, largely Italians, lingered until the sun's last rays left the crosses to the quietness of twilight. I strolled away with two Americans who had served in southern Italy. One of them was talking in the manner of a man thinking out loud. "It's upsetting to see all those crosses," he said. "I'd kind of forgotten how terrible the whole thing was. But a ceme tery like this sure brings it back." Near the main gates I entered a small stone house containing the superintendent's office and a reception room, where visitors get in formation and sign a register. In this book a veteran had written: "I never thought I would return. However it gives me a wonderful feeling to know that many of my budies [his spelling] rest in peace in such a nice and well kept place." Another serviceman: "I fought with the Rangers here. Some of these guys were my buddies. Poor guys." A young Bostonian told me she traveled here expressly to see the grave of her brother, killed at 18. She wrote of the Nettuno me morial: "It does them justice." What finer tribute than that? The liberation of southern Italy opened the way for a large-scale invasion of southern France just as the battle for Normandy reached the decisive stage. This Mediter ranean campaign, planned to assist the Allies in northern Europe, proved to be a master piece of military strategy. Before dawn on August 15, 1944, Allied paratroopers landed near Draguignan, 40 miles northeast of Toulon. A few hours later, gliders packed with more fully equipped fight ing men alighted in the area. Altogether, 9,000 Americans and British descended from the skies with 213 cannon and 221 jeeps in one of the most successful airborne opera tions of the war. But some American parachutists went wide of their mark. Instead of landing in the in land Draguignan area, they hit the Medi terranean coast near St. Tropez. This turned out to be a providential miscalculation. French Fighters Join Battle Regional FFI (French Forces of the In terior) soon joined the wayward paratroopers, and together they attacked the Germans in St. Tropez. By noon this small but useful port belonged to the Allies. Early that same morning three infantry divisions of the U. S. Seventh Army, sup ported by French Army units as well as bombers, fighters, and warships, made beach heads between Toulon and Cannes; overnight the Gulf of St. Tropez became one of the world's busiest harbors. A few days later the French General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny arrived in St. Tropez to discuss plans for an attack on Toulon with Lt. Gen. Alexander M. Patch, commander of the U. S. Seventh Army. There is a story that Patch handed him half a flower a little girl had picked on Mount Vesuvius. "Let's each keep half," said Patch, "as a good-luck charm to lead our two armies, side by side."