After nearly 80 years, the U.S. Army is making up for lost cake.
On Thursday, soldiers from U.S. Army Garrison Italy gave a birthday cake to an 89-year-old Italian woman whose birthday cake was taken from her home by American soldiers during the final days of World War II.
The woman, Meri Mion of Vicenza, was only 13 years old when U.S. soldiers, on April 28, 1945, took her cake as they were fighting in the area and looking for something to eat. The army has now given her a new cake ahead of her 90th birthday.
“Sgt. Peter Wallis, a military police Soldier from Seabeck, Washington, presented the cake to Mion, with Col. Matthew Gomlak, commander of U.S. Army Garrison Italy. Hundreds of people – to include Italian soldiers, carabinieri, U.S. veterans and Italian veterans, plus many local residents, looked on,” the Army said in a press release.
Once the scene of fierce combat as soldiers from the U.S. 88th Infantry fought German soldiers in stormy weather became a peaceful scene as Mion was presented with a birthday cake 77 years after the fighting.
At least 19 Americans were killed or wounded while fighting German troops in the area, and the U.S. also lost several tanks during the campaign. Nevertheless, grateful Italians gave U.S. soldiers bread and wine after the region was successfully liberated.
Gomlak noted that the “warm welcome by the people of Vicenza continues to this day,” while Wallis said the ceremony “was a little awkward, but it makes me feel great to give her the cake.”
After a night of hiding from the fighting on their family farm, 13-year-old Mion was looking forward to enjoying her birthday cake but said she was disappointed when it disappeared.
“Her happiness turned into disappointment later when the resourceful American Soldiers made off with her birthday cake,” Gomlak explained. The American soldiers had taken the cake from the window sill.
However, she was happy that the army remembered and was grateful after being presented with the cake.
The American campaign in Italy lasted from 1943 to 1945, and the Allies met stiff resistance from German troops. An estimated 60,000–70,000 Allied soldiers died during the fighting, while roughly 100,000 Germans were killed during the campaign.
“Mountainous Italy was a hard place to fight and mistakes were made by both sides, even before the main focus of fighting in Western Europe shifted to France in June 1944. The result was that difficult, hardscrabble fighting in Italy lasted almost the end of WWII,” the American Heritage Museum explained.
The U.S. maintains cemeteries in Italy for American war dead from World War II, including the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery and the Florence American Cemetery.
The Sicily-Rome Cemetery, dedicated in 1956, has the graves of 7,845 soldiers and the names of 3,095 soldiers who were missing in action engraved on the marble walls of a chapel. At the Florence American Cemetery, 4,392 soldiers are buried, and the names of 1,409 missing are also memorialized.