After 77 years, the US military replaces a woman’s birthday cake while commemorating a victory in Italy

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Meri Mion of Vicenza, who was 13 the day 77 years ago when American soldiers arrived in the city, liberated it from the Germans then took her birthday cake, cried when the cake was replaced by U.S. Army Garrison in a ceremony, April 28, 2022. (Nancy Montgomery/Stars and Stripes)

VICENZA, Italy – American tankers and infantrymen helped liberate this scenic northern Italian town 77 years ago, braving German sniper fire on Corso San Felice Fortunato, or St. luck.

Then they released a teenager’s birthday cake.

Those events were commemorated Thursday in a leafy park adjacent to that same street, along with military dignitaries, US sergeants, priests, mayors, well-wishers and the 13-year-old former owner of the stolen cake, who turns 90 on Friday. .

A color guard from U.S. and Italian troops takes part in a ceremony at the Giardini Salvi in ​​Vicenza, Italy, April 28, 2022. The ceremony marked the fighting that took place 77 years ago, and the sacrifices of U.S. service members who have liberated the city 11 days before the end of the <a class=war on May 8, 1945.”/>

A color guard from U.S. and Italian troops takes part in a ceremony at the Giardini Salvi in ​​Vicenza, Italy, April 28, 2022. The ceremony marked the fighting that took place 77 years ago, and the sacrifices of U.S. service members who have liberated the city 11 days before the end of the war on May 8, 1945. (Nancy Montgomery/Stars and Stripes)

Meri Mion had her cake replaced at the ceremony. It was introduced by Colonel Matthew Gomlak, Commander of the US Army Garrison in Italy, and followed by everyone singing “Happy Birthday” in Italian and English.

“I thought it was easy, we can catch up to what we did 77 years ago,” Gomlak said. “I felt a professional obligation. I felt a moral obligation.”

Gomlak, who wore a 1944 “pink and green” belted jacket for the occasion, delivered his speech in Italian. All the speakers on Thursday spoke of the long friendship of Italians and Americans and the suffering that preceded it during six years of war.

Col. Matthew Gomlak, commander of U.S. Army Garrison Italy, to the left of Meri Mion, seated, wore his World <a class=War II jacket to co-host an event on April 28, 2022, remembering the day he 77 years ago, American troops fought the Germans for two hours to liberate the city. Gomlak also presented Mion with a birthday cake to replace the one American troops took away in 1945.”/>

Col. Matthew Gomlak, commander of U.S. Army Garrison Italy, to the left of Meri Mion, seated, wore his World War II jacket to co-host an event on April 28, 2022, remembering the day he 77 years ago, American troops fought the Germans for two hours to liberate the city. Gomlak also gave Mion a birthday cake to replace the one American troops took away in 1945. (Nancy Montgomery/Stars and Stripes)

Italy switched sides in July 1943, just weeks after Operation Husky, in which the Allies invaded Sicily, captured it from the Axis powers and launched the Italian Campaign. The Allies then fought their way across the country in bitter, smaller-scale battles.

Hundreds of thousands of soldiers and civilians have been killed.

The Battle of Vicenza, just 11 days before the Allies declared victory, involved tankers from the 752nd Tank Battalion and the 88th Infantry Division, according to Ray Holt, an amateur historian whose father served in the 752nd .

A ceremony Thursday in Vicenza commemorating the 77th anniversary of the entry of American troops into the city included photos from that day and the battle of Vicenza.  At least 19 American soldiers were killed or wounded by the German rearguard.

A ceremony Thursday in Vicenza commemorating the 77th anniversary of the entry of American troops into the city included photos from that day and the battle of Vicenza. At least 19 American soldiers were killed or wounded by the German rearguard. (Nancy Montgomery/Stars and Stripes)

“It was probably the worst day of combat the 752nd had seen,” Holt said in an interview.

The troops did not expect much resistance as the Italian partisans largely controlled the city. But the German soldiers remained, with their tank-killing Panzerfausts, and they positioned themselves in flats lining the street where some 17 American tanks advanced, into ditches and around corners. Five tanks were hit, Holt said, and his father’s gunner was killed.

The battle lasted a few hours. It ended with at least 19 American casualties, according to garrison officials.

American tanks arrive in Vicenza, Italy, after units captured the city from Axis forces on April 28, 1945. The Battle of Vicenza, which ended just 11 days before the Allies declared victory in Europe, involved soldiers from the 752nd Tank Battalion and the 88th Infantry Division.  .

American tanks arrive in Vicenza, Italy, after units captured the city from Axis forces on April 28, 1945. The Battle of Vicenza, which ended just 11 days before the Allies declared victory in Europe, involved soldiers from the 752nd Tank Battalion and the 88th Infantry Division. . (The American army)

“My grandfather was also killed that day,” said Alessia Zorzan, who was covering the ceremony for local newspaper, Il Giornale di Vicenza. He was 36, she said, and was shot by German soldiers who wanted his bike.

Mion had spent the night hiding with her mother in the attic as retreating German troops fired nearby. The next morning, she saw American troops camped near the house. It was her birthday and her mother baked a cake, then put it on the windowsill to cool.

The next thing she knew was that he was gone, Yogi Bear style.

Did she cry at the loss of her cake?

“No, she was very aware that other people were hungry,” said her daughter, Roberta Gaetno. “She felt like it was a gift for people in need.”

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