Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Allies Enter Bologna

I can't say enough about how amazing the Internet is. I once gave a speech comparing the Internet to the building of the transcontinental railroad. Stephen Ambrose, in his book Nothing Like It In The World, details the impact of the railroad in uniting the East and West coasts, and the opening of near instant communication lines. In the same way, the Internet has been connecting the world.

This past week Mario Monastorolo, a historian from Italy whom I have become friends with via blogging, sent me footage of the Allies entering Bologna during World War II. If a picture is worth a thousand words, footage like this must be worth ten thousand.

This is not documentary, it is raw, uncut. The war footage is of special interest here because my wife's father, Bud Wagner, was a jeep driver in the 34th "Red Bull" Division which is rolling through town in these brief but revealing films. I find myself playing a variation of the game Where's Waldo?

The breakthrough at Bologna in April 1945 was a critical juncture in the Italy campaign. The Germans made the Allies fight for every inch as they advanced up the peninsula. As a resulted of a concerted attack by British and U.S. forces, the city fell on the 21st. It was the enthusiasm with which the people greeted their liberators that signalled to Mussolini that he was done for. When the news that you see in this footage was conveyed to Mussolini he attempted to flee to Germany for refuge. He was captured instead by Italian partisans and one week later shot in a public square.

Bud was within a mile of the event, and could have driven in to watch Mussolini's execution, but chose not to. Says he, "I had seen enough blood."

Check out the archival footage Mario sent to us here and here.

Wagner's diaries were assembled and published, with assistance from his son Lloyd, in a book titled And There Shall Be Wars. It is an essential addition to the library of any WW2 buff.

Thanks, Mario, for the fascinating footage. Thanks, Bud, for sharing your observations about this significant segment of history.

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