Sunday, April 25, 2010

Dogs of War and Liberation Day, Italy

This morning I'd intended to announce that my painting Dogs of War is now posted and available for purchase at, an online gallery where I have some of my work. How suitable that this morning I received an email from our friend Mario in Italy noting the significance of this day.

I'll be busy today again, I've a meeting at ten local time and am going to leave home. But today is also a very special day, and it has become a more special day since we got in touch with you and Bud. On April 25, Italy celebrates Liberation Day, the anniversary of the end of WWII. So it's the birthday of our freedom, a feast Bud has contributed in making possible. A kiss to him and you all!!!

Mario Monasterolo is a historian in Northern Italy's Po Valley region. While researching the end of the war, seeking oral histories and memories of those who lived that experience, Mario discovered my father-in-law's war memoirs, which were published in a book titled And There Shall Be Wars. Wilmer "Bud" Wagner was the second Minnesotan drafted into World War II and on the first transport across "the big pond" to engage the Axis powers. His preparation and service in Northern Ireland, North Africa and Italy makes for a good read, and is an outstanding historical document.

Interestingly enough, though Italy celebrates the 25th as its Liberation Day, for the soldiers in the field it was just another day, as Bud records here.

Wednesday, April 25, 1945
Took a side road, actually it was today that we went through Reggio, and not yesterday. Moved this morning and tonight. Went back to Division Artillery tonight about 10:30.

It wasn't until four days later that the reality of the end hit home. Again, from Bud's diary record And There Shall Be Wars:

Sunday, April 29, 1945
A day I won't forget for awhile. Up at 7:00.
Pulled out at 8:30. Made 172 miles. Cold and windy. Really enjoyed it, though. Thick groves of people lined the road all the way. Many beautiful girls, and well-dressed adults and younger people, all waving and cheering. Some close enough to you hold out their hands to touch yours.
Saw thousands of German prisoners. I counted 35 heavily loaded vehicles with Jerry prisoners, some high ranking officers, also nurses, all standing in their trucks, with Kraut drivers heading north.
We just crossed the Po again today, as wide as the Missouri River. We're at the foot of the Alps; they tower high in the distance, capped with snow, sure glad we don't have to chase Jerry through the Brenner Pass. We'd heard about that place.
We parked in a court yard for the night. Was a hard day, but nice driving on a good road, and made good time. Tom McGee rode with me.

In reflecting on this moment Bud, who turned 90 last summer, recalled for us the shouts of the Italian peoples as the soldiers passed, "Bueno Americano! No Bueno Tedeskie!" For Bud's 90th birthday celebration I painted the 2' x 3' panel above. It was a great day for Italy, and a great day for the families of those young G.I.'s who returned home.

Since making contact with Mario last year, we've grown ever more fond of the region and hope one day to visit one day. I've got my passport ready anyways... Perhaps the blog TERRE di SETA (Silk Lands, subtitled The People and History of Maira and Po) will whet your appetite for this region of the world as it has ours.

World War II Diaries and Memoirs is available for sale from Savage Press.
536 pages. Illustrated with 178 original photos and documents

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