The Boy in the War Zone

opposed the monarchy and the clergy with equal intensity. Because of his political leanings my grandfather had gone to find refuge in Lujan de Cuyo, Argentina, where my mother was born. My father knew early on that the German-Italian alliance would lose the war. He was well aware that the Nazis could not fight on two fronts indefinitely and that with time the colossal war machine and the advanced organization of the United States would prevail. He had seen enough on various fronts himself to know that Italy contributed pitifully little to the German war effort. He was hoping that the last phase of the war would bypass Italy but the Allies had decided to go ahead with the invasion of Italy, more as a political than a strategic operation. The indiscriminate bombing of the Italian cities led my father to despair.

Unbeknownst to us, we were about to be carpet bombed. It was getting dark when my father brought me outside to watch a spectacle that was truly hellish. The sky was illuminated by hundreds of flares dropped by specially equipped planes. They were target indicators for the bombers. It was a vision straight out of Dante’s Inferno that was about to become a horrible nightmare. The bombing was propaedeutic to a large offensive that would propel the Allies on the road to Bologna and then the Po river valley. My father knew what was coming. There were no bomb shelters and the house did not have a basement. We huddled under the stairs, cramped and terrified by the explosions that were beginning to go off nearby. And then we heard that harbinger of death, the stunning whistle of a bomb coming down. My father screamed: “It’s for us!” Seconds later, a huge blast shook the house, pieces of plaster rained down and massive cloud of dust enveloped us. We could hardly breathe but we were alive. The bomb had hit the house next to us. I saw it a few hours later, completely flattened
by the explosion. A few neighbors and workers were digging in the rubble. They were bringing out the bodies of the victims. My father told me later that seven people had been buried by the explosion. He did not want me to see the scene but I got a glimpse of the devastation. The sight of a bloodied mattress stayed with me for the rest of my life.

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