World War II veteran reunites with an Italian saved as a child


Bologna, Italy-Martin Adler, for more than 70 years, as a young American soldier with a wide smile, with three perfectly dressed Italian children allegedly saved when the Nazis retreated north in 1944. I have cherished my black-and-white photographs.

On Monday, a 97-year-old World War II veteran met his three brothers (now the octet himself) in person for the first time since the war.

After a 20-hour trip from Boca Raton, Florida, Adler reached out to grab the people of Bruno, Mafalda, and Giuliana Nardi for a fun reunion at the airport in Bologna. Then he handed out a bar of American chocolate, as he did as a 20-year-old soldier in their village in Monterenzio.

“Look at my smile,” Adler said of the long-awaited face-to-face reunion made possible by the reach of social media.

It was a happy ending to a story that could have been a tragedy.

When the soldiers and their children first met, in 1944, three faces were peeked out of a huge wicker basket hidden by their mother as the soldiers approached. Adler thought the house was empty, so when he heard the sound, he thought a German soldier was hiding inside and trained a machine gun in his basket.

us.-Italian veterans
Julio Mafarda Juliana Nardi, who was saved on August 23, 2021 at Bologna Airport in Italy during World War II, welcomed the 97-year-old retired American soldier Martin Adler (R). (Antonio Caranni / AP photo)

“My mother’s mamma came out and I stood in front of my gun and stopped shooting,” Adler recalled. “She was angry with my gun and shouted.” Bambinis! Bambinis! Bambinis! “I was thrilled,” Adler recalled.

“It was a real hero, a mother, not me. A mother was a real hero. Can you imagine you standing in front of a gun and yelling” children “? No! “He said.

Adler is still shivering, remembering that he was only a few seconds away from setting the basket on fire. And after all these decades, he still suffers from the nightmares of war, said his daughter, Rachel Donley.

The children aged 3 to 6 I met were happy memories. His company stayed in the village for a while and he came and played with them.

Juliana Nardi, the youngest, is only one of the three who remembered this event. She climbs out of the basket and remembers meeting Adler and another American soldier who died afterwards.

“They were laughing,” recalls Nardi, now 80. “They were happy they didn’t shoot.”

On the other hand, she did not fully understand the close call.

“We weren’t afraid of anything,” she said.

She also remembers the soldier’s chocolate in a blue and white rapper.

“We ate a lot of that chocolate,” she laughed.

During the blockade of COVID-19, Donley decided to use social media to start with a group of North American veterans and track children in old black-and-white photographs.

Martin Adler, a 97-year-old retired American soldier (C), from Mafalda (R) and Juliana Nardi, saved during World War II during a reunion at Bologna Airport in Italy on August 23, 2021. I got a kiss. (Antonio Calanni / AP photo)

Eventually, the photo was discovered by Italian journalist Matteo Incherti, who wrote a book about World War II. He was able to track Adler’s regiment and where it was located from the details of another photo. Later, a photo of the smile was published in a local newspaper, revealing the identities of the three children who were grandparents at the time.

They shared a video reunion in December and waited until the relaxation of pandemic travel rules allowed transatlantic travel.

“I’m very happy and proud of him, because things could have been so different in just a moment. There were generations of people because he hesitated,” Donley said. rice field.

Juliana Nardi’s 30-year-old granddaughter Roberta Fontana, one of her six children, eight grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren, Serendipity, descended from three children hidden in a wicker basket. Will not be lost.

“It’s very big to know that Martin could have shot and no one in my family exists,” Fontana said. “It’s very emotional.”

During his stay in Italy, Adler wants to spend some time in the village where he was stationed before traveling to Florence, Naples and Rome, where he meets Pope Francis.

“My dad really wants to see the Pope,” said Donley. “He wants to share the message of peace and love. My dad is all about peace.”

Charlene Pele

Associated Press