Part 1. My father’s last location in Italy during WWII, after being overseas for 28 months, was the Anzio beachhead. He and his 168th Regiment landed there on March 19, 1944. Once again, they were not the invading troops, so did not land under fire although artillery could be heard a few miles away.

     In my interview with him: “We were there in Anzio about two to three weeks before my commanding officer came to me and said, “Major, you have enough points and have been overseas 28 months, and you have other points, Purple Heart, Silver Star, etc.  – you have enough points to be rotated home. Do you want to go?” And I said, “Yes!”  The timing was lucky for me, I guess. I learned later that the battles in and around Anzio for the next four months were very intense and deadly.”

     I had heard much about the Sicily to Rome American Cemetery and Memorial in Nettuno, so this site was high on my list to visit. Nettuno is just a mile or two away from Anzio, which is probably the more familiar WWII-related name/location. Once again, as fate would have it, we made an incredible contact in Nettuno, Silvano Casaldi.  

     The sign at entry to the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery and Memorial Visitor’s Center reads: “Time will not dim the glory of their deeds.” General of the Armies John J. Pershing.

     This beautiful cemetery in Nettuno, is one of two permanent American World War II military cemeteries in Italy, commemorating fallen American service members  from the bloody campaigns of Sicily and Italy through the liberation of Rome. The government of Italy granted use of this land in perpetuity as a permanent burial ground without charge.

     My mother’s beloved younger brother, Jack Hoyer, was killed on his first day of combat in Italy near Maenza on May 27, 1944 and was buried at the American Cemetery from 1944 - 1949, when his remains were then repatriated back to Ft. Snelling, MN.

     About 8 years ago, Marvin Williams, from Michigan, and I discovered each other on the 34th Infantry Division FB page, only to realize our father’s served together in the 168th Infantry Regiment, were friends, and even kept in touch as “pen pals” after the war. Needless to say, Marvin and I have become very good friends and are frequently in touch.  We are both (as are his 2 sisters) passionate about WWII and our fathers’ service.

     Marvin’s mother, Lt. Adeline Simonson McGregor, Minnesota, served as one of the first US Army nurse anesthetists during WWII. She survived the bombing and sinking of the ship she was on while landing at Salerno, as well as the bombing of the 95th Evacuation Tent Hospital in Anzio several months later. Marvin’s parents met in North Africa in 1943 and were married in Italy in 1944.

     Marvin has been a relentless researcher and wonderful resource for me and I owe him big time. A couple of weeks before our trip, he asked if while visiting the Nettuno American cemetery, I could find the grave of Lt. Marjorie Morrow who had served with his mother in the 95th Evacuation Hospital. On Feb 7, 1944, his mother was in the OR when their tented evacuation hospital was bombed by the Germans, violating the Geneva Convention’s International Laws protecting wounded soldiers. Marvin’s mother, Adeline, dove under the metal operating table for cover, while still administering anesthesia. Her friend and colleague, Lt. Morrow, was not as lucky. 

     Marvin sent me the name and contact info of a WW II historian in Nettuno, Silvano Casaldi, whom he had been in touch with in previous years. And as the stars once again aligned, Silvano and I connected via email. He was delighted to learn that Jack and I would be arriving in Nettuno while on our Italy tour.  Silvano generously offered to spend the afternoon and evening with us, showing us the cemetery and small city of Nettuno.

     Silvano met us at the train station and escorted us to the American Cemetery, where everyone knew him well and we received the royal treatment. After touring the Museum, we explored the exquisite grounds and eventually found the grave/tombstone of Lt. Morrow amongst the 7,850 soldiers buried there. It was a touching and sobering experience to reflect on Lt. Morrow’s courage under fire, and the other 23,000 Americans who died liberating Italy from Sicily to Rome, 1943-45. We were proud and honored to find Lt. Morrow’s grave and accomplish our mission.  Lt. Marjorie Morrow — we, as a nation, are grateful for your service and ultimate sacrifice. Please know we will never forget you.

     The American Cemetery in Nettuno is immaculately maintained and is a beautiful and meaningful place to visit. The Supervisor of the Museum is always an American officer. 65% of the remains buried there were eventually taken back to the U.S. There are 340 unknown graves. 

     Part 2. And now, a little more about our charming and knowledgable host in Nettuno, SILVANO CASALDI

     As I mentioned in Part 1, connecting with Silvano, the “darling” of Nettuno, was a blessing. He not only hosted us at the American Cemetery, but also gave us a comprehensive tour of the town of Nettuno and the American presence there in 1944 during WWII.

     A little background about Silvano Casaldi. He was born in Salerno in 1944 where his family had been evacuated after the landing and the Anzio/Nettuno beachhead invasion by Allied Forces (January 22nd - May 26, 1944.) His family returned to their native Nettuno in July, when Silvano was only 2 1/2 months old. Attracted by the passion for foreign languages, he enrolled at the Maitre d’Hotel school in Castel Fusano in 1962, and subsequently travelled and worked in a variety of jobs in the hospitality industry throughout Italy. Finally back in Nettuno, Silvano began his collaboration with the municipality of Nettuno in a variety of roles, and working for the mayor for over 37 years. He often speaks at public events, serving as Master of Ceremonies, and gives lectures about WWII and the Italian campaign.

     In 1990, Silvano opened the first Italian museum dedicated to the Allied Landing at Anzio/Nettuno, and has met with hundreds of veterans and their families, as well as with President George W. Bush, President Gerald Ford, and President Bill Clinton. Since his retirement in 2009, he has written several books about the Anzio /Italian campaign, in both English and Italian. He also gives tours of the cemetery to classrooms of students, organizes Memorial Day activities (placing American flags on every grave), and promotes the “Adopt-a-Grave” project.

     But beyond the history and all of his many activities, Silvano is one of the most gracious and delightful people I’ve ever met. We were thrilled to not only spend time with him, but also with his beautiful and patient wife, Doriana.

See the photo gallery for the visual tours.



Posted January 10, 2024

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