President Obama and other world leaders paused Friday to somberly mark the 70th anniversary of the Allied invasion of France. But like in 1944, the D-Day anniversary overshadows another important milestone in World War II history – the June 1944 fall of Rome.
Just hours before paratroopers descended on Normandy and the boats landed at Omaha and Utah beaches, Allied troops captured the Eternal City on June 4, 1944. The victory marked the first Axis capital to fall, nearly 11 months after the invasion of Sicily launched the Italian Campaign through the so-called “soft underbelly of Europe.”
Half a million Italians and hundreds of thousands of Allied troops died in Italy between 1943 and 1945. Katia Girotto is an Italian citizen, attorney and tour guide who’s spent time with World Views host Suzette Grillot over the past few weeks in Rome, Florence and Arezzo.
“The Second World War is the biggest scar that we have here in Europe,” Girotto says. “If you talk to the generation of my mom, my dad, and my grandparents, they have very vivid memories about the war, because war is not something you forget.”
It’s not something the younger generation forgets, either. Girotto says memory of World War II is part of daily Italian life, and it’s not hard to find reminders in every city and town. She says even European Union politics today evoke memories of the conflict.
“If we want to be pro-Union, or again, we also have people that are euroskeptical…we need to remind ourselves that the European Union was created in order to avoid wars and the things that happened during the Second World War,” Girotto says. “This was definitely a high price that not only Italy, not only Europe, but also the United States had to pay in order to give our land back to us.”
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