Today is the anniversary of a local tragedy, the Allied bombing of Borgo San Lorenzo. On December 30, 1943, the 320th Bombardment Group, which from mid-1943 to the end of the war flew missions and supported invasions in North Africa, Italy, France and Germany, carried out mission No. 120, to take out Borgo’s marshalling yards and viaducts. At 10:00 that day, 28 B-26 Marauders took off from the 320th’s base in Sardinia; they were back at base by 14:30. Intelligence Narrative No. 120 indicates the mission was a success. Mission 120 effectively destroyed the viability of Borgo San Lorenzo’s train system, further impeding the Germans from moving supplies through the area in preparation for the Allied advance to come.
Here’s the other side of this story: On this day in 1943, 109 people were killed in Borgo, including (so common a thing the phrase has become cliché) women and children. Not soldiers or Nazis, but shop-keepers, factory workers, families. Together with the viaducts and rail yards, the bombs destroyed an entire boulevard of shops and residential palaces as well as the Chini factory, makers of prestigious art nouveau-style ceramics. Second only to the 1919 Mugello earthquake in loss of life and urban destruction, the bombing is remembered in Borgo not in terms of war strategy or ideology, but as sheer human loss.
None of the data surrounding this particular bombing is unique or extraordinary. Observed through the lens of military history, what happened in Borgo reads much like its colorless and prosaic intelligence narrative, while the quantity of WWII bombings alone renders Borgo’s tragedy a trite and insignificant anecdote. For every tiny village bombed there is always a bigger town, a more populated city, a more thoroughly destructive attack, and on up until the Blitz, Dresden, Hiroshima. If you’re like me, when pondering the scale and reach and atrociousness of World War II, you end up mentally consigning it to the realm of history books and the History Channel.
The reminders are inescapable here, however—monuments in piazzas, plaques on palace facades, and in the naming of streets—and for good reason. Though fewer with each passing year, there are people here who actually remember those experiences, who lived through them; and when they are gone their children will remember for them. They commemorate anniversaries like today’s with art and photography exhibits, with interviews and conferences, statues and newly-planted trees. It’s difficult for me to imagine an even remotely similar legacy. Instead, I think about today’s anniversary like this:
Borgo San Lorenzo is my husband’s hometown. It’s where my in-laws have lived for over 30 years, where their children went to school and made their first friends. It’s where we do our grocery shopping, pick up gardening supplies, get our prescriptions filled, and buy stamps. Every year we choose our Christmas tree in Borgo, and it’s where we go to socialize with friends home for the holidays. My mother-in-law works in Borgo’s public library, a short walk from her home. It’s where my husband and I got married; having first successfully navigated the rather labyrinthine processes required by town hall, the mayor himself did the honors on that most important and lovely of my life’s days.
All sentimental associations aside, Borgo San Lorenzo is practically my backyard. And that changes how you look at things.