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  • Writer's pictureJay Hicks

Florence American Military Cemetery

As we jumped on the SR2, heading early in the morning from Florence to Sienna, we noticed signs for the American military cemetery. We decided to pull off, and it was perfect timing, as the Cemetery had just opened.

Beautifully situated on the famous Tuscan Greve River, our stop did not disappoint. The cemetery is opens daily from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., every day accept Christmas and New Years day. Meticulously groomed by the American Battle Monuments Commission, as is every American military cemetery around the world, Florence American Cemetery was both beautiful and moving.

Memorial at Florence American Military Cemetery

Wooded hills surround the western side of the cemetery which covers over 70 acres. Cemetery records say 4,392 of our military dead are interred in Florence, arranged in symmetrically curved rows upon the hillside. I was touched seeing a continuous trickle of visitors to the cemetery during our visit. All are invited to remember, but reverence and respect are expected.

Most of the military were from the US Fifth Army, dying north of Rome, while moving up the the Italian peninsula and the Apennines mountains in 1944. Just 12 miles south of Florence, I was pleased we took a few moments to stop in here during our trip to Italy. This cemetery is just one of 25 overseas military cemeteries, located in 10 countries around the world. The number soldiers buried in those cemeteries is approximately 130,000.

My Brother Keith at Lorraine American Cemetery on Memorial Day 1979

As a child with the Boy Scouts in Europe, I had the honor of placing American flags on the cemeteries in France and Luxembourg. I had also seen the same cemeteries in the snow, at Christmas time. The day I visited the cemetery in Florence, I was once again moved emotionally.

As I walked around the peaceful and serene vista, so many questions came into my head. How many families were ever able to visit and pay respect to their loved one in far away Italy? Why did so many heroic men and women have to meet this early death and be interred here in Florence? How many American people know or even think about the fact that so many are buried around the world? How many of these military men and women had died near the cemetery? How many were moved from other locations in Italy?

Some of the 1,409 of the Missing

Most died in battles after the capture of Rome in June 1944. Many of the casualties are from the heavy fighting in the Apennines Mountains, shortly before enemy troops in northern Italy surrendered, on May 2, 1945.

Above the graves, is a memorial marked by a tall pylon and large sculptured figure. The memorial has two open courts, joined by a wall with 1,409 names of the missing. The north atrium contains the marble operations maps recording the achievements of the American armed forces in this region. Inscribed on the wall of the south court is a quotation from Pericles Funeral Oration that Kellie recorded.

"They faced the foe as they drew near him in the strength of their own manhood; and when the shock of battle came, they in a moment of time at the climax of their lives, were rapt away from a world filled, for their dying eyes, not with terror but with glory."

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