McBride, James. Miracle at St. Anna (Riverland Trade, 2003).
Following the huge critical and commercial success of his nonfiction memoir, The Color of Water, McBride offers a powerful and emotional novel of black American soldiers fighting the German army in the mountains of Italy around the village of St. Anna of Stazzema in December 1944. This is a refreshingly ambitious story of men facing the enemy in front and racial prejudice behind; it is also a carefully crafted tale of a mute Italian orphan boy who teaches the American soldiers, Italian villagers and partisans that miracles are the result of faith and trust. Toward the end of 1944, four black U.S. Army soldiers find themselves trapped behind enemy lines in the village as winter and the German army close in. Pvt. Sam Train, a huge, dim-witted, gentle soldier, cares for the traumatized orphan boy and carries a prized statue's head in a sack on his belt. Train and his three comrades are scared and uncertain what to do next, but an Italian partisan named Peppi involves the Americans in a ruthless ploy to uncover a traitor among the villagers. Someone has betrayed the villagers and local partisans to the Germans, resulting in an unspeakable reprisal. Revenge drives Peppi, but survival drives the Americans. The boy, meanwhile, knows the truth of the atrocity and the identity of the traitor, but he clings to Train for comfort and protection. Through his sharply drawn characters, McBride exposes racism, guilt, courage, revenge and forgiveness, with the soldiers confronting their own fear and rage in surprisingly personal ways at the decisive moment in their lives.
Miracle at St. Anna (2008), Director: Spike Lee, Running time: 160 minutes.
In the fall of 1944, four African-American soldiers find themselves caught behind enemy lines and surrounded by German soldiers. They take refuge in a small Italian village that has been temporarily vacated by the Germans. In their company in a small boy, obviously shell-shocked and feverish, who seems only to speak to his invisible friend Arturo. Tensions rise among the four men not only because of their life-threatening situation but also because two of them become rivals for the attention of an attractive young woman. When they manage to make contact with their unit, they are told to capture a German soldier for questioning and with the aid of the Italian partisans, have a candidate. What they don't realize is that there is a traitor in the partisan group, one that will have major repercussion on one of the men 40 years later. Written by garykmcd for IMDb.
Olsen, Jack. Silence on Monte Sole (I Books, 2002).
Monte Sole -- Mountain of the Sun -- had the bad luck to lie on the main route of withdrawal of the retreating German armies in the fall of 1944. As the Allied advance stormed up Italy to the very shadow of Monte Sole, Axis frustration over their retreat and the harassing Italian partisans reached its peak.
With full authorization of Field Marshal Albert Kesselring, and with an infusion of dread SS reinforcements, the Germans determined to neutralize Monte Sole. The result was, in Kesselring's chilling words, "a war operation." In brilliant, page-turning prose, Olsen re-creates the unspeakable three-day butchery of innocent Italian civilians that ranked among the blackest atrocities in the history of man's inhumanity to man.
Jack Olsen served in the U.S. Army Air Force and the OSS. Olsen is the award-winning author of thirty-one books. A former Time bureau chief, Olsen has been described by the Philadelphia Inquirer as an 'American treasure'.
When we heard the cannon shots, we decided to leave Villa d’Ignano and to go to Caprara, since my mother thought we would be safe there. We tied the cows at the cart and then left with four other families. We arrived in Caprara the night before the “mop-up” operation.
I survived because I told my mother that night: “We left all the cows back home. I am going to bring them here.” So my friends and I went back home. Along the way we met my father, who said: “Kids, go back because they are ‘mopping up’ Caprara as well. Your mum told me to leave. She said that they leave women and children. They take the men and send them to Germany.”
We went back passing through Tura, where some partisans were hiding, and Ettore (a partisan from the Stella Rossa brigade) asked where we were going. We told him what was happening and he told us to stay over. The next day my two sisters arrived and we couldn’t recognize them: they were flesh and blood. One had her eyes burnt out and couldn’t see anything, and the other had been hit by a cannonball in her back, leaving a fist-sized hole. It was very difficult for them to get to Tura: the one who could not see carried the one who could not walk on her shoulders, and was guided by the sister who could see. Many people gathered around my sisters, but when they heard how nobody survived in Caprara everyone became scared and fled, except for a doctor who gave my sister an injection.
My sisters said that they survived because a cupboard had fallen on them, and they had hidden under it. They could hear everyone screaming. There were many children present, which explains why only so few survived. A machine-gun propped up on a windowsill shot at them, and those who were still alive ran away. They overheard some people outside who spoke Italian. Those who fired were not all Germans; there were Italians, too.
In Caprara I lost my mother, three sisters, seven brothers-in-law and my mother-in-law, th eLubini family. My husband only survived because he was in Germany. His father never agreed to be interviewed, but contained all his grief. One of his eight children was only 20 days old and all that was left behind were the feathers from his pillow; another son was found straddled over a window ledge, as a pig ate his head. I had to take care of my sisters and my father, who were all wounded, so I didn’t go back to Caprara. I was 14 years old, and we knew that everyone was dead.