US Army Garrison Italy: Army Soldiers Took Her Birthday Cake; Gave it Back 77 Years Later

Faye Higbee
army garrison italy

77 years ago US Army Soldiers liberated the town of Vincenza, Italy. Then they “liberated” Meri Mion’s birthday cake from the window sill of her home. Her excitement back then turned to disappointment. But on April 28, as US Army Garrison Italy celebrated the anniversary of the end of WWII, they didn’t forget Meri’s birthday and replaced the cake.

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Meri Mion was one day away from turning 13 in 1945, so her mother made her a birthday cake and set it on the window sill to cool. She and her family were sheltering in the attic of her family’s farm in San Pietro in Gù, which is in Padua Province. “Enterprising” American soldiers snagged he birthday cake for themselves.But Meri didn’t cry when they took her cake, she assumed it was for people who were hungry. Americans are always hungry, aren’t they?

“I thought, this is easy, we can make up for what we did 77 years ago. I felt a professional obligation. I felt a moral obligation.”

Army Garrison Italy commander, Matthew Gomlak

The attendees sang Happy Birthday both in English and Italian. She was presented with the new cake by Sgt Peter Wallis from Seabeck, Washington.

US Army photo 752nd Tank Battalion

The Battle of Vicenza, just 11 days before the Allies declared victory, involved tankers from the 752nd Tank Battalion and the 88th Infantry Division, according to Ray Holt, an amateur historian whose father served in the 752nd.

“It was probably the worst single day of combat the 752nd experienced,” Holt said in an interview.

The troops weren’t expecting much resistance because Italian partisans largely controlled the city. But German soldiers remained, along with their tank-killing Panzerfausts, and they positioned themselves in apartments lining the street where some 17 U.S. tanks advanced, in ditches and around corners. Five tanks were hit, Holt said, and his father’s gunner was killed.

The battle lasted a couple of hours. It ended with at least 19 U.S. casualties, according to garrison officials.

Stripes

With Meri’s cake replaced, and a whopping bunch of people singing Happy Birthday for her 90th, guilt was assuaged and a sweet 90 year young Itailian woman got her birthday blessing after all. It just took 77 years to handle it.

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Featured screensht via Laura Kreider / U.S. Army Garrison Italy

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