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Serving Uncle Sam: A Military Life in WWll

Gerald Schwartz USAAC (USAAF) 1940 - 1945


Chapter 107:Cameo Carving in Florence. Passing of My Comrades. Family History

June 20, 1945 Florence, Italy. Trucks run in to Florence all hours of the day, making it easy for us to go and come whenever we want. Of the original 15 of us which were sent to Fano and are now here in Florence with me, are Sigismund Borokowski, Buster Michalec, Edmund Madaj, Norman Brandman, George Coyle, Walter Bonner, Joe Chimente, George Denny and some others.

Cefirino Vigil, Vincent Della Volpe and some others are in the 5th Recon squadron. One day while rubber-necking in Florence I passed a curio store which had a man in front of it carving on seashells. I watched him carve the white head of a beautiful woman on the background of the pink seashell. Normally cameos are flat and raised slightly from the background, usually on onyx. This head was not flat, but was carved into a full face, showing the nose and cheeks as one would normally see on a face. I purchased it and mailed it home to my mother. Between finding and wooing various Florentine women, and sightseeing daily, I really didn’t mind this interlude, nor was I even a little homesick. You see, wherever I was I was home!

July 15, 1945 Florence, Italy This kind of life has left me quite lackadaisical. I spend a lot of time sightseeing, and believe me there is quite a lot to see here. Florence is nestled in the Tuscan hills, rimmed by olive groves and vineyards. This is the fountainhead of the Renaissance and is also a shopper’s paradise. You cannot help enjoying a breathtaking panorama atop Piazzale Michelangelo, and the Academy of Fine Arts, where the huge ten foot statue of David stands. The Baptistry is famous for the magnificent bronze doors. The hell scenes on mosaics within, were later the inspiration for Dante’s Inferno.

The Piazza delle Signoria is famous for the massive sculptures set around the perimeter of this large square. Another must-see site is the Santa Croce Church whose construction began in 1294, but the bell tower and façade were not completed until the 19th century. This beautiful church is the final resting place for Machiavelli, Galileo and Michelangelo. Dante should have been buried there, but when he died in Ravenna he was never sent back to Florence.

This is just a small sample of the magnificent structures that have achieved worldwide acclaim, and which are still standing. It is a veritable history buff’s paradise and one huge example of fine art!

To pass the time of day in camp we play a lot of ping pong and cards. I still practice speaking and studying both Spanish and Italian, and having spent so much time learning them, it would seem silly not to continue studying and using them for both business and pleasure.

PS. Aug 17, 2005. (1) Of the nine former comrades mentioned above, I know that the following are now deceased: Sigismund Borokowski, Gerald Markiewics, Adolph Sonnen, Walter Bonner, Joe Chimente, and Cefirino Vigil. Herb Gluckman is alive and I have communicated with him. I have not been able to contact the others, but I shall keep trying. It is a sad thing to contact some of my old buddies and be told that they are now deceased. I frequently forget that I was one of the younger men in our squadron, having been 19 when I enlisted on Oct 22, 1940.

(2) In May 1946 when I told my mother that I was going to marry Doris Wendorf she insisted I make an engagement ring of it. I had a gold ring made and I slipped it on her finger May 19, 1946 proposing to her during the wedding ceremony of my brother Murray and Ruth Breaker at our parent’s house in Brooklyn. We were married on Sept 22nd of that same year at her mother’s home in South River, New Jersey. Her mother was Annie Wendorf (a widow), who was a sister in law to my mother's eldest sister (Toby Belove). Toby's husband was Annie's younger brother, Harry. To clarify, my mother's sister was married to the brother of Doris’s mother. The relationship between them was of marriage, not blood. It would seem that Doris and I are cousins, but that is not so.

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