A Flower From Scottsville to Florence

by An Italian-American

It was about noon in Milan, 1944.  I was 3 years old, walking hand in hand with my grandfather in a small public garden next to our house.  All of a sudden I needed a bathroom, but none was in sight.  Grandpa hurried me home.  As we entered our flat, American Air Force bombers began striking Milan, a heavy industrialized area in northern Italy.  The small garden, where I used to play, was gone.

While visiting Scottsville Museum's exhibit about WWII, I learned that 3 GIs from the Scottsville area died in Italy fighting the German army on retreat: Arthur J. Woods, Forrest O. Butler, and Walter W. Murray.  They were buried close to where they died in the American Cemetery in Florence.  Actually while visiting the Cemetery earlier this year, I could only locate the grave of Arthur Woods; Forrest Butler's remains were returned home to Scottsville shortly after their interment at the American Cemetery.  No record of Walter Murray's grave was found; he may rest in an Italian civil cemetery near the place of death.

I then left three flowers from Scottsville.

These men died in their twenties.  They reminded me of my father in the Italian Army, who was about the same age when he was taken prisoner and returned home after 7 years in a British POW camp in South Africa; I was seven when I first met him.  I
John Celin at American Cemetery, Florence, Italy, May 2008
John Celin of Scottsville kneels at the grave of Arthur
Woods, killed in action in Italy during WWII and
buried at the American Cemetery, Florence, Italy.
could see the families of Woods, Butler, and Murray, now living a couple of miles from my American home, rushing to the Charlottesville train station to wait for the trains carrying returning GIs...hoping the letter from the U.S. Army was a mistake.

When visiting a War Cemetery (Civil War, WWI, WWII), a question always comes up: why?  In a war, we all pay a high cost to our loved ones, our life companions, our home, and our culture.  This is the history of mankind.  My visit to Florence was to pay respect and thanks to all those Americans who lost their lives freeing Italy, a nation of ancient and great civilization.  Europeans founded America and helped create the United States.  Because of their WWII efforts, Americans helped Europe return to democracy and prosperity which had been long forgotten.  The values still stand.

Below is a closeup of Arthur's Gravestone: Arthur J. Woods, PFC, 366 Inf Regt., Pennsylvania,
Feb. 10, 1945.