August 11, 1943

Previously Mark Clark had been promoted to Lt. General by Ike for his outstanding service in North Africa. Now he was to be the American commander of the Fifth Army for the Mediterranean push into Italy, the first Allied incursion onto mainland Europe. Thus, it was with great hope for the liberation of Europe that my dad named me “Mark” on August 11, 1943. Although he had to cover the naming with its relationship in Hebrew to someone else long dead in our family, I, like thousands and thousands of American male children, was named after a WW2 USA warrior.

Years later when I talked to my dad about it, he pointed out that after Salerno there was a big drop off in babies named “Mark”. That would have been in September of ’43. Salerno didn’t go so well. Missed that by a month. And the “Patton” craze died down after the stories of his slapping shell shocked casualties in hospital care went public. So it goes.

Clark was later criticized for taking Rome while allowing a German army to escape to the north. However, I have it on the authority of the late Cecil Cates, then a Captain in Army Intelligence in the invasion force, that encircling the retreating Germans would have been tactically impossible and the symbolism of taking Rome was worth a great deal to the Italian partisans, who harassed the retreating Wehrmacht.

My mother in law, then a farm girl in Calabria, remembers when the Germans first swept south through Italy, foraging from the fields and stealing as they came. They were hated. Before dementia caught up with her, she told the story of how her father hid their Jewish cousins in the barn when the Germans came. We think there were no Jewish cousins, but that her father, like many Italian farmers, hid local Jews when the Nazis came, and referred to them as “cousins” within the family so that no one would slip up and mention guests who were not relatives. That was a common practice in Italy to the point that almost all of Italy’s Jews survived the Holocaust, and the ones who died were generally young persons fighting with the partisans, or the oldest ones who refused offered hiding.

So that is what I am musing about, 10 days into retirement, on my 72d birthday.

9 Responses

  1. Happy Birthday Mark!

    Like

  2. Happy b’day. That’s a good run you have going.

    Like

  3. Yay, being able to retire!

    … Start a law blog! Cross-post here. You got time.

    Like

  4. Happy Birthday, Mark!

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  5. Yes, Happy Birthday Mark, and many more.

    Like

  6. Congrats on the retirement and happy birthday.

    also, great post.

    Like

  7. Happy Birthday, Mark, and happy retirement

    Like

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