World War II Trip Spring 2014
On Saturday, March 22, 2014, two distinguished alumni of the Rome Center, Dr. Phil O’Connor and Jim Centner, led a group of 40 students through Rome, tracing the events of the partisan attack on via Rasella in March of 1944. Students started the day at the Ardeatine Caves where the reprisal massacre took place; Germans slaughtered 335 Italians in response to 30 dead at via Rasella. Stories of rebel lovers and German terror held the students rapt attention. They walked the streets where the shots were fired; saw the bullet holes in the buildings; relived the harrowing story of a few, daring, young people; and the terrible retaliation they could never have foreseen.
The next day Phil and Jim brought students to the coastal town of Cisterna to witness the seventieth anniversary ceremonies of the Italian defense of that territory. Afterward in the city center, elderly women shared stories with students about how they hid in the grottoes underneath the town during the German bombing of the area. One woman even shared that her husband was born in the grottoes during the bombardment. However, they all spoke highly of the kind Americans that passed through Cisterna that snuck them food and candies. Students then went to the Sicily Rome American Cemetery to remember our war dead, and in particular, the Loyola Rambler who is buried there, Pvt. John J. Burke, Jr., of Oak Park. The students’ time at the Cemetery was a peaceful finale, full of gratitude, of the Italian front in the Second World War.