Post 50 SAL Trip to Italy May 2005 to Participate and Conduct
in World War II 60th Anniversary Ceremonies.
On May 2, 2005 members of Post 50 Pelham journeyed to Nettuno,
Italy to take part in WWII 60th Anniversary ceremonies which the
Pelham group had suggested. The following article was written by
one of the Navy writers who attended the event
By JO1 Eric Brown
Twenty-one members of the Navy’s SIXTH Fleet Band visited Italy’s Florence American Cemetery and
Memorial on May 5, to provide music for a small ceremony there, celebrating the end of World War II in
This event was part of the 60th anniversary of World War II commemorations throughout in Europe,
and was situated between the anniversaries of end of the fighting between the Allies and Nazi Germany
on May 2, 1945, and “V-E Day” on May 8, 1945.
“I think that live music for these events, such as the national anthems, adds a much-needed touch to
these ceremonies,” said Musician 1st Class Brian Chaplow, the band’s leading petty officer.
The SIXTH Fleet band performed “Going Home,” God Bless America” and “Taps.” They were also
joined on the steps of the memorial by two vocalists, brought to the ceremony by the American Legion’s
Pelham, N.Y. chapter.
“It worked out well,” Chaplow said. “We performed the Italian and U.S. national anthems with them.”
The Florence American Cemetery and Memorial contains the graves of 4,402 service members; it is
one of 14 maintained overseas by the American Battle Monuments Commission.
The return to Italy was a shock for veteran Jim Armstrong, who served as a 1st lieutenant in the Army’
s 91st Division during the war.
“I can’t believe the changes that have been made here since I was here last, 60 years ago. There was
no fuel in Florence before, and therefore, no cars. Now, about anyplace you turn there’s automobiles –
you can’t even walk here anymore. It’s like two different cities, as far as I am concerned.”
Armstrong also recalled the terrible fighting that took place in the liberation of Italy.
“Sometimes, I was scared like hell - it’s perfectly normal. People who think that soldiers aren’t scared
are crazy,” remembered the resident of Akron, Ohio. “In combat situations, you live in constant fear, but
you go and do what you have to do.
“It doesn’t mean we’re heroes – we’re not. We’re just guys who’ve got a job to do, and we did the best
damn job we could.”
During his visit to Italy, Armstrong traveled to four military cemeteries, including the Sicily-Rome
American Cemetery and Memorial in Nettuno, as well as British English and Polish cemeteries near
“I’m amazed at the beauty, the peace at all of the military cemeteries, and how well they have been
maintained. It’s real tribute to the guys who fought here.”
He also said he felt a bit embarrassed by all the attention he was receiving at a veteran. “I’ll be telling
the folks back home about how I was escorted up the stairs at the Nettuno cemetery by a lieutenant
general!” he laughed. “I’ve been chewed out by generals before, but never escorted by one.”
Another American veteran at the ceremony was Alfonso Felice, a lifelong resident of Italy, currently
residing in Rome.
“I was born near Cassino, Italy, but I was an American because my father was an American citizen,” he
explained. “When the Americans came here during World War II, they found out that I was an American,
and took me up.”
Feklice served in the U.S. military from 1943-1945, and achieved the grade of sergeant, while working
as a scout for the Army’s 88th Infantry Division. His duties took him from Italy to France and Germany,
and after “V-E Day,” the Philippines.
This year’s trip to the Florence cemetery was a sad on for him.
“Many of the boys here were my friends,” Felice said. “I came here to honor them.”
This observance at the Florence American Cemetery and Memorial was one of about 130
commemorating the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II, and was in the planning for five months.
“The American Legion has put this event together, and we are providing the forces for it, basically the
music and the flags,” Lt. Cmdr. Terrence Dudley, the Navy’s World War II commemorative events project
officer. “They have done a great job of bringing together WWII veterans, relatives, and/or descendants
of World War II veterans, to get together and commemorate the sacrifices of the Soldiers, Sailors,
Marines and Airmen who are buried here.
“Doing all this has been extremely rewarding, because this is the last hurrah for many of these World
War II veterans. It’s a great way for the country to gather round to take a moment and say ‘We recognize
you, and we thank you for the sacrifices that you made for us, 60 years ago.’ ”