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Sommocolonia: James Pratt visit

continuing international interest in the events in Sommocolonia during December 26th - 27th 1944

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The third official visit to Barga this morning by the Pratt family from the States. James Pratt, an economist from the Cornell University accompanied by his wife Mildred (she too a professor at the Cornell University but this time at Rome) .

They were last here in 2015 (article here) and before that in 2010 (article here)

Once again they were here to meet the Mayor of Barga, Marco Bonini  and to visit Sommocolonia,  the small village overlooking Barga and scene of the tremendous battle during 1944 that cost so many lives. (Frank Viviano’s article about this battle can be read here)

James Pratt’s father, Capt. Charles Pratt was stationed in this area from November 1944 till April 1945 as a member of the second Battalion stationed in the Albergo Libano. (II° Battaglione/366th Reggimento aggregato alla 92ma Divisione Buffalo)

He first came to Barga after researching in the Library of Congress for the names of the 55 soldiers from the 366th Infantry Regiment who were killed in and around Sommocolonia during December 26th – 27th 1944.

This morning he arrived with 18 students from the Cornell University in Rome and with more evidence of his research, this time with 55 printed cards containing the names of the 55 soldiers from the 366th Infantry Regiment, their ages and for the first time, images of many of the men. 

Now no longer just a statistic but faces to go with the names. Also striking is the ages of the men printed on the cards, most of whom where in their early 20 when they met their demise in Sommocolonia.

A copy of the cards were presented to the Mayor of Barga, Marco Bonini and a second set were added to the Barga Cultural Geocache project

GEOCACHING is an outdoor recreational activity, in which the participants use a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver or mobile device and other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers, called “geocaches” or “caches”, anywhere in the world.

A typical cache is a small waterproof container containing a logbook where the geocacher enters the date they found it and signs it with their established code name. After signing into the log, the cache must be placed back exactly where the person found it. Larger containers such as plastic storage containers (Tupperware or similar) or ammunition boxes can also contain items for trading, usually toys or trinkets of little value.

The geocaches of Barga are somewhat different as they in fact do contain objects of value.

There are 20 geocaches hidden in and  around the medieval walled city of Barga (LU) in Tuscany.

The caches contain signed original artworks, drawings, charcoal drawings, prints and etchings by 40 artists working in this area.

There are also mini poems and short stories in Italian and Latin

Professional musicians have prepared a series of cards containing QR codes which when scanned by smart phones will play music specially written for the project. The music includes classic, jazz, piano, tango, rock and folk.

The project is an attempt to “raise the bar” on the level of objects which can be found and exchanged in geocaches.

We hope that the people who find these objects will enjoy them as much as we have in preparing them. (the map can be found here)

 

Lieutenant Fox, a Buffalo Soldier with the 598th Field Artillery Battalion, was a forward observer in the Rocca tower and played a key role in the War World II Battle of Sommocolonia, according to Italian Lt. Col.Vittorio Lino Biondi, historian and co-author of La Battaglia di Sommocolonia.

“The battle, called winter tempest, began Dec. 26, 1944, at 4 a.m. when the German troops decided to breach the American line. The 92nd Infantry Division Buffalo Soldiers were defending Barga and Sommocolonia in the Serchio valley. The German 148th Division and the Italian 51st Corpo di Armata Alpinos, were very well trained, but the Americans fought with their heart and conviction.

It was a hard and bloody battle – the largest in this area. Lieutenant Fox served in the high tower and was directing artillery against the advancing Germans.

Once the Germans penetrated defensive perimeter of the town, much of the fighting has hand-to-hand combat from house to house. At approximately eleven that morning, Fox sent his last set of coordinates. He gave his own position in order to destroy the main body of advancing Germans. 

Fox’s sacrifice allowed the Americans to regroup in the valley below and fight again.”

According to the Mayor of Barga, Marco Bonini Dec. 26, 1944, is remembered as “the day of great fear.”

“For us citizens of Barga, Lieutenant Fox is a symbol of resistance the townspeople did against the Germans,” said Mayor Bonini. “Each year, Sommocolonia remembers the fallen and lets the younger generations know what happened and what our history is.”

 

 

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