ROME (AP) — With a round of “Happy Birthday” in Italian and English, the U.S. Army toasted an Italian woman with a birthday cake Thursday to replace the one that U.S. soldiers ate as they entered her hometown during one of the final battles of World War II.
Meri Mion, who turns 90 on Friday, wiped away tears as she was presented with the cake by Sgt. Peter Wallis, of Seabeck, Washington, and Col. Matthew Gomlak, commander of U.S. Army Garrison Italy, during a ceremony in Vicenza, northwest of Venice.
The event marked the anniversary of the day the 88th Infantry Division fought its way into the city on April 28, 1945.
According to the U.S. Army, Mion spent that night with her mother hiding in the attic of their farm in the nearby village of San Pietro in Gù. Retreating German soldiers had fired on the house, but when Mion awoke on the morning of her 13th birthday, American soldiers were nearby.
In a statement, the U.S. Army Garrison Italy said Mion’s mother baked her a birthday cake and left it on the windowsill to cool. But it disappeared — apparently nicked by hungry American soldiers who had already been feted by grateful Italians with wine and bread as they entered Vicenza along its main thoroughfare.
Mion seemed genuinely surprised that U.S. soldiers had returned the cake 77 years later. She marveled “Mama mia” and “Grazie” as a small crowd featuring U.S. commanders and Italian officials sang “Happy Birthday.”
“Tomorrow, we will eat that dessert, with all my family remembering this wonderful day that I will never forget,” Mion said, according to the U.S. Army.