A new WWII Museum in Sommocolonia
‘Museo alla Pace’ (Museum to Peace)
Sommocolonia is currently building a new WWII museum on the La Rocca alla Pace site where the monument and the Park to Peace exist in preliminary form. It is the spot where so many died in 1944, including Lt. John Fox, posthumous recipient of the U.S. Medal of Honor for his heroic action at La Rocca.
A small museum already exists in Sommocolonia. It was established in 2008, largely through the efforts of Sommocolonian, Massimo Nardini. However, it is located in a very small room belonging to the rectory and is only open by appointment. The growing collection cannot remain in this rarely open location. (Among many other items, the museum was recently gifted a ‘GI Joe John Fox’ and two very large, spectacular photographs of soldiers of the 366th Infantry Regiment in training at Fort Devens, MA.)
The museum construction is being accomplished, with the collaboration of the Comune di Barga, via the organization, Associazione Ricreativa Sommocolonia — ARS, (loosely translated ‘Association for the Renewal of Sommocolonia’) formed in 2011. Members include villagers, foreign homeowners, and people from the Barga Area.
Contributions to the museum project from private individuals are growing, coming from other regions of Italy, the United States and several European countries. Everyone sees the importance of remembering this history.
The ‘Museo alla Pace’ will represent all the civilians and all the soldiers present during the battle of December 26, 1944. Inside, the viewer will find villagers’ accounts of their experiences of that terrifying day. There will be books specifically about the battle of Sommocolonia and some about the Gothic Line in general, including personal chronicles remembering the conflict in the Serchio Valley. There will also be photos, memorabilia, military equipment reports and military histories regarding the German and Austrian soldiers of the Fourth Hoch Mountain and the Alpine Mittenwald Battalions, the partisans of Pippo’s XI Zone, and the African-American soldiers of the 366th Infantry Regiment.
We don’t know the names of all the soldiers who died in the village in the tragic battle, but we do have the names of over 40 Axis soldiers and over 40 366th GIs. These names will be listed appropriately along with the names of the 7 civilians who died.
Massimo Nardini, who is also the President of ARS, will continue as the museum’s curator. He will be delighted to have more room to display the collection properly.
Much of the military material to be exhibited was found in or near the village: cartridges of all calibers, an English STEN MK II machine gun, a shell fragment from a US 155 artillery bomb, an American Minesweeper, bayonets, cartridge belts, military kits, fuses, a Buffalo Soldier’s jacket, helmets, spiked boots, gasoline cans, telephone wire, a BC 311 military radio, a German grenade .
All this will be fascinating to see, but perhaps even more fascinating will be consulting the various texts which will be available to those wishing to research in depth the WWII history of the village and that of the Serchio Valley.
The museum will also house a caffe-bar where visitors, while sipping a coffee or enjoying a sandwich, will be immersed in the remarkable history of this little village.
The first phase —the exterior of the building— was finished recently. Now, with more donations for the second phase, it will be possible to embellish the external walls, and define the internal part, including building the bathroom and the small kitchen for the caffe-bar. The community is hoping to finish the building by the end of 2017.
After the museum is finished, it will be time to develop the park alla pace. Altogether La Rocca alla Pace will be a place of beauty and contemplation. Without a doubt, it will be a place where thoughts of the tragic events of war surface, but it will also be a place where people can reconnect with their own “Peace.”
The museum’s inauguration will be the next major celebratory event in Sommocolonia. Check this site for the date and further information about the occasion.
article by Solace Wales with additions by Antonella Martinelli
See also on this site: Fortress to Peace – Solace Wales speaks of the special significance of the word ‘peace’ for Sommocolonia.
To visit the current Museum please contact Massimo on 0583 723761 or Anna on 3332054275 or 0583 723771