Italy / Landmark
On the morning of 5 September 1944, a patrol of African-American soldiers entered Lucca through Porta San Pietro. The town greeted them with celebration.
Shortly after 10am on 5 September 1944, the first Allied soldiers entered Lucca, passing through Porta San Pietro. It was a group of African-American soldiers from the 370th Combat Team of the 92nd Buffalo Infantry Division, under the command of Captain C.F. Gandy.
Only readmitted to the army in 1941, African-American soldiers were segregated into separate units, such as the Buffalos, which consisted of 15,000 men mostly from the southern states. They disembarked in Naples in 1944, then arrived by sea in Civitavecchia and arrived in Tuscany on military convoys. They had the task of crossing the Arno and breaking through the Gothic Line
They fought heroically in Versilia and Garfagnana. Lucca, liberated by partisans the night before, welcomed the troops with celebration.
The CLN held its first free assembly, in the presence of Renato Bitossi and Giuseppe De Gennaro for the PCI (Italian Communist Party), Aldo Muston for the PDA (Action Party), Ferdinando Martini for the DC (Christian Democracy), Frediano Francesconi and Giulio Mandoli for the PRI (Italian Republican Party), and Enea Melosi for the PLI (Italian Liberal Party). On this occasion, socialist Gino Baldassari was appointed Mayor of Lucca.
After Lucca, the Buffalos also contributed to the liberation of La Spezia and Genoa. In total they suffered over 12,000 killed and 3,500 wounded. They returned home in November 1945 and the division was immediately disbanded. For a long time they were discriminated against and even forgotten. Only in the 1980s did they come to be valued as they should, thanks to pop culture: Bob Marley's Buffalo Soldiers and then Spike Lee's Miracle at St. Anna made their exploits known, as did Fred Kowomu's docu-film, Buffalo Inside.
On 13 January 1997, President Bill Clinton honoured Lieutenant John Fox (who died in Sommocolonia) and Petty Officer Vernon Baker (the protagonist of the Battle of Castello Aghinolfi) with America's highest military award: the 'Medal of Honour'.
Many Buffalo veterans returned to Lucca in the post-war period: Among them Ivan John Houston, sergeant of the 92nd, author of the book Black Warriors and the film of the same name. He took part in the Liberation commemoration ceremonies in 2013 and 2019, and sadly passed away in 2020.
Sortita Porta San Pietro, Lucca