For more than 70 years, Martin Adler treasured a black-and-white photo. The image shows an American soldier with three children. Adler is the soldier. And this summer, he met again the youngsters he rescued in 1944.
The soldier and the children saw each other for the first time in 1944 during World War II. Adler entered what he thought was an empty house in the village of Monterenzio, Italy. Suddenly, he heard a sound. He thought a German soldier was hiding inside a large wicker basket. He aimed his machine gun, ready to shoot.
Thankfully, he paused, a real-life example of Proverbs 19:2. It advises against action without knowledge, adding, “whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.”
A woman emerged. “[She] came out and stood right in front of my gun to stop me,’’ Adler recalls. “She put her stomach right against my gun, yelling, ‘Bambinis! Bambinis! Bambinis!’ pounding my chest,’’ he says.
Three small faces peeked out from the basket. Their mother had hidden them.
“That was a real hero: the mother, not me,” Adler insists. “Can you imagine standing yourself in front of a gun and screaming ‘Children! No!’” He still trembles knowing that he was just seconds from opening fire.
While Adler’s company remained in the village, he would stop by and play with the children, aged three to six.
In August, 97-year-old Adler traveled from Florida to meet the siblings in person for the first time since the war. The trio are now in their 80s.
“Look at my smile,’’ Adler said, grasping the hands of Bruno, Mafalda, and Giuliana Naldi. Then, just as he did as a 20-year-old soldier, he handed out bars of American chocolate.
Giuliana, the youngest, is the only one of the three who remembers the event. She recalls climbing out of the basket and seeing Adler and another U.S. soldier.
“They were laughing,’’ Naldi, now 80, reminisces. “They were happy they didn’t shoot.”
She also recalls the chocolate in a blue-and-white wrapper. “We ate so much of that chocolate,’’ she says.
Last year, Adler’s daughter, Rachelle Donley, decided to use social media to track down the children in the photo.
Italian journalist Matteo Incerti spotted the image. He located information about Adler’s regiment. An Italian newspaper published the picture. That led to the discovery of the identities of the three children. After the easing of pandemic travel rules, Adler made the trans-Atlantic trip.
Donley is proud of her father. “Because he hesitated,” she says, “there have been generations of people.”
Giuliana Naldi’s granddaughter, Roberta Fontana, agrees. She’s one of six children, eight grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren who descended from the children in the basket.
She says, “Knowing that Martin could have shot and that none of my family would exist is something very big.”
Military Grade Chocolate
Giuliana Naldi has pleasant memories of the chocolate given her by American soldiers during the war. But not everyone remembers the brown foodstuff fondly.
In 1937, Captain Paul P. Logan of the US Army Quartermaster Corps visited the Hershey Company in Pennsylvania. America was drifting closer to war, and Logan asked Hershey to develop “a kind of survival ration,” according to Samuel Hinkle, Hershey’s chief chemist. The chocolate bar needed to be packed with nutrition and have a higher melting point to last on the battlefield.
The army told Hinkle that the chocolate shouldn’t be too tasty—after all, soldiers would need to ration them. The bars were for survival, not dessert. The bar Hinkle made was called a “D Ration.”
Making bad-tasting chocolate wasn’t the norm at Hershey. But Hinkle and his fellow chemists followed orders. Flavor notwithstanding, soldiers—and children like Giuliana—ate millions of bars during the war! By war’s end, Hershey had produced about three billion of the dense chocolate rations.
Why? The wisdom of the Proverbs is not accidental. Its truth can be applied throughout life and across decades and millennia. Real-life heroes are those who live by and act on true wisdom.
Pray: For minds that listen to God’s instruction in the Bible and for thankful hearts for miracles all around us.
Wow, that’s so amazing!
I'm glad that he didn't shoot the kids
This worlds heroes
I'm an army brat. Heros wear dog tags not capes
I love this! I'm so glad he hesitated. @Seth, what does army brat mean? Sorry if it should be obvious, I lived in China half my life so I don't know a ton of American culture. :)
An army brat is a kid born into the army and has lived in different places for most their life like me I've been to Germany, Paris, Ireland, a lot of Europe.
as well as all states in America except for Alaska and Hawaii.
WOW JUST WOW
Wow that is sooooooooooo amazing
Moral of the story. BE
Moral of the story. BE CAREFUL WITH MACHINE GUNS. Or, any guns. Or, anything that goes boom, bang, pop, or pow. I guess that includes a Sprite can.
Thats what IIIIIIII like!
What about that you dont mess with neslte crunch!
@hespurus and Seth
LOL XD XP LOL HAHAHA
does that also include fireworks??
or those glow sticks bc they snap to activate?
No idea. Can't help ya dude. Lol
Uh, I guess. I mean, I got some of that glow stuff on me when I was a kid...
@Seth, ok, cool!
Can you imagine what it was like to be in that basket. Scary
I am glad that he had the sense to hesitate and see who was really in the house. And that is awesome that they got to reunite. I am actually surprised that the youngest, who would have been 3, remembered it more than the older two, the oldest being 6. Interesting chocolate idea. Now I want to taste a D-ration chocolate bar just to see what it tasted like! XD
@Seth W: That is cool! Unless you don't like moving around and wish you were just in one place... So then I have cousins who are army brats, no wait, they would be navy brats, if that is what they are called. They were in Japan for quite a while! Now they are back in the states though.
i would like to try the nasty choclates just to see what people went through
I'm an "army brat", too. I've lived in Alabama, Germany, South Korea, and New York just with the army. I can't imagine what it's like to not have been out of the country like my little sister!! We are moving today from PA to SC, so this makes the seventh time I've moved in my life. Once we get into our actual house it'll be eight!
@Riley D: It is pretty cool and it accounts for the stares and raised eyebrows I get when I answer the question, "Where are you from?", but it's also really hard since I only have (*about ten seconds of counting*) seven friends and it's about to be docked to maybe (hopefully, if I can hang on hard enough!) four when we lose contact.
So cool that you can see God working in this article! The chances of this reunion are nearly impossible, but so sweet to read about it actually happening!!
Army Brat here
I 'm an Army Brat but me and my mom stayed in the U.S.A But living everywhere here in the U.S. really does make it hard to say where your from. My dad got out of the army in 2011 since he was injured twice (stepped on an ID, drove over an ID). And so now I've seen mountains, what some people call mountains and I call mole holes (lol), plains, farmland, city, ocean, etc. I agree Riley I think it is awesome that three little kids' hero gets to see him all over again.