During WWII Bomb Removal in Italy, Displaced Military Families Head to USO

By Anna Ciccotti

When Italian officials evacuated downtown Vicenza, Italy, to defuse a World War II bomb that was dropped on the then-Nazi occupied city 77 years ago, about 150 Americans, including several military families, had to temporarily evacuate their homes. Although only 150 Americans had to evacuate, a total of more than 3,100 local residents within 1,500 feet of the device had to be evacuated on May 2, 2021 – a day known as “Bomba Day” to Italians – in order for Italian military demolition experts to safely disarm the 500-pound British-made bomb.

To make the daylong evacuation pass with ease, U.S. Army Garrison (USAG) Italy – Caserma Ederle and USO Vicenza quickly stepped up to provide services and support to the displaced American military families.

Many of the 83 U.S. families took advantage of eased COVID-19 restrictions and traveled away from the city. Some took part in bowling and games offered by the Directorate of Families, Morale Welfare and Recreation on base, and others stopped in at the USO Vicenza center on Caserma Ederle.

Army Capt. Cara Beavert spent the day with family between the library, the base’s Arena Soldier & Family Entertainment Center and the USO. With comfortable seating, events, snacks and services, the center offers a home-like environment and refuge for service members and military families every day of the year – and not just on “Bomba Day.”

Photo credit DVIDS/Anna Ciccotti

U.S. Army Capt. Cara Beavert and Lt. Alonzo Escobar of the 79th Theater Sustainment Command watch a movie at the USO center on base while waiting for the “all clear” message to return home after Italian authorities disarmed a World War II bomb found in Vicenza.

“We got a phone call from the housing office notifying us of what was coming and the timeline. That was awesome and we appreciate the outreach,” Beavert said. “We also saw posts on social media ad that was also helpful.”

Kelly DeJardin, who lives in a downtown condo in Vicenza, also opted to stay on Caserma Ederle.

“We were well-informed about what was going to happen,” said DeJardin, a mother of three who spent the morning bowling at the Arena with her teenage children.

“We were only surprised by the electricity being cut off earlier than expected this morning. Other than that, everything went very smoothly.”

How the Italian Army Removed a World War II-Era Bomb in Vicenza, Italy

In March, Italian construction workers found the bomb in a highly populated residential area close to monuments, churches, schools and an inpatient clinic. This added challenges to evacuation planning, which was already complicated due to the ongoing COVID-19 health emergency.

Italian army demolition experts from the 8th Regiment of the Folgore Airborne Engineers based in Legnago, Italy, seasoned by duty in Afghanistan, neutralized the bomb. Once they completed disarming the bomb, the city of Vicenza announced the “all clear” shortly after 4 p.m.

Italian demolition experts with the 8th Regiment of the Folgore Airborne Engineers based in Legnago, Italy, disarmed a 500-pound British-made bomb that dropped 77 years ago on downtown Vicenza. | Photo credit DVIDS/Anna Ciccotti

USAG Italy planners began coordinating in March, working closely with Italian authorities and focusing on the safety and security of the military community members forced to evacuate.

"During the planning process we had the support of the Italian base commander and the Carabinieri to coordinate requests for information with Italian civil authorities in charge of the operations,” said Frank Lauer, the garrison’s director of operations.

“Their support was key to help us better understand what was required for our families living in the area to be evacuated.”

Garrison staff contacted everyone affected to discuss the plan for the evacuation, security and re-entering of the buildings. Accountability for affected soldiers and families, a security plan and contingencies for a safe haven or shelter operations were key, as was solid communication, he said.

“Making sure that everyone was well informed and in coordination with the local operations was very important,” Lauer said. “Planning involved a lot of preparation behind the scenes that most would not be aware of but was crucial to the success of our part of the operation.”

This story originally appeared on dvidshub.net. It has been edited for USO.org.

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