A 97-year-old World War II veteran reunited Monday for the first time since 1944 with three siblings he saved during the war, the Associated Press reported.
Martin Adler made the 20-hour trip from Boca Raton, Florida to Bologna, Italy, to meet Bruno, Mafalda and Giuliana Naldi for the first time since he was credited with saving their lives at the end of World War II, the Associated Press reported.
“Look at my smile,” Adler said after meeting the trio at the Bologna airport.
Adler found the three as children in a wicker basket, hidden by their mother from enemy soldiers, according to the AP. Adler, who thought the house was empty, first drew his gun after hearing a sound from the basket, thinking it was a hidden soldier.
“The mother, Mamma, came out and stood right in front of my gun to stop me (from) shooting,” Adler told the AP. “She put her stomach right against my gun, yelling, ‘Bambinis! Bambinis! Bambinis!’ pounding my chest.” (RELATED: Man Using Metal Detector Finds Body Of WWII Nazi Soldier)
“That was a real hero, the mother, not me. The mother was a real hero. Can you imagine you standing yourself in front of a gun and screaming ‘Children! No!’’’ Adler said.
Adler says he was just seconds away from shooting the basket, which still haunts him today. Adler’s daughter, Rachel Donley, told the AP that her father still suffers nightmares as a result of his wartime experiences.
Giuliani Naldi, the youngest of the siblings, is the only one who remembers the event, according to the AP. “They were laughing,” Naldi, 80, recalls. “They were happy they didn’t shoot.” Explaining how the children had no understanding of the danger they faced, Naldi told the AP, “We weren’t afraid of anything.”
The reunion was made possible by social media when Donley sent a photo of her father and the children to veterans groups in North America, the AP reported. Eventually, Italian journalist Matteo Incerti picked up the photo while writing about the war.
Incerti tracked down where Adler’s regiment was stationed and found the local newspaper that originally published the photo, leading to the discovery of the siblings’ identity, according to the AP.
The four shared a reunion over video in December, though they waited until the pandemic rules relaxed to meet in person.
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