The Army’s 88th Infantry Division liberated the Italian city of Vicenza during the waning days of World War II, officially returning the city to its people on April 28, 1945.
Troops on the ground, however, also took something away: a 13-year-old girl’s birthday cake.
It was the night before her birthday, and Meri Mion was hiding in her home’s attic with her family as German troops retreated from heavy Allied fire.
“She awoke the next morning, Americans were nearby,” Army archives note. “Her mother prepared a birthday cake for her. Fresh from the oven, the cake went to the window sill.”
Before it could cool, American soldiers made off with the confection, leaving Mion sad at first, but grateful that her home was now safe. Mion felt if anyone deserved the cake, it was the liberators.
“I was surprised,” Mion told the local newspaper Il Giornale di Vicenza ahead of her 90th birthday in 2022. “But then I realized the American soldiers had taken it and it made me happy. It was a good end given everything they had done.”
The Army, meanwhile, did not forget, and eventually returned to repay its delectable debt. Seventy-seven years later, the U.S. Army gifted Mion a replacement cake and celebrated her 90th birthday.
“Tomorrow, we will eat that dessert,” Mion said, “with all my family remembering this wonderful day that I will never forget.”
Sarah Sicard is a Senior Editor with Military Times. She previously served as the Digitial Editor of Military Times and the Army Times Editor. Other work can be found at National Defense Magazine, Task & Purpose, and Defense News.