The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

U.S. soldiers took her birthday cake in 1945. They finally replaced it.

U.S. Army soldiers present a birthday cake to Meri Mion in northern Italy's Vicenza on April 28. (Laura Krieder/U.S. Army/AP)
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Gunshots boomed, rain poured, and thunder crashed as Meri Mion and her mother huddled in the attic on their farm in northern Italy. It was April 28, 1945, and the Germans were retreating as U.S. soldiers pushed into the nearby city of Vicenza, northwest of Venice.

Mion emerged from the hiding spot the following morning to find the strident sounds of war replaced with the sweet smell of cake. It was her 13th birthday, and American soldiers were parading through her village of San Pietro in Gu, collecting bread and wine from grateful locals.

Mion’s mother retrieved the steaming cake from the oven and placed it on the windowsill to cool. But by the time Mion planned to taste the dessert, it was gone. American soldiers had already eaten it, an Army news release said.

On Thursday, as Mion prepared to celebrate her 90th birthday, U.S. soldiers based in Italy “returned” the birthday cake, according to Army officials.

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Hundreds of people gathered at the event at Giardini Salvi, a garden in Vicenza with a duck pond and Palladian columns. It is “very close to where the 88th Infantry Division fought its way into the city on April 28, 1945,” the news release said.

“At least 19 U.S. Soldiers were killed or wounded,” it adds.

Locals, soldiers, police and veterans from the United States and Italy watched as Sgt. Peter Wallis and Col. Matthew Gomlak, the commander of U.S. Army Garrison Italy, presented the guest of honor with a large white cake adorned with a chocolate shell filled with fruits and mini meringue cookies.

“Buon 90 compleanno,” the icing on the cake read — “Happy 90th birthday.”

Wearing a navy floral dress and blazer, Mion received the cake with a warm smile and open arms. She thanked the soldiers for remembering her story and for replacing the cake 77 years later.

She said she planned to take it home and share it with her family on Friday, her 90th birthday.

“Tomorrow, I will eat that dessert with all my family remembering this wonderful day that I will never forget,” Mion said.