The Bloomfield Public Library will host a book talk by John Lanza, author of “Shot Down Over Italy: A True Story of Courage and Survival in Nazi Occupied Italy During WWII,” on Wednesday, Sept. 21, at 2 p.m.
On May 26, 1944, a B-25 Mitchell bomber with a seven-man crew was shot down over Nazi-occupied Italy. When disaster struck, the fate of each crew member rested, first, on the ability of the pilot to control the ship so they could bail out; and, second, on who reached them first when they hit the ground—Mussolini’s Fascists, Hitler’s Nazis, or the partisans who formed the Italian Resistance.
Lanza pays tribute to the seven men (including his uncle, Bill Lanza, who was trained as an aerial gunner and arrived for combat duty three months before he was shot down on his 28th combat mission) and to two Italian partisans and their families who risked their lives to help two of the crew evade the enemy by harboring them in a cave for months.
As a result of this story, which went untold for more than 60 years, two Italians who helped two Americans in 1944 received gold medals for courage on Liberation Day 2008 in a public ceremony in Pian di Sco, a city in Tuscany.
Lanza was a banker in New York City for almost 40 years, retiring in 2006. He has an MBA from Baruch College and has taught undergraduate and graduate courses on payments systems for over 25 years. He has five grown children and four grandchildren. He lives with his wife, Diana, in Caldwell.
He has always been involved in team sports as a player, coach, booster, writer and photographer. He was once a Red Sox prospect and later a Yankee bird-dog scout, at which time his father accused him of treason. Lanza planned to write books when he retired, and logically assumed his first would be the evolving text for his courses on payments systems.
However, while taking care of his 92-year old father, he spent some time with his 90-year old uncle and learned of the story that became this book.
The author bonded with his uncle, visited the two Italian families, and connected with the only other surviving crew member as well as the families and friends of the deceased members. Along the way, he pieced together a captivating true story with many fascinating aspects, including a pilot who put his crew’s safety above his own, airmen who trusted partisans with their lives, partisans who risked their lives to honor this trust, airmen who as prisoners of war survived inhumane conditions, and families who struggled to deal with the cruel realities of war.
The Bloomfield Public Library is located at 90 Broad St. For more information on this or upcoming programs, call (973) 566-6200 x 502. To be notified of upcoming programs, visit the library’s Facebook page, follow it on Twitter. Visit www.bplnj.org and join the Google group to receive email notices of events.