Monday, August 12, 2013
The Fifth In Florence
I haven't put up one of these for awhile. Unlike my other souvenir photo folders, this one isn't for a nightclub, but for "THE FIFTH ARMY OFFICERS' REST HOTEL, HOTEL ANGLO AMERICAN-FLORENCE" Personally, I would have put the hyphen between Anglo and America, but that's me. .
A rest hotel for army officers is just what it sounds like. When not on duty, officers of the Fifth Army in Italy could check into the hotel, set aside for their exclusive use, and have fun. Real beds, clean sheets, plentiful food from the United States, booze, and a liberal policy on female companionship. And why not. My mother was a war bride from England, the marriage didn't work out, and she delighted in pointing out how Americans didn't take the war and suffering seriously. "Everything was a lark to you Americans." My father took a far different attitude to the discussion. "You're twenty, you might die next week, you'd be a fool not to get in as much pleasure as possible." I have to say, dad made a lot more sense to me.
Now known as U.S. Army North, the Fifth Army was activated on January 5, 1943 in Oujda, French Morocco, and was part of the allied invasion of Italy. The Fifth's first commander was Lt. General Mark W. Clark. The Fifth's overall theater commander, in the Mediterranean, was British Field Marshall, Harold Alexander. Clark and Alexander didn't get along. Alexander thought that Clark was liberal in the way he interpreted orders, especially his liberation of Rome. Clark, on the other hand, was bitter over what he thought was an unnecessary order to destroy the monastery at Monte Cassino. Legitimate strategic disputes, or two warring egos? Who knows. In the end, over all supreme commander, Dwight Eisenhower, was content to let things be.
The Hotel Anglo American is still there, and still in business. It's on Via Giuseppe Garibaldi. Rooms can be had from 74.80 Euros, breakfast and free Wi-Fi included.