June 5, 1944: Liberation of Rome



In the afternoon of the same day, Wednesday, June 7th, the Pope received, in a memorable and moving general audience in the Sala Clementina, some seven hundred grimy Allied soldiers, most of them fresh from battle and all of them in the highest spirits. There were British, French, Americans, Poles, Indians, and men from all the Dominions. The contrast between these varieties of battle-dress and the plumed Swiss Guard in their sixteenth-century uniforms who marshalled them made the deepest impression : here were the centuries meeting, as well as the nations of the free world, at an historic moment in history. The Pope said in English from the throne : “We bless all you here in person, and We send Our blessing to your loved ones at home. We pray that God in His love and mercy may be with you always. Goodbye. Bless you all.” Then he administered the Apostolic Benediction as the soldiers knelt, and came down from the throne, passing among the men as he made his way to leave. Hundreds of soldiers pressed round the common father, trying to kiss his hand or his cassock, and altogether too enthusiastic for the Swiss Guard ; but the Pope himself was entirely unperturbed, smiling, and speaking all the time to those nearest to him. Every soldier who attended was given a rosary which he had specially blessed, in a little envelope bearing the papal crest.

The Tablet, June 17, 1944




The Italian theater of operations was the forgotten theater of operations in World War II Europe.  The American, British, Poles, New Zealanders, Australians, South Africans, Brazilians and other Allied troops fought a long and grinding  campaign against a formidable German defense, with advances often painfully won from mountain top to mountain top, up the tough spine of the Italian boot.  Typical of how events in Italy were overshadowed by events elsewhere in Europe was the liberation of Rome on June 5, 1944, a very hard won objective of the Allied 5th American Army and the 8th British Army, which was immediately overshadowed by D-Day the next day.

The Pope, like almost all Romans, was joyous to be free from Nazi occupation, and he made that clear when he met with General Mark Clark.

“A few days after the liberation of Rome, Lieutenant General Mark Clark, Commander of the Fifth Allied Army, paid his respects to the Pope: “I am afraid you have been disturbed by the noise of my tanks. I am sorry.” Pius XII smiled and replied: “General, any time you come to liberate Rome, you can make just as much noise as you like.”


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  1. Truly, the war in Italy has been one of the Forgotten Wars. I submit that the other is the China-Burma-India Theater.

    Stalin wanted the Sllies to open up a front against Germany in the West. As it turned out, there were three – Normandy, Marseilles and Italy.

    Today, the Baltic Coast at Szczecin (Stettin) and east is Polish, a small amount of compensation for the Kresy Stalin kept at Yalta. During the War, it was Prussia. I occasionally wonder if there had been an Allied carrier fleet in the Atlantic that could have landed on the Baltic Coast and invaded through Prussia and Poland.

  2. I am trying to confirm and verify a story I have been told by a 90+ year-old, Norfolk, VA Catholic friend. He attends my church with me and told me that, on June 4, 1944, Catholics from all over Tidewater, Virginia (greater Norfolk) gathered at the Norfolk Naval Base for a prayer service to end World War II. Two days later was D-Day! Can you provide any information?

  3. During WW2 major events sometimes came in triplicate. Look at June 1944:

    Rome was liberated on June 5.
    Normandy was invaded on June 6.
    Operation Forager, the invasion of the Marianas which led to the liberation of Guam, began on June 15.

    By the end of those two weeks the Allied civilian population must have been quite giddy with fear and hope.

    Naval Station, Norfolk VA Office of Religious Services perhaps can provide you with the information you seek (or direct you to another office on base like Administration or the Museum.)
    Phone: 757-444-7361
    1530 GILBERT ST
    SUITE 2000
    NORFOLK VA 23511
    In addition I suggest you contact The Virginia-Pilot regarding a news story of that event in their archives. 150 West Brambleton Avenue; Norfolk, Virginia 23510
    Good luck with your research of such a remarkable event.

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