U.S. WW2 Veteran Reunited With Three Italians He Saved As Children From Nazis After His Daughter Tracked Them Down On Social Media By Using An Old Photo

For more than 70 years, WW2 American soldier Martin Adler held on to an old photo of himself smiling in the company of three Italian children whose lives he saved as the Nazis retreated in 1944.

Recently, the 97-year-old veteran met the three siblings in person for the first time since the war.

While in his wheelchair Adler reached out to hug Bruno, Mafalda and Giuliana Naldi for the heartwarming reunion at Bologna’s airport after a 20-hour journey from Boca Raton, Fla. And then, just as he did back in the day in their village of Monterenzio, he handed out bars of American chocolate.

Image: Martin Adler

“Look at my smile,’’ Adler said of the touching reunion, as per Associated Press.

Image: AP/Antonio Calanni

When the then-20-year-old soldier and the 3-to-6-year-old children met for the first time in 1944, the children emerged out of a large basket where their mother had hidden them from the Germans.

Image: AP/Antonio Calanni

Adler thought there was no one in the house, so he pointed his machine gun on the basket when he heard a sound, thinking a Nazi was hiding inside.

“The mother, Mamma, came out and stood right in front of my gun to stop me (from) shooting,’’ Adler said. “She put her stomach right against my gun, yelling, ‘Bambinis! Bambinis! Bambinis!’ pounding my chest,’’ he recalled

“That was a real hero, the mother, not me. The mother was a real hero. Can you imagine you standing yourself in front of a gun and screaming ‘Children! No!’ ” he said.

Image: AP/Antonio Calanni

The WW2 veteran still remembers that he was only moments away from shooting at the basket. And after all this time, he still has nightmares about the war, his daughter, Rachelle, said.

Image: AP/Antonio Calanni

The youngest child, Giuliana Naldi, who is now 80, is the only one of the three who has a clear memory of what happened. She remembers climbing out of the basket seeing Adler and another American soldier, who has since passed away.

Image: AP/Antonio Calanni

During the coronavirus lockdown, Rachelle decided to use social media to try to find the children in the old black-and-white photo, by first turning to veterans’ groups in North America.

Image: AP/Antonio Calanni

Eventually, the photo was seen by an Italian journalist and author of a book on World War II. He was able to find Adler’s regiment and where it had been stationed from a little detail he spotted in another photo. The smiling photo was then printed in a local paper, which led to the discovery of the identities of the three rescued children, who by then were grandparents themselves.

For CBS Evening News’ report on the story, please see the video below.

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