Braided in Fire:
Blacks GIs and Tuscan Villagers on the Gothic Line
Wed., Nov. 10 • 5:00pm PT • Corte Madera Store
In conversation with Bill Petrocelli
Braided in Fire is author Solace Wales’ search to understand the drama that unfolded between the Italian peasants and African American infantrymen of the 366th Infantry Regiment. This was the regiment attached to the legendary 92nd Infantry Buffalo Division, whose lives were lost—or changed irrevocably—by a village battle in Tuscany during the Battle of Garfagnana.
Cultures and relationships are intertwined to become braided in fire in Sommocolonia, a medieval Tuscan village in the Apennines directly on the highly fortified Third Reich’s ‘Gothic Line’ stretching across northern Italy. Only at Sommocolonia did attacking German troops break through that formidable line, with dire consequences to the inhabitants and their defenders—a handful of black GIs—who were outnumbered three to one by Axis troops. In the desperate fight, Lt. John Fox sacrificed himself with supreme heroism. (He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor 52 years later.)
Braided in Fire is not just military history, but tells of the human toll of war: the drama, the folly, the heartache—all present in grand measure for two peoples marginalized over the years for reasons of race and economic circumstances. This story is a celebration of human dignity in desperate circumstances. This book is painted in a narrative befitting the beauty and rich hues of the Tuscan hills and its people, juxtaposed by the toils of a segregated America in black versus white, even while in Army green.
Solace Wales was first director of the International Child Art Center in San Francisco and then for many years of the Marin Child Art Studio. She and her artist husband have lived part of the year in Sommocolonia since the mid 1970s. Ms. Wales has interviewed both the villagers in Italy and surviving African American veterans across the United States to make this book rich with primary research and exemplary writing.