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Italian village welcomes family of Colorado soldier who died there, 80 years later


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A group of American soldiers killed by the Nazis in a small town in Italy during World War II were honored this month by villagers, 80 years after their deaths. Paul Valdez was one of those soldiers. He was from Colorado and served in the Army’s 45th Infantry Division.

Paul Valdez  


His grand-niece lives in Denver and works for CBS Colorado. She was among the family members who traveled from the United States all the way to Montebuono for their remarkable remembrance ceremony.

In 1944 the Allies were chasing the Nazis out of Italy when American forces bombed a German train. It was carrying hundreds of Allied prisoners of war who were being taken to a concentration camp. Valdez was one of the survivors of the bombing. He and seven other Americans fled from the scene and traveled in haste into the hills to Montebuono, which is 42 miles outside of Rome.



One of them knocked on the door of Nello Luchetti’s home. He was 12 at the time.

“Mother gave them a loaf of bread because the poor things had nothing to eat,” he said in Italian this month when he was interviewed by CBS News.

The Americans eventually took cover behind the walls of a small Medieval monastery up on a hillside. For a short time, villagers did their best to help them. The soldiers would come down from the monastery and knock on their doors for food. But the Nazi’s hunted them down and shot and killed them all, some inside the monastery. Bullet holes are still visible in the walls.

Luchetti shuddered as he recalled the moment he saw the bodies of Valdez and the other Americans who were slain.

“What cowards the Nazis were,” said Luchetti, who is in his 80s now.

Since the massacre, Montebuono has honored those 8 GIs every year, and the 80th consecutive memorial ceremony was one Valdez’s grand-niece Elaine Torres said she and other family members couldn’t miss.

“They really have kept their memories alive all of these years. All of the years that we never even knew about Montebuono or anything that had happened here,” she said. “So it’s extraordinary that they’ve really embraced all of them. They never forgot.”



Valdez’s family members have kept his German POW tag, letters he sent home and his prayer book. But for decades they never knew the full story. That is, until five years ago when the town of Montebuono worked with historians and reached out to Valdez’s brother Ruben. Ruben shared the story with his daughter Peggy and other family members. He died a few months later.

“The town was taking care of him. People cared about him. Other mothers cared about him and his fellow soldiers,” said Peggy.

A few years later some of the family members came to Montebuono

“It was amazing,” Torres said. “It was our second time traveling to this particular town. My husband, son and I went there in July 2022. We just wanted to see the monastery and pay our respects to my great-uncle Paul. And when we showed up, the town rolled out the red carpet. The mayor welcomed us. The whole town welcomed us.”

For this year’s 80th ceremony, villagers played the American National Anthem on their musical instruments and unveiled a new plaque at the local elementary school. Torres said she was amazed once again to hear the stories of the villagers who risked their lives to help Valdez and the other American fighters.

“Even though it was Nazi-occupied these families were putting themselves in danger by giving these soldiers food, by giving them bread, by giving them water and they really took care of the soldiers until unfortunately the Nazis found them and killed them.



Torres said she traveled with a group of 12 family members and friends for the ceremony, some from Colorado and some from California.

“Being there the first time was so moving and such an incredible experience and then going back for this ceremony — for the 80th … for all of us to be there together to experience this very special ceremony and all of what the town put together for these soldiers, it was extraordinary,” she said.

Montebuono now has several plaques — one in town and two at the monastery — recognizing and honoring the American soldiers.

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