|American troops on the beaches of Licata, 1943|
|Licata's Bell Tower|
RST's interest in the book was piqued by an essay by Rutgers Professor Susan L. Carruthers in the most recent issue of The Journal of American History (March 2014). You don't have to run out and buy it, because I'll tell you what it says--or some of it. We can start with the title: '"Produce More Joppolos': John Hersey's A Bell for Adano and the Making of the 'Good Occupation.'" Carruthers' take is more complex than the novel, and more interesting, too. She argues that all occupations--even those carried out by Americans, and even the occupation of Italy during and after World War II--are nasty affairs, a form of imperialism, really, in which the occupiers (the conquerors) are inevitably disliked by the native population (the conquered), no matter how warm and fuzzy the commanding officer and some of the troops might be. Among the points of tension is that occupying soldiers (enough of them, anyway) invariably think that sex with the local girls is their right, to be procured by any means necessary, including "coercion and C rations." Although some of Licata's citizens may have mourned for their bell, what they really needed was food, and getting it put them into undesirable situations (offering sex for food) or in contact with the black market, where a good portion of the available supply was whisked away by unscrupulous, greedy soldier-occupiers, to be sold at high prices.
These things don't happen in A Bell for Adano. Flirtations, yes. But no rape, no prostitution, no adultery, no sex for food, no sex period. And no black market.
|From the film: An American soldier, with a simple and|
barefoot Italian fisherman
With appreciation and thanks to Susan L. Carruthers.