Family members of Herbert A. Pokorni of the 363rd visit the Gothic Line

  • June 10, 2024
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by Daniele Baggiani

We enjoy recounting these simple life stories that always move us. Yesterday, Saturday, June 8, 2024, the great-niece of soldier Herbert Antony Pokorni (1924-1945) – americano di origini polacche – ha visitato il Mugello e i luoghi del Giogo con il marito e i suoi figli di 18 e 14 anni. Come spesso accade, tutto è avvenuto quasi per caso, grazie a una “cultura della memoria” che i discendenti dei combattenti portano avanti in ogni paese, specialmente in America.

Rebecca Nelson sent this photo.

The Nelson family visiting Passo del Giogo

Rebecca Pokorni Nelson, while on vacation with her family in Florence for a classic tour of the artistic wonders of the city of the Medici, found information about her grandfather's brother, Herbert Pokorni, through online research. She discovered his name on the Monument to the Fallen of the 363rd Infantry Regiment of the 91st “Pine Tree” Division of the 5th US Army, located in Omomorto, between Ponzalla and the Giogo Pass. She contacted Gotica Toscana through our website, and we arranged a special guided tour lasting about half a day. The visit began with their arrival at the San Piero a Sieve Railway Station from Florence.

  • Manuel Noferini guided the family through the military history of the Battle of Giogo and the Gothic Line. He showed them the numerous exhibits and materials inside the MUGOT – MUSEO GOTICA TOSCANA, which recounts the incredible week of battles that led to the capture of the first line of German fortified defenses.
  • Leonardo Baggiani then accompanied them to the Monte Altuzzo Battlefield. They visited the Infirmary and Command Bunkers, as well as the German positions around the mountain. These were captured by the infantry of the 85th Infantry Division on September 17, 1944.
  • Afterward, the Nelson family visited the large Monument to the Fallen of the 363rd on their way back.

PFC Herbert A. Pokorni

At the American War Memorial Overseas (Private Citizens Supporting America’s Heritage) 2 For Private First Class (PFC) H. Pokorni, the following information is listed:

Name: Herbert A. Pokorni
Rank: Private First Class
Serial Number: 36955194
Unit: 363rd Infantry Regiment, 91st Division
Date of Death: 1945-04-17
State: Illinois
Cemetery: Saint Joseph Cemetery, River Grove, Illinois
Decoration: Purple Heart
Comments: Herbert A. Pokorni, aged 21, was born on January 30, 1924 in Cook County, Illinois. He was the son of Robert Pokorni and Josephine Jaworski Pokorni. He served in the 363rd Infantry, 91st Infantry Division as a Private First Class during World War II. Herbert was Killed in Action on April 17, 1945 in the Po Valley, Italy and is now buried in the Saint Joseph Cemetery, River Grove, Cook County, Illinois, USA.

The Tomb of H. Pokorni in Illinois

The remains of H.A. Pokorni were transferred from Italy to the United States in 1948, as indicated by the article in "Chicago Tribune (IL)“:

“Pfc. Herbert Pokorni, killed in action in the Po Valley, Italy, son of Robert and Josephine, nee Jaworski, brother of Rose, Edward, Bruno, Gertrude Siegal, Joseph, Alice Krakau and Frank [had his] Funeral Saturday, Dec. 4, at 9 a.m., from funeral home, 2157 Irving Park road, to St. Benedict ‘s church. Military honors by North Center post, No. 356, American Legion.”

The Culture of Memory

The emotion of Rebecca Pokorni Nelson, her husband, and their children was palpable during their brief visit to the 363rd Memorial, located in Omomorto. The monument stands on a hill along Provincial Road 35, in a setting of rare beauty. On a commemorative plaque, in the lower right corner, the name of Herbert A. Pokorni, Private First Class, is engraved. He fell during the American troops' advance from Florence to Bologna.

Herbert Antony Pokorni will not be forgotten. Every day, the volunteers of Gotica Toscana dedicate a thought of gratitude to these young Americans who fell in Italy for freedom. Continuing to remember them allows those born in times of peace to fully appreciate peace itself, never taking it for granted.

The Opportunity for an Historical Research

PFC Pokorni lost his life near Monte Adone in April 1945, as Allied operations resumed after the winter break against German forces to liberate Bologna. It was the twilight of the war, with just about 15 days left until the unconditional surrender of the German armed forces. It appears that Company "B," to which Pokorni belonged, was engaged in defense during the construction of a Bailey Bridge over the Savena Stream. Based on this information provided by Rebecca Pokorni Nelson, we have begun preliminary research into the wartime events of those days. We plan to discuss this in greater detail in the future and are committed to publishing a comprehensive article.

Company C of the 363rd Battalion on the road south of Pianoro, on the way to Bologna - April 1945

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