Written by: Mark ChristopherEdited by: Holly ChristopherPhotography: Holly ChristopherEditor’s note: Last summer, my husband and I accompanied our children on a musical tour of Europe. We were traveling with American Music Abroad, an organization that takes high school and college kids on European tours where they perform concerts at various locations and tour when they aren’t performing. The events in this post are one hundred percent true and have bothered my logical, science minded, rational explanation for events husband ever since it happened, hence the researching and writing. Draw your own conclusions.We arrived in the small Italian town of Copparo and our tour buses stopped at the old town square. There was a pretty park in the center of the square with trees and a fountain. The park was surrounded on three sides by old buildings. The buildings on the left side consisted of a small bar on one corner with an old school building rounding out that side of the park.On the back side of the square was the long municipal building. On the right side of the square were several tall buildings with local stores, a pharmacy and even a little gelato shop.We were traveling with a bus tour of high school and college musicians and their directors. This was their first performance on their 3-week tour of Europe. As the musicians practiced their music and got ready for the concert, my wife and I decided to take a stroll around the square. It was evening but still very light out because it was July. Somewhere between 8 or 9pm as we began our stroll. We walked to the left and passed by the small bar with its patrons talking and looking curiously at the four busloads of musicians as they scurried about preparing for the performance.A few elderly locals were walking around the square and a few older Italian men were riding their bicycles around in circles, or finding a spot to listen to the music when it started.Our stroll led us up in front of the tall school building on the left side of the square.My wife and I talked about how the town seemed to be frozen in time. We walked and talked taking a few pictures here and there. Soon we got to the end of the left side of the square ready to turn right along the back side of the square. That is when my wife looked at me and said “It feels like the war is still going on. Everything looks and feels as if soldiers from WWII could come walking out at anyminute.”We were both looking towards the left at an old building that reminded us of places we’d seen in war movies, when up in the sky to our right we saw a low-flying plane coming towards us. It was flying pretty low, about a hundred or so feet above the municipal building flying at an angle across the end of the square.It looked like a WWII plane but there was no sound. By no sound, I mean completely and totally silent. There wasn’t even the accompanying whoosh you’d hear with a glider or the snap associated with a kite. It soared directly over our heads and continued to the left of us cutting across the end of the square at an angle and disappeared out of site as it went behind the old school.We were in shock. My wife was just talking about how it felt like WWII still and a WWII plane flew right over our heads. We both said “Wow! That was amazing!” We continued our stroll and talked about the plane as we walked. We both said it looked like a smaller version of one of those large WWII bombers that Harry Connick Jr. had flown in a war movie we’d seen years ago. It was dark green, it had windows for the pilots as well as a gunner type window and all of the windows were black. We could not see any pilots inside the plane even though it was flying so low. It also had a zero on the back mid body section of the plane.Soon our stroll took us over to the gelato shop where we got a couple still waters and some gelato. We sat down outside the shop and talked about it some more. We discussed how strange the experience was and that it was very odd that a WWII Japanese Zero would be flying around Italy. We thought that maybe there was some type of war reenactment going on nearby. We joked about jumping through time for a moment. We finished our gelato and went back to the front ofthe square to claim a couple of seats to watch the kid’s performance.About a month later after we were back home. I couldn’t stop thinking about that night in Copparo. I decided to do some research to see if there had been a reenactment nearby on the day we were there, that could’ve explained the experience. I looked and looked, and found that no reenactments had been going on. Then I decided to see if there had been any air shows in the area. The answer was no. In fact, I found out that WWII reenactment is rarely if ever done in Europe and especially in Italy. Italy was in a bad position with regard to the war. It supported Germany for most of it and when it was clear that the Germans were losing, they flipped to the Allied side. So for most of the war they had been fighting Allied troops, and then for the last several months of the war they were being invaded from the north by the Germans and from the south by the Allies. When the war was over, Italy did not really want to remember the war, not to mention they didn’t want to do reenactments.With that avenue of research hitting a dead end. I started to research whether or not there were ever any WWII Japanese Zeros sent to fight in Italy. That was a pretty easy one, there were not. So, why did my wife and I see what appeared to be a WWII Japanese Zero flying over Copparo, Italy? There had to be some type of logical answer, didn’t there? I then started researching whether or not any type of notable event had taken place in or around Copparo during WWII. I could not find any battles or events that occurred there or were documented. Copparo was a rural town that was not critical to Italy, Germany or the Allies.I did find many stories about the “Pippo” night fighters that flew over northern Italy. A solitary plane nicknamed a “Pippo” by the locals would fly over the countryside and bomb anything that emitted light. The “Pippo” struck terror in the residents of northern Italy as they would hear the single engine plane flying over their homes and they would pray that it would not find them. Based on the accounts I read, the “Pippo” would have a loud engine sound, so it wasn’t anything to do with one of those, because the plane we saw made no sound. I kept researching and digging, which led me to an extremely startling discovery.I finally found a story about a WWII aircraft and the town of Copparo, Italy in the same article. The story stated that on April 21, 1945 a Royal Air Force Douglas A-20K Boston Mark V plane went down after being hit by a German anti-aircraft battery southwest of Copparo. Interesting I thought so, I looked for a picture of the type of aircraft that went down. Here it is…
I just about passed out! That was the exact plane that my wife and I saw fly right over our heads while standing in the corner of the square in Copparo in July. There was even a zero, but it turned out to be the RAF symbol. The more I read about the incident, the stranger it became. When the plane went down with four crew members aboard on April 21, 1945, it was not found. It wasn’t until 2006 that an archaeologist interviewing an eye witness to the crash in 1945, first determined the crash site using metal detectors. In July 2011 the final location of the downed plane was finally discovered during an excavation of the site. They were able to confirm the type of plane, find the bones of 4 people and small personal items such as a ring and a watch. After some intense investigation they were able to determine the exact plane and identify the four airmen. The airmen were finally laid to rest at a commonwealth war cemetery in Padua, Italy in July 2013, 68 years after their deaths.What did we see that evening in Copparo, Italy. A ghost plane? A crack in time? An event that replays itself over and over again? Four airmen trying to no longer be lost and forgotten, wanting to go home? I have no idea. My logical mind can’t explain this one. So, I leave it up to you to decide. To read more about “The finding of the Douglas A-20K Boston Mark V sn BZ590” please follow this link…
- P.S. Please excuse the poor paragraph formatting. WordPress seems to be having some issues today. First, the entire post disappeared, now, it’s formatted correctly on the page I’ve written it on, but it doesn’t show up right on the site. It happens. Have a great day and be nice to somebody. 🙂
I was raised by parents and grandparents who lived through WWII and the Great Depression. I didn’t realize until about ten years ago, that the America I grew up in was very post war in its sensibilities. I was surrounded by the greatest generation and their independence and strength. I was raised on those values, and one thing that has always fascinated me because of its extremity is WWII era Germany. I couldn’t understand it, and Adolph Hitler was and is, the ultimate boogie man. One minute you see him smiling and petting his dog in what looked like a scene that anybody would be in, the next minute you see him screaming and shaking his fist, spittle flying, weird little bangs separating, thousands of sycophants Seig Heiling and snapping up that infamous salute.
The pageantry created by the Nazis was second to none. Red, black, and white go so well together after all. The uniforms were flashy and they made every effort to show mainly tall, well-built, handsome, blue-eyed blondes to reinforce their agenda. The parades, the bonfires, (hey, are those BOOKS in there?) the snappy flags and the shiny black cars. Then you find out about the beatings, murder, destruction, concentration camps and world domination ambitions, and the contradiction that was Nazi Germany becomes something that you try to figure out, but can’t.
When I saw this book at Jo-Beth Booksellers, I couldn’t resist. I read the book jacket, so I knew it was satire, but I had to see what Timur Vermes imagined the Furher (sorry, I don’t know how to do umlauts) would do if he came back. What I found was more an indictment of modern civilization than an indictment of Herr Hitler, although I guess you can’t really make him any worse than he already is.
So anyway, Adolph wakes up on a beautiful, blue sky, sunny day in a vacant lot somewhere in Berlin. At first, he looks around for signs of the war going on, but sees none. He is in full uniform, it’s a little smudged and smells like gasoline from a cleaning attempt, but overall, he’s in pretty good shape. He winds up being taken in by a newspaper kiosk guy who tells him the year and helps him out. He also hooks him up with tv producers because he thinks the Hitler thing is an act.
Hitler is a smart guy obviously and figures out really quickly that something strange has happened and he wants to get his political career going again. To make a long story short, he learns about modern technology and people and finds all of it ridiculous, still hates Jews etc., and becomes a big celebrity. And of course, nobody believes him. The entire country is furious that he won’t reveal his real name, because they don’t believe him, and he’s ready to call in the SS to take care of the people who keep asking. Just like vampires, werewolves, and witches, modern society doesn’t believe in the monster, and ultimately, it’ll cause them trouble. By the end, you can see that if he remains persistent, the modern sheeple are going to end up following him.
I enjoyed the book overall. It made me think about how ridiculous modern society is. It pointed out yet again, that even though a threat, or a negative anomaly can be as plain as the nose on your face, we often, in our enlightened modernity, deny it, even as it’s taking over our lives. I’d kind of like Vermes to write a sequel, where the monster really comes roaring back, in all of his muderous, evil, mastermind glory, not funny this time. It would be the most successful horror story of all time.
If you enjoy satire, you might want to give this one a look. It really did have a number of LOL moments, and the way the speeches he makes are laid out in the book, you can almost hear that old black and white boogie man screaming, and shaking his fist, spittle flying, and weird little bangs separating.
Have a great day, and spend part of it with a great book. 😊
I was in elementary school in the 1970’s, and it has only been in the last few years that I have realized that the world I grew up in was very much a post WWII place. John Wayne won the war in the Pacific every weekend on television in old black and white movies. The old people (grandparents) talked incessantly about the Depression and the war. My mother told me stories of her parents planning to cut her hair and dress her like a boy if the Germans invaded the country. She also told me stories of drilling with fake wooden rifles at school as a matter of course. My Mammaw told me about the families with the stars commemorating their service people in the window, and how the whole neighborhood heard the mother next-door scream when she got word that her son had been killed. My Grandfather was an air raid warden and when my Mammaw died, we found ration books in her things. There was also a plethora of books about the war and the Holocaust and the Nazis. I became interested in the stories when I was very young. I remember reading Anne Frank’s story, and I remember a book called Marta and the Nazis about a young girl in WWII Germany.
I still like to read about the Second World War. I am completely fascinated by the fact that an entire country full of intelligent, normal, people could fall for the charisma and promises of Hitler. I understand what post WWI Germany was like. I understand the desperation, and the longing for a leader to make it all better. I am unable to understand what I call, for lack of a better word, mass hypnosis that allowed such hideous atrocities to be perpetrated against so many innocents. I don’t understand why more people couldn’t see it coming, when it is so obvious what was happening. I don’t understand how people can do those things to other people.
My Mother’s Secret, by J.L. Witterick, is a fictionalized representation of the true story of Franciszka Halamajowa, and her daughter Helena, and peripherally, her son, Damian. Franciszka was Polish and married to a Ukrainian man. They moved to Germany because there were more opportunities for a better life there than in Poland. Franciszka eventually left her abusive husband, who had fallen hook line and sinker for the Nazis, and returned to Poland with her children. They were able to make a new life for themselves, and were living fairly well considering the level of poverty in Sokal, Poland when the Nazis invaded and the war broke out.
Before the war, Sokal, Poland was home to 6,000 Jews. After the war, 30 were left and half of them were saved by Franciszka. This little, sparely written book, that almost made me feel as if I were reading poetry, recounts the perils of hiding Jews just outside the Jewish ghetto, surrounded by German troops with itchy trigger fingers. The story is told without great gobs of gross, excruciating, explicit details of atrocities, which may seem to some people as if that aspect is being played down, but in reality, it makes the menace more real because you are less overwhelmed by the horror. These are people going about their regular lives, when all of a sudden, they are placed in a situation where doing the right thing could end their lives any minute.
We are also told the stories of the people who had to hide. One day, they were working in factories, or as doctors in hospitals, respected and respectable, and in the blink of an eye, they had to abandon everything and hide like animals in a burrow, just to survive. There is also a surprise “hider” that I won’t tell you about, but his life was hanging by the same thin thread as the Jews.
This book is a VERY quick read. Some of the chapters are only a paragraph long, and it is this unique way of breaking up the story that makes it sometimes feel like poetry. I think this would be a great book to teach just about any student seventh grade or above. It could be used in language arts or history, even ethics or government. If you are looking for historical fiction that illustrates the good in human beings even in the midst of horror, this might be the book for you. I felt so uplifted at the end; I think you would too.
Have a great day, and spend part of it with a good book.