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Trentino-Alto Adige: Meeting GIs in WWII launched Italian on a lifetime love of America

Italian-born Larry Pisoni and his American-born wife, Grace (Carol) Pisoni. The two have homes in the United States and Italy, and both hold dual citizenship.

JOLENE CARPENTER/STARS AND STRIPES

By JESSICA INIGO | STARS AND STRIPES Published: January 13, 2011

Larry E. Pisoni has had some intense love affairs in his life. But the most magnificent was with a lady he has admired for 60 years, then wrote about her soul.

Pisoni, the president of Gourmet Italia, wants to make good Italian food a way of American life. But his life’s work has really been to put his love affair with America in words.

Pisoni, 68, has found the essence of many things in life. He created and cultivated the Gourmet Italia food line sold at commissaries across Europe and has developed cooking courses that serve up only the finest ingredients in the simplest form.

Now he also has captured what he sees as the essences of America in an essay that he says illustrates her history and why he has loved her so.

“It shows why I’ve had this love affair with the United States,” Pisoni says of the essay in his Italian-accented, well-spoken English.

The affair started in February 1945 during World War II when Pisoni was a 7-year-old boy in his hometown near Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy. He saw a crew of seven Americans bail out of a B-52 bomber that had been hit by Nazi anti-aircraft gunners.

The following day, the young Pisoni saw two of the Americans held in the town square. They looked nothing like the monsters they were made out to be. Still, they were killed, which was shocking to the young talian boy.

The love bloomed later when Pisoni went to college in Ohio and met hisAmerican wife, Grace ("Carol"), whom he married 36 years ago.

And the affair continues today. Pisoni, a naturalized U.S. citizen, credits America and its actions in WWII for the current Italian way of life. He shows his appreciation by trying to model his life after America’s Founding Fathers, who he has been studying for the past 17 years and who he believes had the same mission he has: to improve the world.

“I’ve reached my goal,” says Pisoni, who has patterned his life around his personal hero, Benjamin Franklin.

“Franklin’s philosophy was the Golden Rule - do something for others that’s worthwhile.”

Pisoni believes his essay, “The United States of America: A Social Experiment for the Betterment of Mankind,” is exactly what people need – a reminder of America’s glory and history.

“It took me a long time and I believe several people would find it interesting,” Pisoni says.

He’s right. So far he’s received personally signed letters from the White House commending him on his work. First lady Laura Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and Lynne V. Cheney, wife of the vice president, are among those who have responded to him for expressing his love of country.

Pisoni’s essay, as it appears on the the Gourmet Italia website, www.gourmet-ialia.com, appears below.

The above story was published 07/18/2005 Europe Section Daily News 

The United States of America
A Social Experiment for the Pursuit of Happiness

By Larry Pisoni 

This essay is a work of love toward my adopted country, the United

States of America, which is so frequently misunderstood, mostly due to

ignorance of the facts and, occasionally, envy or bad faith. 

To understand the essence of the United States one should start with its

unique birth. Unlike other nations, the US is a product of ideas. 

The Vikings and Columbus were the discoverers of the new continent,

America, but the founder of the concept of the United States was William

Penn, who landed on the shores of the Delaware River in 1682. This

virgin land gave him the opportunity to put into practice the ideas of

liberty, equality, brotherhood and tolerance, which he was prevented from

implementing in Europe. His “Experiment” in Pennsylvania, with its

capital, Philadelphia (brotherly love) established the first large

communities since the Roman Empire to allow different nationalities and

religious sects to live under the same government on terms of equality.

Pennsylvania, as a successful experiment in the Age of Reason, deeply

interested the intellectual circles of eighteenth-century Europe. They

considered the province an illustration of their belief that man could lead a

better life without monarchy, feudalism, or religious uniformity. 

Although the American colonists considered themselves British subjects

, their ruler was far away and communications were slow. This fact,

together with the ideas and ideals of the Age of Enlightenment, which

were becoming very popular, contributed to a growing feeling of

independence from the mother country. 

The ancient Greek and Roman classics were read avidly on both sides of

the Atlantic. Starting with the beginning of the 18th century, the Masonic

brotherhood with its moral commitment of improving the lot of humanity

was spreading very effectively among the inhabitants of both Europe and

America. The American colonies were gradually becoming ready to go

on their own and the Revolution of 1776 matured and exploded as an

overdue human rebellion. Very few people at the time could have

imagined that the success of the American Revolution would have turned

the world upside down. As the author of the Declaration of Independence,

Thomas Jefferson predicted: “May it be to the world what I believe it will

be…the signal of arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish

ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and

to assume the blessings and security of self-government….(Amazing how

these concepts could be applied to the situation in the Middle East nowadays). 

Ben Franklin was considered by the British “the most dangerous man in

America” for his revolutionary ideas. To serve as US ambassador to

France, he made a daring crossing of the Atlantic infested with British

warships in the fall of 1776. He was able to convince the French

government and wealthy idealists to send troops, money and naval forces

to provide decisive help to the fledgling American republic. Franklin was

so admired by the French that they elected him Venerable Master of their

most prestigious Lodge (The Nine Sisters), whose members included

Voltaire, D’Alambert, Diderot, Lavoisier, Helvetius, La Fayette and the

finest thinkers of the Age of Enlightenment. These men were to lay the

intellectual foundations for the French Revolution, based on the same

principles that the American Revolution had already implemented. It is a

little known fact that the French revolutionaries sent the keys to the

Bastille to George Washington, as a tribute to the Americans who had led

the way thirteen years before. These keys have been on display at his

home in Mount Vernon ever since. 

During the summer of 1787 the Constitution of the United States was

written by the Founding Fathers. Thomas Jefferson, who was now

ambassador to France and could not be present, sent James Madison

many of the over 2,000 books, which he had bought in Paris. They

included thirty-seven volumes on the new Encyclopédie Methodique,

books on political theory and the law of nations, histories, works by

Voltaire, Diderot, Mably, Necker, Mirabeau, Montesquieu, Milton, Locke,

Hume, Hobbes, Plato, Aristotle, etc. 

Jefferson would later comment that the U.S. Constitution, a miracle of

compromise and wisdom, was the work of demigods. And, in 1887, on

the one hundred year anniversary, British Prime Minister William

Gladstone made the following declaration: 

“ I have always regarded that Constitution as the most remarkable work

known to me in modern times to have been produced by the human

intellect." 

An illustration of this “most remarkable work” is the system of checks and

balances in which the three branches of government control one another

as follows:

(1) the States v. the Central Government, (2)  the House v. the Senate, (3)

the President v. Congress, (4)  the Courts v. Congress, (5)  the Senate v.

the President (with regard to appointments and treaties), (6) the People

and their Representatives, (7) the State Legislatures v. the Senate (in the

original election of senators), and (8) the Electoral College v. the People. 

Winston Churchill made the following comments: “The great men who

founded the American Constitution embodied this separation of authority

in the strongest and most durable form. A system of law and liberty under

which Americans have thrived and reached the leadership of the world.

No constitution was ever written in better English.” 

The USA and Europe went along their separate ways for the most part

until WWI, when the U.S. decided to intervene. But already in 1915, while

the US was still neutral, Herbert Hoover, as a private citizen, organized

the C.R.B. (Commission for the Relief of Belgium) to feed German-

occupied Belgium and northern France. In the next four years the

commission fed and cared for some 10 million civilians. After WWI,

President Wilson appointed Hoover US food administrator. Under his

management, the US had fed and clothed over 200 million people by

1920. And, during the famine that swept the Ukraine from 1921 to 1923,

the American Relief Administration fed millions of Russians, adults as

well as children. However, the decisive impact on continental Europe was

felt after WWII. The defeat of the Nazis and the Fascists gave the US the

opportunity to diffuse its social experiment. With the help of the Marshall

plan and NATO, Western Europe began an unprecedented era of

freedom, democracy and prosperity. 

The years from 1945 to 1989 were characterized by a balance of terror,

but during that same period the fortunate European countries under the

wing of the United States enjoyed the longest period of peace since

the famous “Pax Romana” of 2,000 years before. 

Growing up in Italy just after W.W.II, I was personally able to witness

America’s benevolence. It started with the care packages that the

American families sent to us, followed by the Marshall plan and the

constant presence of NATO, which prevented the communists from

starting, and easily winning a civil war, which would have transformed the

country into a “Soviet Paradise”. As an act of gratefulness, in March

1995, I dedicated a memorial plaque to two B-24 Air Corp American

Officers who had been captured and murdered by the Nazis near my

home town toward the end of WWII. I called the ceremony “Thank you,

America”. We had over 1,000 participants, including the three surviving

members of the B-24 bomber. There was ample recognition both in Italy

and the U.S., including a page in the Congressional Records. Here are

the words that I had cast in bronze for perennial memory: 

At this spot, on Feb. 28, 1945

Two American airmen were shot by Nazis.

Lt. Lucian C. Crutchfield, Jr. of San Antonio, Texas

F/O William F. Brooks of Cohoes, New York.

They were two of more than 38,000 Americans

Who gave their lives on Italian soil during WWII

To help Europeans of good will regain freedom

And democracy. 

For several years after the end of WWII, the U.S “strongly encouraged”

the pro-western Italian parties to the point that freedom and democracy

were practically imposed. In the meantime, the unfortunate countries

behind the iron curtain were forced to wait until the collapse of the Soviet

Union in 1989 to begin to enjoy the taste of freedom. 

In Japan, Gen. Douglas Macarthur’s wise radical reforms from 1945 to

1950 transformed a semi-feudal society into a modern democracy

without taking away their cultural traditions. His first move was to import

3,500,000 tons of food from the supplies that the US Army had built up in

the Pacific. This decision saved the Japanese from starvation during the

first winter after the war. He gave Japan a new Constitution, held free

elections, enfranchised the women, released political prisoners, liberated

the farmers from an almost total possession of land by feudal lords,

established a free labor movement, developed a free press, liberalized

education and separated church from state. In three years the US Forces

had vaccinated 70,000,000 million people for smallpox and succeeded in

curbing the disease, which had been rampant. The same is true for

tuberculosis. It was estimated that 2,000,000 people were saved with these health

measures. I have mentioned NATO and the Marshall Plan, but the saga of the Berlin

airlift must not be forgotten. When the Soviet Union blocked overland

access to West Berlin in June 1948, the US, Britain and to a much lesser

extent, France, organized an air supply operation. During the blockade,

which lasted about a year, the operations were ongoing on a 24-hour

schedule. Altogether, 2,325,000 tons of supplies were airlifted to West

Berlin in 277,569 flights. There were 12 crashes in which 31 Americans

lost their lives. 

In 1973 the Canadian journalist Gordon Sinclair wrote: “ I can name you

5,000 times when the Americans raced to the help of other people in

trouble. Can you name me even one time when someone else raced to

the Americans in trouble?” The only example I can think of was the French

and the Marquis de Lafayette in 1776. By the way, the Americans have

never forgotten it, as testified by their battle cry in WWI: “Lafayette, here

we come”. The United States is not interested in acquiring new territories, but its

DNA compels it to spread its ideas and ideals for the betterment of

mankind. Of course, Americans are bound to make the same errors that

afflict the rest of humanity. What counts, however is the validity of

the system based on the ideas of freedom and democracy. As Churchill

wrote, “Democracy is the worst political system, except for all the others”.

By the way, right after his famous “Iron Curtain” speech at Fulton,

Missouri in March 1946, Churchill commented that if he could live again

he would wish to be born in the United States. 

Back in 1888, British journalist James Bryce wrote “in the works of

beneficence, no country has surpassed the United States”. One hundred

years later, Americans had given $104.3 billion to charity. 

If the U.S. were an imperialistic nation, after winning the war in Iraq in

2003, it would have taken over the oil fields and used the locals as cheap

labor. Since so many people continue to believe that the US invaded Iraq

only for its oil, it would be convenient to keep it and take full economic

advantage of it, but this would betray everything the US stands for. There

is a reason why the demonstrators in Tiananmen Square and in Soviet

occupied Prague were flying the American flag, as a symbol of freedom. 

Vietnam is the only case in U.S. history where a war was lost. From the

scant news that we receive from that country is it clear that victory gave

their people a rather miserable way of life. 

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 there were U.S.

interventions in Somalia, Africa, the Gulf war and the forced peace in the

former Yugoslavia. However, the real turning point in U.S. policy occurred

after 9/11. Few Non-Americans have understood the very deep impact of

that historical event. It touched a vital live nerve comparable to the

infamous bombing of Pearl Harbor. The sleeping giant got angry and woe

to the enemies and pseudo friends of the U.S. The new policy is not to

wait, but to prevent attacks by acting first. Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in

2003 reflect this new policy. Freedom and democracy will be practically

imposed in the Middle East and will gradually spread throughout the

world. It will probably take a generation, but the winds of freedom have an

insuppressible, almost superhuman power that cannot be stopped. The

most recent example is the 180° turn in Col. Gheddafi’s policies in

December 2003. In order to avoid ending up like Saddam Hussein he

wisely chose to cooperate. 

The diffusion of the English language and the Internet are gradually turning

our planet into a democratic global village. If the United States keeps a

steady course in its world leadership, it can accelerate the spreading of

these beneficial ideas throughout humanity. Since democracies,

historically, do not make war on one another this will be a very positive

effect. 

However, to be more convincing in winning the souls of the people,

modern Americans should become more knowledgeable about the

idealistic roots laid by our Founding Fathers. Too many Americans have

no idea whom to thank for the uniqueness of the U.S. They say: “We are

such a new country in comparison with the Europeans”. Although the

United States is a very young country, it is the first modern democracy. As

wisely predicted by Alexis de Tocqueville in his masterpiece “Democracy

in America” written in 1831, democracy was destined to spread from

America to Europe. The United States had implemented, for the first time

in history, the finest ideas of ancient Greece and ancient Rome. 

The $1.00 bill shows the pyramid of human improvement with the motto

“Novus Ordo Saeclorum (A new Breed of People) displayed as symbols

of the rebirth of people who embrace the American idealistic visions.

Without the wisdom and sacrifice of the Founding Fathers, the United

States would not exist as such and the inhabitants of the American

continent from Alaska to Patagonia would have followed whatever destiny

the European powers would have imposed. 

So let us treasure the culture and the ideals that created the “United

States of America” as a social experiment for the betterment of mankind.

If we are able do that, we will provide the necessary cultural support to our

economic and military might and will be able to realize the prediction of

Turgot, the French Minister of Finance before the French Revolution, who

wrote: “America is the only hope for humanity.” 

What could be more apropos, universal and prophetically immortal than

the following wish written by Benjamin Franklin to an English friend right

after signing the U.S. Constitution in the fall of 1787, “God grant that not

only the love of liberty, but a thorough knowledge of the rights of man may

pervade all the nations of the earth, so that a philosopher may set his foot

anywhere on its surface and say, ‘This is my country.’" 

Larry Pisoni can be reached at gi-one@gourmet-italia.com

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