Why The US Army Just Surprised One Italian Woman With A Birthday Cake

Imagine that you're in the middle of your normal routine at home when you suddenly hear a knock at the door. Upon opening the door, you find that your unexpected guest isn't the mailman or some delivery driver with a mistaken address, but instead two fully-uniformed army men. Stranger still, one of them is carrying a ... is that a birthday cake? This outlandish scenario may sound like some absurdist joke, but for one Italian woman, it was a rather surprising — but true — scene.

To answer the question of why the US Army had a cake made for an elderly Italian woman, we must first go back to WWII, during the last days of occupied Italy. It's April 28, 1945. Italy is caught in the last few battles of the Second World War. Dictator Benito Mussolini and his mistress Clara have been executed and hang from a gas station in Milan (via HISTORY), and the last of the German troops are evacuating Vicenzia as American troops arrive. And in the midst of it all, an Italian girl named Meri Mion is spending her 13th birthday in a farmhouse attic with her mother (via The Associated Press).

As the story goes, Meri's mother had left a birthday cake on the windowsill of their farmhouse, only to discover that it had vanished — apparently taken by hungry American soldiers as they entered the city. Now, 77 years later, it was time for her to get the cake she had lost on that fateful birthday. 

Meri Mion celebrated her 90th birthday with US soldiers

As The Associated Press reports, the US Army Garrison Italy surprised a now-elderly Meri Mion with a birthday cake on Thursday, April 28. This cake was a gift from the US Army, a sort of "apology" for the disappearance of her 13th birthday cake 77 years ago. Mion seemed genuinely touched by the gesture, wiping away tears as the uniformed men presented her with an elaborate cake topped with fresh strawberries and chocolate. She was stated to exclaim "Grazie" and, of course, "Mama mia" as American and Italian commanders alike sang "Happy Birthday" to her.

According to the US Army, Sgt. Peter Wallis was the one to give Mion the cake, stating that "it felt a bit awkward" but nonetheless was "great" to give the elderly woman the birthday cake that was rightfully hers. Per the AP, Mion was stated as saying: "Tomorrow, we will eat that dessert with all my family remembering this wonderful day that I will never forget."

This isn't the first time there's been a moment of camaraderie between the United States military and Italian citizens. In 2021, a 97-year-old veteran tearfully reunited with three Italian siblings he had met during the liberation in 1944 (via NPR).