From the Archives: The Liberation of Rome

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Acting Librarian Peter De Daehn (wearing suit and tie) with American soldiers in leave courses, 1945 (photograph by Peter de Daehn; American Academy in Rome, Institutional Archive)

Today marks the eightieth anniversary of the liberation of Rome from Nazi Occupation. The arrival of American troops in 1944 was welcome news all over Rome, and not least of all at the Academy in Rome, which had closed its doors due to the conflict following the 1940 Fellowship year. With backing from the Vatican, the Swiss Legation had occupied the McKim, Mead & White Building during the war, protecting the property from looting and destruction. While closed, the Academy awarded cash prizes in lieu of residential Fellowships, including smaller awards for recent graduates in the classics, and funding for the construction of monuments and murals across the US.

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Albert W. Van Buren

A skeleton staff remained in Rome, consisting of Librarian Colonel Peter DeDaehn, Academy Secretary Riccardo Davico, and Professor of Archaeology Albert W. Van Buren (1906 Fellow), who was appointed the Academy’s official legal custodian. The three endured harsh conditions to continue their work and maintain the Academy, reporting back to New York when circumstances permitted.

In the report reproduced below, Davico describes the arrival of American troops at the Academy on June 5, including several Fellows:

“A few hours after the arrival of the American soldiers in Rome (I saw the American troops in front of the Academy gate on Monday June 5 at 5:30 am) we had the pleasure of receiving Col. Henry T. Rowell and Lieutenant Perry B. Cott of the U.S. Navy, who is in charge of the Commission for the protection of monuments. On June 7. came sergeant G.M. Koren; on June 8 came Captain Sidney Waugh; on June 9. came Captain Keller and Sergeant Harry Davis. They were all very happy to see the Academy again, and both sergeants Koren and Davis have been able to see their finished and unfinished works still in their studios just as they left them in June 1940. Today we had the great pleasure of the visit from Prof. William Bell Dinsmoor of the Board of Trustees. He inspected the main building and obtained from us a general statement of the local events and situation. The present report will probably be conveyed to you by him.”

The Academy partially reopened in 1946 to offer leave courses to enlisted men in Rome, and the Rome Prize Fellowship finally fully recommenced in the fall of 1947.

To get in touch with the Institutional Archive, please write to archives [at] (archives[at]aarome[dot]org).

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