By: Michael Mauritz
For nearly 54 years, Michael Mauritz spoke little about his World War II days. But when an Italian historian contacted him four years ago, things changed forever. Mauritz’s war experiences, it turned out, were more dramatic and compelling than anyone had imagined.
His story emerged from obscurity in 1998 when shifting sands incredibly brought his P-40L Warhawk into shallow waters allowing it to be rescued from its watery grave in the Mediterranean Sea off Anzio, Italy. The plane, “Skipper,” became the last surviving, intact P-40L in the world, but beyond that, the old Warhawk brought to light a story of intrigue, betrayal, heroism and pure goodness
Mauritz’s adventures are chronicled in the forthcoming book, The Secret of Anzio Bay. Put simply, his is not a typical war story.
Listed as missing after he skillfully landed his crippled plane in Anzio Bay shortly after the great battle of Anzio began, Mauritz swam to shore, only to be captured by the Germans. Imprisoned in a POW camp, Mauritz and a decorated Ranger Captain staged a daring escape and fled across the snowy Apennine Mountains. Finding shelter in the homes of sympathetic Italians and hiding from desperate fascists, 54 years later, a wealthy Italian businessman raised his plane from the ocean floor, placed it in a museum, and invited Mauritz to Italy.
Mauritz’s war saga stands alone as one marked by human goodness and irony. From the Italians who sheltered him and nursed him through illness despite the danger, to encounters with Pope John Paul II and Mussolini’s son, Mauritz’s fascinating journey adds a refreshing new chapter to the Greatest Generation legacy.
The Secret of Anzio Bay (Word Association Publishing. Visit: www.AnzioBay.com for more information.)