“A Bell for Adano”
by Larry Johnson
n 1945 John Hersey, author of Hiroshima, received the Pulitzer Prize for A Bell for Adano, a novel about Americans in Italy at the end of the Second World War. It is based on the real-life experience of Frank Toscani, an American military governor of a small Sicilian town, Licata, during World War II.
Toscani replaced a cherished 700 year old bell that Mussolini had melted down for munitions. Hersey’s character, Major Joppolo, does the same thing in the fictional Italian town of Adano. The book was also adapted as a Broadway play and a Hollywood movie.
In Hersey’s novel, Major Joppolo is assigned to rebuild the town of Adano after the war. Getting to know the townsfolk, Joppolo operates on his own best instincts for kindness and democracy, reorganizing systems for food supply and other necessities. Learning the town’s deep desire to have their old bell replaced, Joppolo sets out successfully to do so. Along the way he refuses to obey a General’s order, an order which the Major deems an unjust and unnecessary burden on the townspeople.
The new bell arrives about the time the town throws a party for Major Joppolo, thanking him for his great work on their behalf. In the middle of the party, Joppolo is handed an order telling him he’s being relieved of his duty in Adano because he countermanded the General’s order. As a jeep drives him out of town the next morning, he looks back, and the new bell sounds clearly for the first time.
Larry Johnson is a member of the City of Bells Steering Committee, Veterans for Peace, and is the author of Sixty One (2016, Shipwreckt Books Publishing Company), a collection of short essays spanning Larry’s boyhood 50- mile hike, answering JFK’s call for physical fitness in 1961; a 61-mile hike decades later when he turned 61-years old; and a 70-mile hike in 2016 known as the “Beating Weapon into Windmills Walk.” Together, the essays are a mantra for peace.