Cherokee County

Cpl. Lorne R. Sand




Soldiers Attend Mass in Rome
Sioux City and Marcus Youths Pay Visit to Famed St. Peter’s

With the A.A.F. Engineer Command in Italy.—It was a thrill of a lifetime for Technician Fifth Grade Edward C. Bruce, 1506 Main street, Sioux City, and Cpl. Lorne R. Sand, of Marcus, Ia., when they had a leave to Rome and attended Christmas eve  midnight mass at St. Peter’s cathedral in the Vatican city.

In a letter to the headquarters of their aviation engineer topographic unit, which prints target maps, and briefing charts for Mediterranean allied air forces, the men gave a detailed account of the highlights of the ceremony.  They wrote:  “We went to the Vatican City early in the evening to be among the first to enter the cathedral, but we found out to our dismay about 400 persons already waiting for the doors to open.

Awesome Sight
“It was an awesome sight looking from the steps of the cathedral.  Lights glowed around the cathedral and the adjacent buildings of Vatican City.  Looking at the scene from a distance, the thronging thousands, subdued lights, and the majesty of the mighty cathedral created a moving scene.

“When the gates opened at 10 p.m., we were well on the way to being exhausted.  The interior of the church was segregated into different sections for all allied soldiers and civilians.  Soldiers from all the United Nations seemed to be there—English, French, Yugoslavs, Greeks, Polish, Brazilians, New Zealanders, and, of course, Americans.

“It was estimated that about 100,000 people attended the mass, and when the ceremony began, his Holiness, Pope Pius XII, was carried in upon a throne by four of his Swiss guards surrounded by a guard of honor and followed by many dignitaries.

Momentous Occasion
“This was the first midnight mass at which a pope had personally officiated in nine centuries.  You can imagine how thrilling it was to see it.  The Sistine choir sang beautifully, as well as a choir composed of allied soldiers.  We began to wonder whether we were dreaming or actually witnessing it.  His Holiness gave Holy Communion to many of the dignitaries who attended.  It was afterward announced that among these were the German ambassador and the wife of the Japanese ambassador.  Communion had to be distributed on the side altars in order to take care of the enormous congregation.

“Upon leaving the cathedral we looked back once more on that sight and had the feeling that our venture to Rome was more than satisfactory.  For our part, we know that we shall never forget that experience, and we are sure that all who attended share the same feeling.”

Source:  The Sioux City Journal, February 4, 1945 (photograph included)