Mon amour, ma chéri: A story of love and war

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(This story was originally published in The Enterprise May 8-12, 2005. Paulette Giovanniello died three weeks later, on June 3, 2005 and was buried on D-Day that year. Amalio Giovanniello is 88 and lives in Avon.)

By STEVE DAMISH
Managine editor

A shroud of fog clung to the frozen fringe of Amalio Giovanniello's foxhole as he dug into his pack and retrieved the latest batch of letters from the French girl.

He had been cold before, growing up in New England, but never like this.

He hadn't taken off his boots in weeks, and his feet were now encased in a cast of ice, grime, leather and wool. He knew the numbness in his toes was frostbite, but was helpless to stop its spread.

Amalio "Gio" Giovanniello and Paulette LimousinIt was December 1944 in the Hurtgen Forest — along the German-Belgium border — and the Germans were dug in, a rifle shot away.

The boots had to stay.

But Gio, as everybody called him, would risk removing his gloves so he could read the French girl's letters. She had written them on onionskin paper, and he would need every speck of feeling in his fingers to handle the delicate sheets.

He had read the letters before — in other foxholes — but each time picked up another word, or phrase, or hint of emotion he hadn't noticed before.

Today, however, was special — he no longer needed his Cajun buddy from Louisiana to translate the girl's French.

She had started sprinkling English words through her letters, and Gio had learned enough of her language to decipher the rest.

For the first time, the boy from Brockton was alone with the girl from Paris.

Read the installments in this five-part story below.

PART 1: WORDS TO LOVE BY

PART 2: LOVE BLOOMS AMID HARDSHIPS OF WAR

PART 3: LOVE LETTERS HELP HIM SURVIVE HORRORS OF WAR

PART 4: AS WAR ENDS, WEDDING BELLS RING

PART 5: LOVE FLOURISHES