In 2016, while reading historical publications from Italy and the United States about the facts and events that took place in the northern Apennine region between the provinces of Bologna, Modena and Pistoia during World War II, the idea for the project 1945.Mountainmen began to take shape.
Among the earliest records found was the story of Private John Magrath, the only soldier from the 10th Mountain Division to receive the Medal of Honor, the highest military honor during World War II of the United State Army. Magrath belonged to 85th Regiment, Company G and subsequent findings and research were directed toward that unit, its men, and its vicissitudes. In 2019 he began writing the script for the miniseries MOUNTAINMEN. Gothic Line 1945.
In 2020, Rosario Salemi, son of the late veteran Salvatore Salemi, was the connection to 2021 veteran Edward Nickerson, who narrates the history of the Company in the miniseries, and Harriet, the widow of Thomas Brooks. The current president of the 10th Mountain Division Descendants, Denise Taylor, daughter of veteran Marvin Taylor, in addition to arranging several contacts with veteran descendants, was the architect behind the contact with Speed Murphy's son, who died in 2008, and Raymond Johnson through his son Tim. Both veterans are still alive. They are 97 and 98 years old.
Through their memoirs and letters, Luciano La Valle, a promising director of the miniseries, was able to shape the idea and later the script based on real events and real characters.
Denise Taylor also organized the meeting that took place in Iola di Montese between Luciano La Valle and the Gandolfi brothers, Andrea and Giuliano, who were later joined by Guglielmo Mattiello. The brothers are the authors of two books based on the history of the 10th Mountain Division and the original memoirs and photographs of its soldiers and officers, written and taken during their time in Italy in 1945.
The management of the Museo Memorie d'Italia inIola di Montese, recognized by the Association of Descendants of the10th Mountain Division Descendants, has also enabled the brothers to learn from the elders, who at that time were little more than boys, anecdotes and testimonies of daily life as seen and experienced by the population that lived then in the fear and hardship of war.
The meeting closes the circle of the project 1945.Mountainmen which has been in development for three years, from 2020 to 2023, and of which Luciano la Valle is the author and director, Andrea and Giuliano Gandolfi, together with Guglielmo Mattiello, are the executive producers, that is to say, they have been in charge of finding financing for the project and of the organizational, bureaucratic and logistical aspects of filming and post-production. With the support of Gruppo Culturale Il Trebbo, the shooting began in March 2022, with the first sets being sourced, reconstructed and prepared in the same areas and places where the events and battles took place in 1945, the backbone of the miniseries, also dubbed in English-American, and structured in four episodes averaging 25 minutes each.
Among the soldiers, not just Americans, but also Brazilians and British, deep feelings often arose, until they blossomed into true love, which, at the end of the war, led the women to follow their husbands to their homeland, or vice versa, but more rarely, the soldiers settled with the family of the fiancée who would later become their wife.
In the prologue of the miniseries, one of these women finds memories of the war in a letter written by a soldier during a visit to the museum. This real-life character, named Mariarosa, appears throughout the miniseries, from the first to the last episode, and is one of the two driving motifs of the 1945.Mountainmenproject, along with other open windows into the relationships between soldiers and village.
A window of footage in the back sees some sets in the village of Prunetta, where soldiers, residents and children socialize, and Campo Tizzoro, where part of the third episode is dedicated to the soldier Speed Murphy, who lost a hand trying to prevent a hand grenade triggered by an accidental fall to the ground from being thrown out the window of the SMI scuola, where children in the courtyard were playing during recess. The company had been staying there for a few days to rest.
The second driving motif is the reconstruction of the everyday life of the soldiers, both behind and on the front, from the arrival of the men of Company G in Italy near the front of the Green Line II, better known as the Gothic Line, in the village of Gavinana in the high Apennines of Pistoia and in the area of Monte Belvedere, between Vidiciatico and Querciola. Monte Spigolino, Ronchidoso are the places where the bloody battles of the soldiers of Company G, who faced the fierce defenses of the German army, have been reconstructed. Finally, there is the reconstruction of the heroic attack of April 14, 1945 on the German positions onHill 909, above the village of Castel d'Aiano, by John Magrath, who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor because he was killed on the same day, but in a different context, by the explosion of a German mortar shell.
Just as there are two driving motifs behind the project, there are also two goals for the project. The first, of a historical and cultural nature, is aimed primarily at passing the story on to young people of the new generations so that it remains alive, preserving it in images brought to life through the personal recollections of veterans. Soldiers, then young men, mostly between the ages of 18 and 24, who came to Italy to fight for our freedom, far from home and the affection of their families, in contact with people of a completely different culture and customs, in damp holes dug in the ground, cold as only the winters of that time knew how to be, surrounded by rain and snow. The risk of dying at any moment from enemy artillery fire or in combat, the excruciating experience of losing a comrade, changed and marked their lives forever. The memories and nightmares reported by many veterans stayed with them for years, long after they returned home.
The second goal is to raise awareness and respect for the area where the battles depicted in the miniseries took place, and to provide viewers with an informed incentive to visit such places.
For the production of the miniseries, 14 sets were built, including a set of kitchen and bedroom rooms, as they appeared at the time of the war, from the Raccolta di Cose Montesine of the Iola di Montese. Many of the props used in the sets of the miniseries come from the Memorie d'Italia collections of the museum, which is dedicated to the armies that faced each other on the battlefields in this area of the Apennines.
There were 85 actors and extras on the sets, including 55 in period military gear, most belonging to historical reenactment groups such as Fubar, La Croce di Ferro, Overlord 44 FHG, Ultimo Fronte and 30 in civilian clothing from the period. Technicians, camera operators, special effects, pyrotechnics, gunsmiths, vintage car drivers, backstage photographers, and hair and makeup artists worked behind the scenes.