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U.S. WWII Veteran Virtually Reunited With 3 Children He Met In 1944

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Dealing with isolation has been really tough on World War II vet Martin Adler. So his daughter Rachelle Donley posted a picture to a World War II Facebook group.

RACHELLE DONLEY: It's a photo of my dad with a great, big smile. And there are three children sitting in front of him.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

So when we spoke with Donley yesterday, she said she thought a reunion would cheer up her dad. The photograph was taken in 1944 in a small, central Italian town. Adler was 20 years old.

FADEL: He was fighting to liberate the area. Adler and another soldier had entered a small stone house armed with machine guns, trying to track down German snipers.

MARTIN ADLER: One of the baskets, big baskets, had a heap of wine bottles in - began to move. I said, vienti qui, vienti qui in Italian - come here. Come here. And out pops three children, crying, scared stiff.

GREENE: He and his fellow soldier were so relieved, they asked their mother if they could take a photo. And Adler still gets emotional when he talks about this picture.

ADLER: It brings back great memories. When we were expecting Germans to pop out, instead, three beautiful kids pop out.

FADEL: Italian journalist Matteo Incerti saw the photo and shared it on social media. Not long after, Martin was meeting the kids in the photograph virtually on Italian TV.

GREENE: The three Naldi siblings are now in their '70s and '80s. The story went viral in Italy, which has been hit so hard by this pandemic. Incerti says it came at a good time.

MATTEO INCERTI: Even if in terrible moment, we have to find the magic of life.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BRUNO NALDI: (Speaking Italian).

FADEL: Bruno Naldi, the older boy in the photo, doesn't really remember the encounter, but he says he recognized himself in the picture. Adler remembers the day vividly.

ADLER: I would love to go back to Italy and see them and hugged them like we hugged them that day.

FADEL: Incerti is planning a reunion when it's safe to travel again.

(SOUNDBITE OF ITALIAN MANDOLIN TORNA A SURRIENTO'S "TOSELLI SERENADE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.