The US Army assigned Major Victor Joppolo to administer the town of Adano, Italy after Allied forces drove out Mussolini's Fascists near the end of World War II.
The town needs many things: food, water, clean streets, affordable goods, safety, and a new bell for its tower. The Fascists removed the 700-year-old bell to melt it down for bullets, leaving the town without its most prized icon.
Joppolo does his best to treat the local citizens fairly and honestly, including trying to get a new bell. Despite bad behavior by many other American soldiers, he gradually wins the townspeople's hearts.
John Hersey's 1944 novel "A Bell for Adano" paints a plausible picture of life in a town suffering through war and occupation. He shows some of the absurdities of military bureaucracy, the selfishness of those clinging to power, the temptations of those in privilege, and the kindness of people trying to help others.
The novel focuses on the civilians affected by the war rather than the actions on the battlefield.
"A Bell for Adano" is a simple story told in a straightforward manner, as one would expect from a journalist like Hersey. And it is a touching story that warmed my heart. I grew to care about Adano and its people and to appreciate Major Joppolo. We need more men like him today.