"WE can climb to the top from here," said Rick Atkinson, not that it seemed we had much choice. The road ahead, a narrowing dirt path, became impassable. The mad dog that had trailed us halfway up Monte Trocchio fortunately seemed to have lost interest in us and our front tires. We cautiously got out, then clambered over rocks and loose dirt, crunching across bone-dry olive groves planted in steep ranks.
"The air smelled of smoke. It was silent and warm. Above the line of olive trees, we trudged the last few yards to the top and from there had a view, the same one beleaguered Allied scouts had in 1944, of the abbey of Monte Cassino and the valley below.
"The bookish son of a military officer, Mr. Atkinson had come to meet here at what was one of the deadliest battlefields in World War II, among other reasons because it is, as he agreed, such an "apt metaphor for the war today." We were speaking especially about the destruction of the abbey 63 years ago."