An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.













NEWS | May 8, 2024

Legendary 353rd CACOM commander honored

By Lt. Col. Brett Walker 353rd Civil Affairs Command

A former commander of the U.S. Army’s 353rd Civil Affairs Command was honored by the special operations community at Fort Liberty, North Carolina, last week. Col. Frank Toscani was inducted into the U.S. Army’s Civil Affairs Regiment as a distinguished member at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School on April 26, 2024. The current commander and command sergeant major of the unit attended to pay tribute.

Toscani rose to prominence by replacing a culturally significant bell in the Italian town of Licata in 1943. This act, though seemingly insignificant against the backdrop of World War II, was highly influential in the American effort to stabilize the region after expelling enemy Italian troops. It became the subject of a best-selling book and an award-winning Broadway play.

When World War II ended, Toscani remained in the U.S. Army Reserve. He rose to the rank of Colonel and, from 1960 to 1966, he commanded the 353rd CACOM in New York. At that time, the unit was known as the 353rd Government Area Headquarters “A.” To this day, it remains based in New York. Toscani is now considered one of the founders of modern U.S. Army Civil Affairs operations.

“Toscani is unique because he did it [military-government duties] during World War II and stayed with it after the war,” said Dr. Troy Sacquety, PhD, Chief Historian of the U.S. Army Special Operation Command History Office. “It is because of guys like him that stayed the course that Civil Affairs became a branch of the Army.” Sacquety was also inducted into the Civil Affairs Regiment as an honorary member on the same day that Toscani was inducted as a distinguished member.

In his capacity as the U.S. Army Special Operations Command historian, Sacquety explained that the type of training modern Army Civil Affairs officers receive would be unrecognizable to Toscani. In Toscani’s time, Civil Affairs doctrine was largely based on the experiences of World War I. For that matter, Toscani’s primary qualification for the job of military governor during World War II was that he was fluent in Italian. In contrast, the modern Civil Affairs officer is selected based on extensive pre-existing expertise and undergoes rigorous training in civil-military operations.

The JFK Special Warfare Center and School recognizes the men and women who have made noteworthy contributions to U.S. Special Operations during its annual Heritage Week. On the final day of Heritage Week, new distinguished and honorary members are inducted into the respective regiments of the Civil Affairs, Psychological Operations and Special Forces. According to the event’s printed program, to qualify for induction, an individual (soldier or civilian) must, “serve as role models, advocates and public examples to all members of the [Civil Affairs, Special Forces and Psychological Operations] regiments. Through their sterling example, they enhance unit morale, cohesion and esprit, and promote the war-fighting ethos, unwavering sense of pride and selfless service of today's Soldiers.”

“For Col. Toscani, it is a no-brainer,” said Dr. Sacquety. “When you bring up ‘A Bell of Adano,’ everyone nods their heads.”

"A Bell for Adano" is a 1944 book by John Hersey inspired by Toscani’s service in Italy during World War II. Hersey had been a newspaper war correspondent in 1943 when he encountered Toscani in the Italian village of Licata (renamed Adano for the book), where Toscani was acting as the military governor. The name, "A Bell for Adano," derives from Toscani endearing the U.S. military to the town’s citizenry by finding a bell to replace the one the occupying Italian fascist forces had melted to make munitions. The book won a Pulitzer Prize. It was then adapted into a Broadway play and later a movie. To this day, Toscani’s work, as portrayed in "A Bell for Adano," remains a mainstay of Civil Affairs training.

Although Toscani died in 2001, his granddaughter and great grandson accepted the honors on his behalf. Anita Good and Ryan Good were both aware that their relative fought in World War II and that he was the inspiration for "A Bell for Adano." However, they were unaware of the extent of his lasting legacy to the Army’s special operations community.

The Goods were alerted to the regimental induction by Col. Tony Vacha. He was previously the deputy commander of the 353rd Civil Affairs Command. While clearing out an old desk at the unit headquarters at Fort Wadsworth, New York, he found Toscani’s written memoir. As a dedicated historian, Vacha instantly recognized the significance of the documents and alerted U.S. Special Operations Historian Dr. Sacquety, who nominated Col. Toscani as a distinguished member of the Civil Affairs Regiment.

“General Thompson embraced the nomination as a project because it was the right thing to do for Col. Toscani and also the 353,” said Vacha.

Brig. Gen. Thomas is the current commander of the 353rd Civil Affairs Command. He fully supported nominating his predecessor of the 1960s for distinguished membership in the Civil Affairs Regiment. He also attended the induction ceremony along with the unit Command Sergeant Major – Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Clifford Lo.

“It was an honor to be here with Col. Toscani’s family to recognize the contributions he made to victory in World War II, as well as the 353rd and the Civil Affairs community at large,” said Thompson. “His work is foundational to how our modern Civil Affairs soldiers contribute to global stability and set the conditions for success on the contemporary battlefield.”

Toscani’s granddaughter – Anita Good – remembered him as hardworking and dedicated. She described her grandfather as “organized and meticulous.” She remembered him as prioritizing “people above everything else. That is just who he was.” Those are also some of the critical characteristics of an effective Civil Affairs soldier.

Good also recalled her grandfather “down stairs in his office, typing away and organizing photos.” It could be that the documents Good recalls Toscani typing were the very manuscript Vacha found at Fort Wadsworth in 2021.

“He worked vigorously for the 353rd,” said Anita Good.

Commanding the 353rd Civil Affairs Command throughout the first half of the 1960s was Toscani’s final Army assignment. In his 30 years as a soldier, he served in the United States, Italy, Africa, and Greenland.

While the public delighted in the story of Toscani’s work in Italy, the story Good remembers her grandfather telling most frequently involved his assignment to Greenland. He was aboard the USS Dorchester heading to Greenland in February of 1943, but disembarked a few days early; just before it was sunk by German U-Boat torpedoes, killing more than two-thirds of those aboard.

In his three decades of Army service, the unit with which Toscani spent longest time was the 353rd Civil Affairs Command, which is principally comprised of senior soldiers and officers with particular expertise in a broad range of skills in civil-military matters used for furthering global stability. For more information, visit