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Nothing marked the spot. It had been just one more advance, up `just one more steep slope. Just one more burst of machine gun fire.

Bob Dole squinted, trying to piece together where it happened.Was it there by the grove of trees up from the creek bed? Or was it a few yards farther into the open, in the hay field that once was a killing field?

"I think I know about where it is, but if someone asked me to take an oath, I wouldn't be able to do it," the U.S. senator conceded.

It didn't really matter, Dole said Friday, strolling through the smell of freshly cut fodder. After all, it had been almost a half century ago on Hill 913 - and he had had other things to think about then.

What mattered Friday to Dole and to the people of Castel D'Aiano was that the young Army second lieutenant had survived the terrible wounds that shattered his right arm.

And that his 10th Mountain Division had kept crawling up the mountainous spine of their country, pushing back the tenacious Germans in 1945.

As a result, Dole gets a kind of reception here that he doesn't get even in his hometown. He has done a lot of things for Russell, Kan., but nobody can say he liberated it.

Schoolchildren waved tiny Italian and American flags. Signs reading "Welcome Bob Dole" were tacked onto trees, buildings and light poles. Townspeople were sweeping the streets by hand, cleaning cobwebs from city hall rafters.

"I think I could carry Castel D'Aiano," Dole said.

He certainly has Giorgio Chiari's vote. "When Bob comes to Italy, he always comes here," said Chiari, the Italian equivalent of mayor in Castel D'Aiano. "If he can't, we go to Bob."

"You don't have to be in Congress," Dole said. "If you were a member of the 10th Mountain Division, you get the red carpet treatment."

But nobody forgets that Dole is a member of Congress - an extremely powerful one - who still is thinking of climbing one step higher on that uneasy slope of American politics.

Chiari and others said they hope that when Dole returns again, he will be president of the United States.

It is not his first visit. He returned to the village first in 1962 and most recently in 1990.

Dole was shot on Hill 913 after he left a foxhole to drag his fatally wounded radio man to cover.

"I started back out again and got hit," Dole said. "Then I felt the sting." The shot fractured his back, shoulder and arm, leaving his right side paralyzed.

Elizabeth Dole said the senator doesn't talk much about the war experience. "He doesn't dwell on it, but it had to have a profound effect on his life," she said.