war-memorial-r72

I have recently exchanged several e-mails with Luigi Donfrancesco, who lives in Rome. His uncle, Andrea Scattini, was an Italian I.S.9 agent during the war.

I.S.9 was a sub-organization of special Allied operations unit “A” Force. I.S.9 formed escape chains to evacuate Allied escapers and evaders (E & Es) from enemy-occupied territory.

Luigi sent me photos of a monument at Villa Stippa at Offida (Ascoli Piceno, Italy) that commemorates No. 5 Field Section of I.S.9, which produced the largest number of E & Es of any I.S.9 land unit in Italy.

See “I.S.9 History—Operations in Italy, Part 2” for detailed information on No. 5 Field Section.

Villa Stipa was one of the main bases of I.S.9 “Rat Line” rescues.

“My uncle Andrea Scattini is improperly placed with the shot [executed] patriots, but he should be with the fallen in service instead, because he was never captured,” Luigi clarified.

“Also, Don Domenico Orlandini was never shot nor dead (they erroneously thought so), but survived the war and died later in his sixties.”

Here are the names acknowledged on the memorial:

GUERRA DI LIBERAZIONE [War of Liberation]

N.5 A FORCE FED. SEC C OCAO.
A.M.G. MAGG. ROBB E CAP. R. W. LEWIS [Allied Military Government Major (maggiore in Italian) A. Robb and U.S. Army Air Force Captain R. W. B. Lewis]
COMANDO RAT LINE
COMANDANTE CAP. G.A.R.I. STIPA LUIGI
COLLEGAMENTO VIA RADIO
CON ALGERI BARI E LANCIANO [wireless connection, Algiers with Bari and Lanciano]
SETTEMBRE 1943—18 GIUGNO 1944 [September 1943 to June 18, 1944]

Read the rest of this entry »

aceves-cover_r72

carl-duo_r72

At left, Carl with twins Ron and Don, the last-born of his and his wife Nadine’s six children; right, Carl at home on the family farm

I first heard from Crystal Aceves in February 2010, when she wrote, “My grandfather was part of Operation Torch, subtask operation Brushwood. He made it through the amphibious landing and went on to Sicily, where he captured on July 17, 1943.”

Carl was transferred through several camps, the last of which was P.G. 59 in Servigliano.

He kept an account of his war experiences, in which he described the Camp 59 breakout:

“It was on the 8th of September we heard the allies were in Italy and Italy had packed in. What a day! We were free! That’s what we thought. We were held for six more days. We grew very impatient and started to smell a mouse, were they going to turn us loose, today, tomorrow, so we made plans of our own. We’d go on our own. Soon the Germans would come in and take us on to Germany. On the night of the 14th of September we went out under fire through a hole in the wall that had been chiseled by some of the prisoners.”

Read the rest of this entry »

don-domenico-orlandini-1945_r72

I.S.9 agent, partisan leader, and Catholic priest Don Domenico Orlandini “Don Carlo” in the uniform of a military chaplain of the Italian Army, 1945

Several posts on this site concern Italians who, during the war, served as agents for I.S.9 (Intelligence School 9)—also known as “A” Force.

I.S.9′s chief mission was support and rescue of escaped POWs and evaders (E&Es) stranded behind enemy lines. I.S.9 was a division of M.I.9 (British Directorate of Military Intelligence, Section 9), a department of the War Office during WW II.

Last year researcher Brian Sims sent me a series of I.S.9 agent files from the British National Archives. Among the files, Don Domenico Orlandini’s lacks details contained in many of the others—parents, birthplace and residence, educational background, and so on. It does identify him as a priest, and offers this colorful description: “Fair. Medium build. Eyes deep-set. Very active & alert. High-pitched voice. (Smokes, drinks, gambles).”

See “I.S.9 Italian Agents, Part 4.”

Until recently, that was all I knew of Don Domenico. But recently two Italian authors wrote to me with further details.

Read the rest of this entry »

vitangelo-di-fino-group_r72

This photo was taken in the field of Dux di Pietragalla in 1943, near to the time when Robert Dulac’s plane, known as the Fyrtle Myrtle, was shot down. Vitangelo Di Fino, here 11 years old, is the first child sitting on the ground to the left, wearing a black shirt, a fez on his head, and with his hands crossed. Photos for this post are courtesy of Vitangelo’s daughter, Maddalena Di Fino.

Michele Potenza was 13 years old when he witnessed the downing of an American bomber from the skies over his village of Pietragalla, Italy. It was a memory impressed in his mind for life (see “Lost Airmen Remembered in Pietragalla.”)

Yesterday I learned from Michele of another child who was drawn into this disturbing event.

Vitangelo Di Fino was a boy of 12 when the plane came down, and he was the first on the ground to reach Robert Dulac. He quickly rendered emergency first aid when he saw that Robert was bleeding.

vitangelo-di-fino-group-detail_r72

Detail of Vitangelo from the above photo

I asked Michele if he knew whether Robert had suffered head injuries or even had been blinded. Fellow crew member Edward Dzierzynski later noted in the official Missing Air Crew Report that Robert “was seriously injured around the eyes – head” by the crash.

Michele responded:

No, non era cieco. A causa del bail out, nel cadere a terra, si è fratturato il malleolo.

No, [DULAC] was not blinded, [but] due to the bail out, in the fall to the ground he broke his ankle.

Il teste DE FINO Vitangelo, in un’intervista che io ho registrato e che vedro’ anche di mandarti, racconta di aver trovato DULAC a terra, con il malleolo rotto da cui sgorgava molto sangue. DE FINO non dice niente sulle ferite alla testa ed agli occhi: come ripeto egli si preoccupo’ solo di evitare che DULAC potesse morire per emorragia e per questo,non avendo niente di specifico appresso (garze, fasce, disinfettante, cerotti, ecc.), con la sua maglietta fasciò la rottura e consegno’ DULAC ad altri che lo accompagnarono all’Ospedale di POTENZA.

The witness, Vitangelo DE FINO, in an interview that I recorded and I will see that send to you, said he found DULAC on the ground with a broken ankle from which flowed much blood. DE FINO said nothing of wounds to the head and eyes. I repeat, he worried only about preventing DULAC from bleeding to death and for that, not having relevant supplies (gauzes, strips, disinfectant, bandages, etc.), he bandaged the wound with his shirt and delivered DULAC and his companions to Potenza Hospital.

Read the rest of this entry »

Researcher Janet Dethick kindly shared information she discovered concerning Robert Dulac, one of the survivors of the crash of the American B-24 bomber known as the Fyrtle Myrtle on July 16, 1943.

See “B-24 Bomber Fyrtle Myrtle Discovered.”

In the official Missing Air Crew Report, Staff Sergeant Edward Dzierzynski shared this information about the survivors:

“S/Sgt. R.E. Dulac—at a hospital in Potenza, Italy—was badly injured about the eyes – head. S/Sgt. C. F. Johnson at Potenza, Italy. We there boarded the same train for P.O.W. camp. Johnson was in good condition.”

Edward Dzierzynski and Cyrus Johnson were interned at P.G. 59 Servigliano. Robert Dulac, because of his serious injuries, was treated at a military hospital in Perugia.

Here is what Janet had to share regarding Robert:

“I thought you would be interested to know that Robert E. Dulac, the third survivor of the USAAF 376 bomb Group crash featured on your website, was at some stage admitted to Perugia Military Hospital from where on 6 October 1943 he was transferred to Perugia gaol. On 15 October he was transferred to Campo PG77 at Pissignano (Campello sul Clitunno) along with several other servicemen who had also been in hospital with him and it was from there that he would have been transferred to Stalag Luft III.”

Read the rest of this entry »

I received a note from Michelle Leoni Hazelton of Monongahela, Pennsylvania, this week.

She referenced the name of her great grandfather, Orlando Leoni, in the “Clifford Houben’s Address List” post on this site.

Orlando Leoni’s name appears on one page of the list, and eleven pages later there is a seemingly unrelated reference to two locations:

MONONGHLA, Penn.
R.I. ACQUARTA, IT.

Above these place names is penned “BRO.”

“MONONGHLA, Penn.” is evidently a reference to Monongahela, Pennsylvania, and “ACQUARTA, IT.” seems to reference the Italian comune of Arquata del Tronto.

My guess is that “BRO” is Clifford’s abbreviation for brother. All this was confirmed by what what Michelle shared with me.

In her email, Michelle wrote, “I am the great granddaughter of Orlando Leoni. He was mentioned in Clifford Houben’s list of addresses. There was also another entry ‘R.I. Arquata.’ I believe this may have been his brother, Parisse Leoni, who resided with his wife and roughly eight children in Faete, Arquata del Tronto, Italy.

“Orlando came to America and became a citizen around 1920 but traveled home often to support his family. In America, Orlando resided in Monongahela, Pennsylvania.

“I am trying to learn more about Parisse Leoni and any other relatives that remained in Italy. If you have any further information it would be most appreciated.”

Here is the text of a newspaper article Michelle sent me that describes Parisse’s activities during WW II:

Separated for 50 Years, Brother, Sister Reunited

By Jane Robinson
The Daily Republican (Monongahela, Pennsylvania) – Herald-American (Donora, Pennsylvania) Wednesday, August 19, 1970

“I’m so happy…I thought I’d never see my brother again,” said Mrs. Dominick Varone, now 74, with visible emotion.

After all, fifty years is a long time to wait.

The reunion of brother and sister took place just last week when Mrs. Varone’s brother, Parisse Leoni, 65, arrived in this country from his native Italy. The two had parted in November, 1920, when Mrs. Verone, then Benedetta Leoni, had left Italy for America at the age of 24. Her brother, who accompanied her to the bus but in the confusion never managed to say a final good-bye, was 15 at the time.

She arrived in America in December, sponsored by her brother, Orlando Leo [sic] of RD 1, Bentleyville, and within the next year was married to Dominick Varone. Her brother, Parisse, married too. He has lived and raised his family in the village of Faete, in the same house where he and Benedetta and all the children were born.

Read the rest of this entry »

arboretum-tree_r72

Brian Sims oversaw the dedication of this memorial plaque and a commemorative tree planted in the National Memorial Arboretum several years ago.

My first connection with researcher Brian Sims was on June 2, 2013.

In an earlier post on this site I had speculated on the presence of New Zealanders in PG 59, to which Brian responded with this short note:

“There were a very small number of New Zealanders in PG 59—2 in March 1942—3 in May 1942—and only one up to December 1942. None are recorded for 1943.

“The information comes from my database of Red Cross reports copied in the UK National Archives. —Brian Sims”

Thus began a rich two-year correspondence with Brian during which he introduced me to or shed additional light on many aspects the POW experience including:

  • The SS Brandenburg Division operations in Italy
  • I.S.9 rescue operations along the Adriatic coast
  • Recommendations put forward by British and American officers for honors and awards to Italian helpers
  • British Special Investigation Branch (SIB) inquiries into the murder of escaped prisoners
  • POW escapes into Switzerland
  • Sam Derry, Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty, and the Rome Rescue Organization

Brian’s research into the POW situation in Italy went back 23 years, to the time of his retirement from a career in mining. What began as a quest for information on his father—a British POW who drowned when an Italian ship on which he was being transported was sunk in the Mediterranean—quickly became a calling to learn all that he could about Allied POWs in Italy, and to make that information available to others.

Read the rest of this entry »

john-jewell_r72

Lance Sergeant John Henry Jewell, Service Number 5495162, of the Royal Hampshire Regiment

I received a note a few days ago from Jackie Keenan of the village of Whittlesford in Cambridge, England.

She and her sister, Margaret, have been attempting to trace the details of their father’s wartime experience.

“Our father, John Henry Jewell, was taken prisoner in North Africa on 3rd December 1942,” Jackie explained.

“I have been through [accounts of] other prisoners taken in the same battle, on the same day, from the same regiment and it would appear that they were taken to Camp 98 in Sicily on 5th December where they stayed until being moved on 31st December to Camp 66 at Capua. On 2nd March 1943 they were moved on again to Servigliano where they remained until 14th September 1943.

“After the POWs escaped from Servigliano, my father was reported missing until being traced as a prisoner in Stalag 7 in Moosburg.” His prisoner number there was 130605.

Read the rest of this entry »

pojawis-ID-detail-r72

Detail of Joe Pojawis’ military identification card, issued in July 1942 before his overseas departure

I received a note this past week from Wally McCollum of Maryland.

Wally has a family connection to American soldier Joseph Pojawis, who was interned at PG 59 January 23–September 14, 1943. In his note, Wally related how he and his wife discovered new information about Joe’s combat and POW experiences just one week ago (over the U.S. Memorial Day weekend):

“This past weekend at a family reunion I came into possession of a diary kept by my wife’s uncle Pvt. Joseph E. Pojawis, who served in a light mortar squad, Company A, 18th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division. He was captured on December 23, 1942 in the Battle of Tunisia. He was first taken to a POW camp in Sicily, but was transferred to Camp 59 in late January 1943. In addition to the diary I have ten letters he wrote while at the camp. He was among the mass escapees in September 1943. He eluded capture for several months, but was unable to get through the German lines to freedom. He linked up with Allied forces and was sent to the USA, where he was discharged in poor health in December 1944.

Read the rest of this entry »

squadra-di-calcio_r72

Giovanni Nebbia with the football team he organized at his Marine School (Scuola di Avviamento Marinaro). The photo was taken in the year they won a championship. December 3, 1940.

In 2005, at a ceremony in Monte Urano, Italy, to honour Ken de Souza—a former POW and author of Escape from Ascoli, which Annelisa Nebbia translated from English into Italian—Annelisa shared an account of a rescue mission her father experienced that nearly ended in tragedy.

Annelisa’s speech is here translated into English:

“Missions to rescue escaping POWs from the Adriactic coast frequently failed due to the Italian captains’ lack of local knowledge, resulting in their being unable to find the exact point of the coastline where escapers were to be picked up.

“Allied Headquarters in Termoli asked Elio Tremaroli—who worked for them and crossed the lines [into enemy-occupied territory] continuously—if he knew somebody who was truly an expert on the Adriatic coast.

Read the rest of this entry »

Archives

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 28 other followers