By Elizabeth Austin
Before The War
My Nunu, Peter Caruso, was the son of two Italian immigrants, and was
the 6th of 8 kids. He had four sisters and one brother. The
youngest two children were twins that died at an early age. His
father was a policeman in Italy but worked in a factory in Brockton,
MA. His mother was a stay at home mom. By no means did they
have the easy life, but they were certainly living the American Dream.
|When World War II
broke out Peter was eager to fight. He was very
opinionated about the totalitarian dictators in Europe. He
strongly disliked Mussolini and Hitler and wanted to fight. By
the time Roosevelt declared war Peter had already enlisted so he could
be one of the first to go. He enlisted in the army on February
26, 1941 and was drafted to the Third Army, 101st Yankee Division
Batallion, 26th Infantry. While Hitler was massacring Jews,
mentally disabled people, the sick and elderly, and anyone who dared to
oppose him, Peter
trained at Fort Jackson, Fort Benning, Camp Edwards, AP Hill
Reservation, Fort Mead, Camp Gordon and Camp Campbell. He
graduated as a technical sergeant before being deployed to England,
where he would then be shipped over seas to the beaches of Normandy, to
fight in D-day. His motto became “War is not good, but freedom
|Peter with his mother
American, Canadian and English troops
stormed the beaches all along the French coast on June 6th, 1944.
This historical battle would become known as D-Day. Peter
and the 101st Yankee Division Infantry, along with other American
troops, arrived on Utah beach. They quickly advanced inland. The
Allies were able to secure
Normandy and claim a major victory. This battle had a major
impact in the war; it allowed the Allies to open up a second front to
push the Nazis back.
The Special Assignments
||Peter wrote several letters home on the back of pictures.
Peter was stationed in Cherbourg after D-Day. Once situated,
Peter was given special missions. He was trained to cross
enemy lines and track down Allied bomber planes that had
crashed. He was then ordered to destroy any evidence of the
Norden-bomb site. The bomb site was an advanced piece of technology
in American planes that the Allies did not want the Germans to get. He also
held post at night. The guards had to sit in the pitch black because lights
would alert the enemy of their position. However, despite these precautions Peter found
himself faced with the knife point of a German commando. He never
saw or heard it coming. Peter was taken Prisoner of War along with
many other soldiers. We do not know how many soldiers were taken or
where. Thirty prisoners tried escaping but only six made it
out alive, Peter included. He returned to his unit and continued
to fight until his infantry was called to Belgium, where the Battle of
the Bulge was taking place.
The U.S. had secured a location in the forested Ardennes region of
Belgium. Only the 106th Infantry Division was stationed
there. The Germans wanted to reach the sea, trap four allied
armies in the process, and force negations or a surrender. The
unsuspecting American line was thinly held by three and a half
divisions. On December 16, 1944 the Germans attacked. Despite the
odds the Americans were able to hold off the Germans for three days
until backup arrived. The 101st Yankee Division was
one of those called in. The German attack was not
successful. Battle raged for four weeks and the Germans only
succeeded to gain a small "bulge" in their enemies’ lines. The
fighting expended a lot of resources on both sides. Both the
Germans and American suffered many injuries and casualties. Peter
was one of those injured. During the battle his left leg was hit
by a German mortar shell. He fractured his pelvis and
|| Peter (on the right) and a fellow soldier walking.
||He managed to crawl into a foxhole and miraculously stayed
alive for 21 days before he was found, rescued and treated. During those
twenty-one days the wound in his leg contracted gangrene. He was
flown temporarily to a hospital in England, and then was taken back to
After the Bulge the remaining soldiers of the 26th were transported to
Luxembourg, Germany. On the way they liberated Deggendorf, a small
concentration camp, then continued on to Austria. While Peter was still
recovering his comrades assisted in the capture of Linz, Austria.
Peter was extremely proud of his fellow soldiers and always told
us stories about the liberation; something he wished he had experienced
but was only able to hear about through friends.
Back in the U.S.
In the U.S he was treated at Fort Devins in Ayer, MA. He was
put in a full-body cast to mend his broken bones while he simultaneously
fought the gangrene. He fought and won. His leg was not
amputated, but he had a limp for the rest of his life. His
attending nurse, Mary Marelli, ended up marrying him
By the time he was fully recovered the war had just about ended.
We consider it miracle; had the war continued my grandpa would have
shipped himself right back out to the front line. However, since
there was no more fighting, the army awarded him an honorable discharge with a Silver Star, a Bronze Star, and a Purple Heart.
Peter had made it out alive, he participated in historic battles,
recovered from his injuries and got a wife but the war did have its
effects on Peter. Upon
returning home he seemed profoundly grateful for what he had. But
sadly, like most war vets, he was left with horrid
nightmares from his experience as a P.O.W. He never spoke to anyone
what he experienced.
Life After the War
He did manage to stay in contact with the remaining members of his
division. For the rest of his life Peter was part of the
Italian-American War Veterans group in Brockton, MA. He would write
to other fellow soldiers (that lived further away) on a fairly regular
basis. However, the 26th Yankee Division only gathered as a unit for fellow soldiers
At the time of Peter’s death in 2001, at the age of 81, there
were only two others from his infantry still living. But tried
and true, they showed up in uniform to pay their respects and tell
tales of their adventures together. One man told a profound story about
how “Peter pulled me into a foxhole when I was wounded. He
saved my life, and after sixty years I’ve still never forgotten
his name”. Peter had never mentioned this man’s name
or his story to anyone. No one knew who this
man was but he knew my grandpa.
|Peter (farthest right) with friends at a party
To his death my Nunu remained a
humble, underspoken, under acknowledged hero. He never bragged or boasted about his acomplishments. The
only stories he ever told were about good times with friends. Despite
all of his heroism, extreme luck and
amazing accomplishments my grandpa never took credit for what he
did. He saw what he did as his job and nothing special.
Because of this most of the stories of his heroism came after his death
and through other people. He was a very brave and strong man who
did many amazing things. He is a hero to me, so this is my
tribute to him.
- “The 26th Infantry Division.” United
States Holocaust Memorial Museum. 25 Oct. 2007. United States Holocaust
Memorial Museum. 24 Jan.
- Austin, Lisa, and Richard Austin. Personal interview. 18 Dec. 2007.
- “Canada and the Normandy Invasion.” Map. War
Museum. Canada War Museum. 24 Jan. 2008
- Hubert, Andre, and Henri Rogister. “US Units in the
Battle of the Bulge.” Skynet. 21 Mar. 2005. 24 Jan. 2008
- Klein, John. “Battle of the Bulge.” ICE. 6 Nov.
2006. 24 Jan. 2008 <http://ice.mm.com/user/jpk/battle.htm>.
- “US Infantry.” Battle of the Bulge on the Web.
Ed. Tim Spalding. Amazon.com. 24 Jan. 2008
- US Troops on Normandy Beach. Photograph. 1944. Lib of
Congress. 6 June 1944. America’s Story. The Library of Congress.
24 Jan. 2008
- All pictures courtesy of my grandmother, Mary Caruso