The Heroic Stories of American Military Heroes Will be Featured at World War II 60th Anniversary Ceremonies in Florence, Italy on May 5th

Share Article

The battle to liberate Italy in World War II cost the lives of more than 19,000 American Service Men and Women. The stories of several of these heroes will be told on Thursday, May 5, at 11 a.m. local time at the Florence American Cemetery in Florence Italy during ceremonies honoring the 60th anniversary of the end of the conflict. The tribute has been organized by American Legion Post 50 of Pelham, New York.

The battle to liberate Italy in World War II cost the lives of more than 19,000 American Service Men and Women. The stories of some of these heroes will be told on Thursday, May 5, at 11 a.m. local time at the Florence American Cemetery during ceremonies honoring the 60th anniversary of the end of the conflict. The tribute has been initiated by American Legion Post 50 of Pelham and will be led by the New York State Commander, Paul Cortright. The Assistant Secretary of the United States Navy, Richard Greco, Jr., a native of Pelham, will be the keynote speaker at the Florence ceremonies.

The biographical readings of selected veterans will be conducted to remember the heroism and sacrifice of all 19,475 Americans who were lost during WWII in Italy. The Battle for Italy began on September 3, 1943 with an amphibious landing by Allied forces on the southernmost tip of the country and continued until May 2, 1945, the final week of the war. At 602 days, the Italian campaign was the longest of any conducted by the U.S. military during WWII. Beyond those who made the ultimate sacrifice in Italy, thousands more were injured, including future U.S. Senators Robert Dole and Daniel Inouye. The Italian campaign was crucial to the defeat of Nazi Germany, providing an assault that liberated the Nazis’ closest ally and diverted important military resources away from their defense of France. In 1994, memorial ceremonies were held at the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery in Nettuno, Italy during the 50th Anniversary of the liberation of Rome. On that occasion, the ceremony was led by then-President Clinton and four U.S. Senators who had served in Italy during WWII.

This year, the ceremonies will begin on May 2, the 60th anniversary of the end of WWII in Italy, when Post 50 members will participate in a major WWII 60th Anniversary ceremony at Nettuno. Members of Post 50 and its traveling party will also conduct wreath-laying ceremonies on May 2 at the British Beach Head Cemetery in Anzio and on May 3 at the Polish Cemetery in Montecassino. Additional information and references can be found on the Internet at http://www.WWII60thItaly.com.

TV Alert: Armed Forces Television is expected to make video highlights of the May 5 Florence ceremonies available to domestic broadcast outlets. For information, contact Mr. Melvin Russell, the Pentagon Channel, at 703-428-0200.

Some of the stories to be presented at the Florence ceremonies on May 5 include:

Fireman First Class Herbert S. Retallack, U.S. Navy (North Pelham, N.Y.) – On the night of Sept. 10, 1943, while escorting a supply convoy from Italy to Oran in North Africa, the destroyer USS Rowan (DD405) was torpedoed by a German E-boat. The Rowan sank in less than a minute, taking 202 of her 273 officers and men with her. Retallack, who left high school in the eleventh grade to join the Navy, is memorialized on the Wall of the Missing at the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery in Italy.

Capt. Alfonza W. Davis, U.S. Army Air Corps. (Omaha, Nebraska) – A member of the famed “Tuskeegee Airmen”, America’s first black military aviators, Davis served with the 302nd Fighter Squadron in Italy. As Squadron Commander of the 99th Pursuit Squadron protecting the bombers attacking Europe, Davis led a group of P-51 "Mustang" fighters that destroyed 83 German aircraft during a single mission. On October 29, 1944 while on a special reconnaissance mission to Munich, Germany, he flew into overcast weather and was never heard from again. Davis is memorialized on the Tablets of the Missing at the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery

Second Lt. Ellen G. Ainsworth, U.S. Army (Gleenwood City, WI) – Nurses played a vital role at Anzio where the Army hospital treated 33,000 casualties in 150 days of fighting. On the night of February 10th, 1944 the 56th Evacuation Hospital tent area near the Anzio beachhead came under fire from enemy shells. The area of the hospital where she was working was severely damaged in the explosive attack, but Ainsworth, age 25, maintained her composure and remained calm, directing the movement of patients to safer areas. Two nights later, she was hit several times by shrapnel from a bomb dropped by an enemy plane and died four days later, one of over 200 nurses who died serving in the armed forces of the United States during WWII. Ainsworth rests at the Sicily-Rome American cemetery at Nettuno.

Staff Sgt. George D. Keathley, U.S. Army (Olney, Texas) – On September 14, 1944, when fighting with the enemy killed all the officers of the 45th Infantry Division in his area, Keathley, graduate of Texas A& M, took command of two platoons attacking enemy positions on Mount Altuzzo, above Florence, Italy. German resistance attempted to hold off the American assault at all costs. Keathley moved under fire from man to man spreading ammunition and encouragement. When it looked like the Nazis would triumph, Keathley’s men responded with all they had. Despite being hit by fragments of a grenade, Keathley continued to fight and lead his men until friendly artillery fire forced the enemy to withdraw. Keathley died a few moments later. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions and is interred at the Florence American Cemetery in Italy.

Lt. Jules Sachs, U.S. Army Air Forces (New Jersey) – Bombing flights were among the most dangerous assignments in WWII. Trained as pilot and deployed to Italy in 1944, Sachs was required to fly several missions as a co-pilot with an experienced crew before he could lead his own crew into battle. On November 11, 1944 Sachs was a co-pilot in a B-24 bomber that reportedly crashed into another B-24 during bad weather. Both aircraft were lost over the Adriatic Sea. Sachs is memorialized in the Tablets of the Missing at the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery in Nettuno.

First Lt. John R. Fox, U.S. Army (Cincinnati, Ohio) – On Christmas night 1944, Fox, a member of the 92nd Infantry Division, was a forward observer in the town of Sommocolonia, Italy. When German soldiers took over much of the town, Fox and members of his observation party voluntarily remained on the second floor of a house to direct defensive artillery fire. As the enemy forces closed in on his position, Fox called for artillery fire to target close to his position. When warned that aiming any closer would bring the deadly artillery right on top of his position. Fox ordered, “Fire it! There’s more of them than there are of us.” When the town was retaken, Fox’s body was found with those of 100 German soldiers. On January 13, 1997, Fox was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, 53 years after his sacrifice.

First Lt. Ellsworth Totten, III, U.S. Army Air Forces (Pelham, N.Y.) – Totten, a 1938 graduate of Pelham Memorial High School who held the school record in the half-mile run, was a member of the 84th Bomber Squadron and flew a light bomber, the Douglas A-20 Havoc, based in Italy for 59 missions. On December 23rd 1944, Totten and his crew of three went off to search for the crew of a B-25 that reportedly had crashed into the sea. Shortly after take off, Totten’s own plane crashed into the surf several miles offshore and he and his crew were never found. Totten was decorated with the Air Medal with two oak leaf clusters and is memorialized in the Tablets of the Missing at the Florence American Cemetery in Florence, Italy.

The American Legion, with 2.7 million members, is the world's largest veteran's association. The Department of New York is one of The American Legion’s largest state organizations with 1,003 local “Posts” and membership of more than 170,000 Legionnaires. Post 50 in Pelham, N.Y., commanded in 2004-2005 by Michael Barrett, organizes Pelham's Memorial Day parade and a variety of other veteran's and community support projects.

###

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

John Chuhran
Visit website