POINT Chapter 15 Meeting - May 2012

POINTers In Person
Lou Costello Chapter 15

Northern New Jersey

Pursuing Our Italian Names Together
May 5, 2012

 The Northern New Jersey chapter of POINTers In Person met on
May 5, 2012 at the Elmwood Park Municipal Building.  Twenty-two people attended.

 Maria Carparelli (#2100) opened the meeting by presenting to the chapter correspondence she received from the New Jersey State Archives in Trenton concerning their regulations for the PIP visit.  The archives made reservations for the eight interested members from the chapter for May 17.  After the orientation, a day of research is planned.

Maryanne Graham (#3654) presented the treasurer’s report.
The chapter has 29 active members.

 John W. Lanza was the speaker.  He gave the chapter the very interesting background about his book, Shot Down over Italy: A true story of courage and survival in Nazi-occupied Italy during World War II.  Soon after Rome was invaded, most of the press left Italy and went to Normandy to cover the invasion there; thus, it’s difficult to find many newspaper accounts of the Italian campaign after D-Day.

 While taking care of his 92-year old father in 2006, Mr. Lanza spent time with his 90-year old uncle, William Lanza, in Boston.  Curious, he asked his uncle if he would tell him what happened to him during the war.  Initially, Mr. Lanza was told that his uncle and others were shot down and that a pilot died saving the crew, with the cryptic ending remark, “I can’t talk about it.”  Mr. Lanza later learned about Escape and Evade Reports, and that details of these operations were secret, except to the military.  Evaders had to certify in writing that they would remain silent.  Finally, in 1995, records from 1940 to 1970, including Escape and Evasion Reports, case files of Missing Air Crew Reports and related World War II Combat Mission Reports of the Records of the Army Air Forces, were declassified, allowing the survivors to reveal what happened to them.

 Mr. Lanza’s goal was to learn details about these heroic men and to find the families in Italy who helped the crew when his uncle’s plane was shot down.  He wanted to find out about the experience of the crew before the plane was shot down and also their experiences on that fatal day and in the years which followed.  With the assistance of the mayors of three Italian towns, he found the families who aided the two Americans and he visited them to thank them
in 2007.  He was able to connect with the only other surviving crew member,
bombardier Leverne Reynolds.  Mr. Lanza’s four years of research was a labor of love and led to the writing of his fascinating book, a fitting tribute to the crew.

 A U.S. Mitchell bomber (B-25) with a seven-man Army crew was shot down over the Nazi-occupied Tuscany region near Incisa in Val d’Arno (Province of Firenze) on May 26, 1944.    All eventually returned to duty except Major Hunter, who went down with the plane in an attempt to save the lives of his crew.  They were on a mission to bomb a railroad bridge in Incisa.  Until that date, this crew had a 100% bombing efficiency rating.  Mr. Lanza’s uncle had flown 28 missions between May 19 and May 26 and was part of a replacement crew for this mission.

Major William Clark Hunter from Indiana was the pilot and Walter Brickner from California was his co-pilot.  Mr. Brickner later became a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates farm club, The Moultrie Packers.  Lt. John H. Kinney was the bomb navigator and Lt. Laverne Reynolds of South Dakota was a bomber.  Sgt. John Denny was the engineer/gunner.
Sgt. Alfred Todd from North Carolina and Sgt. William Lanza from Massachusetts were gunners.

Sgt. Todd and Sgt. Lanza were the crew members who were helped by local Italian families to evade capture by the Germans.  Fortunately, Amerigo Sarri and Riccardo Becattini, two partisans of the Italian Resistance, were the first to reach these Americans.  Otherwise, Todd and Lanza would have become German prisoners-of-war.  Sarri and Becattini both received gold medals on the anniversary of Liberation Day (April 25) in 2008.

 Mr. Lanza captured the humanity of those surrounded by war and he reminded us that the freedom we enjoy today has never been truly free.

 Future meetings will be held on:
     August 4, 2012
     November 3, 2012
     February 2, 2013
     May 4, 2013



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