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War Stories

WW II photographer Tony Vaccaro

Too young to join the Signal Corps, Tony Vaccaro defied his superiors and spirited a $47 camera into the teeth of battle, taking some of the most gripping photos of World War II while charting the course of his professional life. Huddled alongside his fellow infantrymen in a transport speeding across the English Channel, Private First Class Tony Vaccaro didn’t know he was headed to Omaha Beach on June 18, 1944, a little more than a week after the D-Day invasion had commenced. Before boarding the ship, Vaccaro’s superiors sternly warned the American soldiers that anyone caught taking pictures would ...

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WW II freedom fighter Pino Lella

A spy for the Allies and a participant in the underground railroad that protected Italy’s Jews during World War II, Giuseppe Lella considered himself a coward until an American author persuaded him to share his story with the world. The war came to Giuseppe “Pino” Lella right as he watched Fred Astaire dance with Ginger Rogers. It was the summer of 1943 and Lella, then 17 years old, was sitting next his brother, Mimmo, at a movie theater in his native Milan watching the cinematic duo twirl across the screen. For a brief moment, the war that had engulfed Europe ...

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Navy Corpsman Richard Morbidoni (Korea)

Assigned to Plane Captain School after boot camp during the Korean War, his dream of entering the medical field came true when he transferred to Hospital Corps School. The oldest of two children, Richard Morbidoni was born at Norwegian American Hospital in Chicago. His parents, Alfredo Flora (Ricci), were both born in Castelfidardo, Italy, the accordion capital of the world. Alfredo came to Chicago when he was 17 years old to work in his uncle’s accordion factory. Flora immigrated with her mother and siblings when she was a toddler, taking a train from New York to San Francisco where her ...

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Army NCO CJ Martello (Vietnam)

As NCO on an artillery base camp in the central highlands of Vietnam, he was responsible for keeping his squad on task and safe in the face of frequent enemy attacks. Costante James “CJ” Martello was born in Chicago’s Roseland Community Hospital. He was one of 12 children born to Angelina and August Martello, four of whom passed away before Martello’s birth. His parents were from the Veneto region of Italy and immigrated to Chicago to be near relatives and paesani. Martello grew up in the tightly knit Italian community of Roseland, where his father made salami in the basement ...

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Navy Lt. Cdr. Paul Rubino (Vietnam)

A surgeon serving in Vietnam, he still vividly recalls a four-day stretch during which he and his team toiled to save the lives of a couple dozen severely wounded Marines. Paul Rubino was born in Bitritto, a small town near Bari, Italy. When he was 12 years old, he and his mother, Domenica, immigrated to Chicago where his father, Vincenzo, had been working as a candy maker. The family settled into a third-floor apartment on Grand Avenue and May Street, above Taccogna Foods, now known as Bari Finer Foods. The close-knit neighborhood was largely Italian, many from Bari. Everyone looked ...

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Marine SSgt E5 Diana Fecarotta (Vietnam)

Choosing between the Peace Corps and the Marines during the Vietnam War, she made a decision that had a profound positive impact on the rest of her life. The oldest of four children, Diana Frances Fecarotta was born in Chicago and grew up in the heavily Italian neighborhood known as “The Patch” near Grand and Ogden avenues. Her parents, Joseph Gerris and Francesca Mary (Lombardino) Fecarotta, were born in Chicago and both sets of grandparents emigrated from Sicily. The family lived in a six-flat owned by Fecarotta’s maternal grandparents. Her mother had three sisters who lived either in the building ...

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Air Force 1st Lt. Vincent Allegrini (WW II)

Trained to fight in the deserts of North Africa during World War II, he earned the coveted Air Medal while organizing and overseeing a mission to bring desperately needed supplies to embattled troops in the jungles of the South Pacific. Editor’s Note: The following profile was assembled from the diaries of Vincent Allegrini, interviews with his son Robert, and the official history of the 33rd Infantry Division. Allegrini’s uniform and decorations can be found at the Italian American War Veterans Museum at Casa Italia. In late December of 1944, units of the Army’s fabled 33rd Golden Cross Division, comprised primarily ...

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