Italy and WWII

I will be going to Italy (Venice, Florence, CT, and Rome) with my mother-in-law who has been dreaming of going to Italy based on hearing WWII stories from her father who was based there and loved it. He always wanted to take her there, but life and cost got in the way. She is finally going, but he has passed, so she cannot talk to him about the specifics anymore, and cannot remember the details as the stories were shared when she was rather young. First question: anyone know how I could possibly track a soldier's assignment based on name? Also, if that does not work, can anyone direct me to possible tours in the areas we are going that taps into WWII. Thanks.

Posted by Tom
Chicago
2876 posts

It's virtually impossible to track an individual WWII soldier by name, but if your mother-in-law has any of her Dad's old military papers, she may be able to find the name of his regiment and his division (I'm presuming he was an Army vet). Then she may be able to track the wartime movements of that unit. Several regimental histories are available online.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2702 posts

Maryam, Do you know his unit, ie. his division? If you have the father's discharge papers, that helps a good deal. Some of the information you're looking for is indicated there. If not, I would contact the Center for Military History, Carlyse (sp?) Barracks, Pa. They might direct or be able to help you. It's worth a shot.

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
10889 posts

It will take time but it can be done. Start with complete name, date of birth, and it would great have his dog tags or anything else that would have his service number. With that info contact the VA. There is a service available, could be on the web, where you can get his units nearly daily activities and would know the various areas he was in, when, and, of course, action seem. It is being done all the time.

Posted by Cary
Hayden, Idaho, USA
112 posts

There's an American cemetery 7 1/2 miles south of Florence. Check on the American Battle Monuments Commission website for a mini-map and specific directions.Their booklet that I have (1998) says there is bus service w/ a stop just outside the gates. I don't know of specific tours from Florence, but...............If you haven't seen the film Tea With Mussolini, rent it for scenes in Florence and San Gimignano. Visiting any of the Commission's cemeteries is a moving experience. All are meticulously maintained. Most of those buried at the Florence cemetery are airmen, but there are large maps showing all of the units and their movements in the Florence area.

Posted by Monte
Genesee, ID
1376 posts

Try this. Your mother-in-law, or you for her, write to: National Personnel Redords Center Military Personnel Records 9700 Page Avenue
St. Louis, MO 63132-5100 and request a copy of whatever records they have. Use his full name and give them his army serial number if you have it. These are nice folks and will help you. Some records were destroyed in a fire and they will know that. You may be directed to correspond with an office in Washington, D. C. As I remember there may be a small dollar cost for some things at the D. C. office. This will get you to the heart of the matter quickly.

Posted by Christi
Whitsett, TX, United States
401 posts

Just want to say - this thread is the best of this board, OP - best of luck in your travels.

Posted by Tom
Chicago
2876 posts

The VA doesn't maintain any military service records. You would look for these through the National Archives. Go to http://www.archives.gov/ to get started. But be aware that a soldier's military service record is not going to include the daily wartime movements of his unit.

Posted by Diane
Westford, MA, USA
233 posts

Maryann, You have access to his records and thus could trace his story. As others mentioned have his service number available. This website should provide some direction for you and answer many of your questions. (www.nationalww2museum.org/honor/research-a-veteran.html) Records Records are accessioned into the National Archives, and cecome archival, 62 years after the service member's termination. With the date being 2013 minus 62 years, records from 1951 or prior are archival and are open to the public. Individuals Who Made It Home After the War If the individual came home then his discharge papers will provide a lot of valuable information. If you do not have these papers you will want to contact the National Personnel Records Center. To get this information you must fill out a Standard Form 180. To get a form, call the following numbers and leave your name and address. The Standard Form 180 will be mailed to you. National Personnel Records Center (Military Personnel Records) 1 Archives Drive St. Louis, MO 63138
314-801-0800

Posted by Susan
Sausalito, California
3209 posts

"contact the Center for Military History, Carlyse (sp?) Barracks, Pa. " It's "Carlisle Barracks".

Posted by Tom
Chicago
2876 posts

The fire referred to by Monte in his first post occurred in 1973, and destroyed 80% of the military records of Army veterans discharged between 1912 and 1960, which would of course include the great majority of WWII veterans. But as I mentioned in my first post, if your mother-in-law can find out her father's Army division and regiment, she might well be able to track down that unit's history, which would include a chronological record of its movements during the war.

Posted by Maryam
Washington, DC
562 posts

Thank you everyone for the information. I was hoping for this to be a bit of a surprise, which is why I only really have the name and DOB to go with. I will give the records department in St. Louis a call today (saw on the website about the fire!) and see if they could help me out. I tried it online, but I think I really need someone to talk to. We'll see what I get.

Posted by Claudio
Bergamo, Italy
117 posts

About places of Second World War of historical interest in Italy there are two cemeteries, the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery and Memorial in Nettuno, near Rome and Florence American Cemetery and Memorial in Falciani near Florence. There is also a museum about the Allied landing at Anzio. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uj9q8ac_zx8

Posted by Maryam
Washington, DC
562 posts

For those who may be interested. Found out that he was part of the Fifth United States Army (and perhaps 7th, is that possible?), and instrumental in the liberation of Italy. The Florence American Cemetery and Memorial has a great history of their movements, so that was a very useful site to peruse through. Most of the dead from the US Fifth Army are buried at the Florence cemetery, and Bologna, Genoa, and Verona were all involved (most especially Bologna), so those also present options for visits. As of right now, I think a visit to the cemetery would make the most sense. Thanks again everyone for the help you provided. I really think my MIL will be very moved to make this connection with her father while in Italy.

Posted by Swan
Napa, CA
2858 posts

I visited Anzio where there was a WWII beachhead. It is close to Nettuno, I believe. Anzio is a short train ride south of Rome. The fighting between Anzio and Rome was fierce and bloody. The modern town of Anzio is pleasant and it is an easy walk to the beach where the landings took place.

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
2612 posts

Maryam... you post is very touching and has prompted me to find out a bit more about my dad's time there. We do have an old map that he carried of Paris (one of those tourist kind with the sketches of buildings) Obviously a bit tattered and in the upper corner he had written Luxemburg 1944. He never really talked about it when he was alive, but now I am curious and will be using the references above. I am sure your MIL will be very appreciative.

Posted by Isaac
Port St. Lucie, FL, USA
6 posts

If you know which division/unit he was in, you can get the general locations in Italy. Someone above has given you how to get his records, and it will give at least the division/unit he was attached to. Once you have that, it easy to follow that unit up the boot of Italy. You can also read about the U.S. Army's official history of its operations in Italy during the war. Here's the link: http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/USA-MTO-Sicily/index.html

Posted by Maryam
Washington, DC
562 posts

Looks like his division/unit landed on the shores of Anzio and moved up including Rome. My husband did lots of research and this is what we will be doing: We will visit the beach at Anzio and stop by the American cemetery outside of town. I am amazed at how much beauty he saw given the death and destruction he plowed through. Also, I am amazed we don't hear more about the Italy invasion. It was rather significant based on what I'm reading and my husband is sharing. Thanks again.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2702 posts

Maryam, Yes, it is very well possible that he was part of the Fifth Army and then the Seventh Army since divisions were transfered from the Fifth to the Seventh. If that is true in your family's case, my guess (it's only a guess) is that he was attached to either the 36th Div., 34th Div. or the 45th Div., if he was part of a division in the first place. The other possibility is that he stayed the entire time in the Fifth Army.

Posted by Patty
Steilacoom, WA, USA
307 posts

This may not be much help, but I did hunt up small tours going to Anzio when we went. There were several listed, but we didn't have enough time. I can't remember exactly how I found them, but my usual route is either Google or Trip Advisor forum.

Posted by Monique
Pittsburgh, PA, USA
493 posts

Hello! Have you tried ancestry.com? I used the 30-day free trial last summer to compile some information for our family reunion and it's amazing what records you can find. I found a photocopy of my great uncle's enlistment card, another of my great uncle's physical to enlist, and other war related odds and ends. If you find some things like that, it might be able to tell you what you need to know or at least point you in the right direction.

Posted by Swan
Napa, CA
2858 posts

From Rome to Anzio is less than an hour by train, as I recall. It is a regional train. Anzio is small enough that you can walk from the train station thru the town and to the beach in 10-15 minutes. The town is pleasant and attractive. Trains run every hour or so.

Posted by Rick
Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA
4 posts

If you go to the website for National Archives Records Administration you can fill out a request for his information. I filled one out for my grandfather and got his complete service in about 6 weeks. Turns out he was a "wagoneer" in WWI. I'm pretty sure they'll have what your looking for.

Posted by Norma
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
3410 posts

Just today I came across a journal I had kept of a trip to Cairo in 2003. On the flight from Cairo to Zurich I sat beside an Italian woman and I had forgotten that encounter. She had been in Egypt to commemorate the young Italian soldiers (I Giovanni Fascisti) who had died in the battle of El Alamain at Siva. She told me there is a museum in Padua dedicated to that battle and it could be interesting to have a look at the "enemy" side of the war.

Posted by Mark
Houston, TX
22 posts

Maryam, I am an amateur WWII historian, I would love to help you. If you know what unit he served in and his dates of service, I could definitely get you information on where his unit went. If you don't have this information, if you have pictures of him in his uniform, I may be able to tell what division he was with, and then I can at least tell you where that division went in Italy. Private Message me and I will give you my email address so you can send me the pictures. Can you tell me, was he infantry, or armored, or artillery, etc? In the meantime, if I can recommend a favorite movie that takes place in Italy during WWII: Von Ryan's Express, starring Frank Sinatra.

Posted by Anne
Charleston
1 posts

These are all great suggestions. I hope you can find a tour, but if you cannot, you should be able to borrow my guidebook from your local library through interlibrary loan. It's titled "A Travel Guide to World War II Sites in Italy." The book describes close to one hundred war memorials in Italy that honor Allied soldiers and members of the Italian Resistance. Anne Saunders