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Execution of American Soldiers, St. Benedetto Churchyard, near Monte Buono, Italy

Discussion in 'Italy, Sicily & Greece' started by kerrd5, Dec 31, 2011.

  1. kerrd5

    kerrd5 Ace

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    Jan B. very kindly provided to me the records of the 3044th QM Graves Registration Company, which he had acquired from a researcher he hired at the NARA II, College Park. The complete files totaled almost 300 megabytes, by the way.

    Jan discovered in the documents he received a report of an investigation into the execution by the Germans of eight American soldiers at St. Benedetto Churchyard on 13 April 1944. This is near Monte Buono, Umbria, Italy:

    Google Maps

    I believe the church is now the abandoned monastery on the
    ridge S/SW of Monte Buono at Montali.

    Montali | Facebook

    Hugh Foster and I determined that four of the eight men belonged to the 157th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division:

    PVT Robert Carnathan, C Company
    PFC Charles Dyda, G Company
    PVT Woodrow Thomas, C Company
    CPL Paul Valdez, C Company

    Carnathan, Dyda and Valdez were all listed as MIA in mid-December 1943.

    The other four men were:

    Ben Espinosa, 753rd Tank Bn
    George Kerr, unit unknown
    Clarence Moody, unit unknown
    Robert Rankl, 135th Infantry Regiment, 34th Infantry Division

    The British had begun an investigation into this incident
    before the 3044th arrived at Monte Buono. The 3044th
    received extraordinary cooperation from the local authorities
    and Father Don Antonio Picarozzi, priest of St. Mary's church
    in Monte Buono.

    "Father Picarozzi was interviewed and immediately
    offered his every assistance in uncovering this foul
    deed. Through Father Picarozzi, the party learned
    that the betrayed had been buried in the churchyard
    of the St. Benedetto Church, atop the mountain of
    St. Benedetto, only 2 air miles from Monte Buono,
    but a journey of 6 miles by truck and foot."

    It appears that these men may have escaped from a
    German PW camp and had been in hiding at St. Benedetto's
    for some time. According to the 3044th's report, "Father Picarozzi
    stated that he was certain that the remains in Grave No. 3 were
    those of Ben Espinosa, 37354115. He accounted for this by saying
    that of all the eight men, Espinosa was perhaps the best known
    to him since he had spent more time with Espinosa, both in matters
    pertaining to the religious world, as well as in matters pertaining
    to the group, and relayed to the group through Espinosa." Indeed,
    this suggests the men were receiving support and provisions from
    the Italians.

    The Germans "burned the blankets and clothing taken
    from the Americans prior to the execution. Examination
    of this area revealed only a few fragments of civilian
    clothing, and did not offer any identifying markings."

    After recovery, the remains were transported to the
    Nettuno American Military Cemetery, where reinterment
    was made in the "same order as removal had been
    accomplished from St. Benedetto, i.e., the remains
    from Grave No. 1, St. Benedetto, were reinterred in
    Grave No. 6181, Nettuno Military Cemetery; remains
    from Grave No. 2, St. Benedetto, were reinterred in
    Grave No. 6182, etc."

    The report of the 3044th reached these conclusions:

    1. That identities of the deceased are:

    Woodrow W. Thomas, 35637523
    Clarence E. Moody, 36590875
    Robert C. Carnathan, 34625098
    Ben Espinosa, 37354115
    Charles Dyda, 33183989
    Paul H. Valdez, 38006151
    Robert J. Rankl, 33678141
    George Kerr, 37353883

    2. That remains recovered from Grave
    No. 3, St. Benedetto, are those of Ben
    Espinosa, 37354115, as evidenced by
    Father Picarozzi's signed certificate.

    3. That remains removed from Grave No. 8,
    St. Benedetto, can be tentatively identified
    as those of Robert J. Rankl, 33678141, as stated
    verbally by Father Picarozzi.

    4. That remaining bodies can be individually
    identified upon locating personal effects.

    5. That month in which death occurred is certain
    to have been April 1944, evidenced by note from
    Allied Screening Commission dated 26 Sept 44.

    6. That date of death can be set as 13 April 1944,
    as evidenced by statements of Roberti and Abati attached.

    I transcribed the first three paragraphs of the statement
    of Agostino Abati, Chief of Police of Monte Buono if
    anybody wants to take a crack at translation. I was
    not satisfied with Worldlingo.com's translation.

    "In data 13 Aprile 1944, alecni soldati tedeschi armati di fucili mitragliateri,
    muniti di carta topografica, si portarono, inosservati, sulla Montagna
    denominate 'S. Benedetto' sita in territorio di queste Comune, ove trovasi una che setta omonima, nella quale diversi prigionieri anglo-americani si erane rifugiati in seguite agli avanti dell' 8 Settembre 1943 e dove dormivano. La pattuglia tedesca si approssimo all'Ereme non per las via ordinaria, ma attrversando il fiancé del fitte bosco ceduo che conduce al Santuario e raggiunse la localita.

    "I prigionieri sorpresi in una stanza a piantereno dell'Eremne vennero
    catturati, sottoposti ad costringente interrogatorie perquisite, quindi disposti
    in fila davanti alla Chiesa vennero tutti ed otto berbaramente trucidati.

    "L'eccidio desto il piu vive sdegno in tutta questa popolazione che si era
    predicate, fin dai primi giorni, in tutti i medi per venire incontra ai bisogni
    dei prigionieri dando loro viveri ed altra."

    Hugh found this account on the web of an escaped British PW:

    "My next hiding place was a barn — a big cow shed where cows were living at
    night and what better hiding place than a manger? I would tuck myself in the
    edge of the manger, a pile of straw over me. Warm - big cows generate a lot of
    heat in this confined space! They kept away from me and they gave out a lot of
    body heat. I would only go there at night of course and leave very early in the
    morning and wander round in the hills and woods.

    "In addition to us 8 escaped POWs, there was an American Bomber came down but
    the crew landed in open country by parachute and were unharmed. There were 8 of
    them. Like me they were hiding and they found an old shed at the top of the
    mountain of Montebuono.

    "One early morning I was about to move off from my cowshed and I was looking
    around to see if anyone was around, any nasty people in German uniform, when I
    heard machine gun fire. The sound echoed round the valleys and it was hard to
    tell where it came from. Later I heard that a squad of Italian SS had tracked
    these Americans down to their hiding place. The sound I heard was them being
    shot. I was told by local people that it was the German SS. That didn't improve
    my morale I can tell you."

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/stories/10/a7243210.shtml

    It seems probable that the incident Mr. Mallen recalled in 2005
    was the shooting at St. Benedetto and he simply confused the crew
    of the downed aircraft with the eight GIs.

    Lastly, a big thanks to Jan for sharing this information.


    Dave
     
  2. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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    Good work Dave, and to Jan as well.
     
  3. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow

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    Great work, as Lou said. Presumably, they did locate the units for Kerr and Moody since they did determine their ASN but that information was just not provided in the 3044th records?
     
  4. kerrd5

    kerrd5 Ace

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    Thank you, Lou and Tom.

    The 3044th report didn't identify the parent units of the eight men.

    From my 157th Battle Casualty list, Jan identified Thomas as a Thunderbird;
    I found Dyda and Carnathan on the same list; and Hugh found Valdez on
    his master 157th list (from regimental General Orders).

    I then checked the remaining four names in the ABMC Database, where
    I found Espinosa. A Google Search revealed a Casualty list for the 135th
    Infantry Regiment, which contained Rankl's name. Google could not
    tell me any useful info on Kerr's or Moody's history. Although I know
    now that Kerr was from Canyon County, Idaho, and may be buried
    at Arlington.


    Dave
     
  5. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

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    Good show. Doe sit tell where the bodies were found (opne field, well , buried etc.. ?)

    The reason I ask this is because I have pictures of a funeral of executed men in Italy (obvioulsy allied or Maquis Italians) because of the presence of almost the entire village at the funeral) .
     
  6. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    Good work and thanks for posting.
     
  7. kerrd5

    kerrd5 Ace

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    Thank you, Jeff and Skipper.

    The bodies were buried in individual but unmarked graves
    in the churchyard.


    Dave
     
  8. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow

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    Again, good work Dave & Jan on the work you have done for these soldiers.
     
  9. 36thID

    36thID Member

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    Yes, Great Work !!
     
  10. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

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    Thanks kerr, I must have pics from a different scene then. The men I have were apparently identified .
     
  11. crosbygirl

    crosbygirl Member

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    Hi

    My name is Ann and I am currently collating a book of Memoirs from Veterans who served in WWII - Italy.

    I have read your posting on the execution, by the Germans, on the Eight American Service Personnel and I was hoping that you might give me permission to use the contents of your post in my book. Despite extensive requests to US Office of Foreign Wars, the Pentagon Veterans Hospitals and Service Men's Lodges I have been unable to find any information that would lead me to include a US Veteran's Memoirs in my book.

    I have tried to include Veterans from all participating countries to came to the aid of England in their hour of need and have had a huge response from nearly all those invloved other than the US. I feel that the collation of memoirs without the inclusion of the US would not pay tribute to those who fought along side men like my late father who served with the Royal Artillery.

    I do hope that you will be able to oofer me a favourable response.

    With best wishes
    Ann
     
  12. umbria

    umbria New Member

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    Hello,

    I am a researcher into World War 2 in Italy and am bi-linigual.

    I live in Umbria near to Monte Buono and can assure you all that the incident to which you refer did NOT take place here. The wartiime priest at Monte Buono Umbria was don Antonio Fedeli, not don Antonio Picarozzi.

    The incident took place at Montebuono in the Sabina area of Lazio. I have the diary and liberation report of a British POW from the submarine Saracen. Petty Officer E.R.A. Neill, who was interrogated in Rieti gaol by the Fascist Securtiy police about some 'American soldiers' ( his words) after having been recaptured in the area of MONTBEBUONO, where he had been helped by two families named Francesangeli and Castelli, whom I now intend to trace.

    The American soldiers killed at Montebuono belonging to 157 Regiment, 45 Division, are referred to by 20838320 S/Sergeant Richard a. Morris from C Company. All were taken prisoner at Venafro on 15 December 1943, taken to a camp at Frosinone in an ex- carabinieri barrracks, and from there transferred to camp P.G. 54 at Fara in Sabina to the north of Rome on 2 January. (Morris' unpublished story 'Escape' and National Archives London liberation report G.A.. Freer WO344/113/1)

    Morris says about Frosinone:

    About 25 soldiers made up the American contingent in the prison. Along withe twleve men from my platoon the 157 Infantry was represented by four privates and a lieutenant from G. Company. Four or five men had been in the 36th Division, the Texas National Guard. Four men came from a tank that may have been sent to support us on our ill-fated attack on Hill 470...Five more came from 34th division, the Iowa National Guard.


    On 26 January 1944 the camp was emptied and the men were put on a train bound for Germany. On 28 January the train was bombed at Allerona north of Orvieto by 320 Bomb Group USAAF air force (evidence Morris and other sources on my website bombedpowtrain.weebly.com). The Americans were in the first wagon and most of them escaped unhurt. Undoubedly the five from 157 Regiment made off towards the Sabine mountains where they remained until killed.

    S/Sergeant Morris had news of them when he and his friend from the same platoon John Tourtilotte were reached in their hide-out in southern Tuscany by the advancing allies - 6 British South African Division, on 17 June 1944. At the interrogation centre they met up with two other men from the platoon, Joe Koziol and Mike Guele.

    'who had news about our old platoon. Joe and Mike had survived, but five other men from the platoon had not been so fortunate. After esccapiing from the bridge they made the mistake of staying together as a group which drew attention to them. One night as they slept ini a hut they were shot.'

    i hope this helps all of you.

    The inforrmation you have supplied to me has now filled in a gap - I never thought I would find the identity of the 'five men from my platoon' referred to by Morris or where they were killed.

    Best regards from 'Umbria'.
     
  13. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

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    Hello Umbria, thank you for taking the time to inform us about these facts. It's always nice to get useful information.
     
  14. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

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    Excellent post Umbria...Hope you will stay with our little club..
     
  15. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow

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    An excellent post, umbria. Thank you for correcting the location. Similar names like that can be easily mistaken. I'm also happy you were able to gain something as well. A true sharing of information. I hope you will be a regular contributor to the Forum.
     
  16. Grovely

    Grovely New Member

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    Dear All

    I have been in regular contact with John Mallen, whose account of the shooting is referred to in the first posting.

    Although now 94 and slightly hard of hearing, he still remembers the shooting very well and was very interested to hear of the outcome and the final resting place of the eight American soldiers, your work has made the day for an old soldier.

    I was lucky enough to make contact with John during my research on POW Camp PG 54 Fara Sabina, and he has always been interested to learn of any thing we find out about the camp and his time afterwards.

    I've also helped to supply some information to "Umbria" with her work into the Bombed POW train at Allerona, so it is good to see some more gaps filled in there as well.

    Chris
     
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  17. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    Please extend to Mr. Mallen my highest regards

    Does he have anything he would like to add?
     
  18. kerrd5

    kerrd5 Ace

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    Seventy years ago today, 13 April 1944, eight American soldiers, all escaped POWs, were captured and murdered by the Germans at St. Benedetto Churchyard, near Montebuono, Italy.

    The eight soldiers were:


    PVT Robert Carnathan, C Company, 157th Infantry Regiment
    PVT Clarence Moody, C Company, 157th Infantry Regiment
    PFC Charles Dyda, G Company, 157th Infantry Regiment
    PVT Woodrow Thomas, C Company, 157th Infantry Regiment
    CPL Paul Valdez, C Company, 157th Infantry Regiment
    PFC Ben Espinosa, 753rd Tank Bn
    PFC George Kerr, 753rd Tank Bn
    PVT Robert Rankl, 135th Infantry Regiment, 34th Infantry Division

    https://www.facebook.com/abmcpage/photos/a.200480473304005.50686.143512799000773/738523636166350/?type=1&theater


    Dave
     
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  19. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow

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  20. gtblackwell

    gtblackwell Well-Known Member Patron  

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    Ciao, Umbria, Thank you for your informative post. You must be from Umbria and Montebuono as you well know is south in Abruzzo. The Forum members can locate it easily on Google Earth, almost due North of Rome. We have a very well informed member "Tired Old Soldier" who lives in Rome.
    I too hope you will stay on this forum.

    Gaines
     

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