On Oct.22, 1942 Tony Di Gregorio of Rotonda, Fla. was drafted into the Army. He was 21.
The South Philly soldier took his basic training at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. It took until the summer of 1944 to board a troop transport and sail in convoy for Scotland.
“Spike Jones and his band were aboard our ship when we sailed to war. They played for the troops aboard ship and were very good,” the 93-year-old former soldier recalled 70 years later, “I remember when we went on deck you could see a couple of American destroyers sailing nearby. Occasionally we’d spot the periscope of a German sub, but we never lost a ship on the way over.”
He arrived in Scotland a month after the Normandy Invasion of France and flew to Italy aboard a C-47 transport plane. He was a replacement soldier who joined the 88th Infantry Division, 350th Regiment of Gen. Mark Clark’s 5th Army.
“My unit, the 88th was in the Appian Mountains fighting the Germans during the winter of 1944. The weather was cold and rainy,” Digregorio said. “The Germans were putting up a good fight. We’d go out every night looking for them.
“They would hit us day and night with 88 artillery rounds. Our sergeant told us, ‘Don’t worry about the 88 rounds you can hear. It’s the rounds you can’t hear you have to worry about.’
“Our objective was to push the Germans out of the Appian Mountain and into the Po Valley and hold ’em there. We hit them with everything we had–infantry, artillery, airplanes–and accomplished our objective, he said.
“Then we got orders to attack when the Americans and Russians moved toward Berlin. They were on the run out of the Po Valley like crazy and into the Alps.To keep up with them we had to get on tanks and ride after them. They scattered when they reached the mountains,” Di Gregorio recalled.
The war in Europe came to a close late in May 1945. He and the soldiers of the 88th Division were going to be one of the first units to board ship and head home. They were, but not Di Gregorio, his papers had been lost and he couldn’t go home until they were replaced.
For a short time he joined the 35th Infantry Division and became part of the occupation troops in Germany after the war. While waiting to be sent home he got to see a little of Europe.
“I was in Milan, Italy when Benito Mussolini and his mistress were killed and hung by their feet from a gas station,” He said. “I didn’t make it to Rome, but I did see some of Florence and Venice.”
The trip he remembers best is the 7 day trip he made to Switzerland. He new company commander in the 35th Infantry Division got him a pass and he spent a week touring Switzerland while waiting for his papers to reach Europe.
When he returned his discharge documents were ready. He got aboard the aircraft carrier USS Bataan and sailed for Philadelphia. When Di Gregorio arrived home he had to call a friend to come down to the docks and pick him up because his parents didn’t have a car.
He took the G.I. Bill and learned to be a printer. He went to work for a South Philly print shop where he worked for the next two decades until the shop went out of business. Then Di Gregorio went to work for another print shop down the street for five or six more years until he retired in 1980 at 62.
“It wasn’t long until I got another job as a security man at an Atlantic City casino where I worked until 1993 when I retired for good. That’s when Rita, my wife, and I moved to the Englewood area and eventually built this house.
The Di Gregorios have two sons: Anthony Jr. and Nicholas.
Di Gregorio’s File
Name: Anthony Di Gregorio
D.O.B: 24 Aug. 1921
Hometown: Philadelphia, Pa.
Currently: Englewood, Fla.
Entered Service: 22 Oct. 1942
Discharged: 15 Dec. 1944
Commendations: European African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with 3 Bronze Stars
This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on Monday, April 27, 2015 and is republished with permission.
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