Joe Picerno of Port Charlotte, Fla. had seven brothers. He and four of them served in the U.S. Army in World War II. His three younger brothers were in the Army during the Korean War. Natal, who was born just before Joe, was a POW of the Germans, captured at the Battle of the Bulge.
Joe was drafted in 1942 and after boot camp at Fort Carson, Colo. he was sent to Fort Sill, Okla. and became a member of the 342nd Artillery Battalion.
In ’43 he and his unit went from Norfolk, Va. to Naples, Italy. They became part of Gen. George Patton’s 7th Army.
“Part of our equipment got sunk so we had to wait in Naples for new equipment,” Joe recalled. “I started out driving Lt. Col. Smith, our battalion commander, around in a Jeep. Eventually I became a cook in headquarters company.”
Joe and his unit took part in the Southern Invasion of France which was mostly uneventful. They were in a staging area near Marseilles when the Battle of the Bulge was raging.
“I remember they called for each outfit to provide 10 percent of their troops to fight at the Battle of the Bulge,” he said. I was in the 7th Army when I first got to France but eventually we merged with the 3rd Army all under Patton.
“The first time we ran into Germans was in Lauterbach, Hesse. When we got there it was snowing. But then it started warming up and the snow melted. There were dead soldiers on the ground everywhere – both American and German as I recall.”
Most of Joe’s encounters with the enemy were in the form of German fighter planes.
“They would strafe our convoy as we moved forward,” he said. “When they swooped down on our convoy we would jump out and hide wherever we could until they passed.”
Joe’s main concern most of the time was not the enemy but feeding the troops. He was responsible for seeing that more than 100 soldiers in his headquarters company had full bellies.
“We got a lot of corn beef hash, but nobody liked corn beef hash no matter how I prepared it,” he recalled with a grin 70 years later.
Another thing he remembers about being part of Patton’s army: “We were always on the move.” Despite the fact he was right in the middle of things, he never once saw his fabled commander.
The closest Joe came to a real ground war was when the 342nd advanced toward a little town in Germany and was confronted by a couple of German tanks.
“The Germans attacked and we lost a couple of tanks and so did they. We moved on as the Germans fell back,” he said.
The war for Joe Piceno was a never-ending series of capturing one little town after another. His unit would advance toward its objective — a little town up ahead. It would fire a few rounds from their tracked 105 mm cannons. The Germans would respond with their fabled 88 artillery pieces, if they had any, and then leave snipers to slow down the Allied advance.
The 342nd was in Salzburg, Austria at war’s end. By this time the Germans had pretty much given up. There were thousands of unarmed German soldiers and civilians clogging the Autobahn walking west in an attempt to evade the advancing Russian armies that were sweeping in from the east as they burned, raped and demolished everything in their path.
Joe boarded a boat somewhere in Belgium for home along with his unit. They sailed into Boston Harbor and were sent back to Fort Bragg, N.C.
“After a 30-day leave I had to return to Fort Bragg to get ready to be sent to the war in the Pacific. Before I could go to war again the Japanese surrendered in August, but I had to remain at Bragg cooking for the troops until November 1945 when I was discharged,” he said.
Joe took advantage of the G.I. Bill and spent a couple of years training to be a TV technician. He went to work for RCA in Camden, N.J. where he spent the next 27 years working until he retired in 1976. He and his wife, Catherine, moved to Florida.
They have five children: Dawn, Joe Jr., Raymond, Salvador and Tony.
Name: Joseph M. Picerno
D.O.B: 22 June 1922
Hometown: Philadelphia, Pa.
Currently: Port Charlotte, Fla.
Entered Service: 14 Oct 1942
Discharged: 30 Nov 1945
Unit: 342nd Artillery Battalion attached 7th and 3rd Armies, WW II
Commendations: American Theatre Camaign ribbon, European-African Campaign Medal with 2 Bornze Battle Stars,World War II Victory Meda Good Conduct Medal
Battles/Campaigns:Gen. George Patton’s advance aross France and into Germany.
This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on Monday, Jan. 4, 2016 and is republished with permission.
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