A look at WWII hero Vito Monteleone
Veteran Vito Monteleone, a medic, was with Allied Forces that helped liberate Paris. IN this famous photo Monteleone is third from the right in the front row.
Fauquier Times Staff Photo/Randy Litzinger
World War II veteran Vito Monteleone shows some of the medals he received for his service. In the center is the Bronze Star for valor.
Vito Monteleone, a World War II combat medic and Bronze Star recipient, learned to heal the wounded in war.
But the most profound thing he learned is what he shares with Fauquier students: the need to think beyond one's own self, to labor for the betterment of generations to come.
Monteleone was a medic for the 28th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army. He was drafted in 1942, at 18 years old.
He received his training at Walter Reed General Hospital.
"I learned to treat all kinds of wounds,” Monteleone said.
The group was graded as being good, very good, or excellent. Monteleone received a rating of excellent, which allowed him to perform any kind of operation.
As a medic, he was not allowed to carry a gun. During battles, he would hear "medic! Medic!" and run onto the field, crouching low. The accompanying litter squad would lift the wounded into the stretcher and carry them back to the medical station.
They typically used schools, but at times set up tents as medical facilities. He remembers smearing iodine on the foreheads of the men amputees, as a sign that they needed intensive care.
After the battle of Normandy, Monteleone's division was called in. He said he remembers the water there being so saturated with blood that it was the color red.
He can recall the gruff sound of Gen. George Patton's voice as he said, "You guys doing a good job."
"I'll never forget him," said Monteleone.
He was at the Battle of the Bulge, as well as Hurtgen Forest. He said their equipment was inadequate compared to the Germans'.
In Ardennes, during the Battle of the Bulge in early November, 1944, "Casualties were so heavy, the German medical officer came over to our side, and asked for cease fire for two hours to take care of the wounded," Monteleone said. "Which we did. We took care of our wounded. He took care of their wounded."
He described their tanks as having walls a couple inches thick. A shell would penetrate the thin shield, then ricochet like a "tennis ball." Shells would bounce off the outside of a German tank.
The temperatures were a battle as well. He said some mornings he would wake up under a foot of freshly fallen snow. Their C-rations would freeze, and he remembers lining up the cans over the engine of the ambulance. They also trudged through the snow for two to three months before receiving galoshes.
After Germany surrendered, the 28th Infantry Division was the first group in Auschwitz.
Monteleone remembers seeing the sign for "showers" where Jews were gassed.
"You could actually count every bone in their body," he said of the survivors. "It was amazing the way some of them survived."
The image of the trenches filled with the dead bodies is engrained in his mind.
"They dug trenches six feet deep, by four to five feet wide," he said. "They would take a bulldozer, push the bodies into the trench."
Monteleone has seen what men are capable of doing to one another in war. He believes that if the Allies had lost, Americans would labor under German and Japanese rule.
"We were willing to sacrifice our lives for our country," Monteleone said. "And to do everything we can to make a better life for the next generation: Our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren."
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