For Veterans Day – In 1944 my Dad was 18 years old and a 2nd Lieutenant in the 76th Division. On Veterans Day the Division was shipped out of Camp McCoy, Wisconsin bound for Europe. My Dad turned 19 en route. There was hopes of the War being over by Christmas, but those hopes were dashed in mid-December with the German counteroffensive (which became the Battle of the Bulge). The 76th Division became part of Patton’s Third Army and was placed on the Siegfried line for the final push into Germany.
Can’t help but think what I was doing at age 19 in comparison.
Mr. Neggia served with my Dad in Company I – 304th Infantry Regiment – 76th Division. Part of Patton’s 3rd Army.
They were both only 18 years old when they started training at Camp McCoy, Wisconsin in the summer of 1944 (now Fort McCoy).
The following picture is from Schmölln, Germany in the spring of 1945. It’s the First Platoon of Company I – and in the front row is Private 1st Class John Neggia. (Click on the image to see larger.)
1st Platoon was led by 2nd Lt. Steve Galanes, who is pictured just to the left of the Company I flag (and one to the right of Private 1st Class John Neggia).
Mr. Neggia told me the following story regarding this picture.
John Neggia and his friend Pfc. Tobias Gutierrez (sitting to the right of Galanas) had no intention of sitting for this picture so they went and hid, but Lt. Galanes found them. Galanes then marched them over to have their pic taken with the Platoon – and had them sit on either side of him.
Neggia was annoyed at the time, but grateful now after all these years to have a photo where he’s pictured with his Platoon.
John Neggia keeps active in part by sharing his remembrances of the War at memorial services and other gatherings saluting our Veterans. Here are just a few of the most recent.
“I crossed the Saar at Echternach and drove to Bitburg…it showed the tremendous difficulties overcome by the 76th Division in forcing the Siegfried line.
”From one point on the road along which the 76th Division had successfully advanced, fifteen pillboxes were visible in addition to dragon’s teeth and anti-tank ditches. Yet this relatively green division went through them.”
Frank Mucedola (1921-2007) served as a Tech Sergeant in I-304-76. A musician in civilian life, he established the Frank Mucedola Accordian School in Auburn, New York and has toured with the world-renowned Mantovani Orchestra.
The following article originally ran in The Auburn Citizen August 24, 2003.
The 76th Infantry Division received its “Baptism of Fire” during the battle of the Bulge.
After crossing into Germany from Belgium and Luxembourg, the division was the spearhead of General George S. Patton’s 3rd Army final drive across central Germany and were among the first troops to make contact with the Soviet Red Army in the vicinity of Chemnitz, Germany, in May 1945.
The 76th Division had gone further east into Germany than any other American unit.
When Germany was divided into East and West, the 76th Division found itself in the East and was subsequently pulled back into the Western Zone.
However, between May and August 1945, when the Russians arrived, the 76th Division was on occupation duty in Schmolln, Thuringen, Germany.
From August 1945 until the Berlin wall fell, schools in occupied East Germany were required to teach students that Germany had been liberated from the Nazis by “The Glorious Red Army.”
The pre-1945 generation knew better, but kept silent out of fear of reprisals.
When the 76th Division was relieved of its occupation duties in August 1945, it was deactivated and its troops were reassigned to other units slated for the invasion of Japan which, for a brief time, was still at war with the United States.
Fortunately, that assignment never materialized as the atomic bomb ended the war and the troops were sent home.
Many years later, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the people of Schmolln in the former East Germany wanted to correct what they knew was a historical lie. They were not liberated from the Nazis by the Soviet Army, but by the 76th Infantry Division of the United States Army.
On April 13, 2003, the people of Schmolln erected a memorial to the 76th Division to show their appreciation.
I am one of the nine Auburnians who served in the 76th Infantry Division during World War II and am grateful that the people of Schmolln have honored us with their thoughtfulness.
Auburnians who served in the 76th Division in WWII
George P. Diehl Paul J. DiFabion Ronald P. Hart Robert T. Mott Frank Mucedola James Napoli George T Ryan James Smith Paul A. Tripociano
Pictures from a 2003 Veterans Tour that included Schmölln.
Inscription on plaque:
THIS PLAQUE RESPECTFULLY PRESENTED TO THE PEOPLE OF SCHMOLLN, THURINGEN, GERMANY BY THE 76TH INFANTRY DIVISION AND COMPANY I, 304TH INFANTRY REGIMENT
UNITED STATES ARMY WHO SERVED IN THIS CITY FROM MAY TO JULY 1945 “THANK YOU FOR REMEMBERING US” 76TH INFANTRY DIVISION ASSOCIATION APRIL 13, 2003
In 2010 David Keefe, a US Marine and grandson to Richard Keefe (I-304-76), visited Schmölln to honor his Grandfather’s service in the War and to see the plaque firsthand. Here’s the video he took.
Company I 304th Infantry Regiment 76th Infantry Division
Unless otherwise specified, the following pictures are courtesy of Don Katz. Don Katz entered service with I-304-76 as a First Lieutenant. By the war‘s end he would be Captain of Company I.
The Commissioned Officers of Company I. This picture was taken at Camp McCoy, Wisconsin in November of 1944.
(Left to Right) 2nd Lieutenant Steve Galanas, 2nd Lieutenant Richard Keefe, Captain Don Rue Hickman, 1st Lieutenant Donald Katz, 2nd Lieutenant Jay Hamilton
This is a picture of the Company I in its entirety. Camp McCoy, Wisconsin – November 1944
Click on the image to see larger.
The following pictures were taken May of 1945, after V-E Day, while occupying the town of Schmölln, Germany.
First Row – Bottom: S/Sgt. Lo Russo, 2nd Lt. William Richard, Capt. Donald Katz, 1st Lt. Richard Keefe, 1st Sgt. Anthony Fackelmann
Second Row: T/5 Raymond Martinez, Pfc. William Bankston, Sr., Pfc. Harold Suesse, T/4 Fong Him, Pfc. Marvin Trammel, Pfc. Jean Stephens, Pfc. Kenneth Hague, Pfc. Milton Schwartz
Third Row: Pfc. George Mortimer, Cpl. Earl Annis, Pfc. William Hedden, Pfc. Olland Seymour, Pfc. Thomas Geary, T/5 Malvin Leykauf, T/5 Philip Karas, Pfc. Elbert Dove, Pfc. Bernard Rosenburg
Not Pictured: T/5 James Bailey, Pfc. Tim Brooks, Pvt. Karl Cunningham, Pfc. Cleon Duke, Pfc. Frederick Echsner, Pfc. Fred Ethington, Sgt. Harvey Fowler, Pvt. Richard Gardner, S/Sgt. Philip Gillis, T/5 Anthony Grunder, Sgt. Donald Hawley, 1st Lt. Edward Hurley, Pfc. William Jones, Pfc. Ralph Kierski, Sgt. Jay Lachot, Pfc. Morris Levy, T/5 George Livernois, T/5 John Macomber, T/5 Lucien Nadeau, Pfc. Abel Parks, Pfc. Raymond Radtke, Pfc. Jack Sapoznik, Pfc. Elmer Slate, Pfc. James Thomson
First Row – Bottom: S/Sgt. John Beardsmore, Pfc. Joseph Kopper, Pfc. Lester Ward, Pfc. Howard Kelly, Pfc. John Neggia, 1st Lt. Steve Galanes, Pfc. Tobias Gutierrez, T/5 Kermon Silver, Pfc. Julius Yellen, Pfc. James Quinn, Pfc. Arvel Rice, Pfc. Leroy Gansereit
Second Row: Sgt. Paul Kmett, Pfc. Lester Isaacs, Pfc. Robert Leonard, Pfc. Wilburn Rundle, T/5 Lawrence Beasley, Pfc. John Bozich, Pfc. Leonard Watson, Pfc. Douglas Johnson, Pfc. Edward Algas, T/5 Wallace Maze
Third Row: Pfc. Lloyd Brink, Pfc. Calvin Belue, Pfc. Richard Doucett, Pfc. Guy Stump Jr, Pfc. Richard Pfeiffer, Pfc. Ulysses Rogers Jr, Pfc. Joseph Kudyba, Pfc. Ernest Kaszian, Sgt. Zack Parsons, Pfc. Paul Henzarek
Fourth Row: S/Sgt. James Harris, S/Sgt. Sigmund Romanowski, Pfc. Joseph Todd Jr, S/Sgt. Thomas Rogers, Sgt. George Bailie, Pvt. Bobby Booz, Pfc. Carl Tillman, Pfc. John Pajor
Not Pictured: Sgt. Frank Favata, T/Sgt. Bernard Kelleher Jr, Cpl. Edwin Palmquist
First Row – Bottom: Pfc. Joseph Caroll, Pfc. Wayne Thompson, Pfc. George Blount, S/Sgt. Joseph Zellner, Sgt. Arthur Martinez, 2nd Lt. Jay Hamilton, S/Sgt. Palmer Kittelson, Pfc. Frederick Rosenberry, Pfc. Raymond Gold
Second Row: S/Sgt. Wilson Thompson, Pfc. Charles Simmons, Pfc. Mark Tomasek, Pfc. Martin Silverman, Pvt. Kenneth Beckman, Pvt. Samuel Morbit, Pfc. Carl Canterbury, Pfc. John Needum, Pvt. Charles Banks Jr, Pfc. Lorel Roestel, S/Sgt. Roland Dubois
Third Row: Sgt. Michael Sapalik Jr, Pfc. James Wood, Pfc. Ernest Lege, Pfc. Alphie Gagnon, Pfc. Peter Motherway, Pfc. Clarence Hornsby, Pfc. Jack Adams, Cpl. Bernard Rish, T/5 Robert Laselle
Fourth Row: Cpl. Charles Hawk, Pfc. Larry Gleaton, Pfc. Johnny Cochran, Pfc. Jack Burns, Pvt. Martin Gorneault Jr, Pfc. Curtis Fellure, Pfc. Hugh Maguire, Pfc. John Odgers Jr. Pfc. Harry Paff, Pvt. George Bergen
Not Pictured: Pvt. Herman Hahler, Pvt. Kenneth Obrecht, 2nd Lt. Charles Sands III, Pfc. Francis Schott, T/5 Olvin Stephens, Pvt. Albert Sutton
First Row – Bottom: S/Sgt. Silvio Zinicola, S/Sgt. Anthont DiMare, Pfc. Jesse Slovacek, Pfc. George Bowden, Pfc. Paul Sanderson, Pfc. Wayne Hardy, Pvt. Alphie Leblond, Pfc. Robert Wendell, Pfc. Leo Goldenstein, Pfc. R. G. Johnston, Pfc. William Norford, Sgt. James Mulligan
Second Row: S/Sgt. Walter Williams, S/Sgt. James Cotton, Pfc. Kenneth Morgan, Pfc. Salvador Vasquez, Pfc. Henry Kopinski, Pfc. Glendon McGee, Pfc. William Bowles, Pfc. Manuel Rivera, Pfc. Lewis Maker, Pfc. Thomas Fichera, Cpl. Joseph Grasso, Pfc. Donald Trexler
Third Row: S/Sgt. George Hatcher, Pfc. Harold Sharp, Pfc. James Turner, Pfc. Clarence Deaton, Pfc. Woodrow Dunn, Cpl. Arthur Carlson, T/4 Robert Steiger, Pvt. Clifford Dilla, Pfc. Curtis Spencer, Pvt. Donald Howland, Sgt. Verner Drake
Not Pictured: Pfc. Frank Ceniceros, Pvt. Marvin Gerstin, Pfc, Pedro Lopez, T/Sgt. Frank Mucedola, Pfc. Ashel Shults Jr, Pfc. Eugene Tortolano
First Row – Bottom: Sgt. Theodore Pleasants, Pfc. Richard Cook, Pfc. Edward Borgoyn, Pvt. Charles Pawlowski, Pfc. Malcolm Kerr, Sgt. Eugene Sharp, Pfc. Myron Chaderjian, Pfc. William Brockerman, Pfc. Frederick Hannon, /Sgt. William Neil
Second Row: Sgt. Donald Pessimier, Pfc. Ted Cook, Pfc. Ben Hensley, Pvt. Alfred Gwara, Pfc. George Kline, Cpl. Irwin Cohen, T/5 Samuel Jones, Pfc. Jesse Addington, Pfc. William Davis, Pfc. Donald Hepfer
Third Row: Sgt. John Scott Jr, Pfc. Norman Alderman, Pfc. Wesley Simmons, Pfc. Norman White, Pfc. Keith Hier, Cpl. Howard Landefeld, Pfc. Richard Hooley, Pfc. John Jardini, Pfc. Dale Roth, Pfc. Frederick Stefansen
Not Pictured: 1st Lt. Robert Conrad, S/Sgt. Charles Miller, Sgt. Ernest Wagganer
The following video includes pictures of my Dad’s (Richard Keefe), pics from Don Katz and also Jay Hamilton.