Italian American WWII Heroes: The Marra Brothers

To remember the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, NIAF is recognizing Italian Americans who sacrificed, served and defended peace, freedom and democracy during the war.

This entry is a special submission from Albert F. Marra dedicated to his father Frank Marra who lived until he was 102 years old and passed away recently from Covid-19. This entry also features his two uncles Edward and Joseph.

Photo of Frank, Edward, and Joseph Marra taken in Belgium sometime in late 1944-early 1945.

Brothers Frank, Edward and Joseph Marra were all born and raised near Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. Their parents, Carmelina and Arturo Marra, both emigrated from the Provincia di Salerno.

The three brothers all served proudly for nearly five years in the U.S. Army, in different units. Somehow, they not only were able to connect during combat, but they found a photo studio still operating to take the photo above.

“Thank you for promoting this series,” said Albert. “All members of the Greatest Generation earned it!”

If you’d like to make a submission to NIAF’s #IAWW2Heroes initiative, email the photo and description to media@niaf.org.

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Italian American Youth in the Pandemic: Olivia Sales

By Olivia Sales

NIAF’s Pensieri Blog is featuring Italian American youth that are finding ways to connect to their heritage during the pandemic. This entry was submitted by NIAF Member Olivia Sales.

I am a student at Colorado State University-Pueblo, majoring in Social Work with a minor in Italian. I have the credits needed for my minor, and I am the Vice President of CSU-P’s Italian Club. With COVID-19, and mostly online options, I am only enrolled in one class this semester, so I am focusing on saving money from my barista job. This also has given me time to improve my Italian.

Colorado State University-Pueblo’s empty campus.

The University has put a hold on extracurricular activities, so our Italian Club can’t meet. Although not enrolled in an Italian course, I attend in person, with COVID-19 safety procedures in place, to help students, as needed. The exposure to the language is good for me and I hope the students find me helpful, as well.

Olivia’s class at University Of Turin, Fall 2019, when she studied abroad.

I am also enrolled in my Italian Professor’s English course where we are reading and discussing Giovanni Boccaccio’s The Decameron. For practice and experience, all of my written assignments are done in Italian. I realize I have a light schedule, but taking a semester to truly focus and polish my Italian has been a real joy. By working more, I am saving up, as my international student friends that I met in Italy and I, are planning for a reunion once it is safe to travel. I feel blessed and I am very grateful.

If you’d like to submit a Pensieri Blog entry, please email your content and a photo to media@niaf.org.

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Italian American WWII Hero: Joseph Tollis

To remember the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, NIAF is recognizing Italian Americans who sacrificed, served and defended peace, freedom and democracy during the war using the tag #IAWW2Heroes on social media.

This entry is a special submission from Cindy Farina, dedicated to her father.

Joseph Tollis, born Giuseppe Guido Tollis on November 19, 1921, was from Pacentro, L’Aquila, Abruzzo. He came to the United States in June 1937 to join his father, Pasquale Tollis, in Detroit, leaving his mother and three siblings behind.

Upon turning 21, he was drafted into the army and selected to serve as an Italian interpreter when he was in basic training. As part of the 441st Division, he and his fellow soldiers processed and interrogated Italian and German prisoners of war. His tour of duty brought him to England and France, following the Invasion of Normandy.

While in England, camping near Stonehenge, Tollis told his children about a day he recalled when a constant stream of tanks rolled down the road. Soon after, the sky filled with airplanes. Unbeknownst to the troops, the Invasion of Normandy had begun.

He also told his children about the time he stood on guard duty knee deep in the snow at midnight on Christmas Eve under a star-filled sky during the Battle of the Bulge.


Around the time of the Battle of the Bulge, he and his fellow troops adopted a stray dog, who became their buddy. When it was time to move on, they left their pet to a local French farmer.

When the war ended in Europe, he was sent to Texas to serve as a military police officer until he earned enough points for discharge. They offered to promote him to sergeant if he stayed on, however, he declined and chose to go home.

He arrived home on Christmas Eve 1945 to find his dad sitting alone in a chair listening to the radio. Tollis’s father asked him if he was home for Christmas, and Tollis said he was home for good. 

“My dad was so proud of his service in the army that I am glad to have opportunity to share a bit of his story,” said Cindy. “He had medals for good conduct, the Battle of the Bulge, and marksmanship. His service in the army also earned him American citizenship.”

She added, “I always remember him saying ‘The army during peace time was not a bad deal. But when there’s a war, look out.’ Thank you for honoring the Italian Americans who served in World War II. I’m delighted to be a member of NIAF.”

If you’d like to make a submission to NIAF’s #IAWW2Heroes initiative, email the photo and description to media@niaf.org.



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Italian American WWII Hero: Anthony G. Dodaro Jr.

To remember the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, NIAF is recognizing Italian Americans who sacrificed, served and defended peace, freedom and democracy during the war using the tag #IAWW2Heroes on social media.

This entry is a special submission from Gina Kupyers, dedicated to her grandfather.

Anthony G. Dodaro, Jr., born and raised in Bradford, Pa., was the son of Italian immigrants from Cosenza, Calabria, Italy. He was attending the Pennsylvania Military Academy in Chester, PA, when was drafted in August 1943 to fight in World War II.

He was 18 years old at the time he was drafted and he served as a Private First Class (PFC) in Company A of the 78th Battalion in the Central Europe-European Theater. He served as a scout obtaining information on enemy movements and transmitting to the allied camps.

Mr. Dodaro was captured in Anzio, Italy, in May 1944, and transported to a Prisoner of War (POW) camp in Moosburg, Bavaria, Germany [Stalag 7A Moosburg Bavaria 48-12 (Work Camps 3324-46 Krumbachstrasse 48011, Work Camp 3386 Munich 48-11)].

His camp, the largest POW camp in Nazi Germany, was liberated at the end of the war.

If you’d like to make a submission to NIAF’s #IAWW2Heroes initiative, email the photo and description to media@niaf.org.

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Italian American WWII Hero: James Vincent Clemente

To remember the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, NIAF is recognizing Italian Americans who sacrificed, served and defended peace, freedom and democracy during the war using the tag #IAWW2Heroes on social media.

This entry is a special submission from Patsy Clemente, dedicated to her father.

James Vincent Clemente was born on February 26, 1920 in Akron, Ohio, to Francesco and Vita Clemente in the all-Italian neighborhood of North Hill. He grew up there until graduating from North High School. Before going off to serve, he got married and had a son. He was inducted into the service in the U.S. Army Air Corps on March 9, 1942. He served as a Staff Sergeant in the 445th Bomb Group, 703rd Bomb Squadron. He was a tail gunner and photographer who flew with the crew in a B-24 Liberator. His Commanding Officer was the actor Jimmy Stewart who flew many missions of his own, but that’s another great story. Clemente had successfully flew 24 combat missions before being shot down on April 22, 1944, over Germany. He was captured and sent to STALAG 17B, in Krems, Austria. That’s where he spent the next 13 months. Life in the prison camp was very difficult and took great strength to survive.

On April 8, 1945, 4,000 Prisoners of War (POW) at STALAG 17B began an 18 day march of 281 miles to Braunau, Austria, going west along the Danube River toward the German border and the advancing American Army. They were finally liberated by the American Army on their way to Berlin on May 3, 1945. They announced we were no longer POWs, we were now soldiers of the US Army and Air Force. It would be 5 more days until he was taken to France for a check-up and sent back to the United States. He was awarded the Air Metal, 2 Oak Leaf Clusters and the Prisoner of War Metal.

POW Reunion

Upon his return, Clemente became employed with the Quaker Oats Company and moved to east Akron, Ohio. There he and his wife set up a home and had their second child, a daughter. He stayed in the area until his wife passed away. He remained active by joining the V.F.W. Post 6730. American Ex-Prisoners of War Steel Valley Chapter 13, Swinging 60’s Bowling League, and Deerfield Leisure Lads and Lassies until he passed away on May 23, 2003. He is survived by his son, daughter, three grandchildren and four great grandchildren.

“He was a wonderful father,” said his daughter, Patsy, “and will always be remembered as my Italian American hero.”

If you’d like to make a submission to NIAF’s #IAWW2Heroes initiative, email the photo and description to media@niaf.org.

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Italian American WWII Heroes: The Bevacqua Brothers

To remember the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, NIAF is recognizing Italian Americans who sacrificed, served and defended peace, freedom and democracy during the war using the tag #IAWW2Heroes on social media.

This entry is a special submission from Anita Bevacqua McBride, NIAF’s Vice Chair of Cultural Affairs, about her first cousins—the sons of her paternal uncle, Vincenzo Bevacqua.

Four members of the Bevacqua family—four brothers—served in the U.S. Military. The astonishing aspect of this story is that three of them, Nick, Joseph and John, were serving at the same time in both Europe and the Pacific during WWII.  Their photo that appeared in their hometown Bridgeport, Connecticut newspaper is below.

McBride’s aunt Theresa (their mother) wrote to them every day and her home was one of the many that displayed a blue star in their front window denoting that a member of the family was in the War. In her aunt’s case, she displayed three stars. 

Nick served in the U.S. Armed Forces in the 158th Airway Communication System Squadron in China. He was drafted on October 21, 1942 and served until March 13, 1946. He was discharged with the rank of Sergeant.

Joe was drafted into the U.S. Army in March 1943 and was discharged in February 1946. He started in the 8th Armored Infantry Division and was then transferred to the 86th Infantry Division and sent to Europe with General Patton’s 3rd Army. He worked in an Ammunition and Pioneering Platoon. He was awarded the Bronze Star for meritorious service. When the war ended in Europe, he was sent to the Pacific Theater. With the dropping of the atomic bomb in Japan, the war ended in the Pacific and he was sent to the Philippine Islands.

John was drafted into the Army on May 14, 1943 and then discharged on December 24, 1945. He served as a Medical Technician with General Patton’s 3rd Army. He served at the Battle of the Bulge and the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp for which he received the Meritorious Service Award. His service brought him to England, France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany. He served as Company Clerk and then as acting First Sergeant.

After WWII their youngest brother Bill enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in September 1948. He received Medical Technician Training in the states and was sent to Japan in December 1949. In June of 1950, the Korean War broke out and he served in Korea where he helped evacuate wounded personnel from combat areas to hospitals in Japan. He was then sent to the Far East Air Force Headquarters in Tokyo and served as an aide to the Surgeon General. He was discharged in August 1952 with the rank of Staff Sergeant.

“It is really a heroic and patriotic story of service by one family that was typical of many families of that era. As was also typical, they didn’t talk about it or expect any accolades but their honorable service was the pride of my aunt and uncle and our entire family,” said Anita Bevacqua McBride.

If you’d like to make a submission to NIAF’s #IAWW2Heroes initiative, email the photo and description to media@niaf.org.

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Italian American WWII Heroes – The Puniello Brothers

To remember the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, NIAF is recognizing Italian Americans who sacrificed, served and defended peace, freedom and democracy during the war, using the tag #IAWW2Heroes on social media.

This entry is a special submission from Nick Puniello Sr.’s son, Nick Puniello Jr.

From left to right: Dominick, Nick, Frank, John and Felix Puniello.

Carmine Puniello came to the United States in 1909 from Frosolone, a town in the region of Molise, Italy. He and his wife Anna built their home on 76 Richmond St, Bristol, RI in 1922. They had six children. Their only daughter, Mary, taught secondary education in the Bristol School System for more than 36 years. All five of their sons–Dominick, Nick, Frank, John and Felix–served their country in wars and afterwards, came back home to Bristol and lived there for the rest of their lives. The four eldest sons served in the US Navy during World War II and the youngest served in the US Army during the Korean War:

Dominick (1919-1994) served in the US Navy for three years as an Electrician Mate Third Class and was stationed at NTC Sampson, NY; USNTS Detroit, MI; and NAS Corpus Christi, TX. In his last year of service, he was assigned to a photographic laboratory. It was there he developed his love for photography. After he was discharged he returned to Bristol and opened Puniello Studio’s which was the premier studio in the Bristol, County Area for more than 30 years. He married Philomena Cupolo and they had two sons Carmine and Anthony.

Nick (1921 – 2011) served in the US Navy reaching the rank of Electronics Technicians Mate Petty Officer Second Class.  He was first assigned to the USS Murphy participating in the invasion of North Africa and the Naval Battle of Casablanca. While on shore leave in Casablanca, he had a chance meeting with a fellow Bristolian in a Kasbah.  Following the end of the invasion of Sicily, while escorting a convoy out of New York harbor in 1943, the ship was struck and split in two about 75 miles off the coast of New Jersey.  Nick was in the forward part of the ship that sank and he looked up and “swam for the light”.  He was hospitalized for weeks with jellyfish stings in New York, where his brother Frank visited him several times. He was later assigned to the Battleship USS New York participating in the battle for Okinawa.  After the war, he worked for many years as a dental repair service technician. He married Ann St. George and had three sons, Nick, Mike and Paul.

Frank “Sabu” (1925-2018) served his country as a Seaman First Class in WWII in the US Navy with the “Seabee’s” receiving the European-African Middle Eastern Theatre Metal, the American Theatre Metal and the Eastern Theatre Metal, the American Theatre Metal and the WWII Victory Metal. Upon returning to Bristol he worked as a carpenter and later started the Puniello Construction Company. He then worked for the Raytheon Company for more than 30 years. He was inducted into the Bristol Athletic Hall of Fame and was a lifetime member of Engine 4 of the Bristol Volunteer Fire Department. Frank was the last surviving of his five siblings and passed away in 2018.

John (1927 – 1985) followed his brother Frank in the US Navy “Seabees” organization.  He served with the 31st Battalion in Kyushu, Japan, earning the Victory Medal and the Asian Pacific Medal.  He was discharged in 1946 as a Seaman First Class. He brought home a Japanese rifle as a souvenir.  He worked for Kaiser Aluminum and was also a talented stone mason.  He married Hortense “Tancy” Carreira and had two children, John and Frances Ann.

Felix (1929 – 2009) Felix enlisted in the US Army in 1946 after the end of WWII and served in the beginning of the Korean War in 1950. He enlisted at Fort Banks in Boston and was assigned to the Panama Canal Department. He was discharged in 1950 as a Private. He worked for Carr-Fulflex and also owned an ice cream business. He was a talented bridge player and an avid golfer. He has one son, Joseph.

If you’d like to make a submission to NIAF’s #IAWW2Heroes initiative, email the photo and description to media@niaf.org.

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Italian American WWII Hero Sgt. Lou “Red” Vigliotti

To remember the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, NIAF is recognizing Italian Americans who sacrificed, served and defended peace, freedom and democracy during the war, using the tag #IAWW2Heroes on social media.

This entry is a special submission from Sgt. Vigliotti’s son, Lou Vigliotti Jr.

Lou “Red” Vigliotti served in World War II from 1941 to 1945 and fought in the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign in the jungles of Philippines. While there, he contracted malaria, but his service did not waiver and he continued to fight for his country.  In addition to various honors and medals, he was awarded the prestigious Bronze Star for his heroism and bravery after the war.

He was born and raised in Bradford, Pa., and after the war he returned home and married Helen. They lived in the small town of Lewis Run, Pa., and raised three children there. 

He was the son of, Dominic and Dominica Vigliotti, who immigrated from the Naples, Italy, area (Cervino) in the early 1900’s. 

His son, Lou Jr., says he is “proud to be part of the Italian family and continue to carry on traditions.”

If you’d like to make a submission to NIAF’s #IAWW2Heroes initiative, email the photo and description to media@niaf.org.

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Italian American WWII Hero MSGT Joseph DeMarino

To remember the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, NIAF is recognizing Italian Americans who sacrificed, served and defended peace, freedom and democracy during the war, using the tag #IAWW2Heroes on social media.

This entry is a beautiful tribute and submission from Joseph DeMarino’s daughter Kay DeMarino.

Joseph DeMarino was born in Echhart, Maryland, in 1925, the eldest son of Italian immigrants Michele and Pauline DeMarino.

During World War II, he served in the U.S. Army and was stationed at the Allied Military Intelligence Headquarters at the Royal Palace in Caserta, Italy.

“The photo [above] is very special to the our family because it captures Dad while he’s bringing supplies and the American ‘can-do’ spirit to the war-torn villages of southern Italy,” said his daughter Kay DeMarino. “But it’s not just any town, this is Monopoli in Apulia and the man with him is his grandfather, whom he is meeting for the very first time.”

After the war, Joseph DeMarino was awarded a Bronze Star for his meritorious service and continued to serve his country in the Army Reserves.

He also devoted many years as president of the Western Maryland lodge of Sons of Italy.  

Kay proudly shared, “He is our Italian American hero!”

If you’d like to make a submission to NIAF’s #IAWW2Heroes initiative, email the photo and description to media@niaf.org.

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Italian American WWII Hero Robert J. DeMark

To remember the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, NIAF is recognizing Italian Americans who sacrificed, served and defended peace, freedom and democracy during the war, using the tag #IAWW2Heroes on social media.

This entry is a special submission from Petty Officer DeMark’s great-grandson, Mayor Jondavid R. Longo of Slippery Rock, Pa.

Robert J. DeMark served his country as a United States Navy Seabee who fought in the Pacific Theater during World War II and also served in the Korean War.  He achieved the rank of Petty Officer 3rd Class (BUL3). 

PO DeMark’s parents came to America from L’Aquila in Abruzzo, Italy, at the turn of the 20th century. They came to the New Castle, Pa., area and eventually settled in Mahoningtown.

His great-grandson Mayor Longo shared, “Thank you [NIAF] for continuously recognizing and honoring Italians, Americans of Italian Descent, our proud heritage, and culture.”

If you’d like to make a submission to NIAF’s #IAWW2Heroes initiative, email the photo and description to media@niaf.org.

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