Launched in 2020 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 through the #IAWW2Heroes initiative.
This entry is a special submission from John Messina in honor of his late grandfather.
Giuseppe (Joe) Messina was born in Porto Empedocle, Sicily, in 1920. His mother delayed the recording of his birth for one year out of concern that he would be drafted into the Italian military as a child. Mr. Messina immigrated to the United States with his mother in 1928 in order to join his father who had settled in San Francisco several years earlier.
Mr. Messina dropped out of school after the death of his mother and took up welding at around the age of 12. With the outbreak of World War II, he initially received a military deferment due to his welding skills which were needed to rebuild the U.S. fleet after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Mr. Messina’s father was a fisherman and his boat, the Marie Concetta (pictured above), was seized by government officials during the war.
During the latter part of the war, Mr. Messina went on to serve in the U.S. Army. He stormed the beach on D-Day during the invasion of Normandy and was later injured by mortar fire during the Battle of the Bulge. Mr. Messina received a Purple Heart and Silver Star for his service.
Mr. Messina resided in South San Francisco until his death in 1996.
If you’d like to make a submission to NIAF’s #IAWW2Heroes initiative, email the photo and description to firstname.lastname@example.org.