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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.