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  • In Observance of Veterans Day, A Thank You & A Story

    Posted on November 11th, 2009 "Tiki Chris" Pinto 12 comments

    pinup-girl-airplane The Thank You:

    The Management at the Tiki Bar (which consists of two cats, four birds, a screwy dog, another dog on loan, a hot blonde bombshell and yours truly) would like to take this opportunity to thank all the GI’s, Airmen, Sailor Boys (and Girls) and Marines for keeping our land, seas and skies safe from the axis of evil and forces that are hell-bent on tearing down America’s freedom and everything we stand for. Without you, we’d all be speaking German right now. Or Russian. Or some other strange gobbledee-gook. Anyway, thanks, and keep up the great work.

    My Grandfather Charles Pinto & one of his Army buddies.

    My Grandfather Charles Pinto & one of his Army buddies.

    The Story:

    (I’m doing this from memory of stories I heard 30 years ago, so my details may be a little sketchy) My Grandfather, Charles Pinto Sr. was born in Italy in 1898. He came to America as a young boy, and a few years later found his new beloved country entangled in a war with, among others, his homeland. It was difficult, be he had sworn his allegiance and citizenship to the USA, so when his number came up, he went to War in Europe, April 1918.

    wwi-postcards

    Postcards to my Grandfather from WWI

    When he got to the recruitment office, they asked him straight out if he was willing to fight for America against not only Germans, but Italians (who were allied with Germany). His answer was he was an American. They gave him the choice of sending him back to Italy and denounce his American citizenship. He said no, he would willingly fight for the country that gave him and his family freedom and opportunity. And so in April, 1918, he was shipped over to Europe as a GI in the 52nd Pioneer Infantry. He spent the next several months in a trench trying to stay alive. Without doubt, he was one of the luckiest soldiers in WWI, as the war ended in September, 1918, and he was back home in Philadelphia in the land of freedom a few months later. But he almost didn’t make it…

    Gas. Chemical warfare at its earliest stages. Atomized sulfuric acid, chlorine gas, all kinds of nasty stuff. The Germans were at the end of their rope and were throwing everything they had at the dough-boys. My Grandfather got caught in a cloud of Mustard Gas that left him alive, but deaf in one ear and with only 1-1/3 lung capacity for the rest of his life. But that’s not all kids; he had one of the best stories (although apparently a pretty common one) to come out of WWI…

    WWI Trench Warfare.

    WWI Trench Warfare.

    Trench warfare was probably the dumbest, most inefficient and silliest form of two sides killing each other ever dreamed up. Basically, you dug a long trench, and a couple of hundred yards away the other guys dug a long trench, and for four or five years you just kept killing each other back and forth, without really going anywhere. The first one to run out of warm bodies lost. In between, commanders would attempt ‘raids’ on the enemy…a bunch of poor soldiers running across what was known as ‘no man’s land’, through barbed wire, dead bodies, mud, gas, mortar and machine-gun fire. Whoever lived through it jumped into the other guy’s trench. Their weapon was a bolt-action rifle that was basically good for one shot… then it was all hand-to-hand fighting with bayonets. This always ended badly.

    Occasionally there were night raids. These were the worst of all because you couldn’t see a damned thing; there were no lights allowed, so you never knew who you were fighting. They even invented a special ‘trench style’ cigarette lighter, so the enemy couldn’t see the flame. It was during one of these night raids that the young Pasquale (named ‘Charlie’ at Ellis Island so he would sound more American) who barely spoke English found himself alone in a stretch of trench on the front lines of France. Bombs were exploding, he was out of ammo, and was basically just waiting it out in the dark when he heard footsteps running toward the trench. A second later there was someone with him in the trench, not knowing he was there. He readied his bayonet, and called out to the guy. The response came in English, “Hey Joe, got a cigarette?” Relieved, he lit up a couple of sticks and quietly talked with the soldier for a few hours, until the bombs stopped and they were able to get some shut-eye. At dawn, the blood-red sun cast long, eerie blue shadows over the trench. When my Grandfather awoke, the soldier was gone. In his place was a German infantry pin. He had spent the night talking not with another dough boy, but with a German, a guy who was supposed to be the evil enemy. But it wasn’t like that at all. That German could have easily killed my Grandfather. But he didn’t because that night it was just two scared kids trying to get through hell in one piece.

    (Click to enlarge images)

    c_pinto-enlistment-record

    Charles Pinto's Enlistment Record, 1918

    Charles Pinto's Honorable Discharge, 1918

    Charles Pinto's Honorable Discharge, 1918

     

    10 responses to “In Observance of Veterans Day, A Thank You & A Story” RSS icon

    • Carole Tillisch Liebeskind

      My Grandfather was also in the same unit, same war and I just post the very same paperwork on Facebook today for my Grandfather!!

    • Dear Chris
      I have a very similar family history. Also my grandfather (born in Carinola, Italy and working in the US at that time) joined as a volunteer the 52nd Pioneer infantry (Co. M), and after some training in Wadsworth S.C. was sent to France and back to the USA on the same dates as your grand father. He was then discharged at Camp Dix N.J. on April 26, 1919.

      I received very interesting information from the National Personnel Records Centers in St. Louis, MO

      Regards

      Alessandro Di Cresce
      Milano, Italy

      Ps. Just a remark: Italy and USA were on the same side in WW1, fighting together the central european empires

    • I found your site on when I was researching more information on German Bayonets. Thanks for sharing !

    • My father’s father, Joseph Lombardi, who was born in Italy in 1888 also served in the U.S. Army in the 52nd Pioneer Infantry in WW I in 1918-1919 shortly after coming to New York City. I never met him because he died in 1935 (I was born in 1968), but I have a silver army bracelet with his name and unit information enscribed on it, and I also have a picture of him and another soldier that they sat for at a photographer in their uniforms. I have been searching the Internet to find out more information about this unit. The only thing that I have found is that they were organized in January 1918 and sent to a camp in South Carolina for training. I wonder how large of a unit it was and where it served in Europe. Any information would be appreciated.

      • Hi Mary, sorry but I haven’t anymore info on the subject. If you haven’t had any luck on the net, maybe try contacting the American Legion or maybe the VA.

        Good luck,
        Tiki Chris

      • Mary/Robert
        I have a very similar family history. Also my grandfather (born in Carinola, Italy and working in the US at that time) joined as a volunteer the 52nd Pioneer infantry (Co. M), and after some training in Wadsworth S.C. was sent to France and back to the USA. He was then discharged at Camp Dix N.J. on April 26, 1919.

        I received very interesting information from the National Personnel Records Centers in St. Louis, MO

        Regards

        Alessandro Di Cresce
        Milano, Italy

    • Hi: My father was in the 52nd Pioneer in France. I have been trying to find a history of the unit. Do you have any information? Thanks

    • Wow. I didnt know that…what an amazing story.

    • That is a great story Chris…


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