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Memorial Day brings back memories for area citizen Joe Salonia

Memorial Day is a time set aside to remember those that have fought and lost their lives in the US military. This day holds a lot of meaning in a lot of people’s hearts. Joe Salonia of Chiefland, chose to spend his Memorial Day honoring those who gave their lives defending the United States of America. Salonia and his daughter Brooke, attended the Memorial Day Remembrance at the Memorial Courtyard in Trenton.
Mr. Salonia, a native of Connecticut remembers his action in World War II with great clarity and some sadness. He remembers fallen friends who fought shoulder to shoulder with him on Anzio Beachhead in Italy, 1944. Private Salonia of the 361st Infantry, 91st Division waded ashore at 3 a.m. to relieve the 36th Texas Division, which had been pinned down by the German Army for months. The Anzio Beach battle lasted a total of four months. When the 91st Division came to the 16 remaining members of the Texas Division they found them so battle worn, after months of constant fighting, Private Salonia thought they were all dead. It turned out they were just exhausted!
After they overran the Germans and they began to retreat, Salonia said, Patton gave orders to march to Rome, clearing the Germans as they marched forward. He said they marched so fast, keeping the Germans retreating, they did not have time to gather reinforcements or more artillery. This fast march saved many American lives.
Salonia said, a Private in a Jeep told them he had clocked the walk, and they had walked 44 miles without stopping. He said he still remembers the blisters on his feet and how the medics stopped them after mile 40 to pop their blisters and doctor their feet, before they walked the last five miles. Salonia recalls, they moved so fast they left their supplies behind and acquiring food became important. They were so hungry that he talked some men in a small town into trading bread for cigarettes. Salonia said, “Ah bread never tasted so good.” After the march through Italy he and all those in his division had lost a lot of weight. He weighted only 114 pounds.
He was wounded near a town call Montieri, Italy. He recalls the German tanks on top of a hill and the Lieutenant ordering him to advance, as a scout he had to go first. He was arguing with the Lieutenant, not wanting to enter the field because he knew he would be shot. He was shot by a German machine gun because the Germans thought he was an officer. He was shot in both legs and crawled with his upper body to a slight ditch. He remained pinned down by enemy fire for the next four hours. He said, they came for him with a stretcher and two fellow soldiers carried him to a first aid station. Along the way, when they encountered German troops, they would leave the road and hide until they passed.
Salonia still has the card his mother received back home in Middletown, Connecticut on 20 July 1944, which stated, “I am pleased to inform you that the latest report from the Theater of Operations states that on 30 June your son, Private Joseph Salonia, was making normal improvement.” After he recovered and was released from the hospital, he was sent to France to act as security for General Patton’s Army.
Salonia remembers many stories about his time in Italy and France, some are very sad and some kind of funny.
But, what makes him sad today is seeing the direction our country is going. He is very worried about the counterculture, the new world order and the lack of patriotism he sees in the young people today.
He watched with sad eyes as the wreath was laid at the base of the World War II soldiers monument in the Memorial Courtyard on Monday. He was only 18 years old when he walked ashore at Anzio Beach. Today this American hero is 96 years old, but still remembering and honoring those who gave all during the many wars our country has fought to preserve our freedom.
Joseph “Joe” Salonia, received the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Good Conduct Medal, European-African-Middle-Eastern Campaign Medal with 2 Bronze Service Stars, World War II Victory Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge 1st Award, Honorable Service Lapel Button WWII, and Sharpshooter Badge with Rifle Bar, during his service to our country.
Today only about 300,000 World War II veterans are still alive of the roughly 16 million who served.