Heroes: the Army


"...We were later informed that he did in fact wish to surrender his regiment -- but -- with two unacceptable conditions. The first was that his troops join with the U.S. and British forces. The second was that his command would then fight the Russians. In his opinion, the Russians were the real enemy..."


image of american flag

 Salvatore J. Conigliaro, Jr.

  • Branch of Service: Army
  • Unit: Co. G., 406th Regiment,
    102nd Infantry Division
  • Dates: 1942 - 1945
  • Location: European Theater
  • Rank: S/Sgt., Bronze Star Medal
  • Birth Year: 1923
  • Entered Service: Piermont, NY



IMAGE of 102nd Infantry Division

IMAGE of WWII medal

IMAGE of WWII medal



IMAGE of WWII medal

IMAGE of WWII medal

IMAGE of WWII medal

IMAGE of WWII medal

IMAGE of WWII medal



Col. B. F. Hurless presenting the BRONZE STAR to S/Sgt. Salvatore J. Conigliaro, Jr.


My War Story of Sgt. "Lucky" Sal Conigliaro, contd.


THE WAR STORY of Sgt. "Lucky" Sal Conigliaro cont.


     Near the end of the war the Germans unleashed a new weapon on us. It was a jet fighter plane. We were bombed and strafed a few times but it was short lived. The reason was that their industrial complex had been virtually wiped out by our incessant bombing. In addition, their supply of oil was cut off.

     In any event, there was no rest for the weary. The high-command was anxious to get this mess over with and we pressed on. We moved through and around any number of German towns which I cannot pronounce and we encountered varying degrees of resistance. We were really moving fast and my feet bore witness to that. By April 12th we were in Hannover, which represented some 36 miles in three days. Refugees were crowding the roads and slowed the military traffic and consequently our supplies.

     During one of the drives we had surrounded a German Regiment. We sighted a German jeep under a white flag bouncing in our direction. All firing ceased from both sides. Why was he coming? As he came closer it became obvious that the driver was delivering a high ranking officer with a message. They stopped when signaled. We asked if his purpose was to surrender. He insisted, in English, that he wished to talk to the highest Commanding Officer of this unit and only to him. Then and then alone would he state his purpose.

     We radioed back to headquarters and advised them of the situation. Headquarters was sending up a Jeep which would escort him blindfolded to our battalion command post. The German driver would wait for his return. We did as instructed and sent him on his way to Battalion. Forty minutes later he was delivered back to his point of entry, looking very upset. He got in his jeep and headed back to his line.

     We were later informed that he did in fact wish to surrender his regiment -- but -- with two unacceptable conditions. The first was that his troops join with the U.S. and British forces. The second was that his command would then fight the Russians. In his opinion, the Russians were the real enemy.

     In a few minutes the shooting started all over again. Within a few hours we overran their position and took prisoners.



     It is difficult after more than 50 years to remember the exact order of many of my experiences. I assure the reader that whatever I write happened.

     We were in foxholes. The enemy is in front of us and always curious as to what we are doing. We are the same way and as a result we send out patrols to spy on each other or to take a prisoner or two. The night is dark and black as a witch's robe. Suddenly in front of you -- somewhere -- you hear some movement. Your first conclusion is that it is a German patrol. We want to see what is going on so we send up a flare to light up the neighborhood. You scan the area in front of you and see the source of the noise. C O W S! There they are sniffing around for some vegetation. You advise the line of the problem and set up a plan. You fire a series of flares and sadly shoot the cows -- or pigs. We could not take a chance and assume that the noise was from the animals all the time. It could just as easily be a German patrol.

     Speaking of beef. We had a great soldier whose name was Ambert McCurtain. He was a Chawktaw Indian. He stood six feet two or three and at about 200 pounds. We took a town and Mac found a butcher shop. We were battling through the town and up a small hill. Mac grabbed a small side of beef, strapped it to his back and headed up the hill. Come hell or high water he was going to have his steak. A sight to behold.

     On the other hand we had a soldier who was much less likely to be hit by enemy fire. He was Randy Palermo, affectionately called "Shorty." He was about 4' 5" tall and I believe not too far below the minimum height requirement. How he got into the service was a mystery to us all. "Shorty" was in the best squad of the Division - mine. He was a good soldier, had a good sense of humor, and in spite of his height he was a giant of a man.

     About this time I got a replacement transfer. He was a regular army career soldier who had been busted from Staff Sergeant as a result of insubordination. He came to my squad angry, demoted and he wasn't going to take orders from some wet behind-the-ears kid like me. I told him I needed his help and would do everything in my power to get his stripes back. It wasn't until we went through the next battle that mutual respect for each other began to grow. Too many lives depend on being able to depend on the guy next to you. I had a great group of men.

     The push was relentless. There were British forces to the north of us and U.S. forces to our right and our next objective was the Elbe River.

     Our supply lines were lengthening due to the rapid advance. All resources were assembled and we were always well supplied. There was one major exception; the food was still terrible.

     In a town called Stendal we captured a German jet aircraft and a ME 109 fighter plane.

     Prisoners and civilian refugees became an increasing problem. Resistance was minimal but both sides were still firing real bullets and people were still dying and getting wounded. There was no reason for complacency. There was still much to be done.

     At a town called Gardelegen we came across one of the many German atrocities. In our mopping up operation some of our troops came across a concrete hay storage building about the size of a football field and about 20 feet tall. We found several bodies outside the building in prisoner uniforms and riddled with machine gun bullets. Upon opening the great wooden door there was the nauseating stench of burned flesh. We were informed by several civilian witnesses that these prisoners were marched into the barn from some distant place.

     Prior to letting the prisoners into the barn they saw the Germans bringing large containers of gasoline into the area and emptying them on the hay inside. A series of machine gunners were placed into position, one on each side of the barn to prevent escape and then the prisoners were forced into the gas ridden barn. An S/S officer struck a match, igniting the hay which resulted in the horror that we found. We were told of the painful screams, how the few who managed to claw their was under the wall and out were shot to death. There was no escape; they burned to death or were shot to death. One thousand and sixteen bodies were found in positions which obviated their pain and efforts to escape, somehow.

     All of the victims were given a military burial and the citizens of Gardelegen were charged to maintain the cemetery forever as a memorial to the prisoners. It is maintained to this day.

     The last 110 miles to the Elbe River were traversed in three days. Sounds unbelievable doesn't it? We rode trucks and tanks and anything on wheels or tracks. We walked until our feet were bleeding.

     In this drive we overran a Prisoner of War compound in which there were Italian prisoners who were being held by the Germans. They asked, in Italian, if it was true that President Roosevelt was dead. With my limited ability to speak Italian, I shouted to them that it was German propaganda and that our President was fine. That evening we were informed that it was in fact true and our new President was Harry S. Truman. The prisoners knew about his death before we did. Oh well!

     We trudged on until we reached the west bank of the Elbe River. Across the river from our position was a small town called Sandau. We settled in and were told that our forward progress would end here at the Elbe. We were to wait for the Russians to reach the east bank. (What a mistake that was!) We could have marched into Berlin because the Germans did not want the Russians in Berlin, nor did they wish to surrender to them. As it turned out apparently a deal of some sort was cut by the Allies to permit the Russians to take Berlin.

     Knowing that we were to be at this location for a while our kitchen moved up and we finally got some hot food. Not good, but hot.

     One of our spotter planes thought he spotted the Russians outside of Havelberg, which was about two or three miles northeast of Sandau across the river from us. Havelberg and Sandau were connected by a tree-lined road which was typical of Germany's two lane roads. The significance of this will be explained shortly.

     The 102nd now occupied 21 miles of river front on the Elbe. It was 100 yards wide maximum. At our location it was 70 to 80 yards wide.

     There were dikes on both sides of the river banks and we were told to dig in. These foxholes would be our home 'til the end of the war, as it turned out.

     Our Company Commander, Captain Bennett, put out a request for volunteers for a patrol across the Elbe. Its purpose was to make contact with the Russians who were said to have been seen west of Havelberg. I suspected that this would be the last patrol for our company and I headed to Headquarters to join. Lieut. Marshall Moffitt, our platoon leader, was to be in charge of the patrol and I was second in command. When my squad received word that I had volunteered they all went to the C. O. and offered to join Sgt. Lucky on this patrol. I had the best damn squad in the 102nd. Capt. Bennett picked Ray Howell, Pandy Palermo, Linwood McDorman and George Rhodes from the volunteers.

     It was to be a daylight patrol across the Elbe in rubber boats. The purpose was to make contact with the Russians.

     We knew that the Germans were behind the dikes on the East bank. We also knew that we were sitting ducks once we were in the river. Intelligence reports and other patrols south of our position were experiencing minimal resistance. Most of the patrols were under the cover of darkness, but not ours. What a comforting feeling. We had a radioman, a cameraman, two correspondents and a translator. A Piper aircraft was to direct us to the Russians.

     At the appointed time the following morning we all assembled behind the dike and received instructions. I was not thrilled that this was a daylight patrol but I was accompanied by the best men from my squad. We wished each other luck and headed for the river which was about 30 yards from the dike as we carried the boats and supplies.

     My feeling was that if we made it into the boats with no shots fired the odds would be in our favor to make it across. Hearts were pounding as we began to paddle our way across. We reached the half way point and I started to feel better, but it was far from over. I instructed the men not to fire unless fired upon. Tension was high. We reached the east bank, secured the boats while noticing that German curiosity prevailed as heads were appearing above the dike to observe our movement. As we headed closer to their line two arms with rifle overhead as if to be surrendering appeared, then two, three and then it appeared as if the entire defensive unit was about to surrender to us. And they did. What a relief!

     Our translator told them to go to the river, stack their weapons and sit down. We radioed for engineers to bring motorized boats to ferry the prisoners across. We continued on our mission feeling a hell of a lot better with the initial phase behind us.

     One of the German soldiers approached me and asked, in English, if he could return to Sandau and get his wounded brother as he wanted to get him to the Americans before the Russians came. He surrendered his weapon and there were tears in his eyes. I told him to put a white cloth around his arm and to get his brother to the riverfront as quickly as possible.

     Once through Sandau our patrol headed toward Havelberg and it was straight as an arrow. After about 15 minutes of walking there suddenly appeared in the distance a truck headed in our direction. We immediately deployed on both sides of the road. When the truck was 30 or so yards away we all rose up and pointed our weapons toward the truck. It screamed to a halt; we surrounded the truck and ordered everyone out with their hands up. As the occupants of the back of the truck unloaded we noticed that they were all wearing the S/S Insignia on their collar. These were supposed to be the German elite officers and Nazi fanatics. There were 12 of them. We later found out they were attending a meeting at Havelberg. I shudder to think of what might have happened if they were on line when we crossed the river. Talk about luck!

     Once the prisoners were taken from the truck Lieut. Moffitt elected to have the patrol return to base. These prisoners required our personal attention. Upon return we found the river front to be a beehive of activity. The engineers were in the process of shuttling some 160 prisoners. A makeshift compound was assembled to contain them. When we returned I walked over to the area and I spotted a German soldier with a white armband fussing over a slightly wounded soldier. I walked over to them and he recognized me. He introduced me to his brother and thanked me for my help. It felt good.

     All of us were awarded the Bronze Star Medal. A total of 165 prisoners were taken without firing a shot. Thank God. Other patrols were not so fortunate down the line. There were still some diehard Nazis out there.

     On May 8,1946 the German surrender was official. It was over. Thank God!

     Celebrations were in order and celebrate we did, as did the Russians. It was decided that some American troops would be selected from each company and those chosen were to join the Ruskies in ajoint Victory party. I had the good fortune to be one of those chosen to attend this gala to be thrown by the Reds.

     We donned our dress uniforms and were on our way. Once again I found myself in a rubber boat crossing the Elbe, only this time it had a motor on it and there was no fear of being shot. It was a sight to behold. We were greeted by some of the Russian GIs, each of whom had a different uniform. We entered this huge hall which was set up banquet style. There was a head table forthe top officers and the troops sat at the tables provided.

     There was what appeared to be a glass of water with each place setting. Then it began. A Russian officer rose and gave a toast holding the 'glass of water.'His toast was translated into English and everyone began drinking the 'water.'

     W-E-L-L I gotta tell you, it was definitely not water. It was pure and strong, undiluted Russian Vodka. W O W!!! As I placed the glass to my lips I felt as though a flame thrower had hit my mouth. There was just no way that I could get this fluid into my system and survive. These were 8 ounce glasses and the officers went through a series of four or five toasts. With each toast they would down at least a half of a glass of the firewater. They just kept filling them up and drinking them down and were able to remain standing. Remarkable!!

     We had some food of questionable quality and taste and then just mingled and took pictures of each other. Before, during and after the party the Russians were busy with the business of looting. They loaded everything and anything they could lay their hands on onto trucks, tanks, halftracks, wagons, horse-drawn carts and on their backs. Not a stone was left unturned. It looked like a migration of men, women and materials of all sorts in the process of evacuation. A sight to behold.

     There was dancing in the streets, American and Russian bands, with an overall appearance of mass confusion.

     More and more now that the war was over in Europe, my thoughts drifted to the day I would leave for home, but as it turned out that wasn't to happen for another seven months. Uncle Sam had other plans for us. I did not know of his plans and I wanted to see my folks, my brothers, my home town, but most of all I wanted to place my arms around Nancy. I wanted to hold in my arms what I could only dream of.

     Now the rumors started to fly that the 102nd was to be reassigned to the Pacific theatre of operation. It was far from over in the Pacific. We were kind of left hanging and it was anybody's guess as to what was going to happen. In the meantime there was some measure of activity in that we were assigned occupation duty.

     I was placed in charge of an outpost with three other men, Jim Chance, Linwood McDorman and Charles Simpson. Our outpost was a checkpoint between the Russian zone and the American zone. There were many such locations. Our function was to check papers of people coming and going and to maintain a walking patrol between our location and the outpost to our west. Our outposts were about a mile apart. Our route was through knee high grass with a patrol going our every hour. Occasionally the patrol would spot a deer and would shoot them. Not for the sport alone, but for fresh meat for the citizenry of the little town adjoining our outpost. We would bring the deer to the Burgermeister (Mayor) of the town and he would see to it that the people would get their share. Fortunately deer were plentiful and our efforts were greatly appreciated.

     From time to time young women would be passing through our checkpoint and some of them would be willing to do anything for a place to stay and for some food. We'd give them food but we could not possibly find quarters for them. One of the men got the Mayor's permission to occupy a hotel room in the little town where he kept a mistress until it became time for him to rotate back to the company and she went on her way.

     Then, at the end of the summer I had the good fortune to get a furlough. I spent a week in the south of France, in Nice, on the Riviera. What a beautiful place. The U. S. O. club was great and I enjoyed the beach and the sights. The week went altogether too fast. In the going and coming we flew over the Alps in a C-47. The Alps were awesome and a sight to behold.

     The vacation was over and it was time to get back to duty. I continued with the occupation duty at the outpost and found that we had acquired the services of a ten or eleven year old blond German lad who liked to hang around us and help with the chores. When he went home in the evening we'd make certain that he had some of our excess rations to take home.

     Rumors were still flying with the possibility of our redeployment to the Pacific. There seemed to be such confusion. Then President Harry S. Truman made the decision to drop the two big ones on Japan and that event brought the war in the Pacific to a screeching halt.

     Soon thereafter those of us who had enough points were shipped to LeHarve, France for redeployment -- YES -- only this time redeployment meant we were going home. HOME!!! What a beautiful word.

     I was scheduled to leave on board the U. S. S. Argentine which was a civilian luxury liner converted to a troop carrier. My departure date was Christmas day 1945. It was very difficult saying good-bye to some of my wartime buddies and I found it difficult to hold back the tears. The crossing took six days on very rough North Atlantic seas. I was seasick most of the trip. Now I knew why I didn't join the Navy.

     I was asleep in my cot on the 6th day when I was awakened with the sound of boat whistles and sirens. At first I thought there was some sort of emergency as I sat up in my cot and peered out the porthole beside me. It happened as if it were in a movie. As I looked out to see what the commotion was, the very first thing that I saw was the Statue of Liberty in all her majestic beauty and a greater understanding of its significance. We were really home and the tears of joy flowed freely with all of us on board.

     There were no crowds to greet the returning heroes; after all the war in Europe had been over for almost eight months. The first ones home received all the fanfare.

     The debarkation took forever. There were over 2,000 people on board the Argentina. As I waited the call to get off the ship my mind was bouncing from one vision to another. I thought of all the young men who weren't coming home as I did. I felt lucky and yet I felt guilty. Why did I make it back and not them? There must be a reason, but it escapes me for the moment. This dichotomy of the mental process wears heavily upon me at times. Names and faces of people I was close to spin through my mind. Sgt. Butchko, [George T.], Sgt. Satterfield, [John T.], Sgt. Clary, {Kenneth R.], Sgt. Graves, [Floyd F.], Pvt. John Groerich, Pvt. Mark Turnbull, Pvt. Upshaw, [Kenneth C.], Pvt. Murphy, [Francis J.] Pvt. Gledhill, [Alfred E.], Pvt. Henry White and many more too numerous to mention and last but not least Tech Sgt. Harold Klaussmeyer who was my best buddy and who died in 1989 in Baltimore, MD. These and many others were vibrant young men who paid the ultimate price for their country but are still alive in my memory.

     The relationship between men who have been in combat together is like no other in life. There is a camaraderie, a mutual dependency and respect and yes, a kind of love which develops for each other. It exists no where else.

     After getting off the ship they loaded us up and hauled us to Fort Dix, NJ. Once there we all in turn were to savor the mouth watering flavor of a huge T-bone steak dinner with the compliments of the U.S. Army. This was great.

     They told us that we would be at Dix for a week, maybe two depending on how quickly they could prepare the papers for discharge.

     Needless to say most of us waited our turn for a phone to call home. Lines were 30 to 40 deep, so we waited and waited and waited. Most of us were making it a collect call. After a wait of an hour and a half I made it to the phone and called Mom and Dad and my brother Michael and we all cried our tears of joy at this phone reunion. I also made it a point to have them call Nancy and to let her know I was at Dix and would be home in a couple of days.

     As it turned out, Nancy knew the ship that I was on, when it arrived and the fact that I would be sent to Fort Dix. She had a friend whose husband worked for a major New York newspaper which had and posted all this information. I guess it is nice to know people in high place.

     On January 5th I was bored to death. I had been processed and they told me it would be another four or five days before I would be discharged. As a result I decided to go AWOL the next day. It was relatively easy to get off the base. I hitched a ride to the George Washington Bridge.

     It was here that a most unusual and happy event took place. There was a bus which goes tight through my home town, Piermont, which is located about 40 miles north of New York City on the west bank of the Hudson River. It was a great place to have grown up. I got on the bus on the south side of the west end of the bridge. I paid my fare and settled in for the ride home. The bus had one more stop on the north side of the bridge. I saw a line of some dozen or more people waiting for the bus. I was somewhat annoyed at the delay. As I scornfully scanned the people boarding my heart seemed to stop. I blinked my eyes and again looked at the people boarding. There in the middle of the line, in living color, was my brother Vincent. How wonderful! another Hollywood movie. But this was real; it was my brother. How absolutely wonderful!!! If we had tried to plan it this way it could not have happened better.

     There is no way to describe my feelings. My heart was pounding. He spotted me and was equally shocked. We hugged and kissed and cried tears of joy as we sat beside each other in total disbelief of what had happened.

     As it turned out it was a blessing that Vince was on the bus. My Dad had a tailor shop on the ground floor and there were two more stories above which were the living quarters. Mom was usually upstairs while Dad was working and Vince though it advisable to get Mom downstairs before I made my presence known. Mom was a heavy woman and we didn't want her to fall in the excitement.

     I held back until I received a signal from Vince and then like a deer I ran for the front door. Well -- once again the inexplicable rush of happiness permeated every cell of my body when our eyes met and we embraced and kissed.

     It just so happened that January 6th, the day I arrived home, was also my kid brother's birthday. Mike was 16 on that day and was always a happy child, but now he was growing up. He said it was a great birthday present to have me home again.

     We were three brothers and we were very close.

     Once the tears of joy were wiped away I made a phone call to my love, Nancy. Oh what joy!!! She said that she was coming to Piermont right now and there was nothing that would stop her. It took two and a half hours of eternity for her to arrive. When she got there and got off the bus and I saw her standing there my legs were paralyzed. They were unlocked when she gave me a big smile and I raced to her, and she toward me. We met, embraced, kissed and kissed and hugged as we walked slowly toward Dad's store, both at a loss for words.

     I was home; I was really home. I wished that I didn't have to go back to camp, but I had to. No need to ruin a good military record beyond one day AWOL.

     The next morning, after hours of conversation, I headed back to Fort Dix to await my discharge. I was able to get back to my base as easily as I got out. Two days later I packed my gear and headed for home -- discharged -- IT WAS OVER!!! The next thing to do was to put my life in order and put the war behind me. It sounds very easy to say but in actuality it took years.

     I felt good about myself and my small contribution to stopping the madman, Adolf Hitler and his henchmen. My greatest regret is that so many had to die, civilian and military. Anyone who was in combat can tell you of their fear, but you had to be there. There wasn't a day that the fear was not there. You just had to keep on keeping on.

     The second World War was the second war fought to "End all wars." History has proven otherwise, unfortunately. General Omar Bradley of the WWII era put it very succinctly, "WE HAVE BECOME MASTERS OF THE ATOMIC AGE, BUT WE HAVE YET TO UNDERSTAND THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT."

     He has given us His peace. Why do we find it so elusive? MAYBE WE HAVE TO TRY HARDER!!!


     Thanks for going through this with me.

     Sal Conigliaro Finished May 31, 1996



----- Sal "Lucky" Conigliaro



Additional stories of Mr. Conigliaro's experiences with Second Platoon of G Company, 406th Regiment (2nd Battalion) 102nd Ozark Division can be viewed by clicking on the links below...

A Personal War Story

My War Story

My War Story of Sgt. "Lucky" Sal Conigliaro (cont'd)

A War Story: Aachen * Immendorf * Apweiller * Gereonsweiler * Linnich

A War Story: Hannover * Stendal * Gardelegen * Sandau * Havelberg

My Initiation Into the Military



(Editor's note: Attempts were made throughout the text of the following story to place full names to the men listed in the story. For the most part, this is an educated guess and some names may very well be mistaken in their identy. The names were all taken from the division history book: With The 102d Infantry Division Through Germany, edited by Major Allen H. Mick. Using the text as a guide, associations with specific units were the basis for the name identifications. We are not attempting in any to rewrite the story. Any corrections are gladly welcomed.)

Interested in some background information?
Check out the related links below...

United States Army, 102nd Infantry Division

102 Infantry Division

History of the 102nd Infantry Division

Attack on Linnich, Flossdorf, Rurdorf - 29 Nov -- 4 Dec 1944

Gardelegen War Crime

image of NEWGardelegen: April 13, 1945:
Massacre at the Isenschnibbe Barn

American Battle Monuments Commission: WWII Honor Roll

National World War II Memorial


The above story, "My War Story", by Salvatore J. Conigliaro, Jr., Co.G, 406th Regiment, was originally published in the 102d Division "Ozark Notes", Vol. 51, No. 3, April/June 1999, pp. 4-10.

The story is re-printed here on World War II Stories -- In Their Own Words with the kind permission of the 102d Infantry Division Association, Ms. Hope Emerich, Historian. Our sincerest THANKS for the 102d Infantry Division Association allowing us to share some of their stories.

We would also like to extend our sincere THANKS to Mr. Edward L. Souder, former historian of Co. F., 405th Regiment. His collection of stories of the "Kitchen Histories Project" series entitled, Those Damn Doggies in F, were responsible for bringing the stories of the men of the 102nd Division to the forefront.


Original Story submitted on 28 March 2004.
Story added to website on 2 April 2004.


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