When I was doing research for A Thread of Grace, I interviewed a number of people in the Cleveland area simply because I heard an Italian accent and saw a person who was clearly born before 1935. I’d ask, “Where in Italy were you born?” and “When did you come over to America?” If someone seemed willing to talk, I’d finally get around to, “Do you have memories of the war in Italy?”
Many of the most compelling episodes in Thread came directly from Ohioans who had emigrated from Italy after the war and were willing to share those memories with me. While traveling in Italy, I also interviewed veterans of the armed anti-fascist resistance but in seven years of research and writing, it never occurred to me that there might be American soldiers, living nearby, who had equally dramatic experiences during the Italian partisan war (1943-1945).
Then, on the 4th of July, 2011, the Cleveland Plain Dealer ran an article about Larry DeMaria.
Mr. DeMaria lives in Mayfield Heights, Ohio. He is 95 now, but in 1943 he was a young O.S.S. operative who parachuted into Italy to locate and extract Allied prisoners of war who’d escaped into the Italian countryside from POW camps that the Italians left unguarded after Italy made a separate peace with the Allies.
Brian Albrecht’s article about Mr. DeMaria begins with a stunning moment of remembered brutality and ends with an “only in America” laugh. Please take time to read it.