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Dominic Pagano,1st nfantry Div, 1945


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I will not say my grandfather was a great Audi Murphy like war hero who dropped into Normandy guns blazing. My Grandfather, Dominic Pagano was a fruit salesmen from Portland Oregon, who dropped out of his 8th grade class to help earn money for his family during the depression. In 1944, he was drafted into the US Army. He left a baby boy, just born in 1943 and his wife to go fight. He was a late war replacement, and was quickly thrown into the Ardennes to help force back Hitler's last great venture during the second world war. He never told his children any of his war stories, except the funny ones like when he and a few friends chased chickens around a barn for their platoon's supper. He was severely injured though, and this is the story of his he earned his purple heart.


Dom Pagano was in a company led by a crazy captain. One of those types who was only looking for a promotion, and was eager to get out of the front lines. This captain had a fascination with the Germans. He was famous for talking to prisoners, and mercilessly robbing their corpses. When the captain would get anxious for more Nazi loot, he would pick an enlisted man and venture out into the snowy woods to pick the dead clean of watches, knives, and anything of interest. Almost every man got a chance to accompany the crazy captain into the woods. Eventually the captain made his way to Dom's section. "Pagano, your up." And My grandfather picked up his Garand to escort the Captain. They got well out away from the Company and found several bodies. The Captain dubiously searched the frozen cadavers. My Grandfather, an Italian Catholic and a good man, watched uneasily, half guarding his officer, and half interested in the strange scene. "Here you go..." The officer said, handing my Grandfather a few pins bearing the Swastika. A Luger was also handed to my Grandfather. Dom pocketed the trinkets, and the pair began their journey back to the lines. The captain led them on a different route back, and my grandfather followed. Abruptly, a massive explosion disintegrated the Captain, leaving only portions of the captain and throwing Dom to the ground. Completely winded, Dom, gasped as earth, smoke, and pieces of his captain rained about him. As quickly as it had happened, the noise was over, and there was only the ringing of my Grandfather's ears. He lay for a second, realizing what had just happened. A mine! He most likely cursed the crazy captain for endangering his life. Dom tried to rise, but his legs were not working. He tried again, gripping his Garand like a cane to lever himself up. Still to no avail. Then the pain began. As the shock wore away, the pain filled him like liquid metal poured all along his side and back. The mine that disintegrated a man before his eyes, had filled Dom with shrapnel, and all my grandfather could do was lay there, helpless, bleeding, and growing colder.

Back at the lines, everyone was growing impatient. The captain never took this long on his excursions. Several search parties were launched into the general direction of where the pair had disappeared. Eventually the search was called off, and the captain and Privet Pagano were declared MIA. My Grandfather's best friend, -who's name has been lost and forgotten, but his deed will live on forever- put together one last search party. Comprised of Dom's friends- there were many, my Grandfather was one of the funniest, kindest men to grace the earth and was always wealthy in friends- they led off into the night, and into the cold forest. They quietly filed out, searching for Dom. The occasional soft call was issued, but not too loudly. The possibility of running into Germans was high. They did not find him, but they kept moving. They retained their hope.

Meanwhile my grandfather was still laying by the horrible crater that the captain had disappeared into. He lay, slowly losing consciousnesses and beginning to succumb to his wounds and the hard cold winter. No doubt he prayed to god for help. Doubtless he thought of his wife, Violet and his baby son, Donald. Then he heard it. A soft crunching in the dead silence of the winter forest. It may have been snow falling from an over-laden branch. There it was again! Crunch, Crunch... the steps grew closer. It may be Krauts... My grandfather pulled his garand in as best he could. Remembering the Lugar in his pocket he pulled it out. He tried to cock it, but he could his tired, delirious mind could not comprehend the intricate toggle of the weapon. All he could do is helplessly wait for the mystery phantom to show itself. Crunch, Crunch.... "Dom?"

It was the search party. They had stumbled across the forlorn field by accident as they tried to return to the lines. "DOM!" The men quickly rushed to Doms side. My grandfather tried to warn them. All he could do is mutter, "Mines... Mines.."

"All right you guys clear off, this is a mine field. Jesus... Here, lift him.. Thats it.. There you go."

They had found him. The Captain was not only crazy, but incompetent with compass and map. He had led my grandfather hundreds of yards off course into an uncleared area. But My grandfather was safe in the hand of his friends. His war was over, and he never saw his best friends again, the men who saved his life. Dominic Pagano returned home to Violet, and my uncle Don, and drove his fruit truck.


-To those men who snuck out against orders on a wild search for their beloved friend, risking life and limb to save my Grandfather's life, I don't know your names, but I pledge to forever remember you and what you did for my family. - Andrew Wheeler

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