The American soldiers that lost their lives in the pursuit of the capture of Sicily and the liberation of Rome were forced to display extreme courage and heroism as they traversed mountainous terrain to meet head-on with enemy forces and their formidable defenses.
Ellen G. Ainsworth
56th Evacuation Hospital
Plot C, Row 11, Grave 22
Ellen G. Ainsworth was born on March 9, 1919, and grew up in Glenwood City, Wisconsin. In 1941, she graduated from Minneapolis Eitel Hospital School of Nursing. She joined the U.S. Army Nurses Corps in March 1942, and served at Camp Chafee, Arkansas in the Station Hospital until the end of 1942, at which point she was assigned to the 56th Evacuation Hospital stationed at Fort Sam in Houston Texas. The hospital was sent to Bizerte, Tunisia followed by Anzio, Italy several weeks later.
On February 10 1944, the 56th Evacuation Hospital was hit by enemy artillery. Ainsworth responded courageously. Her award citation reads, “Second Lieutenant Ainsworth was on duty in a hospital wards, while the area was being subjected to heavy enemy artillery shelling. One shell dropped within a few feet of the ward, its fragments piercing the tent in numerous places. Despite the extreme danger, she calmly directed the placing of surgical patients on the ground to lessen the danger of further injury. By her disregard for her own safety and her calm assurance, she instilled confidence in her assistants and her patients, thereby preventing serious panic and injury.”
Ainsworth was injured in another artillery strike on 12 February, and died six days later. She was 24 years old. A conference room at the Pentagon has been dedicated to her, in addition to a health clinic in Fort Drum, New York and the American Legion Post in Glenwood City, Wisconsin.
Awards: Silver Star, Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster
Ellen G. Ainsworth is buried in Sicily-Rome American Cemetery Plot C, Row 11, Grave 22.
15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division
Plot C, Row 12, Grave 13
Sgt. Sylvester Antolak was born in Belmont County, Ohio on September 10, 1916. He was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously for his heroic actions on the day of his death, May 24, 1944. Antolak was directly responsible for eliminating 20 Germans, capturing an enemy machinegun, and clearing a path for his company to advance near Cisterna di Littoria, Italy.
Antolak proved his bravery and courage on the day of his death by putting the needs of his troops before himself. Under a cover of machinegun fire, he charged 200 yards over open terrain to destroy an enemy machinegun nest. He refused medical attention despite his wounds. Antolak was 30 yards ahead of his squad. He rushed directly into machinegun fire, which shattered his right arm. With his submachine gun wedged under his uninjured arm, Antolak opened fired at a close range, killing two Germans and forcing the remaining 10 to surrender. He then reorganized his troops and went on to storm the next strong point. He was almost there when he was killed by enemy fire. His squad, inspired by his courage, went on to overwhelm the enemy troops.
Awards: Medal of Honor, Purple Heart
Sylvester Antolak is buried in Sicily-Rome American Cemetery Plot C, Row 12, Grave 13.
Henry T. Waskow
143rd Infantry Regiment, 36th Infantry Division
Plot G, Row 6, Grave 33
Henry Thomas Waskow was born in DeWitt County, Texas. His parents were cotton farmers. Captain Waskow attended Temple Junior College on a scholarship, making the commute to school by foot. During college he joined the Texas Army National Guard. Upon graduating from Temple Junior College, he was offered a teaching position, but declined in order to attend Trinity University in Waxahachie, Texas, completing his bachelor’s degree on June 5, 1939. He was offered a teaching position at Belton High School but declined, realizing that he might soon be called to active duty.
Sure enough, the 36th Infantry Division was activated when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt put the National Guard under federal control. Waskow was sent to training at Camp Bowie in January 1941.
Waskow saw combat for the first time in the struggle to enlarge the Salerno beachhead at the Chiunzi Pass. By that time, he had already been promoted to Captain. Waskow and his men fought their way past Naples, marching on to Monte Sammucro. The Battle of San Pietro was one of the toughest battles in the Italian campaign. The unit was reduced to the size of a platoon. Captain Waskow was en route to launch an attack on Hill 730 on the evening of December 12, when he was killed by shrapnel to the chest
Riley Tidwell, Captain Waskow’s assistant throughout the war, left his body while he informed Captain Waskow’s superiors of his death. On the way, he encountered Ernie Pyle, the famed American journalist who was there three days later, when Captain Waskow’s body was finally recovered and unloaded from the back of a mule, to the emotional goodbyes of his men. Pyle was inspired to write his now famous dispatch on Captain Waskow.
Pyle’s column about Captain Waskow had a great impact. Raymond Gram Swing and Arthur Godfrey read the entire column on the radio. It was reprinted in Time magazine. It was additionally used for a war bond drive. Beyond that, it informed the film The Battle of San Pietroby John Huston, and the character of Captain Bill Walker in The Story of GI Joe.
Awards: Legion of Merit, Purple Heart
Henry T. Waskow is buried in Sicily-Rome American Cemetery Plot G, Row 6, Grave 33.
Joseph J. Drost
30th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division
Plot I, Row 10, Grave 7
Pvt. Joseph J. Drost was born on March 10, 1915 in Chicago, Illinois, and attended St. Francis de Sales, Bowen and Tilden High Schools. He worked for the Wisconsin Steel Works beginning in 1933. He had four brothers and four sisters. Two of his brothers joined the army with him in 1942.
He fought in North Africa, Sicily and the Italian Campaigns, suffering a wound in November 1943 for which he was decorated with the Purple Heart. In March 1944 he died during the drive to consolidate the Anzio-Nettuno area, one day after his 29th birthday.
Awards: Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster
Joseph J. Drost is buried in Sicily-Rome American Cemetery Plot I, Row 10, Grave 7.
Sherald Perry Brady
4th Ranger Battalion
Plot I, Row 4, Grave 13
Sherald Perry Brady was born on November 7 1919 to Franklin and Leota Brady. He was enlisted on October 22 1941 and assigned to the 4th Ranger Battalion. Brady was killed in action in Sicily on July 10 1943.
“Peck” was a bit of a celebrity in town for his military service. Stories about Peck have been swapped for decades. One of these stories involves a woman that ended up marrying Peck’s brother. She was dating Peck while he was in the service. He was home on leave, and they were spending time together. He accidentally kicked off her shoe and a dime flew out. He picked up the dime and put it in his pocket. He said he’d get it back to her after the war.
The Brady family was made up of ten children: four boys and six girls. They grew up in French Creek, Upshur County, West Virginia. Peck getting enlisted was a “normal condition of the time,” as described by his younger sister, Lila. “Everybody had to sign up.” When Peck was in high school, he worked at a gas station, and that’s where he was working when he was drafted.
Growing up, he liked to fish and hunt, and played on the high school football team. His parents worked a farm as tenant farmers. They lost ownership to the farm during the depression. After Peck’s death, they were able to gain ownership of the farm again.
Sherald Perry Brady is buried in Sicily-Rome American Cemetery Plot I, Row 4, Grave 13.
Allen G. Collins
United States Merchant Marine
Plot J, Row 9, Grave 53
Allen G. Collins was Third Mate on the SS John Bascom. It was moored close to an ammunition-laden vessel in the harbor of Bari, Italy, during an air raid that damaged many ships. John Bascombecame a “raging inferno” according to Admiral Emory Scott Land.
Collins was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal because of his heroic activity that day on the John Bascom. Although the explosion of a bomb seriously wounded him, he managed to assist other men into the only remaining lifeboat. He helped to lower the boat and even dragged three injured men from the flaming oil that was coating the waters of the harbor. He died several days later in the hospital, but his courage is remembered.
Awards: Distinguished Service Medal
Allen G. Collins is buried in Sicily-Rome American Cemetery Plot J, Row 9, Grave 53.
100th Fighter Squadron, 332nd Fighter Group
Plot J, Row 9, Grave 68
Lt. Alphonso Simmons was deployed to Italy with the 100th Fighter Squadron in December 1943, two months after his graduation from flight school. His squadron flew its first combat mission on February 5, 1944.
On August 9, 1944, Simmons was forced to parachute from his damaged P-51 Mustang. He survived the fall, landing near Krupa, Yugoslavia. Upon landing, he joined a band of the Yugoslav Partisans, a Communist resistance group. Miraculously, Lt. Simmons returned to the 100th Fighter Squadron and continued flying.
On March 2, 1945 Simmons and seven other pilots were instructed to strafe railroads in Austria. Upon arrival, the group saw two airplanes parked on the field, and decided to pursue the destruction of the enemy aircraft. Lt. Simmons died when his plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire. He was awarded an Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters and a Purple Heart.
Awards: Air Medal with 4 Oak Leaf Clusters, Purple Heart
Alphonso Simmons is buried in Sicily-Rome American Cemetery Plot J, Row 9, Grave 68.