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WWI CRACOTAN MEN IN FRANCE-LIFE CHANGING EVENTS

As we learn of the Cracotan men who fought in WWI we know the experience was life changing for all of them.  The lives of Peter Benedetto and Nicola Francavilla were cut short; Frank Muzio, and Antonio Spera carried their experience and injuries with them.  The remaining three men we are aware of that served in the US Army, Nicola Camperlengo, Nicola Roccanova, and Edmond Salomone also had life changing experiences.

Nicola Camperlengo

             Nick Camperlengo  was born on 1894 in Manhattan, New York to Vitantonio and Teodora LoRubio.  He was living at 50 Roosevelt St. and working as a shipping clerk for Michele Stramiello at 281 Front St. when he was inducted on April 27, 1918 .  He was reacted to He was assigned to the Medical Evacuation Hospital No. 28 and then on June 14 he was reassigned to Base Hospital No. 78.  Private Nick Camperlengo boarded the SS Anchises with his unit on Sept. 1, 1918 in New York bound for the European battlefields. His story and the horrors of war is best understood in the words about him from the late Dr. Henry Camperlengo who wrote the following:

“It was into that maelstrom that my “Uncle Nick,” whose memory I cherish as a kind human person saw in plentitude the horrors of war.  He and others worked untiringly night and day to the many wounded.  They soon exhausted basic medical supplies and even had to cut branches from trees to improvise splints.  After the wounded were rounded up they were painfully in trucks presumably headed to Base Hospitals.   Suddenly there appeared a squadron of German fighter planes and the entire column was machine gunned.  So many who had been carefully and exhaustingly cared for were now dead!  My Uncle sat under a tree and cried.”

Nick boarded the SS Dante Aleghieri on May 27, 1919 in Marseilles Harbor bound for NewYork with orders to report to Camp Dix.  The ship arrived on June 17th and he was honorably discharged the next day.  But as Dr. Camperlengo explains,

“He couldn’t tell us in words what effect it had on him.  I only learned to what extent this experience had on his psyche when I was a young psychiatrist in training. 

He had been remanded to the Northport VA [Veterans Administration] Hospital on Long Island for a psychiatric disorder that baffled the doctors at that time. 

I obtained his  medical records from the Northport VA and I saw plainly that the disorder he suffered from was P.T.S.D. or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, an entity only recognized by the American Psychariatric Assoc. and the A.M.A [American Medical Association] in the 1980s.  He spent 10 years in that hospital frequently visited by family and when discharged became a groundskeeper at a private boys school on Long Island.  I understand that he was honored with a plaque in his memory by the boys for his kind ways and wise advice to them.  For me he became one of the chief reasons I became a psychiatrist.

Nicola Roccanova

Unlike the others from Craco, Nick Roccanova did not serve in the “Metropolitan Division” and had a different experience from them in France.

Nicola Roccanova was born on May 1, 1898 in Craco to Vincenzo and Isabella Sellare. His older brothers,  had emigrated to the US in the early 1900s as did a sister, Antonia who had married Paolo Benedetto in 1905.

We learn about Nicola’s story from Deborah Roccanova who is the wife of Nicola’s grandson Richard.  She says, that Nicola’s father sent him to the US in 1915 “hoping he would avoid being drawn into the war in Europe,” but fate would dictate a different story.

He was living with his brothers at 65 Sullivan St., in Manhattan when he enlisted in the US Army at Ft. Slocum, at David’s Island (in Long Island Sound off New Rochelle), NY on Nov. 27, 1917.  It was one of the busiest recruit training stations in WWI and housed many of those who joined in the government sponsored recruiting zeal that occurred  in November 1917; explaining Nicola’s action. In December the governemt ended voluntary enlistments and relied solely on the draft.

But on Dec 8th, Nicola was assigned to Battery C of the 18th Field Artillery  Unit.  He would serve with them until his discharge.  His service records show he boarded the USS Aeolus  with his unit in Hoboken, NJ on April 23, 1918 however the departure was delayed and the Unit transferred to the USS Manchuria on April 30 when it sailed to Europe. 

Nicola and his unit were attached to the 3rd Division in France.  They distinguished themselves earning the French Croix De Guerre with Gilt Star on the battle streamers for the Champagne Marne and Aisne-Marne campaigns and was instrumental in helping to defeat the Germans during an final assault known as the “Ludendorff Offensive.”  After the German surrender, they served a tour of occupation duty.  Nicola  and hisunit boared USS Agamemnon in Brest, France arriving eight days later in Hoboken.  He was discharged August 22nd.

Deborah Roccanova tells us more about his experiences and how they impacted Nicola.  She says, He was gassed with mustard gas…The effects of the gas did affect his lungs the rest of his life.  He was hospitalized  with TB for 11 months in 1944 at a sanitarium in upstate NY.” 

She continues about the period after the war while he was stationed in France, “…he did attempt to return to Craco to see his parents and family.  This was denied due to the Spanish flu epidemic and all soldiers were confined to base.  He never saw his parents again…but his mother Mary (Francavilla) Roccanova died from the flu in 1918…” when it struck Craco.

We also learned from Deborah that Nicola married Isabella Sillaro (born 1898, Craco).  She was the daughter of Giuseppe and Rosa Dolcimele.  After their marriage in Manhattan in 1920 Nicola worked with his brothers in a paper box making business, for a while.

Deborah tells us after that he, “drove taxi and eventually owned his own laundry and small apartment buildings. …Nicholas did eventually moved to Sacramento, CA at the urging of his son Vincent and wife Lois.  Nicholas and Isabella lived a very happy and successful life, investing in real estate and surrounded by family in Sacramento.  …Nicholas did return to Craco and Roccanova Italy in 1978…

Edmond Salomone

The experience of Edmond Salomone during WWI was unique.  He was born in Manhattan on March 24, 1897, the son of Michele Salomone and Angela Mormando.  On Sept. 9, 1918 he was drafted into the US Army and sent to Camp Gordon, GA.  With the war raging in Europe the Army had developed plans to train recruits to replace the battlefield soldiers. Edmond was assigned to the 14th Infantry Replacement and Training Battalion.   On Oct. 18 he was assigned to the Automatic Replacement Draft designed to fill in the ranks of soldiers in Europe.  Just 5 days after the armistice on Nov. 16, he was transferred to Company C 162 Infantry and shipped overseas on November 27th.  He served there until returning to the US on July 27, 1918 and was demobilized on Aug. 2nd.  

Brothers in Arms—Edmond Salomone (right) is shown with his future brother-in-law, Joe Chicichella when both were in the US Army in 1918.
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The Frana—December 1963

In December 1963 one of the most destructive episodes of Craco’s frana event occurred.  Contemporary newspaper articles give us an understanding of the events.  

The first article appearing on December 7th raises concern with two-thirds of the town being impacted and states: “the situation remains grave …”

December 8th found the following report: “…The landslide…moves slowly …and covers ten acres of land…The houses involved in this area are a hundred. Twenty-five are at risk, so that the mayor has already issued the first evacuation orders…The town is situated…on gravel and clay. It has a population of just over 1700 inhabitants divided into 380 families.” 

Then on December 11th the news turned worse: “a dense rain, falling for more than twenty-four hours…the landslide movement…was further exacerbated…The landslide affecting the village has extended to other buildings, so much so that some owners of houses on DeCesare and Alighieri streets reported injuries to their buildings…Craco is on the list of towns to be consolidated at the expense of the state. Approximately eighty percent of the buildings have damages.”  

It continued the next day on December 12th: “The rainfall has increased the concerns…the landslide has abruptly moved further…damaged homes increase and orders for evacuation of about forty were issued…It is a painful spectacle: the household goods are transported…from homes… Even those who still have a house in good condition, do not hide their fears.”

On  December 16th harsh conditions continued to be reported: “Violent gusts of wind…Craco remained in the dark due to failure of the electricity grid…two more orders for eviction were issued for homes at risk.”

The December 21st articles provide: “Christmas is coming. The people, however, are sad and worried about the serious threat of landslides…Craco residents live in a day by day state of panic…” 

Then on December 30th: “News that instead of dissipating fears…has increased. In essence, the landslides are of two different intensities. The first and largest includes the southern facing center of the town and the other is slower but no less worrying. The hopes of a temporary containment are in the large arched wall built along Route 103, which almost surrounds the town. The wall although solid, has a central bulge…and would lead to landslides of significant quantities, the destruction of many homes…The situation…to safeguard public safety…raises many moral and economic problems of considerable scope: Can a small town of 1700 people be evacuated? What would remain of the old town? Absolutely nothing. Then there are serious apprehensions of the owners of houses (cost and the sacrifices of generations), who see their property at risk and do not know if they have adequate compensation or urgent rehabilitation works envisaged by authorities…”

We know the subsequent events and results but also recognize that even after all these years there is a resilient spirit to somehow bring Craco Vecchio a rebirth.

This article was originally published in The Craco Society Newsletter, July 2009.

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LoRubbio Family Faces

(Great Grandma) Rosa Maria Cantasano, 1856-1937.

Giuseppe Lorubio (1881-1950) and Vittoria Stella Mormondo (1883-1909).

Michael John LoRubbio and Josephine Rita Manera, Wedding Day 28 September, 1929.

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Camperlengo Family Faces

Henry Paul Camperlengo born Enrico Paolo Amerigo Vespucci Camperlengo, June 4, 1901

Henry Paul and Henry Antonio Camperlengo sparring in Brooklyn NY backyard.

Henry Antonio Camperlengo, Graduation from New Utrecht High School, Brooklyn, NY.

Henry Camperlengo, Marie & Amelia Spera, Upstate NY farm, c. 1969.

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San Vincenzo Feast, October 2007

Michael A. Salomone at San Vincenzo Mass Feast, October 2007.

Domenico DeCesare, Isabella Grossi Moscogiuri (center) and Caterina Grossi, at San Vincenzo Feast, October, 2007.

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Craco Society Reunion, August 2007

Phyllis Bennedetto, Dr. Henry Camperlengo (center), Joseph A. Rinaldi at initial Craco Society Reunion August 2007.

Antonietta Rinaldi Quinto (left), Rosa D’Elia Francavilla (center) and Marilyn Marrese, at initial Craco Society Reunion August, 2007.

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Marrese Family Faces

 

Vincenzo Marrese & Maria Calitricirca 1892.

Maria (Ferrante) and Pasquale Marrese

Vincenzo Daniel Marrese

Tailors, great-grandpa & grandpa Marrese. Photo of employees of Pasquale Marrese’s tailor shop on roof of building at 53 Spring St., Manhattan, NY c 1892.

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Gallo Family Faces

Maria Tuzzio, Craco

 

Vincenzo & Angela Rose Tuzzio Gallo c1920 in New York with children Rose, Anthony and Peter.

 

 

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Rubertone Family Faces

Grandma Rubertone Maria Giuseppa Spera, 1884-1954

Peter and Maria DiPietro Rubertone Wedding, April 26 1952.

Rubertone Family 1964 Front Row L-R Peter, Vincenzina, Pasqua, Isabella, Daniel, James

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Craco Peschiera

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