Joseph Capone entered the US Army in January 1943 and served until December 1945. He fought in France, Belgium, Holland, and Germany as an infantryman in Company E, 415th Infantry Regiment, 104th Infantry Division, also known as the Timberwolf Division.
We met Joseph Capone on a warm, spring day in 2012. His was our second interview that day in the stately Board Room of Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh. The trees and flowers were blooming outside, birds were singing peacefully, and a pleasant sun was shining through a gently passing rain shower. Early May feels like renewal, a rebirth after the long winter. But that was sixty-six years removed from the dark and violent times Joseph Capone experienced as a young man, fighting his way across a blackened, death-filled Europe.
For more than an hour that day, Mr. Capone’s stories exposed the sharp contrast between 1945 and 2012, between life and death, humanity and evil. And like many other WW II veterans’ stories, they reminded us that peace–like spring time–is a precious gift of hope and renewal.
In 1945, Joseph Capone’s outfit was the first to discover Dora-Mittelbau, one of thirty slave labor subcamps near the town of Nordhausen. Its inmates worked to build secret underground factories for the production of V-2 missiles. By 1944, nearly 12,000 slave laborers were confined underground in dangerous, unsanitary conditions. As they died or became too ill to work, the inmates were removed to Dora-Mittlebau and surrounding subcamps. It is believed that Dora-Mittlebau had one of the highest mortality rates of any concentration camp. In this audio short, listen as Mr. Capone gives witness to this horror.
Recorded on May 9, 2012 by the Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh Oral History Initiative at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Music: Wonderful: Violins, by Little Fish (Oxford) and “Meditation” (Princess Ylousha), by Backbeat Candy.
Stories from the Veterans Breakfast Club