John J. Zaffuto | Private First Class, 35th Infantry Division, 320th Infantry Regiment, Company C | Served in England, France and Germany | Received the following medals for his service: Purple Heart, WWII Victory Medal, Army of Occupation Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African- Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge.
Mr. Zaffuto, wounded twice in combat, describes his second injury during the “Battle of the Hedgerows” in the St.-Lo region of France. After his convalescence, he is reassigned to a trucking outfit and serves in Hanover, Germany where he witnesses V-E Day firsthand. Mr. Zaffuto’s story concludes with his return home following the end of WWII.
“We were bombed by the Germans and I was knocked out. I don’t remember whatever happened, and I was hysterical, and they decided that, you know, to put me back for a while.”
July 1944: St-Lô, France. The 35th Infantry Division takes part in the “Battle of the Hedgerows” — three bloody weeks of combat during the Campaign of Normandy.
“And there, I guess evidently I wasn’t well enough. And they sent me back. They said, you know, that they analyzed me and figured “Send him back to England.” So they sent me back to England and I went to the hospital there to recuperate because they had all these wounded there. And after I was analyzed, they decided to send me to a different outfit.”
Now assigned to the 3631 Trucking Company, Zaffuto serves in Hanover, Germany. On May 8, 1945, he witnesses the jubilation of Victory in Europe Day firsthand.
“They took me out of the Infantry and I went to a trucking outfit. So they sent me to a trucking outfit. I got back to the outfit and they went to these breweries that were close by. They cleaned them out of all their beers and everything else. Yeah, they come and took over everything, you know. You know, you say it’s not right but this is what they did. And every outfit that was close by, were allotted a certain amount of – they took beer and they went back to their outfits. They’d take the pianos out of the house and everybody’s singing. Of course, the war was over, you know, it’s all over. So that was it. They day of happiness.”
Having fought in a war that cost more than 60 million lives, and despite being injured twice during combat, Zaffuto returns home safely to Brooklyn, N.Y.
“Yeah, I called up at the station. I told him I’m on my way home. He came running down to the 8th avenue subway and he came to meet me. I had some packages and he came. He saw me and he ran through the, through the, gate that you go out. He ran into that and he came and grabbed me and put his arms around me and I’m dropping stuff and everything. He wouldn’t let go. [laughing] He helped me home. I got to see the family. It was great. What a feeling that is. You never forget them feelings. Yeah.”