1st Battalion 22nd Infantry

 

Soldier Profile: Tony Tantillo

Company A 1st Battalion 22nd Infantry

1941-1944

 

Tony Tantillo

 

 

Antonino "Tony" Tantillo was born in Palermo, Sicily in 1918.

His father immigrated to the United States in 1923. Nine years later his father became a U.S. citizen and sent for his family in Italy.
In April 1932 Tony came to the United States with his mother, older brother Bartolomeo (Bartholomew) and his younger brother
Agostino (August) aboard the Italian Ocean Liner S.S. Saturnia which sailed from Naples, Italy.

In the 1940 census he was recorded as living in Queens, New York with his father and mother, two brothers
and sister in law. Tony couldn't speak English when he came to the U.S. but learned the language quickly
as he had a "good ear" for it.

Tony was drafted into the Army on February 17, 1941 at Jamaica, New York (not in 1939 as the article posted below states.)

After induction at Camp Upton, New York he was sent to Fort Benning, Georgia and assigned to Company A 22nd Infantry.
He was with his Company in the Louisiana maneuvers of 1941 and served in the Company for over a year and a half when the
leader of the Regimental Band observed Tony playing guitar and recruited him for the Band. He played in the Band for about a
year at USO clubs and in several concerts. He also played cymbals in the marching band on occasion. Just before the Regiment
deployed overseas Tony rejoined Company A as a rifleman.

 

Above: The list of names in a Company photo of Company A 22nd Infantry taken at Camp Gordon, Georgia ca. 1942-1943.
Tony Tantillo's name is marked by a red asterisk in the column on the far right.
He is listed as a Private in the SSM category indicating he was drafted into the Army.

Photo courtesy of John Gervasio,
son of William Gervasio, who served in
Company A 22nd Infantry 1941-1945

 

 

 

Above: Tony Tantillo on the right holding the guidon for Company A 22nd Infantry.
Photo taken at Camp Gordon, Georgia ca. 1942-1943.

Photo courtesy of John Gervasio,
son of William Gervasio, who served in
Company A 22nd Infantry 1941-1945

 

 

 

     

Left:

Partial roster of Privates
of Company A 22nd Infantry
at Fort Jackson, South Carolina
December 1943.

Tony Tantillo's name is marked
with a red asterisk in the right hand
column. (His last name is misspelled.)

The following month the 22nd Infantry
sailed to England. Tony either rejoined
Company A from the Regimental Band
just before the deployment overseas
or possibly he was carried on the rosters
for Company A all along with his detail
to the Band being considered temporary
and not a permanent assignment.

From a Christmas Dinner menu
for Company A 22nd Infantry
courtesy of John Gervasio,
son of William Gervasio, who served in
Company A 22nd Infantry 1941-1945

 

 

Tony served with the 22nd Infantry at Fort Benning, Georgia; Camp Gordon, Georgia; Fort Dix, New Jersey;
Camp Gordon Johnston, Florida; Fort Jackson, South Carolina and sailed with the Regiment to England in January 1944.

During his time off from undergoing training in England he hung around with his younger brother August, who was
stationed at the time at Bristol, England in the U.S. Army Signal Corps. By the time Tony crossed the English Channel
headed for France he had already been promoted to Private First Class.

Tony landed on Utah Beach on D-Day June 6, 1944 and fought in Normandy through heavy action as his Company attacked
the German coastal battery positions at Crisbecq and the defensive line at the Quineville Ridge. On one occasion he captured
two Germans who surrended to him and turned them over to his Headquarters.

On June 17, 1944 Tony was seriously wounded in action and evacuated from the battlefield. Before long he was sent to
a hospital in England and then to a convalesence center where he underwent rehabilitation in preparation to being sent back
to his unit. After several months he was about to return to Company A but became violently ill and hospitalized for malaria
with complications of pneumonia. It was determined he was unfit for front line service and remained in hospital until being sent
back to the United States in January 1945.

He was in recovery in a hospital in Nashville, Tennesee and then was transferred to a hospital in Augusta, Georgia.

On June 17, 1945 Tony was discharged from the United States Army at Fort Dix, New Jersey.

 

 

 

A son reflects upon his father

Tom Tantillo the son of Tony Tantillo wrote the following in reflection upon his father's life and service:

He has never spoken much about his service; particularly the landing on D-Day. Two very specific times when I myself as a young man
wanted to know about his experience on June 6th, he would start and when he got to this one particular part in the story, when he
remembers a sniper's bullet traveling past his right ear....he would say "I felt it miss me and I fell down onto the wet beach and was told
by my captain, if you are still alive lay there and let the water push you up closer to the wall." He would stop, talk no more, take out
his handkerchief because his eyes were full of tears, and look far away. This puzzled me then, but is completely understood now
as I have learned more through my readings and learnings of these great heroes and D-Day.


Here is his story as I have collected it over the span of my life.

Dad was drafted into the army in 1941 and was, as he says "serving his time to be discharged," and then the US experienced the
horrific attack on Pearl Harbor… well all things for every person in the US changed Sunday Morning December 7, 1941.
And as dad recalls President Roosevelt's proclamation to the world it was "a day that will live in Infamy." He was sent to Fort
Benning and later to Camp Gordon where he met my mother at the USO. They fell in love and were married July 5, 1943 at Sacred
Heart Church in Augusta... July 10th back at Camp Gordon he prepares to ship out to Tallahassee FL before Thanksgiving for
landing craft beach training and from there back to Fort Jackson before Christmas. From there they went to NY City where he
ships out from its harbor to Great Britain in January,1944 with the rest of the 4th Division in preparation for D-Day. Dad was in the
Army Camp Band and went from playing a musical instrument back to carrying an M-1. Welcome young man to Uncle Sam’s Army.


For almost a year they prepared for the impending invasion…. Dad’s stories are few as he has never cared to talk in any detail
about this period of his life. I know he was deeply homesick as he and mom wrote to each every week…. and I am sure more times
than just once every week. He took his training in England and while there he was able to see his brother Auggie once, who had
signed up for the ARMY the day after Pearl Harbor and then after Basic & AIT was sent to the UK as well for his training. They were
able to meet each other this one time in harbor town of Plymouth, England to have dinner together at a pub. If there is one thing he recalls
more often than any other in his stories is the lack of food and the general poor quality of ARMY food if and when there was any to be had.
He says he was only 170 lbs. when he made the landing. While at the pub they commandeer a couple of string instruments and began
to play, the customers and proprietor were so delighted with their performance that he offered them the best meal in town he had and it was
"on the house"; scrambled eggs and toast. Dad says it’s the best damn eggs and toast he ever tasted. This was the last time dad saw
his brother until the end of the war.




Operation Overlord Normandy, France

D-Day 07:30 hours June 6, 1944

US ARMY 4th Division, 22nd Infantry, 1st Battalion, Company A

Utah Beach


(A very short story)

One Soldier's Invasion of Normandy

Before departing for the French coast on the morning of June 6th dad remembers having to get up early, very early. Not shaving and
being wet & cold. It was dark. In full gear, he stood his place in line for powdered eggs, a piece of cheese, 2 slices of untoasted bread
and some luke warm coffee. Then it began to sink in. Up until that moment he said did he know this was going to be D-Day!

As their troopships came into view of the coast of France he says they began to climb overboard & load into the landing crafts
35-40 men each. There was a few hundred or so of these being prepared as the first wave for their approach to Utah Beach.
He could hear the screams of the shells from the NAVY guns as they passed over head towards their targets on the cliffs and
hillsides. He says worst you could see & smell the smoke of the gunpowder from the exploding shells which choked filled the air…
he says he remembers fighting back the tears of fear. Each Company was loaded into their crafts in alphabetical order; A Company
first then followed by B and so on, so the Higgins Boat he was on followed Company B’s boat. There were 60-70 maybe 100 men
wounded and dead in the water and on the beach when they landed.

When his boat stopped and the ramps let down, men began to push each other to rush out. Dad says they were in moderately
deep water about waist high and it was a real struggle to get a footing. At this point in the story he will always stop and begins
to cry… tears streaming down his face and with trembling voice he says very quietly trying to choke back the tears "…almost
immediately the man to his right and the man to his left were killed." They knew there were snipers on the hill and as he felt a bullet
pass his right ear, he fell into the water. His captain yelled if any of you are still alive stay down and let the tide push us up to the wall!
He did he believes for 10-15 minutes until the tide pushed him up onto the sand. He doesn’t know how but he survived his first day
of fighting the war against Nazi Germany. I will always remember the look on his face when he tells this the story, one almost of guilt.
"Why he quietly asks, why them and not me?"

He remembers the sound of the Nazi MG 42 machine guns and the explosion of the 88mm mortar rounds that lifted him up
off the beach and slammed him down, the sight of the pill boxes on fire and the screams of dying men. He remembers that
sometime later that morning the sound of Patton’s tanks struggling to beach themselves at low tide. He was on his way to
Cherbourg. They were able to get in a couple miles before dark. He remembers there was no lunch or supper that day.
He remembers the next morning dead paratroopers hanging in trees. He’s still crying.


12:30 D-Day afternoon, his brother Auggie lands on Normandy 5 hours behind his big brother; both men now fighting the Nazi war regime.


One week or so later dad’s assigned rear guard for his platoon and two Nazi’s step out of the woods behind him. As he turned
they threw down their weapons and threw up their hands, "We surrender" they shouted. He says more like they pleaded.
"They could have killed me" he says. "Instead they surrendered?" he says almost questioning why (? ) adding only more whys
to the 1000s he’s already collected and will never be answered. He feels even today that they wanted to be captured by the
Americans and not have to face the Russians. When he brought these two prisoners into Company formation, his squad leader said
"Tantillo, take them and kill them." Dad was so shocked he stood there and said nothing. Staring at his superior in disbelief,
the squad leader said "You heard me GD. Go shoot ‘em. We are not taking prisoners." Dad said he wouldn’t; he couldn’t….
Then he was told that if he didn’t he would have to take them back to the beach, which he did, actually it was 6 miles back
to a collection point setup to hold prisoners who were then sent to England, and many eventually came to America. I have said
to my father, dad if there were any good at all in any of this, there’re probably two Germans alive today because of you.


He remembers day rolling into night back into day. He recalls at some point a man 38-39 yrs. old standing close to him who was hit
in the stomach by a "Bouncing Betty". Dad says it was really a terrible wound that disemboweled him and a medic grabs him, makes him
kneel down next to this poor guy, hangs a bottle of plasma on the butt of dad’s M-1, and then looks up at dad and says …"GD he’s dead."


It’s now a week or so later. The day is June 17, 1944. They stop to eat c-rations. They are in a field laden with dead farm animals;
horses, cows & sheep. There is a shell blast and several men are wounded & killed. Dad stands up to go help and the guy next to him
grabs him and says "hey man you’re bleeding." He was struck by a piece of shrapnel in his left hand; he doesn’t remember being hit
or the pain of it. He is sent back to England, to the town of Bristol to be treated. When he arrives his hand is already black.
He says they had just come out with Penicillin, he calls it his "miracle drug." It saved his life. Almost healed & convalesced he was
being scheduled to rejoin his outfit in France when a nurse asked for his temperature be taken. She said are you feeling OK?
He said well enough; she said ...not well enough, I’m afraid you’re not going anywhere you have a temperature of 104.

Dad had contracted pneumonia. Later while recovering, a Major Flagg came to visit my father… he asked him how long had he served.
Dad told him he joined in 1941 and made D-Day; that he was married and his wife just had their 1st child. "Where are you from solider?"
"Jackson Heights, Queens, New York, sir." Well answered Major Flagg, "I am from Queens too and solider as commander of this
hospital I have the authority to dismiss you and send you home…. And I think its home you will go." Dad said "... Major Flagg
if I live to be 100, I will never forget you!" Well we are almost there and he has never forgotten this man who is an adopted member
of our family today. At this point there are almost enough tears to float the boat that took him across the Atlantic home to NY City
for his third trip …. and then sent to the US ARMY Hospital Nashville, TN.

Before being discharged from the Hospital in England, dad said a Lieutenant walked into the collection ward and announced,
"Answer up when you hear your name called." After all names were checked off… he said "there’s a Purple Heart up here
for each one of you, pick one up on the way out;" and then walked away.


He was honorably discharged from Fort Dix, NJ June 17, 1945 exactly one year after being wounded and given $250 back pay
for hazardous duty and sent home to North Augusta, SC.


He came home to North Augusta, SC, built our family home to start his life, his family and his business; later to be joined by
his brother Auggie. Together they open a grocery store selling can goods, fresh vegetables, meats and dry goods. They began
business in late 1945, early 1946. It was called Tantillo’s Market and was on the corner of 11th & Gwinnett Street in Augusta, GA.
Address 1102 Gwinnett Street.

Post Note: This story is a collection of many short stories that I have kept from my talks with my dad. He's my hero.

Tom Tantillo June 16, 2017






Remembering D-Day invasion

Posted June 6, 2017 12:23 am - Updated June 6, 2017 12:36 am
By Paul A. Harris , Ph.D. Guest Columnist

Today marks the 73rd anniversary of D-Day – a day when 156,000 Allied troops began the liberation of Nazi-occupied Europe.


One of those brave souls is North Augusta’s Tony Tantillo, who as a member of the U.S. Army’s 22nd Infantry Regiment
landed on the shores of France on June 6, 1944.

Born in Palermo, Sicily, in 1918, Tantillo emigrated to the U.S. when he was 14. As he recalls, “Those very moments of passing
the Statue of Liberty and seeing the night lights of New York City glowing like thousands of diamonds is a sight I will never forget.”

The Tantillo family lived in the Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens, and throughout the 1930s he and his younger brother,
August, were hired musicians playing in various venues throughout New York City, including the occasional performance
at the Waldorf-Astoria.

Drafted into the Army in 1939 *, Tantillo was first assigned to A Company, 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment of the
4th Infantry Division – based at Camp Gordon. During his time in Augusta, Tantillo would attend Catholic USO dances
held at Sacred Heart’s church hall. There he met the love of his life – Clara Punaro, whose father, Egidio “Edward” Punaro,
was the proprietor of Punaro’s Market on the corner of 13th and Jones streets. Tony and Clara married on July 5, 1943,
and five months later his unit left for England in preparation for the D-Day landing.

* (Website Editor Note: Tony was drafted in 1941 not in 1939.)

 

Tony and Clara Tantillo at their wedding July 5, 1943

Photo from the Augusta Chronicle

 


Military historians writing about the invasion note that probably the most difficult of the 4th Infantry Division’s missions were those
assigned the 22nd Infantry regiment. The regiment had the task of knocking out heavily fortified gun positions overlooking Utah Beach
on their way to securing the vital port of Cherbourg. As the regiment’s after-action reports indicate, the Americans were met with hard-nosed
resistance, and the fighting to take out the German positions came at a steep price.

On the second day of the invasion, Tantillo’s battalion commander, Athens, Ga., native Lt. Col. Sewell M. Brumby, nearly lost his leg
and had to be medically evacuated. On June 8, Tantillo’s company commander, Capt. Thomas C. Shields, was killed in action and
posthumously was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for organizing the retreat of his men and directing artillery fire on enemy
positions, thereby saving the entire company.

If that were not enough, on June 10, Divison Commander Maj. Gen. Raymond O. Barton relieved the regiment’s beloved commander,
Col. Hervey A. Tribolet, for not being able to break the stiff German resistance. According to 22nd Infantry Regiment Society historian
Michael Belis, the German resistance was far heavier and better organized than the planners realized – and “the 22nd Infantry Regiment
never had a chance.” (Website Ed.: "Never had a chance" ... of taking their objectives by the pre-Invasion planned dates.)

On June 17, Tantillo nearly lost his right hand to shrapnel from a German 88-mm artillery shell, and he had to be medically evacuated.


After a year of recovery Tantillo was honorably discharged from the Army on June 17, 1945, having earned a Purple Heart
and the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. Shortly thereafter, he returned to North Augusta, where he and his wife raised nine
wonderful children, helped establish Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church and started his own business – Tantillo’s Market –
on Laney Walker Boulevard. He rarely, if ever, spoke of his combat experiences.

Reflecting on the sacrifices made by Tantillo and his fellow D-Day veterans, legendary CBS journalist and Army combat
correspondent Andy Rooney declared: “If you think the world is rotten, go to the cemetery of St. Laurent on a hill overlooking
the beach and see what one group of men did for another on D-Day, June 6, 1944.”


The writer, a native of North Augusta, is a professor of political science and associate director
of the Honors College at Auburn University.

From the Augusta Chronicle

 

 

Tony Tantillo's decorations

Top: Combat Infantryman Badge

Center left to right: Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Good Conduct Medal, American Defense Service Medal,
American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with arrowhead and bronze service star,
World War II Victory Medal, State of New York Conspicuous Service Cross

Bottom: Sharpshooter Qualification Badge Rifle, Honorable Service Lapel button

 

 

 

Antonio "Tony" Tantillo at age 90
Photo taken September 10, 2008 at Aiken, South Carolina
From his interview for the Veterans History Project

Courtesy of Dr. Paul Harris

 

 


Sunday, May 6, 2007

Tale of two Italians shows interesting facet to a long-simmering debate


By Paul A. Harris, Ph.D.

Guest Columnist

The United States has always been of two minds regarding immigration. On the one hand, we are a country built upon the immigrant ideal:
a "shining city upon a hill" where millions of oppressed peoples from throughout Europe, Asia and the Levant left their countries of birth
and adopted a new homeland. On the other hand, immigration has been a continual source of political and social conflict.

In the 50-year period between 1875 and 1925, more than 24 million immigrants - mostly from Eastern and Southern Europe; Russian Jews,
Polish and Italian Catholics - resettled on these shores. Like the earlier wave of Irish, these immigrants were poor, landless peasants lacking
advanced degrees, possessed few skills and lived in squalid overcrowded slums. But unlike the Irish, these new immigrants spoke no English
upon arrival.

Italian immigrants were an especially detested group. Newspapers and prominent politicians such as Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts
described Italian immigrants as an "unassimilable mass which drank to excess, lived in filth, and at the slightest provocation went for the stiletto.
The remedy was simple: keep them out!"

ANTI-IMMIGRANT supporters of that time emphasized the differences between older and newer immigrants. Germans, they argued,
were thrifty and industrious; Italians, however, did not want to learn English, and were clannish and criminal.

By the early 1920s, the call for immigration restriction was so strong that in 1924 the Johnson-Reed Act was passed
which effectively closed America's borders.

And it is within this context of anti-immigrant hysteria fomented by the most abhorrent diatribes that two Italians - Tony Tantillo
and Anthony Alaimo - made the transatlantic passage.

Born in Termini in 1920, Alaimo arrived in the United States in 1922. Tantillo, who was born in Palermo in 1918, immigrated to the U.S.
as a teenager during the depths of the Great Depression in 1932. In addition to their native land of birth, both men shared a similar fate
as both would face - and overcome - deeply held anti-Italian prejudice to become decorated veterans who fought valiantly for their
adopted homeland during World War II.

A member of the storied 4th Infantry Division, Tantillo made the initial landing on Utah beach on the early morning of June 6, 1944 - D-Day.
On the evening of June 5, Tantillo shook hands with British Gen. Bernard "Monty" Montgomery, who asked him where he was from.
When Tantillo answered "Augusta, Georgia, sir," Montgomery responded, "I'd like to visit that town one day." Tantillo fought with
the "Ivy Division" until he was severely wounded in combat on the outskirts of Cherbourg, France two weeks later.

Alaimo was a bomber pilot on a mission over the Netherlands when he was shot down in 1943. Badly wounded, Alaimo was the only one
of his crew to survive the crash, and was taken as a POW. While confined, Alaimo assisted his fellow POWs in a daring breakout -
an event depicted in the movie The Great Escape.

AFTER THE WAR, Tantillo and Alaimo returned home and like the millions of veterans of their generation got on the business
with raising families and pursuing careers

Tantillo, who met his wife, Clara, at a USO dance while stationed at Fort Gordon, made North Augusta, S.C., his home and founded
Tantillo's Grocery on Laney-Walker Boulevard, where he served the community for nearly 50 years. He and Clara helped establish
Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church and raised nine children - the youngest who was President George Bush's undersecretary of state
for textiles and trade from 1989-1993.

After graduating from Emory Law School in 1948, Alaimo practiced law in Atlanta until settling in Brunswick in 1957. An early stalwart
of the State Republican Party, Alaimo was nominated for a federal judgeship by President Nixon in 1971, where he has served the
Southern District since. In 2005, Alaimo received Georgia State Law School's highest honor, the Ben F. Johnson Lifetime
Achievement Award.

In our current immigration crisis, the harsh treatment meted out at earlier waves of immigrants such as Italians often goes unnoticed.
Today these same nativist frustrations on newcomers from Latin America can get the best of us. Tony Tantillo and Anthony Alaimo
are a testament to the ability of this country to absorb and assimilate newcomers - their exemplary lives embody the promise that
the United States is still is that "shining city upon a hill."



(Editors note: The writer is an associate professor of political science, and director of the Center for Immigration Studies,
at Augusta State University.)


The Augusta Chronicle


 

 

 

 

 

 

This page was created under the direction of and because of the contributions by Dr. Paul A. Harris of Auburn University.
The 1st Battalion website is grateful to Dr. Harris for his efforts to honor this hero of the 22nd Infantry.

 

 

Top photo of Private First Class Tony Tantillo taken in England in 1944.
Note 22nd Infantry Distinctive Insignia on his coat lapels.

Photo courtesy of:

Paul A. Harris, Ph.D.
Associate Director &
Professor of Political Science
Honors College
Cater Hall
Auburn University, AL

 

 

 

 

 

 


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