Welcome to the The Long Way Home WikiEdit

This wiki is dedicated to David Laskin's history book The Long Way Home: An American Journey from Ellis Island to the Great War (2010).[1]


This wiki was compiled by students in the English-History Learning Community, titled "People Who Made America Great", taught at Lone Star College-CyFair in Cypress Texas in Fall 2018.

Immigrant SoldiersEdit

Epifanio Affatato (1895-1959)

  • Life before immigration--Epifanio Affatato was born January 3rd, 1895. In his childhood home in Scala Coeli, Italy Affatato and his older brother Carmine learned stories of New York and the dreams the city held.
  • Immigration and life in U.S.--Laskin writes that Affatato was fifteen years old when he and his brother Carmine left Calabria for America, just after the Christmas of 1910.  The boys planned to meet their father in New York. They sailed to America on the King Albert and were processed through Ellis Island. When he first arrived in Brooklyn, he believed the streets would be paved in gold and immediately went out to look for some. When he didn’t find any gold, Affatato briefly worked in the railroad industry. In 1915, Affatato turned 18 and filed his Declaration of Intention to become a United States Citizen. As a declarant, he was required to register for the draft when it was reinstated.
  • War experience--Affatato was ordered to appear at Camp Upton on April 1st, 1918. Laskin states that he trained for only six weeks before leaving to fight in France. Affatato fought in the 107th infantry of the 27th division.
  • Postwar experience--Affatato arrived in New York on March 6th, 1919 aboard the Leviathan. On April 2, 1919 he was honorably discharged and granted citizenship. Awarded for his act of service in the Knoll he was presented the British Military Medal, the French Croix de Guerre, and the Distinguished Service Cross. He struggled in his transition to civilian life as it took him nearly 15 years to earn a steady job. Landing a job working for the New York City Department of Sanitation as a machinist in 1935, Affatato met his wife Filomena Mancuso and purchased a home. His wife who was 26 while he was 40 had three sons; Domenick in 1936, Edward in 1939, and Charles in 1941. In the years following the war Affatato never spoke of the details of the war as he suffered shell shock.In 1941, 46 year old Affatato wanted to re-enlist in the army for World War II against his families wishes. However, he was turned down. After being hospitalized for a hernia, Affatato passed away in 1959 at the age of 64. His sons suspected he contracted pneumonia which influenced his death. He was buried in the Long Island National Cemetery with a gravestone inscribed with his name, military unit- Company C, 107th Infantry, 27th Division, and his military honors.

Joseph Chmielewski (1896-194?)

  • Life before immigration- Joseph

was born in Poland on 1896. He was the son of a Polish father and a Lithuanian mother. His brother, frank, and him where raised in poverty. 

  • Immigration and life in U.S.- Joseph emigrated in 1912 when he was fifteen years old. He

came thanks to his brother, Frank, that worked and set aside some money to pay for his passage. He arrived in Pennsylvania in a small mining town. Also, Frank got Joseph a work at Argyle Coal Company, he worked here too. Joseph went to live with a family member, they gave him a room and only lived a couple houses away from his brother. During the weekdays the two brothers used to walk to the mine together. On Sundays they went to church with a couple of other people. On Saturday the brothers went to a polish dance. Joseph fell into the habit of stopping by a tavern when he was going home. He never learned English since he lived in a place where everyone spoke polish. His brother got married to a polish girl and they had a boy. They still lived together. Joseph lasted three years in the Coal Company, when he turned eighteen he wanted to look for something better or different. On 1916, he started working for Carnegie Steel Company, the work was different, but the rest of his life was the same.

  • War experience- At first Joseph did not have to enlist since The Selective

Service Act said that only men between the ages of twenty-one and thirty had to enlist, and by that moment Joseph was twenty years old. Joe signed up when he heard rumors that if he enlisted for the military he would automatically become a U.S. citizen. He started in camp Wadsworth with the sixth division, later he was assigned with the Sixteenth Machine Gun Battalion of the Sixth Division. When he finished training at Camp Forrest, Georgia. He was shipped out of New York on July 6, 1918 and arrived in France on July 23. The only battle that joseph saw was on November 4th when a German plane flew over them spotting their camp and bombing them, his division fired at that plane. One thing he did learn of was a lot of marching songs.

  • Postwar experience- After the war Joseph stayed in the military for two years

until his honorable discharge on June 26, 1919. Afterwards, joseph was lost, he went to live with his brother for a while but eventually he left. His family thinks that he went to Michigan around 1925 and worked in an auto factory. Around 1932 he went back with his brother, Frank, because of the higher wages paid to the coal miners. Four years later he went back to Detroit and that same year he claimed $200 for veteran compensation, his last known address was in Michigan. One nephew thinks afterwards he went to Minnesota to work for Grantland Steamship Company and at some point, he served with or was employed by the U.S. Coast Guard. On the 1940s one package arrived for one of his nephews with some of Joseph’s things. His family believes he had passed away but never got any details on his death.

Andrew Christofferson (1890-1988)

  • Life before immigration - Andrew Christofferson was born on April 14, 1890 on the West

Coast of Norway, where the closest city to his home was Haugesund. Christofferson’s name of birth was Magnus Andreas Brasttestø. Magnus was the firstborn son of a family that would bear a dozen children. Magnus’ facial characteristics involve having round blue eyes, blonde hair, finely cut mouth and a straight high nose. Magnus’ bodily characteristics made him look thin, small-boned and delicate, but he wasn’t. Magnus was known to never roar or raise his fist unprovoked, yet he was nonetheless stubborn. When he was young, Magnus went by his middle name Andreas due to the fact Magnus did not suit him. Andreas’ last name of birth (Brasttestø) roughly means “The Farm of the Steep Boat Landing”. Andreas would grow up disliking his name of birth. Before Andreas was ten years old, he left school and went to work fishing due to his family not being able to afford his childhood. The fishing conditions were harsh, as Andreas had to fish during the winters for the best catches and staying in the boat for long days. By the time he was a young man, Christofferson foresaw his future in Norway being terrible as he had to live in a stony farm in wet winters and forced military service when he is in his late twenties. When Andreas turned twenty one, he was a fine, well shaped, cleared-eyed, wiry, thin and strong young man. Andreas fell in love with his boss’ daughter: Juline Ostrem. During this age, Andreas was in despair of living in Haugesund until a letter from his brother John arrived. This letter offered Andreas with the opportunity of his life: if he were to help escort his brother’s family to Nebraska, John would help Andreas find a homestead. Andreas took this opportunity and said farewell to Juline Ostrem.

  • Immigration and life in U.S. - During the voyage to the United States, Andreas was thinking

about his love Juline Ostrem. At some point of the voyage, Andreas finally decided to change his name to Andrew Christofferson. Once he arrives to the United States, Christofferson would go to the nearest railroad ticket office and ask for tickets to Nebraska for himself and his brother’s family. Once Christofferson arrives, he was disappointed to know that he was too late to claim a homestead in Nebraska, as there was no terrain left. After being disappointed in Nebraska, Christofferson decided to travel to Larimore, North Dakota to live with another one of his brothers: Tollef. In Larimore, Christofferson found a job working as a shepherd in a sheep farm. In his new job, Christofferson would pick up the English language in hopes to learn more about homesteading. Although Christofferson was not as religious as his family was for Lutheranism, his faith changed to Christian when he decided to go to a Nazarene camp. Not long after his conversion, Christofferson learned there was  some homestead left in Montana. On June 1913, Christofferson rode James J. Hill’s Great Northern Railway until he reached Havre, Montana. In Havre, Christofferson filed for 160 acres of homestead lands with success. In less than a year, Christofferson figured out that working on 160 acres of land is tough work and lonesome. When he felt lonely, Christofferson went to the city of Chinook, Montana where he collected his mail and newspaper. During the summer of 1914, Christofferson was away from his homestead because he knew income was shaky with the homestead. On August, Christofferson learned about the war that broke through Europe and what he found most disturbing was the “rape of Belgium”. Christofferson was left wondering why the Germans did such horrors to Belgium and if his German neighbors felt something about the war. Christofferson returned back to his homestead in October 1914 and was glad he was a Neutral Norwegian in Neutral America. Sometime in 1915, Christofferson found out the British ship Lusitania was sunk by the Germans.

  • War experience - Andrew joined the army on June 25, 1918 at 28 years old, he walked 22 miles from his home of Montana to Chinook to sign up for the army. He took a train to South Carolina and served in the 81st “Wildcat” Division, trained at Camp Sevier, near Greenville, South Carolina. He was a man of peace, the only reason he joined the war was that President Wilson’s vow that this was “the war to end all wars”. During his time in France in August and in the trenches in September, he joined the 321st Infantry in Vosges Mountains. Like many others, he endured the nonstop assault from German machine gun fire in combat. He also suffered from the lack of ration, eating and drinking whatever he could find, which including bread that had been in horse manure and water in mud puddles. Christofferson experienced the first and the last of combat on November 11th, he and his comrades were being pushed back by heavy gun fire and artillery bombardment, but soon enough they stop the madness of combat and rejoin as the war ended.  
  • Postwar experience - Christofferson was discharged from the army on June 29, 1919. He immediately went back to Montana, tried to stay in the land that he claimed but it was too hard to sustain it, so in 1923 he moved to Havre and worked as a carpenter. He was a natural at what he does, he built his own house and many more for his countrymen, but the one thing that he proud of was his church. He and his folks in Havre started the Assembly of God church, in which he devoted his faith in Christianity to. He married his sweetheart of fifteen years, Juline Ostrem in 1925. They had 3 kids, but Juline unfortunately passed away in 1938. Christofferson remarried 3 years later and had another 4 kids. He never told his kids about his war experience, he banned guns in his home and always participated in politics. When World War II started, his sons were drafted, Christofferson was heartbroken knowing that President Wilson’s vow was a lie; he was terrified to send his son to war. During the last week of his life, he stopped speaking English and converted back to Norwegian, he passed away at the age of ninety-nine on December 12, 1988, with the Bible beside him. 

Maximilian Cieminski (1891-????)

  • Life before immigration
  • Immigration and life in U.S.
  • War experience
  • Postwar experience

Samuel Dreben (1878-1925)

  • Life before immigration- Samuel Dreben was born in the city of Poltava, Ukraine on June 1st of 1878. He grew up in a Jewish family in Kiev. He was the only child and his family dreamed for him to become a rabbi one day. Instead, he wanted to join the Russian army. He became well informed of what the army held for him due to his upbringings and the army was not what he had envisioned it to be. He ran away from home several times until he turned eighteen he finally left permanently and made his way into London, working multiple jobs, gaining experience, and learning enough of the language of the country he would soon be fighting for. (74)
  • Immigration and life in U.S.- Eighteen and traveling alone, Samuel Dreben arrived in America on January 1899 by steerage. He went to Philadelphia as soon as he arrived in America, he lived with his aunt and uncle. Dreben’s uncle took him as an apprentice for tailoring. His days consisted of working with his uncle and at night he took english classes to improve his fluency. Dreben hated this routine, so when the chance came he traded tailoring to become a soldier. The chance came due to the U.S. declaring war on the Philippines. When he learned that he would get fifteen dollars a month and three meals a day to fight, his question was “Do they give the uniform too?” (pg.75). He was eager for the opportunity. During Dreben’s first battle, his company came under heavy fire and everyone took cover, one soldier just keep jogging on until he made it to the trenches, but Dreben didn’t stop because no one gave the order to stop. From then on he was known as “The Fighting Jew”. Dreben went on to fight many more battles in the Philippine war and was promoted to sergeant during that time, he became an American soldier before he was an American citizen.
  • War experience- Samuel Dreben enlisted into the U.S. Army by volunteering on February 12, 1918. Samuel was put into Company A, 141st infantry, 36th division. Before Dreben was even able to fight Dreben was informed that his infant daughter died. Instead of returning home on a hardship discharge he decided to stay and fight for America because his company needed someone they could depend on. Dreben was Company A’s top kick and quickly became the Company’s leader, especially when he was promoted to sergeant. He fought in the battle of Blanc Mont where he captured three machine guns, three prisoners, and killed fifty enemy soldiers. Thanks to Dreben’s leadership Company A spared many lives that day.
  • Postwar experience- Samuel Dreben returned back to El Paso, Texas in 1919: a year after the war ended. His hometown of El Paso embraced his welcoming in celebration. He was a war hero with a successful military career and was awarded the DSC for his bravery at Mont Blanc. He came home to an unforgiving and unfaithful wife; they eventually divorce within two months of his return. He continued his hard-working momentum, he found a job and was heavily involved in the American Legion; an organization created by returning soldiers of the Great War. He spoke out against the KKK, resulting in one of the Klan's first defeats in the city. He got remarried to a widow from Dallas in 1923 and they moved to California. The forty-seven-year-old was treated by a Los Angeles doctor for his excessive drinking, his death resulted in an accidental poisoning by the nurse on March 18, 1925. (336)

Meyer Epstein (1892-1976)

  • Life before immigration - Meyer Epstein was born in Uzda, Russian Pale of Settlement, 1892. Shortly after, his mom became pregnant, so his father decided emigrant to America for a better life. His mom gave birth to his little brother but she died in the process. Meyer went to live with his relatives, but soon his relatives could no longer help him due to them being so poor, being unable to feed, or take care of him, so they sent him to another relative. His relatives had put him on the wrong train and the conductor escorted Meyer off the train. He ask for shelter in the village where the synagogue was located and Mr. Brevda, the richest Jew in the village offered him a job. Meyer began to prosper as a successful junkman and for ten years Meyer worked for Mr. Brevda becoming a successful small businessman. When Meyer was twenty-one years old he decided to go America and find his father.
  • Immigration and life in U.S. - Before Meyer migrated to America he went to look for his little brother and convince him to go with him to America, but his aunt did not let his brother go with him. Meyer traveled alone in the most famous ship in the world, the Lusitania in 1913. Meyer traveled in the Lusitania as third class, he slept in cabins and ate food prepared in the same galley where passengers relieved themselves in flush toilets. When Meyer arrived in America like all emigrants, Meyer went through the inspection on Ellis Island and then left to his Aunt Dora’s apartment in New York, Manhattan. New York was very cold, noisy, and crowded and his Aunt Dora’s apartment smelled like chicken fat, cabbage, and human waste. It was not what Meyer expected, but he felt very grateful that his aunt let him stay. Meyer was very anxious to find his father

but discovered through his aunt that his father had died two years ago. Soon he looked for jobs and work in the scrap metal business. Once a plumping contractor offered him work and double payment in the plumping business, so he started working as a plumber.

  • War experience - Meyer was 26 when he arrived on the war front the day after the regiment got pulled off the line. Meyer and his comrades were hunkered down at a farm deep in the northeastern French countryside between Troyes and Nancy, but still close enough to the front to be shelled, bombed, and hit by machine guns mounted on German planes. On Meyer’s first day a German shell blew up one of the regiment’s ammunition dumps, wounding eight men. The following day the regiment was on the move again and would be on the move nearly every day for the next week. On August 19, Company H moved into Liffol-le-Grand, and there they remained for the next twelve days. Meyer and the other 279 replacements with the second battalion were given a round of intensive training there. On September 1, the men of Company H were piled into trucks and drove to Rembercourt arriving at their new post at three in the morning the next day. Thursday, September 26, Meyer Epstein finally got the chance to throw himself into combat. Meyer was there when the American artillery laid down the opening barrage in the hours before dawn. For three hours his shoulders were hunched against the cold while the sky erupted in deafening flame. Meyer’s unit, Company H, was at the eastern third of the American line in a terrain of steep rolling hills, bombed villages, and patches of bare dead woods. They had been instructed to leave their packs behind, so they could move swiftly and nimbly through the shell craters and tangles of German wire. Meyer and the couple of hundred men of Company H grabbed their rifles, crouched down with their fingers on the triggers, and set out in lines of half- platoons. Straight ahead were the small settlements of Bethincourt, Malancourt, and Cuisy, Meyer’s first minutes of combat turned out to be eerily quiet.
  • Postwar experience - A month after the Armistice Meyer Epstein and his comrades in the 58th Infantry took up residence in the city of Koblenz. In their free time, Meyer and his comrades played basketball, watched movies, and took boat trips on the Rhine. Meyer and his comrades sailed back to the United States on board the Mount Vernon on July 24, 1919, arriving in New York Harbor at midnight of July 31, 1919. Six days later, Meyer received his honorable discharge and went back to the Lower East Side and went back to work. Meyer managed to lead a steady, rewarding, honorable life. In 1922, he married a fellow Jewish immigrant from the Pale named Ida Rubinstein and the couple moved to Brooklyn and started a family. The couple had three sons Julius, born in 1923, Harold, in 1925, and Leonard in 1931. In 1926, Meyer received his license as a master plumber, and in time he also became a licensed steamfitter and oil burner mechanic and installer. For the next forty years, he worked steadily with reliability to support his family. Every Saturday he went to pray at the Glory of Israel Synagogue in the East New York section of Brooklyn, and served as the synagogue’s vice president for a while. Meyer kept his American Expeditionary Forces uniform, gas mask, and steel helmet all his life. He proudly displayed his victory medal and service ribbon with four Bronze Stars. Meyer Epstein remained fiercely proud of his military service. He passed away on July 23, 1976 at the age of 84 from colon cancer.

Samuel Goldberg (1900-2006)

  • Life before immigration- Born March 19, 1900 in Lodz, Russia, Samuel Goldberg grew up with his mom and dad and brother and

emigrated to the United States looking for a better life at a young age.

  • Immigration and life in U.S.- Samuel Goldberg’s father, Asriel, was the first of their family to arrive in the United States in 1902 before earning enough money to send for the rest of his family in 1907. After

arriving in the Jersey City dock from Ellis Island, Samuel’s father moved his family of six into a low cost tenement in a Jewish neighborhood. Samuel Goldberg disliked his father even more than he disliked the area he lived in. Samuel recalled some accounts of abuse by his father towards his family. Asriel moved his family into an Irish neighborhood in 1912 when Samuel was twelve years old. Samuel was eventually kicked out of their apartment at around the age of 16 years old. After living in a boarding house in Hartford with a distant relative, Samuel set his sights south to Atlanta. Being remarkably good at mathematics, Samuel Goldberg got an accounting job at an automobile company.

  • War experience- With hopes of entering the army to become a citizen, Samuel Goldberg was informed that he would be

most useful if he entered the U.S Cavalry, so he joined the 12th Cavalry Regiment on May 6, 1918. At age 18, Samuel Goldberg served as a private with Company M troops as he protected the Mexican border. He was eventually sent to El Paso along with all the other Jewish soldiers due to a furlough, since his last name classified him as a Jew even though he wasn't. Never seeing much action at all, Samuel Goldberg was in better shape afterwards than before the war when he entered as a scrawny kid and came out much more healthier and better off.

  • Postwar experience- After spending the entire war patrolling the Mexico-New Mexico border, the Great War did not have much of

an effect on Samuel Goldberg. Overall, Samuel was healthier after the war than before it. Samuel Goldberg went on to live another eighty-eight years after joining the cavalry. Samuel was the last living Jewish immigrant to serve in the United States military during World War I. Samuel died on December 10, 2006 at the age of 106 years old.

Matej Kocak (1882-1918)

  • Life before immigration-Laskin states that Matej Kocak was born in Gbely, the Slovak section of Austria-Hungary on December 30, 1882. Born to a family of farmers and small landowners and raised with his sister and brother in traditional Slovak Catholic household he worked on their farm with his brother and father. His sister then married right along with his brother, according to Laskin Kocak was a drinker and spent the rest of his time working the farm. Matej was twenty three and had fallen in love with a girl in a nearby farm ,although she was from a lower class Kocak did not care yet his father did. Kocak packed his bags and left his family and girl and arrived in the United States in 1906. When in the United States Kocak worked as a cook for a mining camp. Along with several other Hungarian families Kocak immigrated to North America, the reason that Kocak decided upon himself to leave was because of personal passion and with the love he had towards politics.
  • Immigration and life in U.S.-In the year of 1907 he was enlisted twice in his life time , served in World War 1. Although fighting in the United States army and being an immigrant was not the best combination. Matej Kocak amongst all army men was proud to be fighting for the United States, he was mostly described as valiant, excellent and wonderful soldier while at war. Kocak did not list anyone on file for emergency contact by choice. He was not a sentimental man, more of a tough love type of guy. Laskin also mentions that Matej’s parents still lived in his old village of Gbely, and though he had family back home, and a brother and his family in New York, yet he still would not have anyone listed in the emergency files. He was known as a very serious man as well.
  • War experience-Laskin states that Matej Kocak was discharged from the marines on December 13th, 1915 under “excellent” character. On December 19th, 1915 Private Kocak re-enlisted into the marines for another four-year stent. After receiving furlough, Kocak would be ordered to Utica, New York for intensive training with machine guns. He would later be assigned to the Marines 92nd Company artillery regiment and would go to Virginia for more training. Matej was shipped to France on December 8th, 1917 as part of the 66th Company, 5th Marine Regiment and would begin his service on December 31st, 1917. On June 1st, 1918 Kocak and his fellow marines of the 2nd division were preparing for the battle of Belleau Woods, the same day that he was promoted to sergeant. Laskin explains that the battle lasted most of the month of June and although the battle was considered a victory, Kocak’s unit suffered greatly. However, Kocak was cited by Captain G. K. Schuler as being a leader and cool under fire during the battle. On July 18 Kocak, and his fellow marines entered the battle of Soissons, and he realized that the only way to advance was to take out the enemy machine gun nests. The marine crawled his way to a german machine gun nest and swiftly took it out and minutes later rendered a second nest useless as well. This act of valor got Kocak into an unofficial group known as the “Solo Club”, men who took out machine gun nests on their own. After becoming separated from his men, Kocak came upon Senegalese troop and swiftly took command of them taking out two more machine gun nests. According to Laskin, July 18th was considered an American victory. Blanc Mont was considered to be one of the best guarded German offensives in the entire Great War. On October 3rd the battle finally broke out. Of the one thousand men in Kocak’s company, only one hundred were left under Lieutenant Kelly’s control, including Kocak. After storming the woods Kocak decided to crawl as he did at Soissons, only this time he was caught by the Germans and killed. His medical file stated that he had suffered multiple gunshot wounds and a broken hip/femur while serving with the 66th  Company 5th Regiment in France. Sergeant Kocak was buried on October 12th in the Meuse-Argonne Cemetery in France.
  • Postwar experience-Laskin descries Matej Kocak as not having  listed anyone on his military form to be notified in case of an emergency and he also listed that he had no relatives or friends. This proved difficult for the marines as they had to search for who to send Kocak’s two Congressional Medals of Honor to , and where to bury his body.  Along with the two medals Medals of Honor, the French Croix de Guerre and the Italian Croce al Merito were sent to his sister in law, Julia Kocak on August 20th, 1925. Also, Roza Kocak (Matej’s mother) received compensation of $563.75 from the United States Army. On October 4th the city of Binghamton, New York declared that day to be Sergeant Kocak’s Memorial Day although eventually this day was forgotten about. Matej Kocak’s grave stands tall with a marble cross and is one of 9 who’s words have been etched in gold to signify him as a Medal of Honor winner.

Tommaso Ottaviano (1893-1918)

  • Life before immigration- Tommaso Ottaviano was born to Antonia, and Ascanio Ottaviano in May of 1896 in Ciorlano, Italy. Tommaso had become man of the household when his father died of diabetes years earlier. He was expected to take on this role because he was the eldest son of the household.
  • Immigration and life in U.S.- Tommaso Ottaviano was seventeen years old when he arrived in Providence, Rhode Island in 1913 to start his new life in America. Being the oldest son in the family he was the man of the house. Tommaso got a job as a machine operator at Esmond Mills, a blanket manufacturer. The first years in America were hard for the family of five kids and no father. When the draft began it was for males ages twenty-one to thirty-one. Tommaso had celebrated his twenty-first birthday two weeks before the draft was enacted, he registered near his home in Providence, Rhode Island. Tommaso being the sole supporter of his family was entitled to an exemption from going to war, he waived his exemption to go to war. On April 27, he left Esmond Mills to start a new life in the U.S. Army.
  • War experience- When Tommaso Otaviano entered the army he was twenty-one years old. He was assigned to the 78th Division 310th Infantry and left for France on May 20, 1918. Tommaso had not seen most of the fighting until his regiment was rotated to the Argonne Forest. The 78th Division had been holding a trench near Thiaucourt, east of Verdun. The Division was hit hard by snipers and shells. The 310th had suffered losses of 121 killed, 446 wounded, and 95 gassed. Tommaso’s Division was set to attack the Bois des Loges, something they would come to hate. As soon as the attack begun they suffered mass casualties in the open field at the bottom of the hill. After a couple days of fighting they were marched to the rear not to be relieved, but to get fresh uniforms. They were back to the front that same night. After a massive artillery bombardment the Americans pushed Bois des Loges again. Held back by a wall of machine guns they could not move, that is when Tommaso was hit by a bullet. He initially survived and was moved 370 miles to Base Hospital 34, where he passed away.
  • Postwar experience- After Tommaso’s death following the end of the war, his family received $15,000 from two life insurance policies he took on himself. With this amount of money in the hands of Ottaviano’s mother she was able to afford a brand-new bigger home for herself and her remaining children. Tommaso was viewed as a martyr in the eyes of his family which resulted in a tradition of future generations enlisting in the United States Armed Forces in Tommaso’s honor.

Antonio Pierro (1896-2007)

  • Life before Immigration- Antonio Pierro was born on February 15 1896, in Forenza Italy. His parents were Rocco and Nunzia Pierro. He had five brothers and one sister. Tony being the third son, grew up rarely seeing his father Rocco, due to his work being in America. The boys understood they too would someday leave to America to help their family. As a child Tony lived outside in the shed with his siblings while the mule slept inside the house. Tony had to sleep in the shed because his family was extremely poor and valued the mule more than the children. Although there was more rough patches and memories of Italy: from no windows for their house, the many snakes in their family vineyard, farming, grueling walks from hauling water from springs and a tight budget on food. The weather was always a beautiful sight to see for the Pierro family. (Laskin intro, 10-12)
  • Immigration and life in U.S.- Tony Pierro was seventeen when he and his cousin entered America through Ellis Island with hundreds of other Italians. They traveled over in the Italian liner Stampalia in August 1913. The cousins quickly learned that New York was almost as bad as the malaria-ridden Mezzogiorno, but they did not care because they were not going to stay there. They planned on going to Swampscott where there would be an ocean, big fancy hotels, and many job opportunities for young immigrants. They got to the bottom of the Stairs of Separation and bought a railroad ticket to Boston. Tony lived with his father at the Buffalinos’, where he paid three dollars a week for a place to sleep, food to eat, and clean clothes. He worked as a laborer for Eugene H. Clapp estate. He built stone walls around rose gardens along the shore and did hard yard labor in the summers. Tony was not a person who liked to complain, but he was very unhappy with his job. He was a perfectionist who envisioned a better life for himself.
  • War experience-  Tony Pierro's an immigrant, which made up 18% of the 4.7 million soldiers, served in the “All-American” Division 320th field artillery unit. He registered like any other immigrant who knew it was a responsibility given by the American government to them. Tony Pierro didn’t expect or want to be drawn to fight in war, but sadly he had no choice. He began his training in Camp Gordon in Atlanta. What triggered Pierro the most wasn't the  homesickness, the trouble of loading a gun, or the brawl of different languages; it was being called a Wop had provoked him the worst of all. His responsibilities were to transport artillery shells to the front of the line and to collect the dead bodies of the American soldiers on his way back. Pierro also had acquainted himself more with horses than field combat due to his background with them in Italy. His lieutenant took note of this and had him take care of the horses; somehow leading him to even get his own horse. ( Laksin, intro,125, 136, 231-233)
  • Postwar experience-Although the war was over Antonio Pierro was not able to return to his home. While he was stationed in Bordeaux he fell in love with a woman by the name of Magdalena. Tony usually made sure to stay away from the French girls because of the stories he heard, but Magdalena was different. They went on many dates and quickly fell in love. Tony got approval for dating Magdalena from her father by bringing him American cigarettes. Although the two seemed promising Tony had a girlfriend back in the states, Maria Pierro, his distant cousin. When his regiment headed back to the states he went with them. Back in the states Tony and Maria married and settled into civilian life. When Tony’s mother and three younger brothers arrived in America his last tie with Italy was cut. Tony never went back to Forenza and with time his memories began to fade. He started to forget about his war experiences and eventually forgot how to speak Italian.Throughout all his loss of memory he never forgot about Magdalena. Days before his 111th birthday, Antonio Pierro died on February 8, 2007. He was the oldest living American, oldest living man born in Italy, and the last foreign-born American who fought in the Great War.

Peter Thompson (1895-1937)

  • Life before immigration-Born in County Antrim, Ireland in 1895. Peter was one of twelve kids. He started working when he was only twelve years old sorting flax fibers at a linen mill. Peter attended Christian Brothers school and was a very good student. The headmaster of the school told Peter’s mother to let him stop working to focus on his studies, but she refused because the family needed money. In 1914, when Peter was eighteen he left his hometown and sailed to America. Peter traveled from Belfast to Liverpool and from there to New York and then to Butte, Montana. On February 22, 1914 Peter left Ellis Island and took the train to Butte, Montana to meet up with his aunt and uncle.
  • Immigration and life in U.S.-When arriving in America Peter lived with aunt and uncle. Peter started working as a miner, making $3.50 a day. Peter also signed his papers to become a US citizen. The war that was happening in Europe in 1915 caused Peter’s wage working in the mines to steadily increase. During Peters first year in America he had saved up enough money to bring his father to the states and that’s exactly what he did. During this time there was a rumor going around saying that if you joined the army you would become a US citizen. Although many people in his family disagreed with the war going on, Peter dutifully signed his name to his registration card.  He figured it was easier to sign up rather than wait to be drafted in the war. Peter, believing this rumor volunteered to join the army for the sole purpose of becoming a US citizen and putting his past behind him.
  • War experience-Peter Thompson entered the army in the summer of 1917. He volunteered in order to receive full American citizenship. He served as private first class, then later promoted to sergeant in Company E, 362nd Infantry, 91st “Wild West” Division. Peter Thompson’s unit mostly drilled and marched through Europe, sitting out battles on the hillside. On September 26th, the “Wild West” Division finally engaged in action at Montfaucon, a heavily wooded area barraged by German sniper fire; the 362nd battalion had broken through German defenses after being pinned down by snipers and machine gun fire.
  • Postwar experience-Peter Thompson returned to the United States in May 1919. Like some who returned from war, Peter could not stay in one place. When he returned home he learned he received a military honor. The Republic of France recognized Peter’s bravery for saving sergeant Arnold Platt back in October 1918, rewarding him with the Croix de Guerre, which Peter refused on behalf of wanting his comrade to also receive recognition. Ultimately, Peter married in 1921 and fathered a family. However, Peter was not as reliable as a father and ended up moving his family around a few towns-Idaho and Oregon-before moving back to Butte, Montana. Peter Thompson died on October 31, 1937, due to injuries sustained after being crushed by trolley tram motor; he is buried in Butte’s Holy Cross Cemetery.

Michael Valente (1895-1976)

  • Life before immigration-He was born on February 5, 1895, in the village of Sant’ Apollinaire, Italy.
  • Immigration and life in U.S.-He came to America three years prior to the war when he was 18 years old. In 1913, he landed in New York with only 30 dollars to his name and the address of his uncle Paul. After moving in with his uncle, he got a job as an orderly at St. Lawrence State Hospital, a local mental hospital.
  • War experience-Mike Valente with the 27th division's 107th infantry, he lived in France for nearly two months, spending most time marching from one training to another. Valente in company D was posted to a section of the front line at Dickebusch Lake, where it was a flat landscape of muddy fields, poisoned water, trench lines zigzagging in perplexing mazes. Valente had been in the United States for five years and had finished a 6 month training period before he joined the rest of company D, 107th infantry on their sail across the Atlantic on the Susquehanna on may 9th, 1918. By mid-July Michael Valente and his friend and fellow soldier, Epifanio Affatato spent most of their time spent marching from one training area to another. Valente and Affatato had the bad luck to be among those thrown first and hardest at the line. On the morning of September 29th, 1918, Michael Valente’s peak action in the war would occur. A bullet striking Valente’s right wrist caused him to furiously fight back with all his power further making that his most memorable moment in the war. Valente’s rampage led to the killing of about 5 Germans and the taking of 21 prisoners.
  • Postwar experience-He moved to Newark, New Jersey, to study electrical engineering at the Newark Technical. He met a Sicilian woman named Margarita who he then married and moved to Long Island with. Once settled in, He ran an electrical contracting business and sold real estate. Eleven years after serving, he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor on September 27, 1929. In the 1930s and 40s, after the stock market crash affected his previous businesses, he became involved in politics, serving as a Long Beach city marshal and a committeeman for the Democratic Party. He was invited to the presidential inauguration of Dwight David Eisenhower on January 20, 1953, alongside his fellow World War I Medal of Honor winners. On Memorial Day 1958, he attended the internment of the Unknown Members of the Armed Forces of World War II and Korea at Arlington National Cemetery.  He died at the age of eighty on January 10, 1976, and was buried at the Long Island National Cemetery, a few spots away from his dear friend and fellow veteran Epifanio Affatato.

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