When George Deluca’s draft number came up, he deferred his high school graduation in Wanamie, Pennsylvania, to join the Army. He entered the European theater in the last days of the Battle of the Bulge and stayed on in the occupation of Germany.
Deluca worked as a bartender at the Berlin officers club, where he connected with an Italian prisoner of war. The prisoner was not allowed to send letters home. Deluca devised a scheme to help his friend communicate with his family by forwarding messages through Deluca’s Italian-born mother in the States.
“He couldn’t write to his family back home in Italy to say that he was still alive,” Deluca said. “I used to write a letter to my mother telling her that he couldn’t talk to his people in Italy. What my mother would do is translate what I told her into Italian and send it by American mail, which got over there to his mother. And his mother wrote back to my mother in English and my mother would translate it into Italian and send it to me so he’d know his family knew he’s alive.”
When Deluca, now 91, and his family visited Italy in the 1990s, he tried tracking down his wartime friend.
“He was from Ferrara, Italy. I tried calling the phone company to see if he has a phone or something. There was a number by his name but it wasn’t him,” Deluca said. “I couldn’t find him.”
— Cameron Dodd