Daniel F. Benevento
Daniel was born Donato Francis Benevento in Buenos Aires, Argentina on June 22, 1909 to parents Rocco and Anna Lucia “Lucy” (Desopo) Benevento. Daniel and his family were from Tricarico, a small town in southern Italy. Not sure yet of the reason he was born in Argentina, but he spent his younger years in Italy. Daniel was the third of four children of the family. He had an older sister Maria “Mary" who was born in 1898, and an older brother Antonio “Anthony” born in 1900. The baby of the group was Joseph, who was born in 1912.
Political, social, and economic unrest was growing by the day in Italy. The Italian government was allocating more of the nation’s resources to industrialize the north rather than share in the development of prosperity with the south. This resulted in an unfair tax burden to residents living in the southern part of the country. Instead of facing the prospect of a worsening poverty level, many chose to emigrate to the United States. It was the hope of obtaining the “American Dream.”
Rocco made up his mind that it was time to move the family to the United States for a better life. He would go first and find steady work so he could pay for passage for the rest of the family to later make the voyage. In June 1900, he arrived in New York where he was listed as a carpenter by trade. Rocco went back to Italy in 1911. One year later, Rocco would return to America once again. This time, he stayed with his nephew, Pasquale who had recently emigrated himself, living in Newark, New Jersey. Pasquale would not stay there long and moved to Camden, New Jersey. Rocco would remain in the Newark.
|SS Guglielmo Peirce|
By late summer of 1921, Lucy had enough money saved to make the voyage. On September 10th, Lucy, Mary and 12 year-old Daniel departed from the port of Naples and journeyed across the Atlantic Ocean aboard the SS Guglielmo Peirce, arriving at Ellis Island on September 25th. Rocco would go back to Italy in 1928 to bring Antonio to the United States and reunite the family. By 1922, Rocco, Lucy and presumably Joseph (still unknown just when he emigrated to the United States) had moved to 839 South Third Street in Camden, New Jersey; only a few doors away from Pasquale. Daniel and his sister continued to reside in Newark. Mary met Angelo Tancredi and the two were later married in 1925 or 1926 and raised a family there.
|202 Baird Avenue|
Daniel enlisted in the Army on April 5, 1944. At the time, his occupation was listed as a vehicle driver. He reported to the 1229th Reception Center at Fort Dix, NJ for orientation. After arriving, Benevento was read the Articles of War, issued his uniform, shoes, and other necessary gear. He would then be assigned to a company and barrack to bunk in. Day 2, he and the rest of the recruits would be up bright and early at 5:45 A.M. for reveille formation. Afterwards they would return to clean up the barracks, shower, shave and report to the mess hall for breakfast at 7 A.M. By 7:30, they were called to detail and each man underwent a detailed physical examination and administered a variety of vaccination shots.
Following the exam, the men returned to the mess hall for lunch. The afternoon was spent marching and formation drills. By 3:30 P.M., the Company was dismissed and returned to the barracks to organize their belongings and report back for dinner at 6:30 P.M. Unfortunate souls would catch the much dreaded “KP” (kitchen patrol) duty. From 7 to 11 P.M., recruits were free to unwind. The routine for day 3 was much like the previous day. Up at the crack of dawn, and fall into formation. Getting ready for the Army life.
After breakfast, the recruits took an IQ test and an interview to determine what job classification each man would be assigned to. They would also sign up for the G.I. life insurance policy which provided $10,000 to a soldier’s beneficiary if the applicant was killed in action. Daniel boarded a train at Fort Dix with other recruits having absolutely no idea of the next destination. This was just another thing these men would learn about the Army.
Daniel would begin basic training at an infantry replacement training center, where new recruits spent 17 weeks learning how to be a soldier. Private Benevento was officially assigned to an Infantry Training Battalion and spending the first five weeks listening to lectures about military courtesy, sex hygiene, mines and booby traps, first aid for soldiers, map reading, marksmanship and other fundamentals.
Daniel next trained on the operation of the M-1 "Garand" rifle, the M-1 carbine rifle, the Browning Automatic Rifle (B.A.R), the .30 caliber machine-gun, a 60mm mortar, hand grenades, and the bazooka. He next took to the firing range to tested to qualify on all of these weapons. The men of the battalion then continued their training on various tactical operational courses on overhead artillery fire training, village fighting, bayonet instruction, and an infiltration course where all weapons were loaded with live ammunition.
After completion of his training, Daniel would have had 10 days of leave and returned to see his family. He then traveled via train to the Army Ground Force Replacement Depot #1 at Fort George G. Meade in Maryland. This was one of only two Army installations in the country where soldiers gathered to be shipped overseas as replacements for men who had been killed, wounded, reassigned or discharged. Here, the officers made sure these soldiers were adequately prepared. The men were kept active to maintain their mental and physical conditioning sharp. Additional training, weapon proficiency checks, physical examinations, and inoculations were all performed to make sure the troops were fit for overseas duty.
Soldiers would not be granted liberty from the base as their date of embarkation was imminent. In fact, they could not have visitors, make telephone calls, or send letters to family and friends until they got to their next destination. Large movement of troops towards ports had to be conducted in secrecy to prevent alerting foreign agents and possible sabotage acts.
Private Benevento would then head by rail up to an army camp where soldiers were billeted for anywhere from a day to several weeks awaiting their assigned date to ship out overseas. It is still not known which camp and port Daniel was sent to. He was said to have shipped out some time in January. He did not know his destination, but he was headed for the European Theater of Operation.
The ship arrived in the United Kingdom and the troops disembarked. Daniel was detailed to a stockage depot for a day or two. He would then be shuffled off to a “package” area to be placed into a smaller group of replacement soldiers. The group was soon taken across the English Channel by ship to France and then transported to La Harve where they were assigned to the 15th Replacement Depot of the Ground Forces Reinforcement Command. Daniel was moved to the 21st Replacement Battalion, a forward depot located just to the rear of the forward troops.
The life of a replacement soldier would be one of anxiousness and depression. He could hear the sound of gunfire and explosions of artillery in the distance. The war was getting closer and closer for Private Benevento. All there was to do was read field handbooks for replacement soldiers and await his turn on the front lines. He would not have to wait long.
|253rd Inf. Regiment Crest|
The Forty Thieves attacked the town of Auermacher the next day and had occupied it after extensive house-to-house fighting. The next day they followed up “B” Company into Kleinblittersdorf and mopped up some pockets of resistance throughout the town. The Thieves continued their attack north on February 24th to Bübingen.
In the early afternoon of March 3rd, Company “C” was to advance into the woods overlooking Kleinblittersdorf to seize and hold a quarry that the was occupied by German soldiers. That evening, they had entered the quarry and cleared the southern half despite heavy artillery and mortar fire. Progress was slow into the next day. The Thieves had advanced only 200 yards in while dodging bullets and artillery fire. By March 5th, the quarry was finally taken.
|63rd Inf. Reg. Patch|
"By direction of the President of The United States of America, the Presidential Unit Citation is awarded to : Company C, 253rd Infantry Regiment, 63rd Infantry Division for outstanding performance of duty in action against the enemy from 3 to 5 March 1945 at the rock quarry northeast of Bubingen, Germany. This quarry, the dominant terrain feature in the area and the last main enemy defense before the Siegfried Line, with its sheer cliffs, maze of tunnels, piles of loose rock and covered routes of approach which greatly favored the defenders, was assaulted at 1400 on 3 March 1945 by Company C, in conjunction with an attack by the 1st Battalion, 255th Infantry, attacking on the left to secure the woods northeast of the quarry. While attempting to seize the northern end of the quarry, they were halted for 2 days and nights by concentrated enemy mortar and machine-gun fire and suffered tremendous losses. At the same time, two companies on the left had been unable to advance because of the overwhelming fire power directed at them from the northern end of the quarry. On the night of 4 March, reconnaissance patrols from Company C succeeded in location some the the well camouflaged machine-gun positions. Later that night, the company with less than one-quarter of its original strength and the men exhausted by 2 days and nights of violent action, renewed the attack. With great valor, skill, and determination, the assault was pressed home and the final heights were carried. The extraordinary courage, fidelity, and tenacity of purpose in pressing the attack and capturing the vital enemy position and the highest credit on the officers and men of Company C, 253rd Infantry Regiment, 63rd Infantry Division and the armed forces of the United States."
March 12th, the Forty Thieves added new reinforcement soldiers and moved north towards Fechingen. There they prepared for Operation “Undertone” which was the attack against the Siegfried Line. Their role in the operation was to create a diversion by attacking a wooded area west of Ensheim, a town about 3 kilometers northeast of Fechingen.
At H-Hour (1:00am) on March 15th, the Thieves moved across an open meadow towards the woods when a German artillery barrage opened up on the woods and its approaches. The men advanced through this shelling and endured six hours of combat capturing 75 prisoners. That morning, the Forty Thieves were ordered to withdraw to their original position due to a successful diversionary mission. During this battle, Daniel Benevento and 2 others were wounded. It is unknown when he returned to his outfit so I will continue with what happened with his company.
March 17th, the 253rd were relieved from combat and assembled in Ensheim and Eschringen in preparation for the next phase of attack against the Siegfried Line. On March 20th, the 1st Battalion of the 253rd made quick progress and with little resistance against the second belt along the line securing the high ground to protect the movement of the remainder of the regiment. The mighty Siegfried Line had fallen to the 63rd Division by that afternoon. Daniel received a promotion from Private to Private First Class on March 23rd.
On the afternoon of March 28th, the 63rd Division crossed the Rhine River over a heavy pontoon bridge at Rheindurkheim. They assembled a few miles north of Mannheim in Vierheim. Two days later, “C” company was transported east to the vicinity of Ladenburg on the backs of tanks from the 753rd Tank Battalion. They reached the Neckar River, where a footbridge was recently completed. The tanks were unable to cross this bridge, so the Forty Thieves dismounted and crossed on foot and entered Heidelberg by the afternoon.
March 31st, they proceeded south to Neckargemund, where they encountered house after house with white flags displayed from each window. Neckargemund was the site of a warehouse containing vast cases of champagne. Most of the men of the 1st Battalion, 253rd Regiment had never tasted champagne, but they all agreed that it was the best “lemon pop soda” they had ever drunk. Needless to say, the troops got very drunk that night in Neckargemund. The 63rd Infantry Division HQ moved east to Aglasterhausen. The trail was clearly marked by empty champagne bottles strewn along the route.
|63rd ID Engagement Apr 4-12|
It was a cold, rainy day on April 7, 1945. Company “C” occupied Kressbach by morning. In the afternoon, the Forty Thieves plus a five-man machine gun squad were directed to proceed from town through the open field and proceed east. The first squad was in the lead with scouts very far out ahead. The squad was spread as wide as possible with one half of the men on one side of the creek and half on the other. The menacing edge of the woods was on their right.
The German troops watched closely and held their fire as the Forty Thieves moved out in front of them. The platoon members on the south slope of the field were only 50 yards in front and moving east across their line if fire. It was imperative that the defenders conserve their fire since their ammunition was almost depleted. The first squad scouts from the Forty Thieves were approximately 1000 yards from town, and the rest about 400 yards when the Germans opened up on their positions. Machine gun and rifle fire had cut down the Thieves on all sides.
The only place which afforded any protection was the creek which ran through the center of the field. Those who were close enough to the stream dove in and established covering fire. Anyone more than twenty yards or more from this stream were wounded or killed outright. The spring-fed water of the creek was very cold in early April and only a about a foot deep and the height of the banks along the creek ranged from eight inches at it’s lowest point up to three foot high. Soldiers who were fortunate enough to dive in for cover had to crawl through the freezing water.
|German residents carrying|
American soldiers from
1st Bat., 253rd Inf. Reg.
who were killed in Kressbach.
During this ambush, PFC Daniel Benevento was killed along this creek when he was struck by gunfire in the left side of his chest. Platoon 1 of Company “C”, 253rd Infantry Regiment lost 24 members. 17 men were killed and 7 wounded. The Forty Thieves had been reduced to just nine in number.
Benevento was listed as Missing in Action from April 7-April 23, when positive identification was found. The War Department had sent a telegram to Helen Benevento dated April 20, stating Daniel was listed as missing in action. Daniel’s sister, Mary had written to the Army so find out where her brother was buried. She was reassured that Daniel was interred in a United States Military Cemetery in Germany that was guarded by American soldiers.
Benevento was originally buried on the afternoon of April 10th, 1945 in a temporary US Military Cemetery in Bensheim, Germany. On September 19 1945, he was disinterred from Bensheim and transferred to the U.S. Military in St. Avold, France. The Army sent a request to Helen as to her wishes of where to have her husband buried. At the time, she could have him returned to the United States or buried in an American military cemetery with other fallen comrades in Europe. The decision was made to have PFC Daniel Benevento permanently buried in Plot B, Row 22, Grave 52 at Lorraine American Cemetery in St. Avold France on April 20, 1949.
|Benevento Grave Marker|
Daniel would receive the Purple Heart, and Combat Infantryman Badge posthumously. He was survived by his wife and children, his parents, and his siblings. His younger brother Joseph served in the Navy aboard the cruiser USS Mobile (CL-63) during World War II.
I will end this story with a poem that Helen had published in the Courier-Post on the first anniversary of Daniel’s death: