Immigrant parents sent their sons to war

As a second generation Italian-American, Joe Frontera didn’t have any problem with serving his country.

But knowing that American boys would be fighting in Italy didn’t set well with his parents, John and Mary.

“My father (born in 1896) was 14 years old when they left Italy,” Joe said. “He thought he was going to Argentina.”

He would up in Boston, Mass.

His father “knew there was a friend of his in Clarendon, Pa…. and found him.”

His mother, born in 1900, also came to the states in unique circumstances.

“Her father brought her over here,” said Joe. “Her father asked for her, knew he had a daughter over there. Her dad brought her over.”

“They had a language barrier,” Joe said. “You ask a question in English. They didn’t know what you were talking about… It was a little tough to be family from immigrant parents that had the language barrier.”

He explained his parents learned English after they purchased a radio. They “learned how to talk English by the radio,” he said.

While they may have adjusted to living in the United States by the time the war broke out, part of their heart was still in Italy.

“My dad was upset,” Joe said of his father’s view of the conflict in Italy, “because Mussolini was good for Italy at the time, then Hitler got him and messed him up. My dad was bitter about the Italians getting mixed up with Hitler.

“He was a little perturbed because his boys were going to fight against his brothers and we knew that.”

Of the five Frontera sons, four served during World War II.

“Poor mother, she went crazy,” Joe said. “When I left for the war, poor lady, (she) was just learning how to speak English.”

Joe served in the Pacific and said that his brother Dominic was a paratrooper in the 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment and Frank served on a submarine tender in Australia.

While three of the Frontera boys avoided their father’s conflict, Pete was not so lucky.

Joe said that Pete served in Italy in a unit commanded by a future U.S. presidential candidate, George McGovern. “They bombed the oil fields in Romania,” he said.

And given the tenacity of the Italians in their fight against the US, an Italian stigma brought Joe some harassment in the service.

“You’d be surprised how many guys that we got drafted in the service would insult the hell out of the Italian boys because of what the Italian boys did over there,” he said. “After a while, you live with these guys. They respect you.”