In remembrance of: SSGT Anthony Rocco Monaco, ‘A’ Company, 1st Battalion, 143rd Infantry Regiment, 36th Infantry Division.
‘Tony’, as he was called, was born in Chicago in 1924. His mother Anita and father Michael were born in Italy in the small southern mountain town of Oliveto Citra 60 miles southeast of Naples in the Campania region. Tony was the youngest son. His four older brothers, Michael, Edward, Joseph and Charles (Patsy-my father) served in the US Army as well (except for Michael). Tony had a younger sister, Rosemary, also.
Tony and his brothers grew up on the south side of Chicago during the ‘20’s and ‘30’s and when WWII started, his older brothers Eddie, Joey and Patsy all quickly joined up in the Army to serve their country. Tony was too young to join at that time and his mother Anita would not sign for him, as was required for underage men to join. Through some manipulations, Tony worked his way around ‘such a trivial matter’ and was able to get the signature he needed to join so that he to could serve his country. Tony was only 18 at the time.
Soon after Tony found himself assigned to the Texas T-Patchers as a member of the 36th Infantry Division at Camp Bowie. The Division then took its route to war eventually landing in North Africa. It was from there that Tony would depart for the invasion of Italy as a member of the 36th Infantry Division.
Tony’s unit, the 143rd Infantry Regiment stormed ashore at Paestum, Italy in Operation Avalanche as the first US combat troops to ‘strike at the soft underbelly’ of German occupied Europe. Tony’s unit moved up the boot of Italy through Naples on the road to Rome. Tony was at the battles of San Pietro, San Vittore, and San Angelo as well as many other well known battles throughout the region on the road to Rome. Then it was on to the battle at the Rapido River. Tony was involved in both crossings of the Rapido River. Sometime during the Rapido River battle, Tony was wounded and received his first Purple Heart and was also awarded the Bronze Star for his brave actions during the battle. Tony was also promoted to combat Sergeant for bravery in action during the Rapido River battle.
Surviving the Rapido River battle Tony’s unit moved on towards Rome through the Liri Valley, Velletri and the Alban Hills fighting with honor and dignity all the way to Rome. When the 36th Division entered Rome, Tony and his brother soldiers of the 36th were all happy that their fate had allowed them to still be alive after seeing so many of their brother soldiers killed or wounded in action against Field Marshall Kesselring’s German Army. The 14th Panzer Corps was Kesselring’s main battle force in this area of Italy.
After a brief respite from the war after entering Rome, the 36th Division then proceeded with the invasion of Southern France. Tony’s unit then fought their way up the Rhone River Valley and were involved in heavy battles taking many casualties as they fought their way through the war torn towns of Montelimar, Vesoul, Leon and into Remiremont driving a ferocious retreating German Army back across the Moselle River.
It was at the Moselle River crossing where Tony’s ‘combat luck’ ran out. During the first crossings of the Moselle River near the villiage of St. Nabord just north of Remiremont, Tony was in the river with numerous other T-Patchers. While crossing the river and holding on to guide ropes that the 111th Combat Engineers had strung across the river to aid the 36th Division soldiers in wading across the river, Tony’s unit took the brunt of a German artillery barrage. The German artillery, high up in the Voges Mountains, redirected their artillery barrage that was pounding the rest of the unit at Remiremont to the river crossing area near St. Nabord. It was at this point of the battle that Tony was critically wounded on September 22, 1944 along with many other T-Patchers who were in the water and on the far shore at that time. Tony, two days later on September 24, 1944, died from the critical wounds he received. Tony received his second Purple Heart at this time.
Although Tony’s war and his life was over it was far from over for the rest of the 36th Division. The 36th Division battled bravely through the Voges Mountains, through the Colmar pocket and then crossed the bloody Rhine River and continued on into Germany, fighting with honor and dignity until the war ended in the Spring/Summer of 1945.
These accounts of my Uncle Tony’s and the 36th Division are, of course, not first hand knowledge of my own. Through extensive research, I have learned of these heroic efforts of Tony and the 36th Division by reading many books written about the 36th Division. I also learned much through Army archives I was able to locate along with the information my father had told me about. Other information I collected came from ‘first hand’ accounts from 36th Division soldiers I tracked down that were in Company ‘A’ of the 143rd Infantry Regiment and were in combat with Tony. So if some times and places are not exact, I apologize, it is the best that I could put together to be as true and honorable a memorial to Tony and all the soldiers of The Fighting 36th.
Of the two attached photos; one is of Tony that was in the Chicago Tribune newspaper published in February, 1944. It was taken at San Vittore, Italy during combat; the other is of Tony and his friend and soldier brother, SSGT Joe Gallagher of Dobbs Ferry, NY somewhere in Rome during some brief R & R from the war. Joe was very instrumental in my research. It was Joe who was in ‘A’ Company with Tony who gave me most of these first hand accounts of ‘A’ Company’s combat operations. Thank you so much for your conversations Joe Gallagher. I will always remember you along with my remembrance of Tony. There are numerous other T-Patchers who contributed to my research and I would like to thank them all for their kind help, conversation and information.
During this research I was totally amazed and emotionally moved by the combat records and heroics of the 36th Infantry Division. Since then I have written and produced (with the help of numerous musicians I work with who donated their time and expertise) a Memorial Dedication Song, dedicated to “The Soldiers Of The Fighting 36th”. I have packaged this song with beautifully decorated artwork which includes photos, Division Patches, Regimental Crests and Military Awards Medals. This song is available to all T-Patchers and all Veterans free of charge. Anyone wishing to obtain a CD copy, either in the Country and Western format or the Pop/Rock format can easily obtain one by going to my website located at www.sopromusic.com . Go to the Military Dedications area of my website and click on “The Soldiers Of The Fighting 36th” and you will find the song and credits in both musical formats. Print out the order page and send it to me in the mail and I will send you a CD free of charge. You can also listen to both formats in their entirety or download the songs if you wish free of charge.
This song is dedicated to The Soldiers Of The Fighting 36th Infantry Division who gave their lives for their country with honor and dignity and to those Soldiers who returned home to America after winning freedom for all nations with their total victory in Europe during WWII.
YOU ARE NOT FORGOTTEN ……………………