100-year-old resident and WWII POW is remembered

File Photo
Thomas Stivale celebrates his 100th birthday in October with family and friends. The World War II veteran kept a diary of his time as a POW in Germany.

BLOOMFIELD, NJ — Lifelong Bloomfield resident and World War II prisoner of war Thomas Stivale, 100, died on Friday, Jan. 24, in Livingston. He was predeceased by his wife, Pauline, nee Morrell, and survived by daughters Rose and Joanne. A funeral service was conducted by the Rev. James Brown of Sacred Heart Church at O’Boyle Funeral Home on Monday, Jan. 27. A military honor guard was present.

Stivale was born on Oct. 15, 1919, at 11 Newark Ave., and resided at 53 Walnut St. A Class of 1938 Bloomfield High School graduate, he made his living as a truck driver. A signpost at the corner of Montgomery and Walnut streets is designated with his name and WWII captivity.

Stivale was a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division, 456th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion. During his military service, including nearly two years as a POW in Germany, he kept a remarkable diary, which still exists.

From the diary, one learns that he was captured on July 10, 1943, in Sicily, after a night-time jump.

“Taken to Northern Sicily then Capua, 15 miles from Naples. From Capua by Box Car to STALAG II-B and Hammerstein, Germany. 5 miserable days,” the diary reads.

The prisoners were marched several hundred miles to a POW camp in Parchim, located in central Germany.

“They had a potato farm,” according to the diary. “The prisoners were American, French, Polish and a girl from Denmark. They had oxen to cultivate the potatoes. We’d throw them into a cart and cover them with straw until the spring. The big ones would go to Hitler, the smaller ones to feed the swine.”

In addition to documenting life as a POW, Stivale recorded his thoughts.

“Tears may come to my eyes, but they are tears not to be forgotten, for homesickness does that to me,” he said.

The diary contained the names of the American POWs and where they lived. One POW was Bob Vogo from Plano, Ill. Stivale wrote in his diary about the day the camp was liberated by Russian troops while he and Vogo were walking side by side:

“May 2, 1945, Freedom at last. Russians came in Parchim after dinner and really took the village over. This same date was almost killed by Russians when taking the village over. One got hit in the chin and came out his neck. Name, Bob Vogo, from Illinois. Would never want to live this day over. In Russian hands for two days.”

He carried Vogo back to camp and believed he died. Stivale was turned over to American forces on May 4, 1945.

“Feeling cannot be expressed in writing,” he wrote.

In his funeral service, Brown said it was important for people to remember someone by telling their stories.

“Tom had 100 years,” Brown said. “A lot of stories — tell them.”

Concluding the service, an honor guard saluted while a recording of “Taps” played, and he then removed an American flag that was folded into a triangle and positioned beside Stivale in the coffin. A second guard appeared and, in perfect unison, they unfolded and refolded the flag, presented it to Stivale’s daughter Rose and saluted.

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