Peter Grillo—Surgery “Sans Anesthetic”


This article is from Peter Grillo’s son Roy.

He explained, “Digging through lots of papers, I found another item which is very interesting. This is the story my dad used to tell me as I grew up and was asking questions.”

We know that Peter was interned at Camp 59 in Servigliano through a letter from the War Department to Peter’s wife dated July 24, 1943 (See “Peter Grillo—Captive“).

The article suggests the surgery was done in an Italian POW camp. However, there only two British medical officers in the camp at that time, no German doctors. Perhaps at one point Peter was interned in another camp or hospital in Italy where the surgery was performed by the German doctor.

It seems even more likely the surgery was actually done after his transfer to Germany. According to the U.S. National Archives, Peter was last interned in Stalag 2B Hammerstein in Germany.

Baldwin POW Underwent Operation Sans Anesthetic

Monday, June 11, 1945

Baldwin—How Pvt. Peter C. Grillo, brother of Mrs. Santa Weldon of 14 Schoen St., underwent an operation for appendicitis sans anesthetic while a German prisoner of war, was told in a delayed dispatch just received from London.

Pvt. Grillo, now in an Ex-POW Casual Detachment near London waiting transportation home, was captured two hours after he was wounded by shrapnel at Kasserine Pass on Dec. 23, 1942. After a day of German hospitalization in Tunis, he was loaded on a six-motored transport plane for Germany which ran into RAF trouble and made a forced landing in Sicily.

Small Dose Wears Off

After a month in a Palermo hospital he traveled five days by box car to a POW camp north of Rome. There he developed acute appendicitis complicated by peritonitis. The German doctor did his best but there apparently was a shortage of anesthetics and the first small dose quickly wore off.

“The German medic did his stuff cold” Pvt. Grillo told a newspaper correspondent in London, “and I just screamed. They strapped me down to the bed and let me scream.”

After he recovered, Grillo was put to work plowing and doing other heavy farm work. That went on for more than a year. By that time there were repeated rumors that the Russian Red Army was coming and presently he found himself in a column of prisoners footing it toward Brandenburg, 400 miles away. They marched for two weeks on bread and water rations and any one who weakened was shot.

Grillo, 26, wears the Purple Heart and Combat Infantryman’s Badge. He lost 50 pounds under the Nazis but appeared rugged and in a good frame of mind—as he had to be to survive those two and a half years before a British armored unit freed him Mar. 25.


Peter Grillo and wife Celica (Roy’s stepmother)

Roy wrote, “my dad was raised in Baldwin NY, and the article is from a local paper there. The clipping was sent to my mother by my dad’s brother, Armand Grillo, who has passed just a few years ago.

“My mother was born and raised in Lunenburg MA, and my dad was stationed at Fort Devens MA (a very short ride to Lunenburg). They met at a USO dance put on by the local Baptist church my mother belonged to. The address on the letter from the War Department is her dad’s house. My mom’s mother died at a very early age, so mom—and my two sisters—stayed with her father through that ordeal and through my dad’s recuperation from his wounds, mental and physical.

“After he returned, my dad became a very heavy drinker, but after a few years he realized what he was doing to everyone by his use of alcohol and quit. I think that was a great accomplishment for anyone who endured years as a POW.”

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