This photo was taken in the field of Dux di Pietragalla in 1943, near to the time when Robert Dulac’s plane, known as the Fyrtle Myrtle, was shot down. Vitangelo Di Fino, here 11 years old, is the first child sitting on the ground to the left, wearing a black shirt, a fez on his head, and with his hands crossed. Photos for this post are courtesy of Vitangelo’s daughter, Maddalena Di Fino.
Michele Potenza was 13 years old when he witnessed the downing of an American bomber from the skies over his village of Pietragalla, Italy. It was a memory impressed in his mind for life (see “Lost Airmen Remembered in Pietragalla.”)
Yesterday I learned from Michele of another child who was drawn into this disturbing event.
Vitangelo Di Fino was a boy of 12 when the plane came down, and he was the first on the ground to reach Robert Dulac. He quickly rendered emergency first aid when he saw that Robert was bleeding.
Detail of Vitangelo from the above photo
I asked Michele if he knew whether Robert had suffered head injuries or even had been blinded. Fellow crew member Edward Dzierzynski later noted in the official Missing Air Crew Report that Robert “was seriously injured around the eyes – head” by the crash.
No, non era cieco. A causa del bail out, nel cadere a terra, si è fratturato il malleolo.
No, [DULAC] was not blinded, [but] due to the bail out, in the fall to the ground he broke his ankle.
Il teste DE FINO Vitangelo, in un’intervista che io ho registrato e che vedro’ anche di mandarti, racconta di aver trovato DULAC a terra, con il malleolo rotto da cui sgorgava molto sangue. DE FINO non dice niente sulle ferite alla testa ed agli occhi: come ripeto egli si preoccupo’ solo di evitare che DULAC potesse morire per emorragia e per questo,non avendo niente di specifico appresso (garze, fasce, disinfettante, cerotti, ecc.), con la sua maglietta fasciò la rottura e consegno’ DULAC ad altri che lo accompagnarono all’Ospedale di POTENZA.
The witness, Vitangelo DE FINO, in an interview that I recorded and I will see that send to you, said he found DULAC on the ground with a broken ankle from which flowed much blood. DE FINO said nothing of wounds to the head and eyes. I repeat, he worried only about preventing DULAC from bleeding to death and for that, not having relevant supplies (gauzes, strips, disinfectant, bandages, etc.), he bandaged the wound with his shirt and delivered DULAC and his companions to Potenza Hospital.
Vitangelo racconta: ‘mi sono avvicinato a DULAC ed ho visto subito che perdeva sangue dal malleolo di una gamba. Non avevo niente per fasciargli la ferita. Allora mi sono tolto la maglietta bianca che avevo addosso (che portava incisa la lettera M, iniziale di Mussolini!!!) e ho fasciato ben bene la ferita, sino ad arrestare la fuoriuscita del sangue. Mentre compivo l’intervento, DULAC mi ha messo una mano sulla mia testa e mi ha detto in inglese: HELP, HELP!!’
Vitangelo explained: ‘I approached DULAC and saw right away that he was bleeding from the ankle of one leg. I had nothing to bandage the injury. Then I took off the white T-shirt I was wearing—on which was printed the letter M, the initial of Mussolini!!!—and I bandaged the wound well, until the flow of blood ceased. While I performed this intervention, DULAC put a hand on my head and said in English, HELP, HELP!!’
Vitangelo è ancora in vita,pur avendo raggiunto la veneranda eta’ di 84 anni e per il suo gesto eroico, quando ritorno’ al campo senza la maglietta, il comandante lo aggredi’ con schiaffi e calci,rimproverandolo di aver, con il suo atto,aiutato un nemico. Il comandante era difatti un fanatico fascista, di cui Vitangelo ricorda ancora, molto lucidamente, il suo carattere arrogante, borioso e prepotente!
Vitangelo is still living, having reached the ripe old age of 84 years, and for his heroic deed, when he returned to the camp without his shirt, the commander attacked him with slaps and kicks, reproaching him for having, through his actions, helped an enemy. The commander was in fact a fanatical fascist, whom Vitangelo still remembers very clearly—his character was arrogant, conceited, and domineering!
Michele directed me to an online article about Vitangelo Di Fino’s childhood experience of war (Giornale Lucano, November–December 2011). Michele explains:
Troverai riportata la storia di Vitangelo DI FINO che all’eta’ di 12 anni, orfano di padre e madre, si trovava al campo DUX di Pietragalla ed il 16 luglio 1943 offri’ spontaneamente aiuto a Robert DULAC. Nello stesso articolo troverai anche tre belle fotografie di Vitangelo: la prima su una spiaggia, la seconda su di un albero da frutta e la terza lo ritrae così come è oggi.
You will find in this article the story of Vitangelo DI FINO, who at the age of 12 had lost his father and mother and was attending Campo DUX of Pietragalla [an Italian fascist youth camp] on 16 July 1943 when he spontaneously came to the aid of Robert DULAC. In the same article you’ll find three beautiful photographs of Vitangelo: the first on the beach, the second in a fruit tree and the third showing him as he is today.
Here is a link to the Giornale Lucano article:
“Vitangelo, il bimbo che sopravvisse alla guerra” (in English, “Vitangelo, the child who survived the war”).
See also yesterday’s post, “Robert E. Dulac—Fyrtle Myrtle Crash Survivor.”
Vitangelo at 17 years of age on the beach in Santa Maria di Castellabate, 1948
Left: 18-year-old Vitangelo in 1949; right: Vitangelo Di Fino today
Vitangelo, 27 years old, on the bridge of Montereale a Potenza, 1958