Peter Grillo—A Mystery Solved

Peter Grillo with grandson Christopher Longo

Ten years ago, in August 2013, I wrote a post on this site, “Peter Grillo—Surgery ‘Sans Anesthetic,’” concerning a harrowing operation P.G. 59 prisoner Peter Grillo had for appendicitis. At the time, Peter’s son Roy and I knew that after Peter had been interned in P.G. 59, he eventually ended up in Stalag 2B Hammerstein, from which he was liberated at the end of the war. (See “Liberated Comrades-in-Arms.”)

What we weren’t sure of until recently was his actual dates of internment and where Peter’s surgery had been performed. We weren’t even sure whether the operation was in Italy or Germany.

I discovered the missing details recently through accessing Peter’s Italian POW card on the U.S. National Archives (NARA) website. (These identity cards were created and maintained by the Italian Ministry of War during the war as a way for the Italians to maintain records on the prisoners—and to meet basic requirements of the 1929 Geneva Convention.)

From Peter’s card I learned that after P.G. 59, he was held in three additional locations in Italy.

He was admitted to the Military Hospital in Ascoli Piceno on 21 June 1943.

On August 6, he was transferred to H207, the military hospital in Milan, which on 13/14 September 1943 was bombed by the Royal Air Force. Janet Kinrade Dethick in Some Corner of a Foreign Field: Deaths Behind the Lines in Italy 1942-5 (published in 2022), explains that the industrial cities of Genoa, Turin, and Milan were targeted by the Allies in an attempt to force Marshal Badoglio, the head of government following Mussolini’s July fall from power, into signing an armistice. Hospital H207, which had been set up in a school opposite a factory, was wrecked by the blast when the factory was bombed. Of 25 British POWs trapped beneath 20 feet of debris, 15 were pulled out alive.

Survivors of the bombing, including Peter, were moved to H201, the military hospital in Bergamo.

With or without adequate anesthetics, Peter was fortunate to have been sent to Ascoli Piceno for the surgery and to have survival the procedure. In Allied Prisoners of War in the Region of the Marche and Prison Camp at Servigliano, Italian historian Giuseppe Millozzi relates the case of P.G. 59 internee Sergeant Riley Rudd, who died of a perforated appendix on 20 July 1942 in the hospital at Ascoli Piceno:

“ … in September ’42 Capt. Millar sent a complaint to the Red Cross concerning the death of Sergt. Riley Rudd: the latter was suffering from a perforated appendix but it was not allowed for the doctors to operate on him in the camp infirmary. An ambulance arrived only after 11 hours and Sergt. Rudd died in hospital. There were two other deaths caused by appendix and one of pneumonia in September.”

Peter went on to live another 59 years.

Often key aspects of a story are never resolved, so it’s gratifying when in time details come to light that clarify what happened to a particular soldier so many years ago.

Here is Peter’s POW card:

Cognome e nome [Surname and name]: Grillo, Peter
Paternità [Father]: Roy
Maternità [Mother]: Mary
Grado [Rank]: Pvt. [Private]
Matricola [Service number]: 12020395
Arma-Corpo [Service unit]: Inf. [Infantry]
Data e luogo di nascita [Date and place of birth]: 1917 N.Y. [New York] U.S.A.
Nazionalità [Nationality]: American
Stato civile [Marital status]: Married
Religione [Religion]: R.C. [Roman Catholic]
Professione [Occupation]: Mechanic
Domicilio [Residence]: Leominister Rd. Lunenburgh, Mass. [Massachussets]
Data e luogo di cattura [Date and place of capture]: 24 December 1942 Tunisia

Giorno/Mese/Anno/Variazione [Day/Month/Year/Change]
23 December 1942 – Guinto a questo Palermo #2
20 January 1943 – Guinto a questo campo proveniente dalla Tunisia [coming to this camp from Tunisia] C N. 98
21 January 1943 – CC 59
21 June 1943 – Recov. O.M. Ascoli Piceno [“Ricov.” is ricoverare, as in “È estato recoverato in ospedale” or “He’s been admitted to hospital.” O.M. is Ospedale Militare.]
6 August 1943 – Osp. N. [Hospital Number] 207
14 August 1943 – CN [Camp Number] 201

Peter’s grave in the Massachusetts Veterans’ Memorial Cemetery, Winchendon, Massachusetts

Peter C. Grillo / PFC / US Army / World War II / Feb 11, 1919–Jul 1, 2002 / Purple Heart

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