The stunning Italian countryside near Servigliano.
Ed Cronin and his wife Susan of Fitchburg, Massachusetts, visited Servigliano in September in order to see the site of Camp 59, where Ed’s father, Clarence “Tom” Cronin, was a prisoner of war during WW II. (See “A Son’s Memories of Tom Cronin.”
Ed and Susan were guests of Anne Copley and David Runciman, who own a home in Montefalcone, not far from Servigliano.
Left to right: David, Ed, Anne, and Susan heading for adventure.
I asked Ed to send me photos and to share some of his impressions of the visit for this site.
“The first thing that I was struck by was how isolated the camp was.” Ed told me. “It was way up in the mountain region. Even today, there is only one road that I know of that goes up the mountain and it is narrow and slow going. I can only imagine what it was like during the war era—probably little more than cart roads.
“I would think that being so far away could be very disheartening and challenging for a prisoner who wanted to escape. There must have been a tremendous contrast in weather from the hot summer season to the winter mountain weather. I can see why the local villagers played such a part in the survival of many who did escape.”
These comments about Clarence T. (Tom) Cronin are from his son, Ed Cronin.
“My father, like many of the survivors of WW II and prisoners of war, never talked much about his experience. What I can tell you about his is that he had full-blown PTSD but in those days it just was not recognized. He was a man with a good heart underneath it all but he had an explosive temper through most of his life. He was typical in that he would jump out of bed in the middle of the night and get under his bed to cover himself from “attack.”
“He was street kid from Brooklyn, New York, who literally grew up on the streets. He worked in the Brooklyn Navy yard for a while before his service in the military. He actually had two stints in the army—one in the ’30s, and then again during WWII. He was a really good boxer when he was in the military.
“I recently made contact with a guy who was in his outfit when they landed at Oran in Algeria. This gentleman tells me that he and my father were in the third regiment (1st Infantry Division, Big Red One) and were actually in the same company but different platoons. He told me that when the troops landed in Oran they landed on three different beaches, and he and my father landed on Arzew beach.
“You asked about my father’s experience when he got out. I can give you bits and pieces of what he told me. Again, I was young and it is hard to grab context but this is my best memory.
“He was captured in North Africa and as I remember he may have been taken to Sicily first. He told me that he was in more than one prison camp and that he had made several escape attempts during his period of confinement.
This photo of Clarence T. Cronin, sent to me by his son Ed, is of “my Dad and mother before he shipped out over seas.”
Clarence went by the name of Tom, which was his middle name. He sailed on the Queen Mary a few months after the wedding.
Tom was interned at Camp 59 and escaped in September 1943. “He was on the run for several months before he made it back to the lines.” Ed explains, “Like many in your stories, he was in an emaciated condition. My mother states he weighed 90 lbs. when he got home to the States.”
Tom passed away in 1996.