Category Archives: Joseph Mandese

A Belated Bronze Star for Joe Mandese

This is the second article about Joe Mandese that Joe’s grandson Bobby Cannon shared with me.

The article is followed by an interview that Bobby’s mother, Bernadette Cannon, conducted with Joe in 1993.


World War II Escapee Honored
Bronze Star for ex-POW

By Don Stancavish
Staff Writer
Bergen Record
Circa 1998

Caption: Joseph Mandese of Lyndhurst in the Hackensack office of Rep. Steve Rothman, who helped him get a military decoration.

HACKENSACK [New Jersey]—Joseph Mandese was a 22-year-old infantryman in the U.S. Army when he landed in North Africa to fight for the American cause in World War II.

But it wasn’t long after he landed that things—in his words—turned really bad.

Three months after he arrived, Mandese was captured in Tunisia by a German tank division and flown to Italy as a prisoner of war. For the next eight months, he battled dysentery, starvation, and emotional torment. He was certain he would die.

“It was a hellhole,” Mandese remembers.

But on Sept. 14, 1943—a date that is seared into the veteran’s memory—Mandese escaped into the Italian countryside with five other U.S. soldiers. [Joe actually escaped with four other men; he was the fifth escapee in the group.] It was another year before Mandese found his way home to America.

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Joe Mandese—The Burden of Remembrance

Last month Bobby Cannon commented on “Felice “Phil” Vacca, Part 2—Camp 59 and Escape.”

“This is an amazing story.” he wrote. “My grandfather is Joe Mandese. He is alive and well at age 94. Mario, Jim, and Tony [Vacca] visited their house in the ’60s in Union City, NJ. My grandfather now resides in Lyndhurst, NJ with his wife of 68 years. My whole family thanks you for this story and we can add some additional details if you are interested.”

I wrote that I was very interested, and Bobby then sent two newspaper clippings, photos, and a short interview his mother, Bernadette Cannon, did with Joe 20 years ago.

Here is the first article:


In memory of lost war heroes
Lyndhurst holds 24-hour POW vigil

By C. Rae Jung
Managing Editor

October 2002
South Bergenite (New Jersey)

Caption: The burden of remembrance—Commissioner Tom Graffam, a Vietnam War veteran, delivers a speech at a vigil honoring American POW/MIAs, below. Those who came back, such as Joe Mandese of Lyndhurst, above, often have to carry the memories of war alone in pain. Staff photos/Jaimie Winters & C. Rae Jung

LYNDHURST—The table was set for one, but the chair remained empty. The glass on the table was put upside down; it stayed that way for 24 hours. And local veterans stood guard into the wee hours, in memory of those who did not come home.

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