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
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.