Since it’s Veteran’s Day in the USA, I am posting a recap of the story of Charles J Morabito, killed in the proximity of the Berga extermination camp in the last weeks of World War II, and whose temporary resting place appears in a relatively famous picture taken shortly after the war.
Plus I’ll mention brothers Anthony “Tony” F. Morabito and Frank A. Morabito, Purple Heart both of them, killed in action in December 1944 and February 1945 respectively and currently next to each other at the Épinal American Cemetery and Memorial, France.
I feel particularly attached to these stories having researched them for more than four years before being able to collate some information. BTW I have had the privilege to visit Tony and Frank in France and plan to go see Charles as soon as I can arrange a trip to his cemetery in Cuyahoga County, OH.
I will also travel one day to what remains in Berga.
Charles J. Morabito (1924-1945):
- Born in 1924 (less probably, in 1916 or 1919) in Cuyahoga Falls, OH (Cleveland area)
- Son of Santo “Sam” Morabito (Feb 16, 1889-Oct 26, 1975) and Mamie Foll (August 17, 1892-April 24, 1975)
- Charles’ siblings: brother Frank (d. Oct 1969) , Frances Edith (d. 2004), Grace (March 22, 1930-Feb 8, 1931) and Tony Joseph (d. 1991)
- Completed first year of high school
- Listed as “semiskilled chauffeurs and drivers, bus, taxi, truck, and tractor” - somebody able to handle a motor vehicle
- Last address in America: 9022 Kinsman Rd, Cuyahoga Falls, OH
- Enlisted at Camp Perry Lacarne in Cuyahoga County, OH on March 3, 1943, “for the rest of the war, plus six months” in the U.S. Army, Service #35050065
- Probably assigned to the XVIII Infantry Division, Regiment 106, 109, 110, 111 or 112
- Captured by the German army in December 1944 during the “Battle of the Ardenne”
- Spent a few months in captivity in Bad Orb, near Frankfurt
- Became prisoner of war #25084 in the enslavement and extermination camp in Berga, Germany around Feb 18, 1945 (less than three months before VE-day)
- Described by fellow prisoner Joe Mark as “reckless”
- Escaped in March 1945, probably on the 15th. Was captured while milking a cow not far from the camp, a reckless act indeed but still done after having been starved for weeks (the cow, has it happens, made a noise)
- Killed by his captors, probably shot on the spot with wooden bullets
- After many vicissitudes, the survivors of Berga were freed on April 18 (or 23), 1945. Histomil has more details. There are also a NatGeo video and pictures.
- Charles’ tomb in Berga (where the body was transferred after the camp was liberated) was photographed by NARA (see photo at the top of this post). In 2006, by pure chance that same picture got printed on the pages of the International Herald Tribune and that’s where I noticed it, kicking off all the search to collect this information
- The body was returned to the U.S. around 1948
- Charles’ funeral with family and friends was held Dec 14, 1948 at St. Anthony-St.Bridget Church (appropriately serving at the time also the Italian community from Cleveland’s Haymarket area)
- Chales was finally buried at Calvary Cemetery in Cuyahoga County
- He is there now with his mother and father. The following pictures were kindly taken for me by volunteers of the Find A Grave project:
Some details about the rest of the family (the whole Cuyahoga area in Ohio is full of people with surname “Morabito”):
- Sister Frances married Anthony Giancola (d. 1990)
- Brother Tony lived probably in 4538 Hunting Valley Lane, Brecksville, OH 44141 with his wife, J.A.
- Descendants of Charles’ siblings: Anthony, Frances, Tina. Maybe Lisa A Morabito, daughter of Tony.
- Probable relatives: Sebastiano and Carmela Morabito Prefiero, whose son Giuseppe was born Dec 7, 1908 and died Apr 12, 1912; and Giovanni (John) Morabito and Concetta A. Conti
And this is what I know of New-York-State born Anthony “Tony” F. Morabito (1921-Dec 4, 1944) and Frank A. Morabito (1920-Feb 20, 1945), both killed in action and thankfully resting next to each other:
- Sons of Frank Anthony Morabito and Maria Nicola Salvatore.
- Last US address: 161 West Avenue, Spencerport, Monroe County, NY
- Tony enlisted on May 22, 1944 at Fort Dix, NJ. Service #42142051 in the 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division, U.S. Army
- Frank enlisted on April 14, 1944 at Fort Dix, NJ. Service #56374374 in the 274th Infantry Regiment, 70th Infantry Division, U.S. Army
- Both ranked Private First Class, noted as mechanics, single, without dependents.
- Tony and Frank “died of wounds” during action in Germany and France respectively, only 11 weeks apart
- They had at lest two brothers: Arthur Carmelo Morabito, veteran of WW II, Korea and Vietnam, retired a Lt. Colonel from the U.S. Air Force; and Joseph Bruno Morabito, veteran of WW II as a Tech. 5, 154th engineers and awarded four battle stars having seen combat in Peilelu, Saipan Leyte Gulf and Iwo Jima.
- This means their family might have had four siblings fighting in WWII at the same time
- Tony and Frank are buried next to each other in Épinal American Cemetery and Memorial, Vosges, Lorraine Region, France respectively in Plot A Row 36 Grave 51 and Plot A Row 36 Grave 50