Monday, June 18, 2018
Military News

Tampa-area World War II vets who fought Nazis have message for Charlottesville marchers

Caesar Civitella, who killed more than a dozen Nazis in World War II and helped capture more than 3,800, has a message for the neo-Nazis who staged a deadly rally in Virginia over the weekend.

"I would tell them that we have no use for Hitler-type philosophy in the U.S. and that they can either stop being a Nazi or people will give them bodily injury," said Civitella, 93, of St. Petersburg.

Civitella was reacting to a march Saturday in Charlottesville, Va., in which one of the neo-Nazis is accused of driving a car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one and injuring 19. Additionally, two Virginia State Police officers were killed when their helicopter, which was monitoring the rally, crashed.

During the war, Civitella served with the Office of Strategic Services, a forerunner of the CIA. On Aug. 29, 1944, he and a team of fellow OSS operators jumped into occupied France to help the French resistance. Working with the French Maquis, he helped capture nearly 4,000 Nazis, according to his official government biography.

Seeing the neo-Nazis marching, he said, "was terrible.

"I thought we eliminated that in World War II," he said.

Gerald "Bud" Berry, 96, of Clearwater, flew transport missions in Europe during the war and was in Etain, France, the day the Nazis surrendered on May 8, 1945.

"I would be completely opposed to" neo-Nazis marching around waving swastikas and giving the stiff-armed Nazi salute, Berry said.

Still, he said, they have a right to express their opinion.

"Whether I fought them or not doesn't matter," he said. "I am absolutely opposed to what they are trying to do, but still, it is their right as far as I am concerned."

When he was rolling across Europe with the 134th Infantry Regiment, better known as "The Nebraska Boys," Harvey Lentz saw some of the worst of humanity in what the Nazis had done.

In April, 1945, the retreating Germans had marched prisoners from a concentration camp, rounding up hundreds of them — those too tired or ill to continue — in a barn near the German town of Gardelegen.

The Nazis set fire to the barn, killing nearly everyone. Those who lived were shot as they tried to escape the flames.

More than 1,000 were burned alive.

"I'm a little bit angry," Lentz, 100 and living in Riverview, said of the Virginia rally. "They ought to find their own country, but everyone has their own opinion."

On Aug. 1, 1943, U.S. Army Air Corps Staff Sgt. Robert Rans was on a B-24 that took off on a mission to bomb the Nazi oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania.

But before his plane could deliver its ordnance, it was shot down and Rans, now 96 and living in Tampa, was taken prisoner by the Nazis and held by the Romanians.

"I think it's stupid," he said of the rally.

"What the hell would you be doing supporting something like that," he said. "Why would they want something like Hitler and the swastika idea?"

To Rans, "there is no such thing as white supremacy as far as America is concerned. That is not our principles."

Like Civitella, the OSS operative, Rans has a message for neo-Nazis.

"I would say ... he should get the hell out of here if you don't like to see a black person or Indian person or Eskimo or Jewish guy," he said.

Contact Howard Altman at [email protected]om or (813) 225-3112. Follow @haltman.

 

 

MORE ON CHARLOTTESVILLE

 

 

RELATED: Man accused of ramming protesters pictured with racist group and had Nazi infatuation, teacher says

 

THE VICTIM: Charlottesville victim's friend: 'She was there standing up for what was right'

 

RESPONSE: Rubio, Buckhorn, Gov. Scott and others respond to violence in Virginia and Trump's 'many sides' comment

 

LOCAL VIGILS: Local vigils held in response to violence in Charlottesville

 

WHITE HOUSE: White House: Trump's condemnation does include 'white supremacists, KKK, neo-Nazi and all extremist groups'

 

RICHARD SPENCER: White supremacist leader at center of Charlottesville events may come to UF

 

Comments
Where’s the new VA clinic going? Not in the city of New Port Richey

Where’s the new VA clinic going? Not in the city of New Port Richey

NEW PORT RICHEY — The federal government’s search for a home for its new Veterans Administration community outpatient clinic is focusing on the Little Road corridor in west Pasco.Three locations in the running for the VA clinic are identified in the ...
Published: 06/18/18
Chicago soldier killed in Korea finally being laid to rest

Chicago soldier killed in Korea finally being laid to rest

CHICAGO — Not long after her father went missing during the Korean War, Carol Elkin spotted then-Gen. Dwight Eisenhower in downtown Chicago and did what any kid might do when coming face to face with the nation’s most famous soldier: She ...
Published: 06/17/18
Howard Altman: New Port Richey veteran out front in campaign for burn-pit benefits

Howard Altman: New Port Richey veteran out front in campaign for burn-pit benefits

Last week, the halls of Congress became the latest battleground in a campaign by tens of thousands of veterans seeking acknowledgment of the health problems they suffer from exposure to open-air refuse burn pits in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.Nav...
Published: 06/14/18
Airman with top-secret clearance, who disappeared in 1983, is discovered living in California

Airman with top-secret clearance, who disappeared in 1983, is discovered living in California

Before he mysteriously disappeared and landed on the Air Force Most Wanted list, Capt. William Howard Hughes Jr. phoned home to tell his mother and father that he was going to the Netherlands.It was July 17, 1983, and the Air Force was sending Hughes...
Published: 06/12/18

Marine Corps weighs wooing older members for new cyber force

SAN DIEGO — The head of the Marine Corps says it’s time the U.S. military branch known for its fierce, young warriors becomes a little more mature. The Marine Corps is considering offering bonuses and other perks to entice older, more experienced Mar...
Published: 06/08/18
Updated: 06/09/18
Military members stationed overseas fret as flying pets home gets harder

Military members stationed overseas fret as flying pets home gets harder

Missy Lee, a civilian who works for the U.S. Army, paid Delta Air Lines $5,000 to transport her two white shepherds as cargo on the same flight she took when moving to Japan in 2014.In the years since, the industry of shipping pets overseas has drast...
Published: 06/07/18
Howard Altman: Calls to veterans hotline jump after program expands statewide

Howard Altman: Calls to veterans hotline jump after program expands statewide

During the first three months of its expanded, statewide hotline for veterans, the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay estimates about 2,000 former service members called in seeking help because they were considering suicide.That’s a powerful testament to the...
Published: 06/06/18
Updated: 06/13/18
How to spot neo-Nazis in the military? Brandon Russell case shows how hard it is

How to spot neo-Nazis in the military? Brandon Russell case shows how hard it is

When Brandon Russell joined the Florida Army National Guard in January 2016, the service noted the radiation-warning symbol tattooed on his right shoulder.No one saw it as suspicious. Seventeen months later, it figured into the slaying of two young m...
Published: 06/04/18
Howard Altman: New base commander at sultry MacDill helped run South Pole airlifts

Howard Altman: New base commander at sultry MacDill helped run South Pole airlifts

One of the most frustrating aspects of covering the military is how often change takes place.Just when you start to get to someone, boom, they move on.The latest case in point is Air Force Col. April Vogel, commander of the 6th Air Mobility Wing at M...
Updated one month ago
From the archives: A story for Jake

From the archives: A story for Jake

Editor’s note: This story was originally published on May 27, 2007. It is being republished in honor of Memorial Day.Oct. 22, 2006, approx. 7:30 p.m.,St. Lawrence Catholic Church, TampaShe makes her way down the aisle of a church, eyes locked on the ...
Updated one month ago