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Vincent Speranza - World War II

Vincent Speranza grew up on Staten Island, part of a large and colorful Italian family. Following Basic Training, he became a paratrooper and joined the 101st Airborne Division just prior to the Battle of the Bulge, where the unit became famous for its defense of Bastogne. Speranza tells of returning to Bastogne 65 years later, and of his participation in an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. to visit the new WW II Memorial in 2009.

Interview Links

Feature Excerpt

Christmas Gift

Interview Session 01 (Audio)

WW II paratrooper with the 101st Airborne at Bastogne; Growing up in NY City during the Depression

Interview Session 02 (Audio)

Service with 101st Airborne at Bastogne

Interview Session 03 (Audio)

Combat experiences

Interview Session 04 (Audio)

Combat memories

Interview Session 05 (Audio)

Retracing wartime footsteps in England 66 years later

Interview Session 06 (Audio)

Vince Speranza reflects on his life in the years following his visit to Bastogne in 2009

Related Materials

Picture Captions

Detailed descriptions of the pictures listed below

Kelly Ann Sproul

Kelly Ann Sproul began a career as a musical therapist and was offered the chance to perform at a veterans group, which she has continued to do ever since.

Videos









Photos

Caption

Frank and Frances Speranza on their 25th anniversary, April 29, 1942.

Where:

Unknown

When:

April 29, 1942.

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Vince at age 16, standing outside his home in Staten Island.

Where:

Staten Island

When:

Unknown

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Vince at Basic Training in Fort Benning, Georgia, which he attended in 1943.

Where:

Fort Benning, Georgia

When:

1943

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

The newspaper article announcing Private Vincent Speranza’s graduation from the Army’s Parachute School in Fort Benning, GA in 1944.

Where:

Unknown

When:

1944

Ownership:

May be restricted. Patrons desiring to use this photograph should contact the ALPL Audio-Visual Curator.

Caption

The Belgian physician, Dr. Govaerts, and his wife. Dr. Govaerts worked on the American casualties in the Bastogne church, turned into a makeshift hospital, during the height of the siege.

Where:

Unknown

When:

Unknown

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

The caption scribbled on the back reads “The Airborne Coons” Steve Pentek is in the front, and Vince in the back, taken on March 23, 1945, in France.

Where:

France

When:

March 23, 1945

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Speranza in France on March 23, 1945, between campaigns.

Where:

France

When:

March 23, 1945

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Speranza strikes a pose while on occupation duty in Niedercherkhin, Austria following the war. July 1945.

Where:

Niedercherkhin, Austria

When:

July 1945.

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Vince and a group of replacements to his unit get their picture taken at Berchtesgaden, Germany in 1945. Vince is in front on the left, next to PVT Soto. In the back are Privates ‘Smiley’ (name unknown), Smith and Shipley.

Where:

Berchtesgaden, Germany

When:

1945

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Speranza, showing the results of rigorous exercise and the rigors of war, gets his picture taken while stationed in Bavaria in the summer of 1945.

Where:

Bavaria

When:

summer of 1945

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Steve Pentek and Speranza while on pass in Rheims, France in August 1945.

Where:

Rheims, France

When:

August 1945

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Following the war, while waiting for shipment home, Speranza participated in one more practice jump. The next six photos is part of a series Vince took during the jump. This one was taken on the ground before the jump, with full equipment.

Where:

Auxerre, France

When:

Sept 17, 1945

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

“This was taken just before we loaded on the plane,” a C-47 transport, wrote Speranza.

Where:

Auxerre, France

When:

Sept 17, 1945

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

In the air right after the jump, showing his fellow jumpers, with his camera turned upward.

Where:

Auxerre, France

When:

Sept 17, 1945

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

In the air right after the jump, showing the drop zone below him.

Where:

Auxerre, France

When:

Sept 17, 1945

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

This photo was taken right after Speranza left the plane, with the camera turned around for a self-portrait.

Where:

Auxerre, France

When:

Sept 17, 1945

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

The final shot in the series. A fellow paratrooper spills the air out of his chute after hitting the ground.

Where:

Auxerre, France

When:

Sept 17, 1945

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Vince Speranza outside Rheims, France, while on pass.

Where:

Outside Rheims, France

When:

Unknown

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Vince and buddy Doe Willis on the Queen Mary during their return to the states. Speranza spent the bulk of the voyage below deck pulling mess hall duty.

Where:

On the Queen Mary

When:

December, 1945

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Vince and Jerry Reagan (a childhood buddy) after the war, taken outside the Reagan family home.

Where:

Staten Island

When:

December of 1945

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Vince with his buddy Tony Lobat prior to Vince’s shipment overseas, while on pass.

Where:

Staten Island

When:

Spring of 1944

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Speranza and an airborne buddy while on leave, on the town.

Where:

New York City

When:

December, 1945

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Vince and Joe Willis get a studio portrait taken while on leave.

Where:

New York City

When:

December, 1945

Ownership:

May be restricted. Patrons desiring to use this photograph should contact the ALPL Audio-Visual Curator

Caption

Photo taken of Vince and his buddies at Billy Rose’s Diamond Horseshoe restaurant.

Where:

Paramount Hotel in New York

When:

Circa December, 1945

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Vince and other paratroopers celebrate at the Diamond Horseshoe.

Where:

New York City

When:

December 1945

Ownership:

May be restricted. Patrons desiring to use this photograph should contact the ALPL Audio-Visual Curator.

Caption

Speranza joined the Merchant Marine in March of 1946, serving in the U.S. Army Transport Command aboard the General M. B. Stewart (AP-140).

Where:

Unknown

When:

Unknown

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

101st Airborne Division reunion, Columbus, Ohio. September 1948. Left to Right: Vince Speranza, George Russell, Howard Bronc.

Where:

Columbus, Ohio

When:

September 1948

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Iva and Vince Speranza in 1952, while the couple attended a wedding outside his family home in Staten Island.

Where:

Staten Island

When:

1952

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Iva Leftwich at Sailors’ Snug Harbor in Staten Island in 1947, while she and Vince were dating.

Where:

Staten Island

When:

1947

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Vince Speranza while he served as faculty advisor with the student body class president at Curtis High School on Staten Island, where Vince taught for twenty years.

Where:

Curtis High School on Staten Island

When:

Unknown

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Speranza often expressed himself with his hands, as he did here when talking to a member of the Curtis High School Booster Club at a basketball game in the 1960s.

Where:

Curtis High School

When:

1960s

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Speranza joined other veterans of the battle for Bastogne during the 65th anniversary of the battle, in Bastogne on December 12th, 2009.

Where:

Bastogne

When:

December 12th, 2009

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Speranza and a fellow paratrooper during the 65th anniversary celebration in Bastogne, Belgium in December, 2009.

Where:

Bastogne, Belgium

When:

December, 2009

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Speranza with a fellow paratrooper, a member of E Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of Band of Brothers fame, meet up in Bastogne sixty-five years after the Battle of the Bulge.

Where:

Bastogne

When:

Unknown

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Vince Speranza meets a group of Belgian school children at McAuliff’s Cave near Bastogne during his visit in December of 2009. He led them with a chorus of Frere Jacques.

Where:

McAuliff’s Cave near Bastogne

When:

December of 2009

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Speranza with two Dutch journalists who were in Bastogne for the 65th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge, in December, 2009.

Where:

Bastogne

When:

December, 2009

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Vince Speranza with a descendent of General George S. Patton, who commanded the Third Army forces that liberated Bastogne.

Where:

Unknown

When:

Unknown

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Speranza shares dinner in a Bastogne restaurant with two Dutch commandoes recently returned from duty in Iraq.

Where:

in a Bastogne restaurant

When:

Unknown

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Vince and acquaintances he met in Bastogne who acted as his tour guides for the Bastogne battlefield some sixty-five years after the battle. Marco Killian, Vince and Johnny Bona in September, 2009 in a field near Bastogne.

Where:

in a field near Bastogne

When:

September, 2009

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

A bottle of “Airborne Beer” brewed locally, to commemorate an incident during the Battle of the Bulge. The ceramic helmet was designed as the drinking vessel. Speranza only discovered the beer sixty-five years after the battle.

Where:

Bastogne, Belgium

When:

Unknown

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Another shot of “Airborne Beer” brewed locally near Bastogne, Belgium, to commemorate an incident during the Battle of the Bulge, where Speranza played the central role in the story depicted on the label.

Where:

Bastogne, Belgium

When:

Unknown

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

The Bavarian Alps near Berchtesgaden, where Vince was stationed at the end of the war. He was outside the house one morning when he was serenaded by a German woman singing Lili Marlene.

Where:

The Bavarian Alps near Berchtesgaden

When:

Unknown

Ownership:

Unknown

Caption

Vince stands before a statue in the center of Bastogne on December 29th, 1944. The next day, the statue was destroyed by a German bomb. Only the concrete relief on the front of the pillar, honoring WW I soldiers, remains.

Where:

Bastogne

When:

December 29th, 1944

Ownership:

Unknown

Caption

A map, from the book The Epic of the 101st Airborne: A Pictorial Record of a Great Fighting Team, traces the 101st’s journey through Europe from Bastogne thru 1945 The book was assembled by the unit’s Public Relations Office in Auxerre, France in 1945.

Where:

Unknown

When:

1945

Ownership:

Unknown

Caption

A wartime photo showing the street where Vince visited his wounded buddy in the church/makeshift hospital, and then found some beer to quench his buddy’s thirst.

Where:

Bastogne, Belgium

When:

Unknown

Ownership:

This image is considered to be in the public domain.

Caption

Vince is deep in discussion with a Belgian reenactor and Herb Suerth, a veteran of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment during a recent visit.

Where:

Unknown

When:

December, 2010

Ownership:

Narrator's photo

Caption

Kelly Ann Sproul, a professional singer known as the Sweetheart of the British Forces, and Vince share an impromptu performance at new 101st Division Museum.

Where:

Bastogne, Belgium

When:

December, 2010

Ownership:

Narrator's photo

Caption

Kelly Ann Sproul and Vincent Speranza share a moment in front of the camera during Vince’s visit to Bastogne.

Where:

Bastogne, Belgium

When:

2009

Ownership:

Narrator's photo

Caption

Kelly Ann Sproul, with Vince at the mic, at a fund raiser for the British armed forces near Dover during Vince’s trip to England.

Where:

Dover, England

When:

March, 2011

Ownership:

Narrator's photo

Caption

Kelly Ann Sproul, her mother Kim Sproul and Vince in March, 2011.

Where:

Unknown

When:

March, 2011

Ownership:

Narrator's photo

Caption

Kelly Ann Sproul and Vince Speranza, with the port of Dover, England in the background.

Where:

Dover, England

When:

Unknown

Ownership:

Narrator's photo

Caption

Vince stands outside the Freshfield Inn in Brighton, England, which he and his buddies first visited in October of 1944 while on a weekend pass.

Where:

Freshfield Inn, Brighton, England

When:

Unknown

Ownership:

Narrator's photo

Caption

Vince stands by the bar in the Freshfield Inn in Brighton, England, which he first visited in October of 1944. After visiting the pub and enjoying several beers in 1944, he was robbed by some ‘young toughs’.

Where:

Brighton, England

When:

Unknown

Ownership:

Narrator's photo

Caption

Vince stands by the bar in the Freshfield Inn in Brighton, England, which he first visited in October of 1944. After visiting the pub and enjoying several beers in 1944, he was robbed by some ‘young toughs’.

Where:

Brighton, England

When:

Unknown

Ownership:

Narrator's photo

Caption

Vince spent a night in 1944 in Down Terrace (Queen’s Park) after being ‘jumped by some young toughs’ while on pass in Brighton, England. He found the same park when visiting England in 2011.

Where:

Down Terrace (Queen's Park), Brighton, England

When:

2011

Ownership:

Narrator's photo

Caption

In 1944, Vince slept in this park in Brighton, England after being robbed. He found the same park some 66 years later.

Where:

Brighton, England

When:

2011

Ownership:

Narrator's photo

Caption

Vince rests on a park bench, remembering the circumstances that first took him to the park in October, 1944. He spent a night in Down Terrace after being ‘jumped by some young toughs’ while on pass. He found the same park when visiting in 2011.

Where:

Down Terrace (Queen's Park), Brighton, England

When:

March, 2011

Ownership:

Narrator's photo

Caption

An official military portrait of Paratrooper Vince Speranza.

Where:

Unknown

When:

Unknown

Ownership:

Unknown

Caption

Vince Speranza met May Radbourne when the Radbourne family took Vince in after he had been mugged after an evening of revelry in Brighton, England in October, 1944. Vince met her again sixty-six years later when he returned in search of the family.

Where:

Brighton, England

When:

May shortly after the war

Ownership:

May be restricted. Patrons desiring to use this photograph should contact the ALPL Audio-Visual Curator.

Caption

Vince visited Pearl Harbor for the first time in December, 2011. He’s standing on top of the USS Bowfish, a submarine on display in Pearl Harbor.

Where:

Pearl Harbor

When:

December, 2011

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Vince Speranza’s grandson Will Sturgeon gazes over the same battlefield east of Bastogne where his grandfather had fought in December, 1944. The two returned to the scene of battle during a December, 2012 trip to Belgium.

Where:

Battlefield east of Bastogne

When:

December, 2012

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Vince points to the remains of the foxhole that he used during the defense of Bastogne in Dec, 1944. His Belgium friend Marco Killian helped locate the exact spot during Vince’s visit. Grandson Will traveled with Grandpa to Bastogne that year.

Where:

Bastogne

When:

December, 2012

Ownership:

Narrator's Photo

Caption

Dr. David Govaerts, the son of the couple Vince had befriended during the Battle of the Bulge, met with Vince in . Dr. Govaertz returned a piece of parachute cloth that Vince had used in 1944 to wrap his presents to the family.

Where:

Bastogne

When:

December, 2011

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Vince Speranza and Marco Kilian, a former Dutch Army paratrooper, served as host during Vince’s trip to Bastogne, Belgium in 2012, including events that honored the veterans of the Battle of the Bulge.

Where:

Bastogne, Belgium

When:

2012

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Vince visited Utah Beach in, one of the two American beaches in Normandy, France for the D-Day landings. He rides one of the German guns used during the battle, in a bunker that had survived the massive Allied bombing of beach defenses.

Where:

Utah Beach, Normandy, France

When:

December, 2012

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

The church in St. Mere-Eglise, Normandy, France which was immortalized when an American paratrooper’s chute got hung up on the church steeple during the D-Day invasion. Vince visited the town in December, 2012.

Where:

St. Mere-Eglise, Normandy, France

When:

December, 2012

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

The grateful townspeople of St. Mere-Eglise installed this stained glass window in the church in honor of the 101st Division paratroopers who liberated their town from the Germans.

Where:

St. Mere-Eglise, France

When:

December, 2012

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Another stained glass window that the citizens of St. Mere-Eglise installed to replace windows that were destroyed when paratroopers from the 101st Airborne Division liberated their town from German occupation.

Where:

St. Mere-Eglise, France

When:

December, 2012

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo)

Caption

The bridge across the Waal River in Holland that paratroopers from the 101st Airborne seized from German control after a bitter fight during Operation Market-Garden in September, 1944. Vince Speranza visited the sight in 2012.

Where:

Waal River in Holland

When:

2012

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Wherever Vince went during his visit to the 101st Airborne battle sites, he found a ready audience who were fascinated with his stories of the Screaming Eagle’s exploits during the war. Here he is talking to new friends on his way to Bastogne, Belgium.

Where:

Netherlands

When:

Unknown

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo)

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]

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Caption

Herb Suerth, a member of E Company, 506th Regiment of Band of Brothers fame, relaxes with Vince during their visit to Holland in June, 2012.

Where:

Holland

When:

June, 2012

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo)

Caption

Vince and grandson Will salute the American flag at the presentation of wreaths honoring the men of the 101st Airborne Division. The event was held in Bastogne in December, 2012.

Where:

Bastogne

When:

December, 2012

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo



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