Guy Prestia was born April 26, 1922 in Pennsylvania. The son of an Italian immigrant and a Pennsylvanian, he grew up alongside his siblings against the backdrop of the Great Depression. Guy recalls that his father worked hard, supporting the family during the economic downturn and then doing war work once the United States entered the fray, even as he learned of fellow Italian-Americans who were interned. Guy had hoped to go to school to learn a trade such as radio communications, which he hoped would get him admitted to the signals corps, but the army had other plans. So Guy was inducted, and sent into training. While that transition was underway he learned of Pearl Harbour, and soon he would understand how that was about to change his life. Basic training followed, and Guy was assigned to the 45th Division and sent overseas from Virginia to Oran, in north Africa. The attack on Sicily followed in July 1943, and here the men saw their first combat. Italy came next, and Guy and the 45th saw action in Anzio and the Montecassino region, as the Americans made their way up the peninsula, crossing one river valley after another. An LST then took them to France, where they participated in the invasion of southern France; Guy remembers no opposition on the beaches. Inland it was a different matter though, and the 45th saw heavy fighting in the Vosges Mountains as they crossed from France into Germany. The intense opposition continued on German soil, and it was there that the men of the 45th saw something they’d not expected or been prepared for: Dachau. They liberated the horrible Nazi concentration camp, and Guy has never forgotten the sights and smells from that time. By now the war was almost over, and the 45th finished its fighting in southern Germany, in the vicinity of Munich. After the war Guy spent some time in the army of occupation, using the opportunity to visit his grandparents in Italy. When he did come home, he rejoined his brothers and together the family created a new pathway for themselves in postwar America. Guy Prestia was interviewed over zoom in November 2020; we thank Emily Ann Putzke and Guy’s daughter Patty for their help in facilitating this.
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