Sergeant Joseph M. Lentini (1914–1945)

Technician 5th Grade Joseph M. Lentini during his service with the Airborne School (Courtesy of the Delaware Public Archives, enhanced using MyHeritage)
Home StateCivilian Occupation
DelawareBarber
BranchService Number
U.S. Army32159531
TheaterUnit
MediterraneanCompany “D,” 86th Mountain Infantry Regiment, 10th Mountain Division
AwardsCampaigns/Battles
Purple HeartNorth Apennines

Author’s note: This article incorporates some text from my previous article about Private 1st Class Raymond V. Desorcy, who also served in the 10th Mountain Division.

Early Life & Family

Giuseppe Lentini was born at 207 Poplar Street in Wilmington, Delaware, on July 30, 1914.  Nicknamed Pip, he was later known as Joseph Michael Lentini.  He was the second son of Frank (also known as Francesco or Francis) Lentini (then a laborer, later a leather worker, and eventually a barber, 1890–1964) and Sebastiana Lentini (née Macili or Micele, 1889–1979).  According to Frank Lentini’s petition for naturalization to become a U.S. citizen, Frank and Sebastiana were born in Ferla, Sicily, and had immigrated to the United States—Frank during the summer of 1912.  Joseph had an older brother, Michael Joseph Lentini (1912–2000), who served in the U.S. Army during World War II, and two younger sisters, Concetta (later Jean) Lentini (later Hartmeyer, 1916–2010) and Frances Marie Lentini (later Fleischauer, 1920–2013). 

The Lentini family moved several times during Joseph’s childhood but remained in Wilmington.  By December 14, 1916, when Concetta was born, the family was living at 221 Poplar Street.  The family was still living there when they were recorded on the census on January 2, 1920.  Based on naturalization records, by March 14, 1924, the family was living at 431 East 5th Street in Wilmington.  However, by the next census on April 9, 1930, Lentini’s parents had purchased a home at 307 East 4th Street.

Lentini dropped out of school after completing the 8th grade.  He followed in his father’s footsteps; by the time the next census was recorded on April 16, 1940, the younger Lentini had become a barber.  When he registered for the draft on October 16, 1940, Lentini was living with his family at 307 East 4th Street and working for his father.  The registrar described him as standing five feet, six inches tall and weighing 165 lbs., with black hair and brown eyes.


The Lentinis seen in a wedding photo printed in the Wilmington Morning News on September 23, 1943 (Courtesy of the News Journal)

U.S. Army Career & Marriage

Lentini was drafted before the U.S. entered World War II.  He was inducted into U.S. Army in Trenton, New Jersey, on July 15, 1941.  On October 30, 1941, Journal-Every Evening reported that Lentini had recently completed basic training at the Infantry Replacement Training Center, Camp Croft, South Carolina, and had been transferred to Fort Benning, Georgia.

According to the Individual Military Service Record submitted by Lentini’s future wife to State of Delaware Public Archives Commission, her husband was promoted to private 1st class in 1941 and to corporal in 1942.  (A newspaper article and the photograph above indicate he was actually a technician 5th grade rather than a corporal.)  In May 1942, he was transferred to the Parachute School at Fort Benning.  He was apparently with the school’s administrative staff.  A document dated July 1, 1943, listed his unit as the “1st. Acad. Co. Para. School” at Fort Benning.  A March 22, 1944, article in the Wilmington Morning News described his assignment as “with headquarters and headquarters special troops of the parachute school.”  Similarly, an April 6, 1945, article in Journal-Every Evening stated “he served on the personnel staff of the parachute school at Fort Benning, Ga.”

Technician 5th Grade Lentini married Elva R. del Grosso (a stenographer for the Department of Public Safety, Bureau of Fire, 1912–1979) in 1943.  The details of where and when are contradictory.  A Delaware certificate of marriage stated that the couple was married in Wilmington at 10:00 a.m. on June 30, 1943.  Curiously, a Russell County, Alabama, marriage license dated July 1, 1943, stated that the couple married that day in Phenix City.  Adding to the confusion is the fact that Elva del Grosso Lentini’s statement to the Delaware Public Archives Commission stated that the couple married in Wilmington on September 9, 1943.  An article, printed in the Wilmington Morning News on September 23, 1943, did not reveal the date of the wedding but stated that it occurred at St. Anthony’s Roman Catholic Church, adding:

The bride was given in marriage by her brother, Mr. Michael del Grosso.  She wore a white duchess satin gown, made on princess lines.  Her veil of illusion was held in place by a wreath of orange blossoms and she carried a cascade bouquet of orchids, gardenias, white roses, bouvardia. […] After a wedding trip to New York and Atlantic City, the bridegroom has returned to Fort Benning, Ga., where he is stationed.

A November 12, 1943, news item in the Wilmington Morning News reported that Lentini had been promoted from technician 5th grade to technician 4th grade.  On March 21, 1944, Journal-Every Evening reported that he had been promoted to sergeant.  (This would not have been a promotion per se, since both sergeant and technician 4th grade were at the same pay grade, although sergeants had “command authority” that technicians did not.)  According to his wife’s statement, Sergeant Lentini remained at Fort Benning until June 1944.

An April 6, 1945, article in Journal-Every Evening stated that Sergeant Lentini “was sent to the replacement center at Fort George Meade, Md., and transferred to the Infantry before going overseas in July, 1944.”  On the other hand, Lentini’s wife wrote that his last stateside post was Camp Patrick Henry, Virginia.  She wrote that he departed from there on July 28, 1944, arriving the following month in Naples, Italy.  She wrote that he was stationed in Rome in November 1944 and moved to Pisa in December 1944.


Company “F,” 86th Mountain Infantry Regiment infantrymen in Italy in 1945 (Courtesy of the Denver Public Library Special Collections)

Service in the 86th Mountain Infantry Regiment

It is unclear what unit or units Lentini was with during his first few months overseas, but by March 1945 he was a member of Company “D,” 86th Mountain Infantry Regiment, 10th Mountain Division.  Company “D” was a heavy weapons company.  It is unknown whether Lentini was assigned to company headquarters, one of the company’s two .30 machine gun platoons, or its 81 mm mortar platoon.

Italy’s geography—a narrow peninsula, much of it mountainous—benefitted the German defenders from the beginning of the Italian campaign in September 1943.  Repeatedly, Allied forces broke through one defensive line, only to see German forces withdraw north to another.  Then, with the successful amphibious operations in Normandy in June 1944 and the South of France in August 1944, most Allied resources shifted to Northwest Europe.  Though the Italian campaign had become something of a sideshow, bloody fighting continued there.  Northern Italy had relatively little strategic value, though the offensives did tie up German divisions that could otherwise have slowed Allied advances on the Western and Eastern Fronts. 

The 86th Mountain Infantry Regiment had arrived in Naples on December 23, 1944.  The regiment soon moved to Livorno and then Pisa, before ending the year at Quercianella.  During January 6–7, 1945, the regiment headed for the U.S. Fifth Army’s front lines, which faced the German fortifications in the northern Apennines Mountains.  Charles Wellborn wrote in his regimental history that “The 86th remained on the line from 9 January to 2 February. During this period the front was generally quiet, but there was constant patrolling, and most of the men saw enough action to constitute a baptism of fire.”  On February 2, 1945, the regiment was pulled out of the line and briefly moved to the Lucca area. 

Company “F,” 86th Mountain Infantry soldiers on Riva Ridge (Courtesy of the Denver Public Library Special Collections)

On the night of February 18, 1945, elements of the regiment—including Sergeant Lentini’s 1st Battalion—launched an assault on Riva Ridge.  During the following days, the 86th weathered German counterattacks, while the rest of the 10th Mountain Division captured nearby Monte Belvedere.  1st Battalion, 86th Mountain Infantry Regiment left the line on February 21, 1945.

Another assault was planned for March 3, 1945, spearheaded by 1st and 2nd Battalions.  Wellborn explained:

The initial attack would be made by 2 battalions. Lt. Col. HAMPTON’s 1st Battalion on the left was to take the high ground east of Monteforte and Hill 928. This was Objective Able. [After 2nd and 3rd Battalions took their objectives,] 1st Battalion, having taken Objective Able, would be relieved by elements of the 85th [Mountain Infantry] Regiment and would be prepared to push through the other two battalions and launch attacks on Sassomolare and Mt. Grande d’Aiano, Objectives How and Jig.

A powerful artillery barrage hit German positions beginning at 0640 hours on March 3, 1945.  20 minutes later, the 86th Mountain Infantry Regiment began advancing.  Wellborn wrote:

At 0700, before the last shells had landed, the men were out of their holes and advancing across the fields. On the left, the 1st Battalion moved against Objective Able, the high ground east of Monteforte. […] The advance was speedy but by no means simple. The Germans poured artillery, mortar, and machine gun fire onto the attackers. But the first phase of combat operations had taught the 86th a vital lesson: never let the Germans pin you down. Keep moving. Once pinned down, you are an easy target for Jerry artillery. Despite a hail of fire, the companies moved up.

Wellborn’s account mentioned Company “D”: “Supporting the advance of the 1st Battalion was Captain ERWIN G. NILSSON’s heavy weapons company. Time and time again, it was the merciless fire of the heavy machine guns and 81-mm mortars, which forced the enemy back.”  1st Battalion captured Hill 928 about four hours into the assault.

Lentini was one of four members of Company “D,” killed in action that day in the vicinity of Monteforte.  According to a digitized hospital admission card under his service number, Sergeant Lentini suffered fatal wounds to his head and shoulder from an artillery shell explosion or fragments.  (Cards were filled out even when the casualty did not survive long enough to reach an aid station; Lentini’s card stated that he was “Not in Medical Installation Prior to Death.”)

According to Wellborn’s history, the 86th Mountain Infantry Regiment lost 26 men killed in action taking its first five objectives on March 3, 1945, and another 22 dead the following day, when the last two objectives fell after more fierce fighting.

3rd Battalion, 87th Mountain Infantry soldiers at Corona, Italy, in February 1945 (Courtesy of the Denver Public Library Special Collections)

Sergeant Lentini was buried at the U.S. Military Cemetery, Castelfiorentino, located near Florence.  After the war, his family requested that he remain buried at a military cemetery abroad.  Lentini was reinterred in what is now known as the Florence American Cemetery and Memorial (Plot G, Row 10, Grave 8).

Lentini’s widow, Elva del Grosso Lentini, did not remarry.  She worked as a clerk at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Elsmere until she retired in 1973.  She died suddenly in 1979, aged 67.


Notes

Name

There were some variations in his name in early records.  His Delaware birth certificate listed his name as Giuseppe Lentine.  The 1914 Wilmington birth registrar listed him as Guiseppe Lentine.  His last name was corrected to Lentini by hand, although the spelling of his first name was not.  He was recorded as Joseph Lentini on the 1920 census and subsequent records.

Date of Birth

According to his draft card, Lentini was born on July 30, 1914.  That date is supported by the Wilmington birth register and his Delaware birth certificate.  Curiously, the date of birth on his Delaware certificate of marriage was July 29, 1914.  Oddly enough, his father’s petition for naturalization stated that Joseph was born on July 14, 1915.

Addresses

207 Poplar Street and 221 Poplar Street were apparently on what is now known as North Poplar Street.

Date of Marriage

It seems unlikely that the Lentinis were married in Delaware on June 30, 1943, in Alabama the following day, and a third time in Delaware on September 9, 1943.  The officiant on the Delaware marriage certificate is the same as the man mentioned in the September 1943 newspaper article.  The Delaware marriage certificate wasn’t filed until September 17, 1943.  The certificates were often, but not always, filed within a few days of the marriage.  A possible explanation is that the couple had a civil marriage in Alabama on July 1, 1943, and a religious one on September 9, 1943, but that the officiant backdated the Delaware marriage certificate to precede the Alabama one. 

Photo Enhancement

The photo on this page was digitally enhanced using tools on the genealogy website MyHeritage.  This software is useful in instances where the only known photograph is of limited resolution (in this case, print was blurry).  I believe this to be an accurate reconstruction, but the software could potentially introduce errors by misinterpreting fuzzy details in the original photograph.  A comparison of the original and enhanced versions of the photos can be viewed below. 

Comparison of the original (left) and the product of MyHeritage’s enhancements (right)

Acknowledgments

Special thanks to the Delaware Public Archives and the News Journal for the use of their photos of Lentini and to the Denver Public Library for their collection of 10th Mountain Division photographs.


Bibliography

Alabama County Marriage Records. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/61365/images/TH-1971-25843-31347-32   

“Army Shifts 9 City Men.”  Journal-Every Evening, October 30, 1941.  Pg. 20. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/86593560/lentini-croft-to-fort-benning/

Concetta Lentine birth certificate.  Record Group 1500-008-094, Birth Certificates.  Delaware Public Archives, Dover, Delaware.

Delaware Marriages. Bureau of Vital Statistics, Hall of Records, Dover, Delaware.  https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/61368/images/TH-266-12661-5505-54?pId=75803

“Elva R. Lentini.”  The Morning News, May 15, 1979.  Pg. 25. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/86600775/elva-lentini-obit/

Giuseppe Lentine birth certificate.  Record Group 1500-008-094, Birth Certificates.  Delaware Public Archives, Dover, Delaware.

“Five Men Dead In Casualty List of Nine.”  Journal-Every Evening, April 6, 1945.  Pg. 1 and 4. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/86595153/sergeant-lentini-obituary/

“FLEISCHAUER, Frances Marie.” The Spokesman-Review, September 8, 2013.  Pg. B4.  https://www.newspapers.com/clip/86611691/frances-fleischauer-obituary/

“Frank Lentini.”  Wilmington Morning News, March 30, 1964.  Pg. 8. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/86602001/obituary-for-frank-lentini/

Headstone Inscription and Interment Records for U.S. Military Cemeteries on Foreign Soil, 1942–1949.  Record Group 117, Records of the American Battle Monuments Commission, 1918–c. 1995.  National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/9170/images/42861_647350_0541-02120  

Lentini, Elva del Grosso.  Joseph Michael Lentini Individual Military Service Record, circa 1946.  Record Group 1325-003-053, Record of Delawareans Who Died in World War II.  Delaware Public Archives, Dover, Delaware. https://cdm16397.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p15323coll6/id/19656/rec/1

Naturalization Petitions of the U.S. District and Circuit Courts For the District of Delaware, 1795-1930.  Record Group 21, Records of District Courts of the United States.  National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/1193/images/M1644_15-0715

“Our Men and Women In Service.”  Journal-Every Evening, March 21, 1944.  Pg. 16. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/86594228/lentini-to-sergeant/

Rottman, Gordon L.  US 10th Mountain Division in World War II.  Osprey Publishing, 2012. 

Silverman, Lowell.  “Private 1st Class Raymond V. Desorcy (1924–1945).” https://delawarewwiifallen.com/2021/10/17/private-1st-class-raymond-v-desorcy/

United States of America, Bureau of the Census.  Fourteenth Census of the United States, 1920.  National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/6061/images/4295770-00021    

United States of America, Bureau of the Census.  Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930.  National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/6224/images/4531892_00670    

United States of America, Bureau of the Census.  Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940.  National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2442/images/m-t0627-00549-00418   

U.S. WWII Hospital Admission Card Files, 1942-1954.  Record Group 112, Records of the Office of the Surgeon General (Army), 1775–1994.  National Archives at College Park, Maryland. https://www.fold3.com/record/702869284/lentini-joseph-m-us-wwii-hospital-admission-card-files-1942-1954

“Weddings.”  Wilmington Morning News, September 23, 1943.  Pg. 10. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/86590219/joseph-m-lentini-wedding/

Wellborn, Charles.  Imbrie, Barbara, ed.  History of the 86th Mountain Infantry in Italy.   http://www.sulleormedeinostripadri.it/images/Traduzioni%20download/86thhistory.pdf  

Wilmington Birth Register, 1914.  Record Group 1500.205.  Delaware Public Archives, Dover, Delaware.

“With the Service Men And The Auxiliaries.”  Wilmington Morning News, November 12, 1943.  Pg. 37. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/86592962/lentini-tech5-to-tech4/

“With the Service Men And The Auxiliaries.”  Wilmington Morning News, March 22, 1944.  Pg. 16. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/86594942/lentini-sergeant/

World War II Army Enlistment Records.  Record Group 64, Records of the National Archives and Records Administration.  National Archives at College Park, Maryland. https://aad.archives.gov/aad/record-detail.jsp?dt=893&mtch=1&cat=all&tf=F&q=32159531&bc=&rpp=10&pg=1&rid=2806386  

World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918.  National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/6482/images/005207042_00447

WWII Draft Registration Cards for Delaware, 10/16/1940-03/31/1947.  Record Group 147, Records of the Selective Service System.  National Archives at St. Louis, Missouri. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2238/images/44003_05_00005-01776


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Last updated on November 5, 2021

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