World War II Veteran Vincent Speranza, Who Witnessed Hitler's Eagle's Nest, Passes Away at Age 98

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Vincent Speranza, a veteran of the Battle of the Bulge, passed away at the age of 98. He enlisted in the Army as a young man from Hell's Kit...

Irma Estes

Irma Estes

03 August 2023 2:00 pm

World War II Veteran Vincent Speranza, Who Witnessed Hitler's Eagle's Nest, Passes Away at Age 98

Vincent Speranza: A Veteran of the Battle of the Bulge

Vincent Speranza, a veteran of the Battle of the Bulge, passed away at the age of 98. He enlisted in the Army as a young man from Hell's Kitchen and was assigned to the 501st Parachute Infantry under the 101st Airborne Division after completing Basic Training at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Experiences of Children of Immigrant Families

In a 2017 interview, a man named Speranza, who was part of a group of young individuals right out of high school, spoke about their experiences as children of immigrant families. Speranza mentioned that their parents were proud of the United States and were strong patriots. They expected their sons to defend the country, which they did.

A Small Act of Kindness in World War II

During World War II, a soldier named Speranza gained recognition for a small act of kindness towards his wounded friend. Speranza, who had already received military honors including a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for Valor, was stationed in Bastogne, Belgium with the 101st Airborne Division. In December 1944, the German army, following orders from Adolf Hitler, surrounded the city. In the midst of this dire situation, Speranza was visiting his injured friend Joe Willis in a church being used as a shelter for wounded soldiers. Willis asked Speranza for a drink, which would later become a significant event in Speranza's story.

The Creation of "Airborne Beer"

In a tense situation, Speranza and Willis found themselves surrounded but decided to search for a drink anyway. Luckily, they stumbled upon a tavern with a barrel of Belgian beer. However, there were no glasses available, so Speranza improvised by using his helmet to deliver the beer.

A soldier named Speranza was scolded by the regimental surgeon for drinking beer after suffering from intestinal trauma. In response, Speranza saluted and put on his helmet, which was filled with beer, and quickly left. This incident led to the creation of "Airborne Beer."

Airborne Beer's Life After the War

The article discusses the life of a veteran named Airborne Beer, who served as a machine gunner at the Battle of the Bulge and received a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. After his military service, Beer became a history teacher in a public school. He gained fame for his humorous remark about being known for "Airborne Beer." The article also mentions that Beer was one of the few American soldiers who had the opportunity to visit Hitler's famous "Eagle's Nest" in Berchtesgaden. He claims to have seen Hitler's plan to divide the world with Italy and Japan after the war, which reinforced his belief in the necessity of fighting against the Axis powers.

A Life of Continued Service and Remembrance

Speranza, a former Army soldier, was discharged in 1946 and later became a history teacher. He has been regularly returning to Bastogne for anniversaries and memorial events for many years. Despite his age, he has continued to participate in parachute jumps and recently celebrated his 98th birthday in March 2023 by doing a tandem jump from the World War II-era aircraft called "Tico Belle."

An Encounter with PFC Vincent Speranza

The author of the article recounts their encounter with PFC Vincent Speranza, a veteran of the Battle of the Bulge, during a trip to Bastogne for the battle's 75th anniversary. The author and Speranza coincidentally meet at the airport in Brussels, Belgium, where they engage in a conversation amidst the noise of other languages.

A Debate about General McAuliffe's Response

The article describes an encounter between Speranza, a 94-year-old man with a strong New York accent and Italian-American heritage, and Ken McAuliffe, the great-nephew of General Anthony McAuliffe. General McAuliffe is known for refusing to surrender and holding Bastogne until General George S. Patton arrived. Speranza is seen animatedly talking to McAuliffe while seated on a motorized cart.

The Famous "NUTS!" Response

On December 22, 1944, during World War II, the German commander sent a letter to American General McAuliffe under a white flag. The letter stated that the city was completely surrounded and the American forces were greatly outnumbered. The German commander demanded that McAuliffe and the 101st Airborne Division surrender.

According to historical accounts and a letter sent by McAuliffe, he famously responded with the word "NUTS!" to a German commander during the Battle of the Bulge. However, Speranza, who was present in Bastogne at the time, expressed doubt about this version of events to McAuliffe's son.

Recalling General McAuliffe's Response

In this excerpt, McAuliffe is discussing the famous response of General Anthony McAuliffe during World War II when he was surrounded by German forces and asked to surrender. McAuliffe recalls that while the official response was "NUTS!", he believed that in private, his father may have used stronger language. However, McAuliffe's great-grandmother found the response amusing and characteristic of her son.

A Lasting Impact and Significance

In a remarkable encounter, a World War II veteran engaged in a heated debate with the great-nephew of his former commanding general. The veteran, who had experienced one of the bloodiest campaigns of the war, passionately argued about what the general had said during a critical moment in history. This encounter took place seventy-five years after the event, highlighting the lasting impact and significance of the war.

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