|Birth: ||Jun. 8, 1922|
|Death: ||Sep. 17, 2009|
PENNSYLVANIA - Ralph S. Monteleone was like so many other men of his generation: He fought in World War II, said little about it and came home to work hard and raise a family.
A veteran of campaigns in North Africa, Sicily and Italy, he suffered a broken back and a shattered arm in the Normandy invasion when his glider crashed behind Utah Beach, killing 15 of his comrades in the 82nd Airborne.
He spent a year in a body cast, but he rarely talked about the war, his family said. Instead, he worked, first in construction and then running the family store, Monteleone Grocery in Bloomfield, in the 1950s and '60s while also delivering mail as a postal carrier.
Mr. Monteleone died September 17 at Marion Manor Nursing Home in Green Tree, where he had been living for the last year after moving out of his apartment in Bethel Park. He was 87.
At Queen of Heaven Cemetery in Peters on Monday, a military guard honored him with a 21-gun salute.
"It was the perfect send-off," said his son Jim, 61, of O'Hara. "It's what he deserved".
Born in Arnold, Mr. Monteleone grew up in a big Italian family in Manchester during the Depression and graduated from Oliver High School.
Drafted into the Army (Service #33401279), he trained as a gliderman in North Carolina and shipped off to Casablanca with the 325th Glider Infantry Regiment (Company A) of the 82nd Airborne.
His unit arrived just after the British defeat of Erwin Rommel's Afrika Korps. Following more training in North Africa, he and his comrades saw action in Sicily and Italy, where Mr. Monteleone also made use of his Italian Calabrese dialect as an interpreter.
Then it was on to England for the Normandy invasion. Mr. Monteleone's glider unit was assigned to go in on the day after D-Day, land behind the beaches and disrupt the German counterattack. Dressed in battle fatigues, Mr. Monteleone and the other glidermen shook General Matthew Ridgway's hand before the June 7 mission.
At 7 am, C-47 transport planes towed the glider squadrons across the English Channel in formations, but the first wave was diverted to a different landing area because of ground fire. Dropped too early and too low over unfamiliar territory, many of the gliders crashed.
As Mr. Monteleone's glider approached the ground, he wrote in a personal account in 1998, he could see paratroopers hanging from trees where their chutes had caught. He heard the pilot say, "It's going to be rough". It was.
"We were scared as we came in on June 7th," he wrote. "My birthday is June 8th. Will I see another birthday? We crashed. 15 men killed, 15 survived. I was one of the survivors, with multiple injuries".
Knocked unconscious, Mr. Monteleone remained in the wreck for 24 hours until an infantry unit rescued him and the other survivors and loaded them onto two landing craft on Utah Beach. It was his 21st birthday.
During the evacuation, a German plane obliterated one of the landing craft, killing everyone aboard. The other one, Mr. Monteleone's, made it back across the channel. "And that's why I'm talking to you," said Jim Monteleone.
The war was over for him. After recuperating for a year in hospitals in England and the US, Mr. Monteleone came home to Pittsburgh and married his wife, Angeline, of Bloomfield, in 1947.
He went to work for Mellon Stewart construction as a payroll employee in the late 1940s and early 1950s, traveling around the region, and then started the family grocery business in Bloomfield in the mid-1950s. The Italian grocery was open seven days a week; Jim Monteleone remembers working there with his parents. Mr. Monteleone sold the business in the mid-1960s when running it became too much for him, but he continued working as a letter carrier.
After his retirement, the Monteleones moved to a duplex in Brookline. The two had been frugal and were proud to be able to put their three children through school. In his later years, Mr. Monteleone took care of Angeline, who suffers from dementia.
Besides his wife and son, Mr. Monteleone is survived by his daughters Ann of Pleasant Hills, and Linda of Imperial; two brothers, Dominic and Joseph, both of the North Side; and six grandchildren.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette / Torsten Ove
(Wednesday, September 23, 2009)
Queen of Heaven Catholic Cemetery
Created by: KATHY
Record added: Jun 26, 2011
Find A Grave Memorial# 71991835
Thank you for your service to our country, Private Monteleone! May you rest in eternal Heavenly peace! You have certainly earned it!|
Added: Jun. 26, 2011