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Joseph Frank Asiano

Birth
Steubenville, Jefferson County, Ohio, USA
Death 14 May 2008 (aged 84–85)
Greenbrae, Marin County, California, USA
Burial San Rafael, Marin County, California, USA
Plot Garden of Redwoods, Lot 24, Grave 2
Memorial ID 202412449 View Source

Marin Independent Journal
May 21, 2008

Combat veteran Joseph Asiano of San Rafael maintained silence for years about trauma of war

As a teenager growing up in Marin during the swinging 1960s, Edward Asiano couldn’t understand why his father, Joseph Asiano, took such a dim view of his generation’s political and cultural revolt.

“We were all about free speech and revolution, and my dad was very against that,” the younger Asiano said. “He kind of drummed it into us: ‘I don’t think you understand what the price of freedom is.'”

It was only within the past few years of his father’s life that the son began to appreciate his father’s point view – when his father started relating his combat experiences during World War II.

Joseph Asiano of San Rafael died May 14 at the age of 84. A memorial service was held at the Church of Isabella in San Rafael on Monday.

Mr. Asiano was 20 and had just completed his freshman year at Ohio State University when he was drafted. He was assigned to a combat engineer battalion attached to Gen. George Patton’s Third Army. Working in advance of the main force, he built pontoon bridges and cleared roads, often under fire.

“They went from Utah Beach in through Normandy, then across France, up into Belgium, finally to the Ardennes Forest, then crossed the Rhine River into Germany,” said Mr. Asiano’s youngest brother, Leonard. Along the way, Mr. Asiano fought in the Battle of the Bulge, earned five Battle Star medals for bravery and helped liberate the Dachau concentration camp.

Mr. Asiano, however, didn’t talk about any of this when he rejoined his family in Marin in 1949.

“It was just too traumatic,” his brother said.

After a stint in the Merchant Marine to support the troops during the Korean War, Mr. Asiano went on with his life: earning a bachelor’s in foreign trade from Ohio State, marrying, raising four children and carving out a career in real estate. He was honored as Marin’s Realtor of the Year in 1977 and named president of the Marin Association of Realtors in 1981.

He showed his kids a German Luger pistol, kept in a box high up in his closet, and a bayonet that he brought back from Germany without supplying much detail.

“He really had an aversion to talking about it,” his son said.

But a little more than a year ago, at his son’s urging, Mr. Asiano finally began talking about his experiences.

“At that point, he didn’t want to stop talking about the war,” his son said. “This is something he had been holding inside of him for 60-plus years.”

For example, he told them about being dressed down by Gen. Patton.

“He encountered Gen. Patton when he was building a bridge at the Battle of Bulge when they were going north to relieve the position at Bastogne,” Leonard Asiano said. “My brother was in charge of the detail because he was a sergeant, and Patton said, ‘Get this effing bridge done because I’ve got to get my armor across.'”

He told them of his shock and surprise at discovering the horrors of Dachau.

“Their biggest job was keeping the inmates away from the German guards because they wanted to kill them all,” his brother said. “I would have said, ‘Be my guest.'”

Then, there was the time that a piece of artillery shrapnel sliced off the head of a colonel who had just complained to Mr. Asiano that he was taking too long to build a pontoon bridge.

“His head literally rolled down the embankment,” Mr. Asiano’s brother said.

And his son learned why his father treasured that German bayonet. He took it from a young German soldier – about his father’s age at the time – who was killed in a clash with Mr. Asiano’s unit.

The younger Asiano said he asked his father once if he killed anyone in combat during the war. His father told him he was certain he must have but that he was always just returning fire.

“He never wanted to think about that,” his son said. “My dad was a lover, not a fighter.”


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