90, Clinton Township
(formerly of Warren)
Patrick Caruso recalled growing up in Dunbar, Pennsylvania, and going to work at a young age to help support his family.
“My dad was crippled in a stone quarry, and he couldn’t work. He couldn’t do anything manual like that,” Caruso said. “At the time when I was drafted, we were living on $50-a-month compensation. At the time, they called it relief – they didn’t call it welfare – and you had to pay it back or you had a lien against your property.”
Before the war, Caruso worked with his father to pay off the family debt through the Works Progress Administration,
ABOVE: Caruso took this photo of Army chaplains conducting a service during the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944.
LEFT: Caruso still has the bugle he used in the U.S. Army during World War II. He served in an intelligence and reconnaissance platoon and was wounded in action.
Photo by Brian Louwers
part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. He eventually ended up in the Detroit area but had to return to Pennsylvania when his country called.
“All of us in our group, we were all draftees from western Pennsylvania, from the Pittsburgh area and the Fayette County area, thousands of us, I guess,” Caruso said. “We all got drafted together, we trained together, we served together and got discharged together.”
He was drafted into the 328th Regiment of the U.S. Army’s 26th Infantry Division and sailed to Normandy directly from Boston in a convoy of 60 ships.
Caruso waited more than three months after the invasion began to get to the coast of France, but when he got there on Sept. 7, 1944, he was reunited with his brother, Nick, an anti-aircraft gunner on a Navy tanker at the time.
“The greatest surprise I had in Europe was finding my brother on Utah Beach,” Caruso recalled. “He came to the area where we were bivouacked and he surprised me.”
Within a month of its arrival in France, the division moved south through the hedgerows to join Patton’s Third Army, engaged in combat with the Germans.
Caruso drove a jeep in an intelligence and reconnaissance platoon and recalled white-knuckle rides over roads dotted with mines.
He was shot in the right arm on Nov. 7, 1944, and treated at the regimental aid station.
After a brief respite in Metz, the division was rushed to the Ardennes Forest in December to counter the German offensive during the Battle of the Bulge. They later pushed into Germany and Austria, and ended the war in Czechoslovakia.
When he returned to the United States, Caruso went back to work at Briggs Manufacturing in Detroit for a short time and later made a career as a union carpenter. He remained a bachelor until he was 36 but eventually married a widow and became a loving father to her three young boys.
“There’s an old saying: If you get an opportunity, take it. Because you never know,” Caruso said. “There’s not too many of us left, and when we’re gone, that’s it.”