Canton Repository

May 28, 2004

Wooster veteran recalls the horrors of WW II

Copley Washington correspondent

WASHINGTON — The fighting in World War II was so brutal that as he looks back on it, veteran Joseph De Luca finds it hard to believe he was there.

“It’s so unreal even today,” the Wooster man said. “I can’t believe I did this or was involved in it. I guess because the damned horrible — you can’t even put it in words. The name of the game is you have to kill them faster than they kill you.”

De Luca, 78, joined four other veterans who reminisced about the war in a “veterans history project” discussion sponsored by the Library of Congress on Thursday. A dapper man, he sported a VFW hat.

The prospect of wearing a uniform enticed the 18-year-old De Luca to join the Army in 1943. Little did he know the price he would pay.

A member of the Army’s 103rd Infantry Division, he recalled the time he had a German soldier in his rifle sights and couldn’t pull the trigger.

“But it didn’t take long” for his attitude to change, said De Luca, a retired printer. “If I’d kept that attitude, I wouldn’t have survived.”

One day, De Luca was with several other soldiers who were close to him when Germans opened up on the group, killing several.

“I cried like a baby,” he said. “One more step and it could have been me.”

De Luca said he and his fellow soldiers had doubts about the war until they saw Dachau, the German concentration camp.

“We had a saying, ‘Is this trip necessary?’ ” he recalled. At Dachau, they saw the ovens for human beings and 2,000 to 3,000 bodies dumped in trenches.

“When we saw that, we said, ‘This trip is necessary,’ ” he said.