The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

September 9, 2013

WWII vets hope lake in Italy yields GIs' remains

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Somewhere on the bottom of Italy's largest lake lie the remains of two dozen American soldiers who died when their amphibious vehicle sank in 1945 in the waning days of the fighting in Europe during World War II.

A volunteer group's discovery of what could be the wreckage 900 feet down in Lake Garda has given aging veterans hope that, after nearly seven decades, the remains of their comrades can finally come home.

"If you talk to the World War II guys, they're looking for closure and they haven't got it," said retired Army Col. Michael Plummer, president of the National Association of the 10th Mountain Division, the Army unit that battled the Germans in northern Italy until the last week of the war.

Of the association's nearly 1,200 members, about a third served during World War II.

"We seem to save any single soldier or find anybody in the wilds of Borneo or the mountains, and we thought it was very bad that the United States wasn't doing anything for these guys," said 89-year-old Jerry Nash, of Hudson, N.H.

Nash was laying communication wire as the 10th Mountain pursued German forces into northern Italy's rugged alpine region, home to the 50-mile-long Lake Garda. When the enemy blew up tunnels through the mountains ringing the lake's northern end, the division's commanders sent soldiers across the lake in amphibious six-wheeled trucks, known by their military designation DUKW and known to GIs as ducks.

On the night of April 30, 1945, three DUKWs left the lake's east side carrying members of the division's 605th Field Artillery. One of the vehicles, jammed with 25 soldiers and a 75 mm cannon, stalled during the journey and soon began taking on water.

According to Cpl. Thomas Hough, the lone survivor, the soldiers desperately tossed their equipment and ammunition overboard in an attempt to keep the vessel from sinking. But the DUKW went down anyway, plunging the men into the frigid waters of the glacier-fed lake.

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