Honor Roll - WWII, Military History

PFC Samuel Phillip Baratta, Service Number 36437817

Samuel Phillip Baratta reported he was born on April 14, 1922, in LaSalle, Illinois. His parents were Dominic and Grace Spalino Baratta. His birth certificate agrees he was born at home in LaSalle, but lists a birth date of August 14, 1922. Perhaps his birth was registered a few months after it occurred, and the person typing it up assumed the birth took place the same month it was reported.

Sam was the last of nine children born to Dominic and Grace although at the time of Sam’s birth, three were no longer living. Dominic also had four other children from a previous marriage: the oldest, Rosa, was married and lived in Chicago with her family. Dominic’s oldest son Tony was 17 years old when Sam was born. Tony, also listed in some records as Antone, lived with Dominic and Grace. He was working as a laborer at the dye works. Another son, Joseph, was 16 at the time of Sam’s birth. Prior to marrying Grace, Dominic had lost his first wife Josephine and their other child.

Since coming to America from Italy about 1898, Dominic worked as a coal miner to support his family. When Sam was born, his father was working for the Illinois Zinc Company. However, not long after, Dominic and his older sons moved into the landscaping and gardening business. By 1940, Sam and two of his brothers, Joseph and Philip, were all working at a family-owned nursery on Edwards avenue in north LaSalle. Joseph and Sam still lived at home; Philip lived nearby next to their sister Josephine who had married Walter Wadas.

Sam was 20 years old when he registered for the draft on June 30, 1942. He was just shy of six feet tall and weighed 155 pounds with brown eyes and black hair. Most likely he was bilingual as the family was still speaking Italian in the home in the 1940s. That summer he was no longer working at the family business. Instead like so many others in the area, he had taken a job at the Green River Ordnance Plant in Amboy—a small town about 35 miles northwest of LaSalle.

WW2 Draft Card - Samuel P Baratta
World War II Draft Card – Samuel Philip Baratta

Later that year, after enjoying Thanksgiving with his family, Sam enlisted in the U.S. Army on November 28, 1942. He was eventually assigned to the 130th Infantry in the 33rd Division. Because this division drew its personnel from the Illinois National Guard units, it was called the “Prairie Division.” It stayed stateside from its induction in 1941 until July 1943 when it was deployed to Hawaii. There it was “assigned the task of guarding vital installations” and “received training in jungle warfare.” In May 1944, the Division was moved to New Guinea for additional training and engaged in perimeter defense. After participating in several operations, the Division was sent to the lines in Luzon, Philippine Islands, on February 13, 1945. By April, the 33rd Division was moving troops through the mountains towards Baguio, the summer capital of the Philippines. The Army had troops spread across half of Northern Luzon; the 130th was located near the Galiano road. Some men remained near supply installations fending off attacks from the enemy while others served on combat patrols attacking enemy installations along the ridges near the Asin tunnels. One company made a drive on the morning of April 16, 1945, along steep terrain to secure a hill in the area. As they were closing in within 5 yards of their objective, machine gun fire tore through their line. They fought through the enemy attack to retreat down the hill. Within minutes, half the company was killed or wounded.

Map showing capture of Asin Tunnels
Capture of Asin Tunnels, 130th Infantry, Source: The Golden Cross, A History Of The 33d Infantry Division In World War II, Internet Archive.

Sam Baratta died on April 16, 1945, due to injuries taken to his thigh from a machine gun. However, his exact location at the time he was hit could not be found. Therefore, he may have been killed in the drive to take the hill near the Asin tunnels, or he could have been killed while on patrol protecting supplies.

Sam was laid to rest in Fort McKinley Cemetery in Manila in the Philippines in block B, row 1, grave 27. The U.S., World War II and Korean Conflict Veterans Interred Overseas database indicates he was awarded the Purple Heart Medal. He would have also received a Combat Infantryman Badge and the following medals: Army Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic/Pacific Campaign Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal.

 


This story is part of the Stories Behind the Stars project (see www.storiesbehindthestars.org). This is a national effort of volunteers to write the stories of all 421,000+ of the US WWII fallen saved on Together We Served and Fold3. Can you help write these stories? These stories will be accessible via smartphone app at any war memorial or cemetery.

If you noticed anything erroneous in this profile or have additional information to contribute to it, please email feedback@storiesbehindthestars.org.

SBTSProject/Illinois/LaSalle

SBTS Historian: Pam Broviak

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