Joseph PIraino was born on 15 December 1918, in Lost Springs, Wyoming, to Gaetano and Rose (Falica) Piraino. He was the couple’s fifth child. Joseph’s father, Gaetano, grew up in Alcara, Italy, and left in 1903 for the United States when he was in his early 20s. Joseph’s mother, Rose arrived in the United States in the late 1890s. Gaetano and Rose met in Peru, Illinois, in the early 1900s and were married on 14 April 1907.
At the time of Joseph’s birth, his family was living and farming in Lost Springs in Wyoming on property they owned. Joseph had two older brothers Guy and Vince and two older sisters Josephine and Geraldine. In 1921 Joseph’s brother Anthony was born. Sometime after Anthony’s birth, the family moved to LaSalle, Illinois, and purchased a home on 25th street. By 1930 Joseph had three younger sisters Rose, Marianne and Minnie, and younger brother Frank. Joseph’s father was supporting his family by working as a laborer at a local factory.
In 1939, Joseph married Jean Walker in Davenport, Iowa. The next year they were living in an apartment in LaSalle which they rented for $33 a month. Joseph was working as a bartender at a local tavern owned by William Mallie at 357 Third street. With war looming on the horizon, on 16 October 1940, Joseph joined other men across the country in registering for the draft. Twenty-one years old at the time, Joseph was 5 foot 8 inches tall and weighed 185 pounds with brown eyes and hair.
In 1941, Joseph and Jean had a son Richard. Perhaps because of their son’s birth, Joseph and Jean soon bought a home at 617 Sixth street in LaSalle. At some point prior to June 1944 Joseph answered his country’s call to service and was assigned to the 353rd Infantry Regiment in the 89th Infantry Division. By March of 1945 he was in Germany with his regiment serving in Company I in the 3rd Battalion as a Sergeant. That month, his unit was preparing to cross the Rhine River.
Their mission began early in the morning of March 26th. Each regiment within the division was positioned at different locations. The 353rd Regiment made their crossing attempt at Oberwesel. Patrols went out first and made it across with no losses. Their movements lessened the German threat for the next wave of assault boats which were sent out at 2 a.m. But the men still took fire from German machine guns and artillery. During the launch one boat of twelve men from Company I was lost when the boat capsized. Ten more boats were lost before 7 a.m. that morning.
Once the battalions were across, Company I moved up the left flank and secured the hill overlooking the town. It was during this operation that Sergeant Joseph Piraino was killed in action although how he died was not determined. He may have been one of the men from his company lost when their boat capsized, or he may have been killed by German fire during one of the crossings or push up the hill.
Sergeant Joseph Piraino was buried in the Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial in Hamm, Luxembourg. He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart, American Campaign Medal, WW2 Victory Medal, and the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal.
Joseph’s death was not the only loss his family experienced during the war. His brother Anthony had also served and was killed in action two days after Christmas in 1944. Their older brother, Guy Piraino, also served, enlisting in 1942. Guy was discharged on 12 May 1945.
Joseph’s wife Jean eventually remarried. She passed away in 1950. Their son Richard passed away at age 49 in 1990.
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.
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- SBTS Historian: Pam Broviak
- 1920 U.S. Census, Gaetano Piraino, Ancestry
- 1930 U.S. Census, Gaetano Piraino, Ancestry
- 1940 U.S. Census, Gaetano Piraino, Ancestry.
- 1940 U.S. Census, Joe Perino, Ancestry.
- 1950 U.S. Census, Stephen Province, Ancestry.
- “Illinois, County Marriages, 1810-1940,” Piraino to Falico, 1907, FamilySearch.
- “U.S., World War II Draft Cards Young Men,” 1940-1947, Joseph Piraino, Ancestry.
- “U.S., World War II Draft Registration Cards,” 1942, Gaetano Piraino, Ancestry.
- “U.S. WWII Hospital Admission Card Files, 1942-1954,” Service No. 36981801, Fold3
- “U.S., City Directories, 1822-1995,” LaSalle, 1942, Joseph Piraino, Ancestry.
- “U.S., Headstone and Interment Records for U.S., Military Cemeteries on Foreign Soil, 1942-1949,” Joseph Piraino, Ancestry.
- The 89th Infantry Division, 1942-1945 by 89th Infantry Division Historical Board, Hathi Trust.
- “U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007,” Richard Eugene Piraino, Ancestry.
- “U.S., Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010,” Guy Piraino, Ancestry.