Stuff that Happened – I met a hero!

Okay, so I didn’t meet-meet him, but I did make an awesome discovery that I hope will bring as much joy to someone else as it did for me.  The person I “met” was Dr. Modestino Criscitiello.  He told me his story from World War II that I just had to share with the world.  My adventure started out in a used bookstore called Books by the Pound.  Why yes, they do sell books by the literal weight.  There were scales throughout the store, much like in the produce section of the grocery store.  It has an antiquarian section with some incredibly old books; some from the early 1900’s. I wanted to buy all of them.  BUY ALL THE BOOKS!  But, old books tend to be heavy and hence, more expensive when buying by the pound.  What I ended up finding was a very simple, albeit large, nondescript book.

It was the only book I HAD to have.

When I opened it, it was filled with original photographs and documents.  I didn’t look at it closely, but I really had to have it.  Here is a weird little fact about me:  I’ve always been strangely interested in WWII.  As a young child, I read everything that I could get my hands on, fiction and non-fiction.  I think that as a general rule, 7 year old little girls aren’t super into WWII.  Or at least I never met one.  Regardless of the reason, while I’m terrible at history and dates and such, I am a bit obsessed with it.  So no matter what was in this book, I HAD to have it.

My initial thought was that it was maybe a variety of communication or just a gathered type scrapbook.  When I finally got it home and sat down with it, I was amazed to find that it was the personal account of Dr. Criscitiello’s years of service during the war.  Dr. Modestino Criscitiello was a surgeon that practiced in Pittsfield, MA.  He had what most would consider a comfortable life with his wife and children when World War II erupted.

Page One

I detest war and I abhor violence in any form.  The decision to volunteer my services during World War II came about only after long and agonizing consideration of the following factors:

Contrary For
1. Leaving a comfortable home at the age of 49 and exposure to rugged army life with possibility of loss of life or limb. 1. As a member of Draft Board 123 and later as medical examiner of board I was involved in decisions as to who was to be drafted and sent to war, while I remained home in comfort and safety.
2. Acceptance of army regimentation with loss of personal freedom. 2. Sense of duty to country as a United States citizen.
3. Loss of income from medical practice at peak of my earning capacity. 3. Set up adequate insurance program so that in any event family could live comfortably and without jeopardizing children’s education.
4. Obligation to various community medical and non-medical organizations.
Obligation to my wife, children, and old mother.
4. Paying the United States a debt of gratitude for having afforded my family the opportunity to develop our potential and enjoy a better life.

Looking back, the decision to volunteer was justified.  OUr entire family became an active part of the war effort and thus came face to face with the disruption of home life.  We were all made more aware of the anxieties of war.  Personally, during my three year term of service, I was fortunate to have had an active part.  Among other duties, my assignment as Chief of the Surgical Service of the 117th General Hospital, situated near Bristol, England, brought me to the European theatre of war.  This was a large, 1000  bed hospital usually filled beyond capacity with war casualties presenting cases with severe, multiple injuries.  Though the work was strenuous physically and emotionally the results were gratifying.  Among other accomplishments, the neurosurgical section of our staff made important contributions of the care of nerve injuries and the plastic surgery department made advances in the technic of pedicle grafts.  We also did some pioneer work in angiography and electroencephalography.  Above all, we provided mental and physical comfort to the American soldiers entrusted to our care.  I like to feel that we saved a few lives and helped heal many wounds.  Mission accomplished!  I am thankful that I had the opportunity to serve my adopted country when in need.

The good Doctor.

Okay, how inspiring is this!?  Dr. Criscitiello was (I believe) an Italian immigrant and is listed in U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925 along with his wife, Assunta.  Maybe as a child of immigrants, I’ve always had the sense of how important your adopted country is.  This is my home country, but that’s not the point.  Both of my parents worked with the government before they came to the US; my brother served in the National Guard for years.

I…pay my taxes.  I vote.  I know all the words to the songs and pledges and was even a Girl Scout for one year.  I thought about joining but I am not made for the military.  I’m a patriot by not enlisting. Trust me on this one.

All original documents.

Dr. Cristiciello entered into the Army as a Captain and was subsequently promoted twice: to Major and then Lieutenant Colonel.  It’s easy to romanticize war stories because that’s a lot of what movies and TV do.  I want to see it that way, as well, in a sort of M*A*S*H colored glasses way.  I then try to think about the situation in a more realistic and empathetic way–how would I feel if The Mr. (who is now in his 40’s) voluntarily put himself into an ongoing conflict/war?  Leaving me and our children alone?  For three years?  The thought seriously upsets me.  I would be completely against it.  The Mr. is totally against this imaginary scenario, too.

The caption for this was “Home – Minus Dad”

There were So. Many. Pictures.  I wanted to include them all, but no.  Here are some of my favorites:

Front row, center

Second row from front, first person on the left

So many originals with “Restricted” stamped on them. I felt like I was in on some sort of big secret :D

Fau Tau Players Oath
I solemnly swear that I will not bitch, gripe, curse at, or bring false accusation against my fellow players.

If anyone knows if this says Fau Tau or what it means, please let me know.  Tau is Greek, so maybe a fraternity or club of some kind?  No clue.  Still neat.

Original newspaper clippings.

So his son was a doctor that studied at Harvard, his daughter was a nurse that studied at Yale and they were both in the military as well.  The interesting thing is, when researching I found so many instances of “Doctor”.  So many family members, even today!

Click for link!

Once I realized what I had in my hands, I began researching to find his family.  I have no idea how his personal scrapbook ended up in a second hand bookstore in Georgia.  If it was my family member, I would definitely want it back.  I finally got a break through Facebook and connected with a Criscitiello in Texas who is indeed related and is a molecular biologist researching immunity and evolution.    I corresponded with him and have sent him the book.  If I had not found anyone I would have found a museum to donate it to.  It is a really incredible collection of information and should be in the family first and shared with the world second.  If you believe in these kinds of things, maybe it was fate that I found that book?  Maybe it wanted to go home?  Either way, this was a wonderful adventure from start to finish.  I’m glad I got to play a small part.

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