CAMP DARBY, Italy (Oct. 9, 2019) - One of the last living World War II Italian partisans who fought against the Germans, Giuliano Ciaponi, died Oct. 5 in Livorno at the age of 94.
A U.S. Army Air Corps airman shot down survived thanks to Ciaponi and his family who risked their lives to rescue him.
A memorial service was held Oct. 7, at Lupi cemetery in Livorno and Camp Darby military service members did not think twice about attending when they learned about his past.
"To represent the United States Army at this funeral was all about honor and pride to me" said Staff Sgt. Dennis Khang, of the 529th Military Police Company. "My father carries a very similar story. He fought in the Vietnam War side-by-side with the Americans. He was a Hmong in Laos and helped rescue many Americans who were also very young, yet so courageous."
Ciaponi was only a teen ager when one day from his home overlooking the hills and the sea for the bombarded city of Livorno, he saw and American aircraft losing control and crashing. Ciaponi noticed the pilot parachute from the plane. Having grown up in the area he was very familiar with the surrounding woods and he went out to rescue him.
He found the Soldier in the town of Nibbiaia and managed to transport him to his house in Castellaccio about 15 kilometers away.
"The Soldier had various burns on his arm and legs," said Ciaponi in a media interview in 2015. "We ended up keeping him with us for 42 days and with the help of a local nurse, we kept his burns clean until they healed".
When asked why he would risk his own life and that of his family members for an American Soldier Ciaponi simply answered that he was young and healthy and Soldier would have died otherwise. Shortly afterwards, allied troops reached the town of Rosignano. Ciaponi guided the airman through the woods to reach his brothers-in-arms.
Ciaponi was awarded a certificate of commendation by Commanding General of United States Army Mediterranean Theater Gen. Joseph T. McNarney.
Ciaponi said he was also offered a monetary award compensation for his heroic action but he refused.
"I did not do it for money. I was in good health. While he would have died, it was my duty to help him," said Ciaponi in an earlier interview.
Ciaponi is survived by two daughters and several grandchildren and great grandchildren.
"Seeing these young Soldiers here to honor my father today means the world to us," said Neda Ciaponi, the partisan's daughter. "My dad was very happy to see young people being interested in history, he always said that they are the ones that can make a difference in today's world."
Taking part in the memorial service was Deputy Carabinieri Commander Lt. Giorgio Matta, Brigadier Antonio infantino, Lt. Col. Luca Spadini from the Italian Base Command. Khang was joined by Sgt. Andrew Freshley, Spc. Andy Soto, and Spc. Jaquay Edwards.