Ask the Expert

The Italian American Veterans Museum is proud to post a monthly memorabilia blog written by our curator, Steve Corbo. A military historian with more than 50 years of research under his belt, he has written articles on the subject and serves as the military consultant for Fra Noi, the Chicago-area Italian-American magazine. Submit your questions to, including a high-resolution photo of the memorabilia.

A tale of bravery, told through memorabilia

Louis Venditti served with the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the legendary 101st Airborne Division. He was one of the “Band of Brothers” made famous by the Stephen Ambrose book and the HBO miniseries. When he returned home from WW ll, he did so in an Army uniform with a unique set of patches and badges not commonly seen.

In the pre-dawn hours of June 6, 1944, Venditti parachuted into Normandy, France, as part of the first wave of allied troops in the massive D-Day Invasion. A recipient of the Purple Heart for wounds received in action, he participated in some of the fiercest combat faced by U.S. troops in Europe. In addition to D-Day, he participated In Operation Market Garden for the liberation of the Netherlands and the Battle of the Bulge.

At the Battle of the Bulge, in the town of Bastogne, Belgium, the 101st was surrounded by overwhelming German forces. The Germans sent the paratroopers an ultimatum: Surrender or face certain death. The 101st Commander, Brigadier General Tony McAuliffe, replied with one of the best one-word answers in the annals of military history. McAuliffe simply replied “Nuts.” The 101st never did surrender and fought their way into Germany, ending the war at Berchtesgaden, the site of Hitler’s home.

The items pictured above are actually from Venditti’s uniform. Heading clockwise from the upper left, first and foremost is the “Screaming Eagle” patch of the 101st Airborne Division, worn on Venditti’s left sleeve. Originally established in 1918 as the 101st Division, the “Airborne” tab was picked up when they were designated as one of the two original U.S. Airborne divisions, formed by the U.S. Army in August 1942.

Taking aim at a pivotal pistol

A captured enemy pistol was one of the most popular souvenirs brought back by GIs serving overseas during WW ll. They were readily available, of no practical use to the U.S. government and easy to carry. The U.S. military permitted GIs to bring back these coveted war trophies by the thousands. The pistol pictured above was brought home by World War II veteran Louis Venditti.

Louis was a member of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division. They were the “Band of Brothers” made famous by the 1992 Stephen Ambrose book and the 2001 HBO miniseries. We’ll share more of Louis’ wartime memorabilia and history in future postings. For now, let’s focus on the pistol, which has a unique role in the annals of modern warfare.

Sorting out Silver and Bronze Stars

Question: What’s the difference between a Silver Star and a Bronze Star?

Answer: Our museum celebrates several Silver and Bronze Star recipients, including Army Sgt. James Orlando “Lon” Fornelli during World War II (right) and Army Pfc. John Puccini during the Korean War (left). Both medals are awarded for actions in connection with combat, but it’s a matter of proximity and degree.

Army ribbons spotlight military service at a glance

Question: My father was in the Army during World War II and had these on his uniform. What do they mean?

Answer: Those are “ribbon bars” and they serve as a colorful shorthand resume of the wearer’s military career. The ribbons pictured were custom-made in the post-WW II era and sewn on your father’s uniform, unlike the standard “pin back” version issued by the military. Each of the bars is divided into three sections, and each section represents a medal earned during your father’s time in the service.

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