Victoria family visits Italy after World War II dog tags discovered
Aug. 22, 2014 at 5:51 p.m.
WORLD WAR II CASUALTIES
Allies: More than 60 million dead
Axis: More than 12 million dead
When a soldier dies on the battlefield, his commanding officer leaves one of the soldier's dog tags on the body and pockets the other to remember to notify family members.
Oscar Glomb miraculously survived a surprise attack by German Nazis in June 1944 on a hill near the small town of Gavorrano, Italy.
But he didn't get to keep both of his dog tags.
They were likely blown off when shrapnel clipped his jugular and lodged in his left shoulder.
Growing up, his son, Rob Glomb, heard his father tell the story of his brush with death time and again.
Last month, the two generations that followed the late World War II veteran walked up the same steep hill he was wounded on to see where the dog tags landed more than 70 years ago.
"Trust me, we were all soaked to our shoes, and it was not with rain," Rob Glomb said.
Rob Glomb, 61, and his son, Cody Glomb, 34, made the cross-continent journey after Oscar Glomb's dog tags, ring and religious medal were found in April 2010.
Retired police inspector Daniele Bianchini, 55, found the dog tags with a metal detector. They were buried about 7 centimeters deep. He wasted no time trying to reunite them with their owner.
"I was really surprised he (Oscar Glomb) survived and died because of old age," Bianchini said through a translator, 16-year-old Asia Reparado, an Italian foreign exchange student at Calhoun High School.
He had always hoped to one day meet the elder Glomb or his children and was happy they visited.
"I think what a lot of Italian people think - that a lot of American people lost their lives just to save Italy from a dictator," Bianchini said.
The Glombs had been to Italy before, about a month before Bianchini emailed them about his discovery.
This time, the family had planned to tour Rome and decided to visit Bianchini, too.
In 2010, Bianchini kept one of the dog tags. Last month, he gave the second dog tag back to the Glombs.
"Finding one is like finding Roman money. It's a big deal," Rob Glomb said.
Bianchini has a growing collection of World War II artifacts. He studies the American troops' progress across the country and battle sites on the Internet. That's why he picked that particular hill to search.
"This is the first American medal that I found," Bianchini said. "I found a German medal, but I never contacted the owner because German people don't like to be found."
Overall, Rob Glomb said visiting Italy and Bianchini was "a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
The experience brought to life what Oscar Glomb had tried to convey to his son and grandson so many times: how a German tiger tank with rubber tracks sneaked up on them at daybreak.
Then, Glomb and other infantrymen were drinking coffee. He was lying down when the attack started, and his other injuries included a perforated stomach, small intestine, large intestine, gallbladder and spleen as well as a compound fracture in his knee. Shrapnel also hit his wrist.
After the bullets stopped flying, his Army captain said about Glomb, "Don't worry about him. He's almost gone." Glomb's sergeant, a man from Weimar, took pity on him and carried him down the hill.
"Back then, it was pretty much wholesale slaughter," said Rob Glomb, who because of a pacemaker had to take three steps at a time down that same hill before resting.
Oscar Glomb was stabilized in the field and then transferred to a hospital in Longview, where he met the woman who would become his wife. His wife, Dorothy, recently turned 90 years old.
Oscar Glomb died in September 1998 at the age of 79.
Mostly, the veteran was open about his service, but he never did like firearms or hunting as much as he used to.
The younger generation of Glomb men think that has something to do with how two weeks before the attack on the hill in Gavorrano, Oscar Glomb led a three-man patrol to find and kill Nazis.
He opened fire on a ditch using a Browning automatic rifle, killing 18 German soldiers, and he was awarded a Bronze Star for his efforts, his son said.
"(Afterward,) he'd feel bad if he ran over a jackrabbit," Glomb said. "He was always worried about the consequences of killing someone. I told him, 'Dad, you killed them in the line of duty; you didn't murder them. There's a big difference.'"
The younger Glombs are also appreciative of how after so many years, Italians remember and are thankful for the Americans' service.
"Every time, he (Bianchini) referred to my grandpa, he said, 'hero, hero,'" Cody Glomb said.
"They knew if it wasn't for Americans coming, they wouldn't have what they have today," Rob Glomb added. "It was very exciting to be in that spot. It was like closing a chapter in the book about my dad and his life."