The majority of my World War One portrait collection are comprised of quality shots depicting unidentified soldiers posing for the camera in France or Germany. Very rarely do I have a penciled name on the reverse with enough detail to make a 100% positive ID. In this rare case, I was able to make an identification based on insignia and a faint scribble on a gas mask bag.
At first I wasn’t able to make out the exact details of the name. The soldier was clearly with the 77th Division based on his painted helmet with the Statue of Liberty insignia, and the 305 Inf. was easy to make out on the bag. I checked the collar discs on both men and was able to make out an I, telling me that the men were both with I Company. From there, I tracked down (luckily) a web-based roster for the 305th Infantry. It can be found here: 305th Infantry Roster
The name on the bag clearly stated a P. P…….go. I didn’t have much to go on but was astounded to find a perfect match on the roster website! Peter Pizzolongo.
Peter was born in 1896 in Larino Campobasso, Italy and came over to the US in the early 1900s. What’s funny is that I can’t find his immigration records online but did find that he traveled back from Italy in 1955 on board the S.S. Independence along with his wife, Ida.
Of interest to me is his WWI service record. His draft card gives his exact birthdate – June 29th, 1895. His listed profession at the time was Piano Maker; his Italian hometown matches perfectly with his WWI service record, so we know it’s accurate. As of June, 1917 he worked with a company named Ricca & Son at 89 Southern Boulvard, Bronx, NY. At the time he lived at 425 East 116th Street in Manhattan and wasn’t legally registered as an American citizen. He initially signed up with the 165th Infantry Regiment of the 42nd Division. It makes sense given his NY area residency at the time. He was they transferred over to the 305th Infantry Regiment of the 77th Division. He made it overseas on April 16th, 1918 and served overseas for an entire year before leaving on April 24th, 1919. He was gassed once on August 15th, 1918 during the Battle of the Marne at Fismes. Please see a quick excerpt from the official 305th Infantry Regiment unit history here: 305th History
We know from his records that he was out of commission for 8 days before returning to his unit on August 23rd. He became sick (unknown reason, likely gas related) on September 5th, 1918. He rejoined the unit on the 16th after being in the hospital for 11 days. What a trooper! I’ve attached a few of the web-based documents I’ve found through my search. Hopefully his family will one day find this site and learn a little more about their WWI relative!