WW2 Enthusiast Tracks Down A Veteran Who Signed A Captured Enemy Flag

Second World War veteran Carmen Vecchione did not remember signing a Nazi flag when history fan Mike Carper said he had one with a Swastika and his signature.

Carper said the flag was signed when Vecchione’s unit provided security at the Ohrdruf concentration camp in Germany.

Vecchione said he loaned the flag to an acquaintance, but it was never returned.

Vecchione does remember returning home with a big Nazi flag, which he “freed” from  Ohrdruf, a portion of Buchenwald, a large forced-labor concentration camp, shortly after the camp’s liberation on April 11, 1945.  He was attached to the 773rd Field Artillery (Tank Destroyer) Battalion.

General George S. Patton and General Omar Bradley during their tour of the newly liberated Ohrdruf concentration camp.
General George S. Patton and General Omar Bradley during their tour of the newly liberated Ohrdruf concentration camp.

Carper, of Lewistown, Pa., a WWII re-enactor, got together with Vecchione who was eventually convinced that he did, indeed, sign the flag.

Following Carper’s purchase of the memorabilia at a flea market he and other members of his re-enactment group combed the national archive website and additional sites like Ancestry.com for the names.

Clearly, the name Vecchione is very unique, making it easier to find him in their searches, Carper explained.  There was only one Carmen J. Vecchione, which appeared in the National Archive and Records Administration’s enlisted service record spanning the years 1938 to 1946.

Carper combed the internet for Vecchione and found the name in a story about his Second World War participation published Jan. 23, 2011 in The Vindicator. The paper gave Carper’s contact info to Vecchione, who scheduled a meeting with him.

After the meeting, Vecchione said he still does not remember signing Carper’s flag, but said it was his signature.

He was fully convinced after seeing the signatures of several other men who served in his unit.

As well as allaying his curiosity, the flag triggered memories of his unit’s offensive through Europe, while forcing the German army to retreat.

In the Vindicator’s 2011 story profiling Vecchione, he said when he visited the camp, the awful smell was the first thing he registered.

In the camp barracks, all you saw was knees, elbows, and eyes. They had been starved, he said.

Vecchione graduated in January 1943 from South High School, and drafted into the Army three months later.

Included in his war souvenirs is a journal with photos from Buchenwald, the story of his experiences during the war, and his visit to Buchenwald in spring, 2015.

Buchenwald Barracks
Buchenwald Barracks

In his inaugural interview with The Vindicator, Vecchione said the journal was dedicated to his children and grand-children, so they never forget that history repeats itself…and you must question every move your country’s politicians make and have the insight to see the potentials of destruction a few men can trigger, Vindy.com reported.

It is a horrible world today, as well, he said in his recent interview with the newspaper.

If you contemplate it, its person against person, even in the United States, he says. Occasionally he feels as if he fought for no reason at all and it was all in vain.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE