A 42nd Rainbow Soldier's Story:
Prior to being drafted, Ben Viola was a 24-year-old man with a wife and two young daughters. He married Matilda in 1939 and was working at Alcoa Aluminum in a nearby northern New Jersey town.In 1942, already being a member of the New Jersey National Guard, Viola was drafted into the Army. He remembers basic trainining being a terrible experience.When Viola made it home to his family, after almost three years in Europe, he said it was an amazing feeling. He had left to fight in World War II when his youngest daughter, Mary Lynn, was only a few months old. Viola said Mary Lynn, then almost four, wouldn't go near him for a few weeks. "She kept saying that I wasn't her father," Viola said. "She told me her daddy was fighting over in the war." Viola went back to his job at Alcoa Aluminum after the war and stayed with the company until it closed. He was the founder of the Northvale Department of Public Works and was on the city council. He and his wife also added two more children to their family with the arrival of daughter, Donna, in 1952 and son, Bernard, five years after.
Close Calls...Ben Viola thinks of himself as a lucky man. He had many close calls with death while serving as a member of the Rainbow in Europe. From landing in a potato bin during a German attack, to coming face to face with the enemy, Viola has many stories to share about his experiences during World War II.
Dachau...For Ben Viola, Dachau was the ultimate horror. He said he could to this day still smell the scent of the dead bodies in his nose. Viola was one of the first men into Dachau when his unit, CO F 222 Infantry, broke the gates of the concentration camp wide open. He said his unit knew in advance that they were going to Dachau to save the people that were still barely alive. He said his unit was forced to kill many German officers in the process of liberating Dachau, but he said it was necessary to survive.Many of the German officers who had performed the worst horrors possible had fled the camp the night before, leaving young German officers to defend it. One young German officer who had been captured told Viola that the Germans left behind in the camp knew they never had a chance against the prestigious Rainbow Division. He then begged not to be killed.
(All information gathered from 12/29/03 interview EMT)