Editor’s Note: This story is part of an occasional series leading up to the release of “Salute To Veterans,” a coffee-table book about local veterans of war published by North of Boston Media Group and due out in December. To purchase a copy, see box on Page A2 or visit eagletribune.com.
Nearly 69 years have passed since Benedetto Maccarone served in World War II under the infamous Gen. George S. Patton. And yet, Maccarone’s memories remain as vivid as those from yesterday.
“They called him old blood and guts,” he said. “His guts, our blood.”
Maccarone, age 88 and a lifetime Lawrence resident, remembers the battle when his unit tried to cross the mighty Rhine River in Germany. They had been waiting for two nights, but were thwarted by a moon shining as brightly as the sun.
Patton wasn’t one to wait around for Mother Nature to cooperate.
“He used to walk around with two white pistols on his hips,” Maccarone said. “On the second night he said, ‘If there is a bright moon tomorrow we’re crossing, and I don’t care if there are 10,000 dog tags left behind.’”
The moon was just as bright on the third night. And as he promised, Patton was determined that the troops would cross the river. They loaded into row boats with eight men paddling and four men in the center holding the rifles. Under the cover of a smoke screen, the Americans set out to cross the Rhine.
“The Germans were shooting shells at us by the hundreds,” Maccarone recalled.
Somehow, Maccarone’s boat made it across the river. On the other side, however, they encountered a 6-foot-tall concrete wall. Maccarone scrambled over it. And when he looked back to his boat, it had been hit by a shell and blown up just after all the men made it out alive.