A veteran of almost all the battles of North Africa – Medjez el Bab, El Guettar, Maknassey, Cebilta, Kasserine pass, Mateur, Bizerte – Cpl. Louis J. Russo of 967 Tyler Street is still clearing the minefields with army engineers. He was part of the first contingent of American soldiers to set foot on African soil in November 1942. He left that country for England in May of the same year, after training at Fort Knox, Ky.
Cpl. Russo’s job is delicate and dangerous. He learned to arm, disarm and neutralize all kinds of Axis and Allied mines, and to use demolitions. After receiving this training, he, like those who studied with him, taught the same procedure to other men in his outfit. Experts say that when a soldier has completed his training period, he knows just about everything there is to learn about mines.
Major Cecil L. Stephenson of Norfolk, England, who has trained engineers over the past five years, says there are benefits to demining. “You enter the captured cities first.” Buildings must be inspected for traps and explosives before troops enter, and when everything is cleared, engineers have “the choice” of campgrounds.
In a recent letter to his brother, Thomas C. Russo of 22 Pomeroy Avenue, Cpl. Russo mentions seeing Al Jolson at a Red Cross club. “He always puts them in the air when he sings his famous ‘Mammy’ and ‘Sonny Boy’,” says the Pittsfield soldier. Jolson was on tour for over a year.
Cpl. Russo was back on the strong Pittsfield High School football team in 1935. He graduated from the school in January 1936. Russo played semi-professional and amateur ball with the Pittsfield Collegians and Asci Coal Heavers.
This story within history is selected from the archives of Jeannie Maschino, The Berkshire Eagle.