CENTER FOR U.S. WAR
VETERANS' ORAL HISTORIES
World War II
Sam Settimi was born in Beckley, West Virginia in 1922. Prior to World War II, he was working as a truck driver for a beer brewer and distributor in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, a job he had begun six months after graduating from high school. Settimi recalled that the mood of the country in 1941 was anxious regarding the ongoing war abroad. His father became a night watchman for a local airfield, because he felt a need to support his country. Settimi and thirty-nine other men in his hometown would be drafted in the months following the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was excited at the prospect of going to war. After being drafted in December 1942, Settimi and other draftees traveled by streetcar thirty-five miles to Greensburg, Pennsylvania, to be formally inducted into the army and then sent to Fort Meade, Maryland.
Settimi was shipped to Oklahoma for basic training. He was then assigned to the 961st Field Artillery Battalion, and then transferred to Texas for further training. Settimi enjoyed being in Texas and visited Dallas on weekends. He recalled the people there as being “fantastic.” After completing training, Settimi’s unit traveled to Boston to embark on a ship heading to the British Isles. He recalled the voyage to Great Britain as nerve-wracking, since German U-boats stalked the convoy, which fortunately arrived safely at Belfast, Northern Ireland. While in Belfast, Settimi worked as a jeep driver for the officers of his unit. He also had the privilege of attending one of General Patton’s speeches. From Belfast, Settimi shipped out to Liverpool, England, where he received anti-aircraft training. He recalled that his daily meal in Liverpool consisted mostly of rice and tea. Settimi remained in England for eight months; he left a few days after D-Day.
Settimi only became aware of D-Day the day after the invasion occurred. He remembered seeing the sky filled with planes, yet had no idea why, as the invasion was kept secret. A few days after D-Day, his unit was assigned to land at Omaha Beach. The landing was smooth, as there was already a ten-mile-long beachhead established. His division was ordered to ascend the hills overlooking the town of Cherbourg, and to fire down on it, as there were Panzer divisions there. Settimi remembered seeing the disfigured ships and corpses of soldiers scattered along the Normandy beach, and said he would never go back to relive that day even if he was offered a million dollars to do so. One night while he was on guard duty, Settimi heard warnings of a gas attack, and then three shots, which was the signal there was a gas attack. He had to scramble to get his gas mask, which he did not carry with him. It turned out be a false alarm caused by another soldier, who had misheard someone and thought he said gas. The incident did, however, cause Settimi to carry his gas mask from then on.
Settimi was able to explore Europe after the war. He visited the hideouts of prominent Nazi leaders, including Himmler and Goering. Settimi went to Hitler’s vacation home as well. He was also granted permission to go to Rome to visit his family, since he is of Italian descent. Settimi was one of the first to go home, since he had earned 84 points and four battle stars during his service. He boarded a ship in Marseille and traveled to New York. During the trip back, Settimi made a friend who was in the Navy, and his friend gave him access to the fresh water shower and better living conditions. He attended many reunions after the war, organized by his battery commander.
Sam J. Settimi passed away on February 29, 2020 at the age of 97.