Posts, Camps, Stations and Airfields
San Bernardino Engineer Depot
(Base General Depot, Mira Loma
Quartermaster Repair Sub-Depot, Camp Ono, Prisoner of War Camp)
US Army Corps
of Engineers History (1993)
Site History: The San Bernardino Engineering
Depot was used by the U.S. Army as a vehicle and ammunition supply
and storage depot, dry cleaning facility, sewage spreading area,
tent manufacturing and dyeing facility, locomotive maintenance
facility, railcar and tank degreasing facility, motor vehicle
pool, prisoner of war camp, bomb manufacturing, and water softening
facility. The site was also a part of the Advance Communications
Zone Depot in the Southern California defence system.
Site improvements included
approximately 23 buildings including army barracks, mess halls,
motor pool, vehicle repair buildings, tent repair and dyeing building,
storage buildings, ammunition storage bunkers, dry cleaning building
and 61,577 linear feet of rail road track.
The San Bernardino Engineer
Depot including Camp Ono consisted of a total of 1662.82 acres
and was leased by the U.S. Army on 1 July 1940 from the four
owners listed below:
Muscoy Water Company,
1390.72 acres through Lease number W-868-eng-1503. Lease was
terminated between 14 April 1945 and 15 January 1948.
Farm Homes Corporation,
270.6 acres through Lease number W-3460-eng-3842. Lease was terminated
on 11 April 1946.
Atchison Topeka and Santa
Fe Railway Company, 1.32 acres through Lease number W04-193-eng-2135.
Lease was terminated on 20 December 1946.
Edward B. Meyer, 0.18
acres through Lease number W04-139-eng-5861. Lease was terminated
on 9 September 1946.
A prisoner of war camp known
as Camp Ono occupied 300 acres of the site. On 28 January a total
of 499 Italian prisoners of war were incarcerated in Camp Ono.
The prisoners were used to maintain army vehicles, degrease tanks,
and operated a tent repair and tent dyeing facility.
Location:The former San Bernardino Engineer
Depot consisted of 1662.82 acres and is located 4 miles northwest
of San Bernardino bounded by Kendall Drive, Cajon Boulevard, and
Little League Avenue with the Interstate Freeway running through
the center of the property parallel with Cajon Boulevard. A second
separate parcel of land is bound by 3rd Avenue on the north, First
Avenue on the south, Gary Street on the west, and Nolan Street
on the east. A third separate parcel of land is located between
the Southern Pacific Railway on the east, Cajon Boulevard on the
west, Institution Road on the north, and running approximately
one mile to the southern boundary. A fourth parcel of land occupies
an area a quarter of a mile north of Little League Drive and up
to Yucca Avenue between the Union Pacific Railroad and Cajon Boulevard.
A fifth parcel lies a quarter of a mile north of the fourth parcel
and is bounded by Cajon Boulevard on the east, the Union Pacific
Railroad on the south where the railroad and road cross each other.
Camp Ono occupied approximately 300 acres within the Depot. Camp
Ono was located between Cajon Boulevard and Kendall Drive and
was considered part of the San Bernardino Engineer Depot.
A Short History
of Camp Ono (1993)
by Clifford R. Davis
Camp Ono is an unofficial, unrecognized
name attached to a World War II supply depot which fulfilled several
key functions during and immediately following World War II. Most
military sources refer to the base by one of three terms: 1) the
Base General Depot; 2) The Mira Loma Quartermaster Repair Sub-Depot,
or 3) The San Bernardino Engineer Depot.
The chronology which follows is abstracted
from a collection of histories and studies mostly prepared by
the Depot Historian, James W. Bennett. Bennett prepared several
monographs which are now contained in Record Group 92, Boxes 7,
8, and 10, stored in the National Archives, Pacific Southwest
Region, Laguna Niguel, CA. Bennett was actually stationed at the
Mira Loma Quartermaster Depot in Mira Loma, California (near Ontario
in San Bernardino County). A list of references used in preparing
this brief chronology follows this history, and anyone seriously
interested in the history of "Camp Ono" should call
the National Archive at (714) 643-4241 for an appointment to view
On January 9, 1942, Lt. Col. Charles E.
Stafford arrived in San Bernardino and assumed command of the
organization which became the Advance Communications Zone Depot,
under the command and control of the Army Ninth Service Command,
headquartered at Fort Douglas, Utah. The Depot was established
on January 16, 1942, with administrative offices in the Andreson
Bldg. at 3rd and E Streets in San Bernardino. Warehouses were
leased in a variety of locations in San Bernardino, including
the National Orange Show. Over the next month or two, a search
was conducted to locate a suitable open space for creating a supply
depot, with requirements including access to railroads and highways.
The Ono siding was selected, with approximately
1,100 acres leased by the United States, primarily from the Muscoy
Water Company. (A map showing the leased parcels is available
in Record Group 77, Box 1, Records of the Corps of Engineers,
in the National Archive in Laguna Niguel.) A contract to construct
warehouses and buildings was awarded on February 11, and construction
began February 12, 1942, according to the Depot Military Diary.
The Corps of Engineers also claims credit for building many of
the structures at the Depot. Soon after, in March, 1942, the Depot
began storing supplies, both at the Ono siding and in warehouses
around San Bernardino, including one reference to 80,000 gallons
of oil, requiring 10 acres of open ground, and drums of lubricants,
requiring 800 square feet of storage space, a task which seemed
impossible to Stafford, but which was done.
On April 2, 1942, the Desert Training Center
was established, headquartered at Camp Young in the Mojave Desert,
with Major General George S. Patton, Jr. in command. For the next
two to three years, one of the primary functions of the Ono Depot
was to supply the troops assigned to the Desert Training Center
(DTC), which was later renamed the California-Arizona Maneuver
Area (CAMA). On April 15, 1942 the Ono Depot was detached from
the Communications Zone and redesignated as a branch of the California
Quartermaster Depot located in Oakland, CA. By May 1, 1942, the
Administration building at Ono was completed and the Depot headquarters
was moved to the Kendall Avenue address. The Bennett monographs
report that the move was not accomplished without incident however.
Apparently some strong Santa Ana winds shifted the building approximately
4 inches off its foundations, and a moderate earthquake also caused
the building's roof to separate from the walls, requiring repair
and additional bracing.
By July 1, 1942, the Depot was assigned
responsibility for supplying "subsistence" (everything
other than ordnance) to the DTC (which quickly grew to a maximum
of some 200,000 troops), as well as rations for the Japanese civilians
interned after the outbreak of hostilities, totalling between
40,000 and 60,000 people incarcerated at Camp Manzanar in the
Owens Valley, California, Parker, Arizona, and other locations.
On August 15, 1942, another change in the command structure occurred
with the Ono Depot made a Sub-Depot of the Mira Loma Quartermaster
Depot, a facility then under construction, and returned to the
direct control of the 9th Service Command in Utah. By December,
1942, it was decided to make the Sub-Depot an "on the job"
training experience for troops and commanders going overseas,
in order to provide them with experience in setting up and running
a supply depot overseas.
Accordingly, the Sub-Depot was established
as a Training Theater of Operations Depot, renamed the Base General
Depot, and administrative and supply units were cycled through
to gain actual experience in supplying front line troops. The
BGD continued to supply all classes of commodities except ordnance,
including quartermaster, signal corps, and engineer supplies until
the C-AMA was closed in April 1944. At its busiest, the BGD was
designed to accommodate 15,000 field troops, had a field hospital
with 1,100 beds (cots?) at the northwest end of the camp, a laundry
which peaked at laundering 40,000 items in an 8 hour shift, clothing
repair shops, and 13,000+ feet of railroad track laid by the Corps
of Engineers to supplement the AT & SF/Union Pacific tracks.
An oversized map of the Depot, with buildings
located and numbered, is included with the Corps of Engineers
material on deposit at the Laguna Niguel Archive On June 7, 1944,
the BGD was deactivated and control of the Depot was split, with
380 acres assigned to the Quartermaster Corps and designated the
Mira Loma Quartermaster Repair Sub-Depot. The Depot's primary
mission was repairing clothing and equipment, particularly tents,
canvas products, and webbing gear from a variety of sources, both
overseas and from the disbanded C-AMA.
Repaired material was sent to Mira Loma,
and from there went to troops overseas, either in Europe or the
Pacific theater. The balance of the Depot was assigned to the
Corps of Engineers, designated the San Bernardino Engineers Depot,
and was used primarily for the storage of mobile drilling rigs
and petroleum refineries, as well as receiving, repairing, and
shipping of construction equipment. 1,360 tractors were also received,
modified for military use, and shipped overseas.
A major portion of the tent repair mission
was accomplished by former Italian POWs. After the fall of Italy,
the government of Italy joined the Allied Forces against Germany,
and Italian POWs were offered the option of swearing loyalty to
the new Italian government and non-aggression against the United
States. Most POWs elected to do so, and were then placed in special
military units, called I.S.U.s or Italian Service Units. Four
companies were assigned to the Repair Sub-Depot, and devoted most
of their efforts to repairing and refurbishing material for reuse
in the war effort, including tents, stoves, vehicles, and other
non-perishable supplies. The ISUs at the Sub-Depot, once they
were appropriately trained and given adequate facilities, proved
to be invaluable, contributing numerous suggestions and improvements
to the repair process, maintaining much of the Sub-Depot equipment,
and providing almost all of the heavy manual labor required.
Bennett's monographs deal in some length
with the primitive conditions at the Sub-Depot, including the
lack of paved roads, buildings without air conditioning, coolers,
or even ventilation, lack of sanitary facilities, particularly
for women, which made hiring and retention of civilian employees
difficult. In addition, transportation to the base was often difficult,
especially with gasoline rationing, and some commuters suffered
damage to their vehicles from windblown sand. Moreover, with labor
scarce, many workers preferred to work in better conditions in
town, at higher paying jobs. The Depot was unable to match wages
paid by non-military employers. All of these circumstances, which
created a civilian labor shortage, made the work of the ISUs even
By November, 1945, the ISUs had been disbanded
and repatriated to Italy. The QMC declared the Sub-Depot surplus,
having moved all operations to Mira Loma, and the base was completely
occupied by the Engineers. On June 30, 1947, the San Bernardino
Engineers Depot was deactivated, with virtually all surplus material
at the Depot sold in one or another of the nine sales of surplus
property, or shipped to another base for use or sale.
November 16, 1993
Sources (All Documents listed are located
in the National Archive, Pacific Southwest Region, Laguna Niguel)
1.Desert Training. A Supply Problem; Bennett,
James W., 1944, Record Group 92, Box 7.
2.The Mira Loma Ouartermaster Repair Sub-Depot A Historical Survey;
Bennett, James W., 1946(?), Record Group 92, Box 10.
3.History of Mira Loma Quartermaster Depot; Bennett, James W.,
July, 1943, Record Group 92, Box 7.
4.Military Diary, Headquarters San Bernardino Advance Depot; Author
probably company clerk, U.S. Army, QMC, January through June,
1942, Record Group 92, Box 8.
5.Historical Record San Bernardino Engineer Depot; author unknown,
US Army Corps of Engineers, June 30, 1947, Record Group 77, Box
Note: Excerpts from the above documents
have been indexed and are part of the Newmark Groundwater Contamination
site file in the Superfund Records Center, San Francisco, CA.
Prepared by Clifford R. Davis,
Civil Investigator, U.S. EPA, Region IX, San Francisco Newmark
of War in San Bernardino (2015)
by Nicholas R. Cataldo
Do you remember that 1960's sitcom called Hogan's Heroes? You
know, that the nutty show which attempted to prove that, at least
in the world of television situation comedies, life in a Nazi
POW camp during World War II could be fun.
Well, we had our real life version, right
here in the Inland Empire. It was called Camp Ono.
With the outbreak of World War II and
under the leadership of General George S. Patton, this new military
installation, named after a nearby Santa Fe Railroad siding just
southwest of Cal State San Bernardino was established as a satellite
and supply station of the Mira Loma Quartermaster Depot and also
became part of the Advance Communications Zone Depot in the Southern
California Defense System.
But it was after Italian prisoners were
captured in Africa and Europe by the allies in 1943, that the
Camp Ono story gets interesting.
The POW's were initially shipped to Norfolk,
Va. and then sent by train to Florence, Az. where they were put
to work picking cotton. After a sweltering hot summer toiling
in the cotton fields, many eagerly volunteered to pick oranges
and grapes for the local farmers, many of them Italian, in Cucamonga,
Then, in February of 1944 the 499 prisoners
at Cucamonga were transferred to Camp Ono. The military site
was set up with a north camp and a south camp. The north site
was to become their new "home" until after the war
ended in late 1945.
With Italy's formal surrender and Mussolini
being ousted in favor of Marshall Pietro Badoglio in September
- October of 1943, a rather unique agreement was made between
the new leader and General Eisenhower. The monumental decision
was that all captured Italian troops were allowed to take an
oath of allegiance to the United States.
"Technically", all who agreed
to do so were free. But just to play it safe, the United States
retained custody of these new allies until the war was over.
And boy, did the Italians have it made!
The climate here was as close to that
of Italy as one could get. The grape vineyards, wineries, similar
topography, and the many Italian immigrants made this lifestyle
transition a breeze. All the men had to do was put in a day's
work manufacturing tents for the American G.I.'s, making uniforms,
working in the laundry or kitchen and they got three square meals
plus free time to socialize or for dances which were held at
the camp clubhouse. Young ladies from San Bernardino were driven
to the camp by bus.
As former Camp Ono POW turned permanent
San Bernardino Valley resident, Perry Pugno often said, "Those
were the three best years of my life"!
Pugno once revealed in an interview with
Todd Pierce, a local video producer, just how good he and his
comrades had it.
Shortly after arriving at Camp Ono, the
prisoners went on strike over the food served to them. Now, it
wasn't the quality or quantity that was the problem. It was simply
that the Italians were not used to the American style breakfast,
eggs and jam for instance. Back in the old country, all they
had were coffee and rolls.
The funny thing is that these men were
being fed better now than ever were in the poorer conditions
of Italy, and yet they still went on strike. And, as it turned
out, the strike was a success; they were given coffee, milk,
and rolls for breakfast from that time on.
Pugno was one of the few prisoners who
had a driver's license, so his "job" was to drive the
Colonel to his office or the commanding officer's wife into San
Bernardino to do her shopping. That was it!
The prisoners had frequent visitors, some
rather unique individuals.
A man who frequently came to the camp
by military plane in order to visit a prisoner, Cellestino Zinasi,
who had been a former colleague at the University of Milano,
was the Italian scientist, Enrico Fermi. Fermi, the Nobel Prize
winner who's expertise was most instrumental in designing the
world's first atomic bomb would spend hours at a time sitting
on a bench under the trees in the prisoners yard quietly talking
with his friend about their lives before the war ripped countries
apart. One can only guess if the two men included in the their
carefree conversations information on Fermi's special assignment
by the Office of Scientific Research and Development to Project
Manhattan, the most guarded secret in American History.
The POW's had many liberties regarding
entertainment. In fact, on many weekends they were driven into
San Bernardino to see a movie or to have dinner with their girlfriends'
Charlotte (Traina) Giudice told me that
on Sundays the prisoners were allowed to take walks into the
surrounding vineyards, as this was a fond reminder of their homeland.
They would casually walk out for hours at a time with no military
escorts. Their only identification was a green arm band that
each wore with "ITALY" spelled out in white letters.
On one of those walks, her future husband,
Corporal Luciano Giudice, found out about the Italian family
who owned most of those grape vines. And that's how the two met.
In 1946 the prisoners were shipped back
to Naples and many of their sweethearts soon followed. Then,
after getting married, a number happily came back to the country
that once held them as prisoners.
Some of the Italians at Ono who chose
to return to the San Bernardino Valley were:
Luciano Giudice ... worked for Santa Fe
and later owned Auto Fast Freight Company in San Bernardino.
Perry Pugno ... worked for Santa Fe and
eventually owned Perry's Electric in Rialto.
Emilio Pascolati ... became a radio announcer
in Cucamonga and later worked for Aerojet.
Paul Lucifora ... became a shoe maker
Luigi Traverso ... retired with Santa
Times Article: From Italian Prisoners of War to the Citizens
of the United States
by T.A. Sunderland (1981)
Editor's Note: The following story was
published in the VIEW section of the Los Angeles Times, Sunday,
December 13, 1981. It was re-published in the 1982 "Herritage
Tales" by the San Bernardino Historical & Pioneer Society.
Southland Gave Warm Reception to World War II Enemies
Near the citrus groves and vineyards
of Rancho Cucamonga, along Arrow Highway, stands a 15-acre complex
of battered buildings known as the San Gabriel Valley Labor Association.
As the name might indicate, the facility is a migrant labor camp,
almost abandoned except during peak harvest seasons. Built during
the Depression to house Civilian Conservation Corps workers,
the camp today is a largely ignored shabby remnant of the pas
Few realize that the camp was the setting
for one of the most unusual - yet little known - chapters of
recent Southern California history:
On January 28, 1944, 499 Italian prisoners
of war were incarcerated at the camp, having been shipped over
from the battlefields of Europe and Africa. Before war's end
- and beyond - these Italians were to have a marked effect on
the area, to change its character and, ultimately, to become
a part of it.
Emilio Pascolati of Huntington Beach
has been married to his wife Penny for 34 years. They have two
children and four grandchildren. Pascolati works as an engineer
for McDonnell Douglas, and is a member of the American Legion.
In January of 1944, he was one of those 499 Italian POWs.
When Pascolati arrived at the camp
the men were housed in barracks, sleeping 30 to 40 to a room.
There were no fences or landscaping (all the men had been established
as low-escape risks). Experienced gardeners in the group quickly
went to work, and part of their work still stands in the form
of a cactus garden near the main office of the camp.
A native of northern Italy, Pascolati
was born in a small town called Bassano del Grappa. "They
filmed part of the movie 'A Farewell to Arms,' by Hemingway,
right in that town," Pascolati boasts. As a young man he
was employed as an electrician for the railroad. When war broke
out, he enlisted and was assigned as an Italian army artillery
observer along the French border in the Alps, then retrained
as a tank mechanic and sent to North Africa. There he fought
British troops in places like Tobruk and El Alemain.
When the Germans decided to move into
Alexandria, the Italian troops led the advance. Things quickly
went bad, and the troops retreated all the way to Tunis. Exhausted,
hungry, and low on supplies, they assembled on a hilltop and
awaited the arrival of their British captors.
The prisoners were held for several
days in a detention camp in Tunisia and then transferred to the
custody of the American army. They were loaded on boxcars to
make the long trip across the desert to Casablanca, where they
boarded a large ocean liner commissioned by the Red Cross. The
trip across the Atlantic took six days. "The Americans treated
us very well and the ship was a nice one," Pascolati said,
"but during the entire voyage I was terrified by the thought
of German U-boats."
Arriving in Norfolk, Va., on May 28,
1943, the prisoners were sent by train, but this time in passenger
cars, across country to Camp Florence in Arizona. During the
trip Pascolati was amazed at the sights. "When I saw the
big factories, one taking up several city blocks, I knew the
war was over and we had lost." And whatever apprehensions
he may have had about the treatment he would receive in Camp
Florence vanished when he caught a glimpse of the well-fed inmates.
Pascolati stayed for three months in
Arizona, where he was sent out to pick cotton with the other
prisoners. But problems at the camp, which held 27,000 prisoners,
The crux of the problem lay in the
political leanings of the different groups of men. Some were
Fascists, devoted to Mussolini, others were partisans, and still
others were Communists. All these groups saw the war from a different
point of view and they argued bitterly.
Animosities were exacerbated by an
agreement between the Italian and American governments. Shortly
after the capture of troops in North Africa the Allied forces
invaded Italy, which quickly surrendered. Mussolini was ousted
and replaced by Marshall Pietro Badoglio, who then declared war
on Germany. In an agreement between Badoglio and Gen. Dwight
D. Eisenhower, captured Italian troops were allowed to take an
oath of allegiance to the United States. Although after taking
the oath the men were technically free, the United States retained
custody, and they were housed and given jobs for which they were
The controversy over taking the oath
of allegiance sharpened bitter feelings. When Pascolati, along
with a number of other prisoners, volunteered to cooperate, the
Army quickly removed them from the camp.
Although the ultimate destination of
the men was Camp Ono in San Bernardino, 499 of them were taken
to Cucamonga as part of a deal between the Southern California
Farmers' Association and the U. S. Army.
The war had caused a shortage of manpower
in the agricultural industries of Southern California. The farmers'
association agreed to house the prisoners, provide food, put
them to work and compensate them for their labors. The Army agreed
to provide the security. In order to minimize problems, the Army
had chosen men who had proved themselves to be low-escape risks
- among them Emilio Pascolati.
On the morning of January 28, 1944,
the prisoners arrived at a railroad siding in Guasti - a largely
Italian community just south of Cucamonga. Many of the local
residents of Guasti, some of whom had immigrated to the United
States just a few years earlier, turned out to greet them. Handshakes
and kisses were exchanged and inquiries made about relatives
back in Italy. Pascolati met a man from the same province as
By the time the last of the prisoners
was off the train and onto the waiting buses the entire group
had begun singing Italian folk songs.
Lilla Lucas, 86, is the widow of Henry
Lucas, president of the Southern California Farmers' Association
during that period. She was office manager at the camp, and remembers
the prisoners still singing as they arrived at the camp.
The men were given an opportunity to
familiarize themselves with the camp. Several days of rain prohibited
them from working in the fields, and they spent the days exploring.
At one point an alarmed police officer from nearby Upland came
to the Army captain in charge, and voiced his concern about the
wandering prisoners. Pascolati remembers the captain assuring
the police officer there would be "more but not less"
prisoners back at the camp in time to be fed.
Actually, the Army could not have picked
a better place than Cucamonga. It was the most like Italy that
one could find. Around the turn of the century there had been
a large influx of Italian immigrants. The climate and surrounding
topography are similar to Italy, and the soil fertile. Vineyards
were planted and wineries soon followed. The small town of Guasti,
a good part of which is now taken up by the Ontario International
Airport, was originally settled as an Italian colony. The local
Catholic Church, San Segundo D'Asti, is a miniature replica of
a church in northern Italy.
This environment, combined with the
warm reception of local farmers and other residents, made the
prisoners quickly feel at home.
With the end of the rain the men were
organized into work groups and taken out into the fields every
morning. A military guard was sent with each group, but there
was little need for one. Out in the fields the prisoners worked
side by side with the farmers, many of them Italian, and their
families. At noon meals were served by the women. Often there
was a bottle of wine passed around.
Efforts at hospitality often led to
Pascolati was invited to the house
of the man from his own province in Italy, whom he had met when
the prisoners arrived in Guasti by train. "The man had a
niece," Pascolati said. "This is how I was able to
Penny Bianco's father had come to the
United States in 1912. After several trips back to Italy he finally
settled in Cucamonga. Emilio and Penny began going together,
since Italian-American mothers and fathers had no objection to
their girls fraternizing with the POWs. To them the prisoners
were just what they wanted - nice Italian husbands for their
As lax as security was at the camp,
almost to the point of the prisoners being able to come and go
as they pleased, there was still much activity inside. Almost
every night the men held marathon poker games. They were paid
80 cents a day for their labors and many of them, including Pascolati,
parlayed their earnings into sizeable amounts. Often the prisoners
would gather in groups and sing.
There was never a shortage of food.
Many of the grateful farmers, feeling 80 cents a day was not
enough, donated chickens, eggs, vegetables, cheese and the like.
At the conclusion of the pruning season
the prisoners were taken from Cucamonga to the larger Camp Ono
in the San Bernardino foothills. Ono was an official prisoner
- of - war camp and was more structured.
Here, because of his mechanical experience,
Pascolati was placed in charge of the motor pool. "When
we didn't work on the trucks we mended tents."
Activities at Camp Ono were organized
at a much higher level than they had been in Cucamonga. There
was an official soccer team, and several local Mexican teams
were invited to play.
There was also a talent search by members
of a San Bernardino music group to recruit singers. James Guthrie
went out to the camp, and after auditioning about 350 baritones
and tenors selected 75 who were featured in performances put
on by the San Bernardino Concert Association and the Redlands
At Camp Ono there were restrictions,
but they were kept to a minimum. Pascolati took advantage of
the situation and visited Penny and her family frequently.
Many of the other men also pursued
romances. The war was almost forgotten. On weekends the men would
slip away from the camp and go into town. Some even went as far
Reality came crashing back when the
war ended in April of 1945. Under the rules of the Geneva Convention
the men had to be returned to Italy.
"I had mixed feelings about returning,"
says Pascolati "I would have to leave Penny and the people
I had come to know. I was happy to go back to Italy but apprenhensive
of what would be waiting there for me." Nine months later,
in February of 1946, the men were bused to San Pedro and boarded
a ship bound for home.
At home the worst of Pascolati's fears
was confirmed. Italy was economically depressed to the point
where it offered him nothing. But Penny followed, arriving 17
months later. Their wedding, in August of 1947, was so big the
town had to close down.
Now that Pascolati was married to an
American citizen he was given preferential status to immigrate
back into the country. The newlyweds returned here in March of
Pascolati quickly got a job at a garage
in Cucamonga, where he had also worked while staying at Camp
Ono. He also found employment with Aerojet as the company's official
interpreter. In 1951, when Pascolati became a citizen, he went
to work full-time for Aerojet as a rocket technician, and later
on as an engineer.
As Pascolati sits in his kitchen with
his wife and concludes his story, he brings out a list. It is
a copy of the official roster at Camp Ono, as well as a list
of the inmates at the Cucamonga camp.
There are notations beside some of
the names indicating a letter received, a child born, or the
date of death. Some of the names have local addresses beside
them. Pascolati notes that he is not the only former POW to have
returned to the United States: "There are 25 to 30 living
between Santa Barbara and Orange County," he said.
Joe Gaiba was an electrician in the
employ of a large Italian aviation company. Because of his expertise
he was "militarized" and sent to North Africa as part
of the repair services. He was supposed to have precedence over
regular military but in the heat of the retreat, he was unable
to get out. Gaiba was with Pascolati in the Cucamonga camp and
later stayed at Camp Ono. He was also housed for a time at the
Pomona fairgrounds while working at the Kellogg Ranch, caring
for Arabian horses. Gaiba remembers seeing German POWs from Chino
arrive to take.his place at the end of the war. He now lives
in a mobile home park across the field from the Cucamonga camp.
Alceo Vecchio, 61, lives in Claremont
and is co-owner of the Etiwanda Grape Company. He was on a tank
crew and was wounded at Tobruk. Vecchio tells of how he was able
to win enough money in poker games at Camp Ono to be able to
purchase a Model-A Ford. He registered it in the name of an Italian-American
friend and parked it in the gas station near Camp Ono. Vecchio
has a son and a daughter and is area director in Claremont for
the American Youth Soccer Organization.
Perry Pugno owns an electrical contracting
firm in Rialto, and lives in a house he built himself. Pugno
has a son, Perry Jr., who is a doctor and director of emergency
services at Riverside Community Hospital, as well as two daughters
and five grandchildren.
Paul Lucifora is a well-known personality
in the city of Rancho Cucamonga. He owns a shoe-repair shop which
he runs with his son, Paul Jr. Lucifora is active in the local
chapter of the Sons of Italy. He has a daughter, Maria, who lives
with her husband in Yucaipa. Lucifora is unabashedly proud of
his adopted country. "America is a good country," he
says in his thick Italian accent. "America is the best country
in the world."