B. John Prinzi (#.........)

Picture taken August, 2013
Place of Birth
Date of Birth


83rd Infantry
Combat Infantry Badge, Bronze Star, Purple Heart Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster.

At the age of 18, John Prinzi was drafted from his hometown of Queens, N.Y. into the U.S. Army and assigned to the 83rd Infantry Division, the "Thunderbolt Division." The transition from high school graduation to World War II's battlefields was jarring. By May 1944, John Prinzi, a rifleman, arrived in England and was sent to Omaha Beach in June as a replacement. He was wounded twice, once in the left shoulder and once in his neck, he received two Purple Hearts.

I remember I wanted to go into the Army. I went down to the induction center and went through the physical, and had my paperwork in front of me. The guy at the desk took out a big rubber stamp and put down 'Navy.' I started protesting that I didn't want to go in the Navy. Most people, I later learned, would have died for that. I said I wanted the Army. I often wonder if I had never said anything what would have happened. I was just a stupid kid.

I believe I was a typical G.I. Joe, an infantry rifleman, a foot soldier. We did the brunt of the fighting and got the brunt of the casualties. Luckily, I survived. There were a lot who didn't. Fourteen percent of the total Army was infantrymen, and they had 90 percent of the casualties. Riflemen equaled 68 percent of the infantry division's manpower but accounted for 95 percent of its casualties. So, you know, I was not a candidate for life insurance. That old saying, 'There are no atheists in the foxholes' is very true. Everybody was scared. If they said they weren't, they were lying.

I got to Omaha as a replacement. I was never assigned to an outfit until I got to Omaha Beach, and I got there a few days ahead of the 83rd. My first taste of Omaha was something I'll never forget, walking down these dirt roads with dead bodies, German and American, that hadn't been buried. It was terrible. The gliders they had used on D-Day were all broken up. I was tapped on the shoulder and they said, 'Come with me.' I went over there and I ended up in the 83rd Division.

They kicked off their campaign at the fourth hour, July 4 at 4 a.m. in 1944 with a huge barrage. I'll never fire a firecracker on the Fourth of July because I can't stand the noise. It was so horrendous. We started advancing, shooting as we advanced through the hedgerows. I don't think we went 100 yards before we had a fallback, and then we were relieved that night. Our regiment suffered 50 percent casualties that day.

The Germans had the advantage of having been there before. They had every landmark zeroed in with their 88-millimeter cannons and machine gun nests. They knew the exact coordinates. If they fell back another 100 yards, they already had prepared positions. So they had a heck of an advantage over us.

When we finally broke out, everybody just raced across. In fact, the 83rd got its nickname later, the 'Thunderbolt Division,' because, when they broke out, going towards Berlin and the Germans, they were outrunning the mechanized units.'

After he was discharged from the military in March 1946, Prinzi went into the exotic wood business, initially helping build furniture for houses for G.I.s with Willard Hawes & Co. in New York. He also later served as the historian for his division's association and orchestrated the dedication of a monument at Arlington National Cemetery.

Today John Prinzi lives together with his wife Ona.