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Joe Nasso





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Home > People > Italian Canadian Veterans > Joe Nasso
Joe Nasso: Memories of a Veteran
By Fiona Story
Joseph Nasso never planned on going to war.

Born in Ottawa on May 9, 1915, he eventually made his living working in a factory assembling washing machines.

When the Second World War broke out, Nasso applied to the Canadian Air Force. After two years with no reply, he decided to join the army. His training was to be overseas in England. Nasso left on a boat from Halifax and landed in Scotland.

“It was a terrible situation when we landed,” he remarks, remembering the chill in the air and the rain pouring down, turning the ground into mud.

Nasso’s training lasted almost two years. He was assigned to Third Division Ordinance, a mobile supply outfit for the soldiers. His unit landed in Normandy 10 days after the infamous D-Day (June 6, 1944) to bring supplies. They arrived during the night and Nasso remembers vaguely seeing the scars of war and wreckage on the beaches.

“The place was a mess,” he says.

However, it wasn’t Normandy that scared him. The worst memory Nasso has of the war was being under attack in Holland from German bombers. They were moving through a forested area when bombs started falling from the sky. He remembers thinking that he’d reached the end of the line because there was no shelter around. Hay bales on which they’d hung clothing were hit and shirts and pants flew everywhere, landing in the trees and dangling from the branches.

“Too bad no one had a camera to take a picture,” Nasso laughs.

He also remembers the discomfort and hassle of having to sleep in “slit trenches” – a trench dug horizontally in the ground so a soldier could essentially sleep in the ground. This was to protect them from shelling.

Joe Nasso during his time in service.

Nasso recalls the horrors of “air bursts.” Germans would use an “88” to launch a shell into the air over the target. The shell would explode in the air creating a blindingly bright light. The explosion would send shrapnel flying in all directions, causing excessive damage to everything below.

“If you were hit with these hard metal pieces you were in a real mess,” Nasso writes in his personal memoirs.

The war impacted Nasso’s life in more ways than one. In the days leading up to Victory Day in Europe, Nasso got leave to go to Paris for 48 hours. It was by fluke really. Only two soldiers were given leave to go to Paris and be put up in a hotel. Names were drawn from a hat but Nasso’s was not one of them. However, one of the men whose name was picked did not want to go so he asked Nasso if he would go in his place. Nasso happily accepted.

Nasso arrived in Paris on Victory Day, May 8, 1945. The war was over and there was dancing in the streets. Nasso and his companion decided to go to the opera and it was then that they noticed four women walking in front of them. One of these women was Germaine, Nasso’s future wife.
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Although Nasso did have to return to Holland, he managed to make it back to Paris as the military was offering a few months stay in Paris to its troops to learn about French culture, language and history at the University of Paris. Nasso managed to see quite a bit of Germaine during this longer stay in Paris and before he left again for Holland, he asked her to marry him.

Joseph and Germaine were married on January 26, 1946. Nasso returned to Canada in April of the same year. Germaine followed several months later. They now have two sons and two grandchildren: a boy and a girl.

Looking back on his military service, Nasso has only one thing to say about war.

“It’s terrible, absolutely terrible. Countries should find ways to peace because war is a miserable situation and accomplishes nothing.”


This article was originally published in the November 2001 issue of Il Postino.
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