Posted 3 years ago
Those of you that followed my posts in November know that I have a special interest in the WWI Victory medal series. Now I finally have a US Victory medal with the elusive VITTORIO-VENETO clasp. Only about 1,200 soldiers were awarded this clasp. Even better, I have a number of other items from the same estate lot that identifies the soldier as Benjamin Gast of the 332nd Infantry – the only US regiment in the battle.
During WWI, the US Army sent only one infantry regiment along with some support units to the Italian front. The idea was to trick the enemy into believing the Americans were arriving in force. The 332nd did a lot of marching from one location to another in an effort to convince the enemy that they were more than a regiment. Elements of this regiment became the only US ground combat forces to participate in the battle of Vittorio-Venito, the culminating battle against the Austrians on the Italian front.
Photo 1 is the front of the victory medal. Most 332nd Infantry personnel also earned the Defensive Sector clasp, but for some reason Gast does not have one. The medal next to it is the Italian Medaglia Dell Guerra 1915-1918, which was awarded to Italian and allied soldiers who fought in Italy. Based on the pin at the top of the medal, Gast seems to have worn the back of the medal as the front. The inscription reads “Made from enemy bronze” He also has a ribbon bar with a felt background for this medal.
Photo 2 is the reverse side of the same medals. Here you can see what was supposed to be the front of the medal, the profile of King Victor Emanuel III and around the rim “War for the Unity of Italy 1915-1918.”
Photo 3 shows a pair of collar disks for I Company, 332nd Infantry Regiment. The left disc contains the letters USNA for United States National Army. The National Army consisted of units raised for the war, as opposed to the Regular Army and the National Guard. The medal in the middle is the Tapferkeits Medaille in Bronze, which was an Austrian medal for bravery that Gast may have acquired during his time in Italy, much like Americans in France acquired German Iron Crosses. Lastly, there is a ribbon bar showing both the Victory medal ribbon, and a ribbon in the national colors of Italy that was sewn around the mounting bar and seems to be a homemade ribbon bar. The mounting bar and clasps are late 1940s vintage.
Photo 4 is an assortment of ephemera that came with Gast’s dog tags (Scott, does the serial number 2475113 tell us anything?)
Originally all of these items and more were in one eBay lot. The Victory medal which was my primary interest was actually face-down in the photo of the assorted stuff, and I had to write the seller to find out what it said. Before the auction was over and before the first bid, the seller decided to break the lot out into several auctions. Unfortunately one of those auctions I lost was Gast’s 332nd Infantry unit patch.