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After 71 years, a talk with the brother of an Italian prisoner of war buried in Utah

Roberto Dal Bosco is an italian video artist who you may remember. He went to Utah last January to present his Renaissance painting video animation displayed at the Salt Lake City Leonardo Museum.

While there, he was able – with the help of honorary consul Mike Homer and Kelly Nelson of Woosh Production – to film and produce a documentary about Salt Lake City’s Italian heritage. The program was aired by RAI, italian national state television. One of the stories told by the documentary was about the so-called «Twelve Apostles». Twelve italian prisoners of war that died while detained in Utah during World War II. The Twelve are buried in the Fort Douglas Cemetery in Salt Lake.

Fascinated by the story, Roberto decided, once in Italy, to find out if any relatives of the twelve are still alive. «That might be a touching story, like every war episode», he said. So, he started to track down soldier Vincenzo Pazzi’s family. There is a nephew that goes by his same name and is an acclaimed designer. Neither Vincenzo nor his father ever managed to meet the uncle Vincenzo. He left for the War while his young wife was pregnant, and never came back.

The real breakthrough came when Roberto met in Milan with Domenico, the brother of Nicola Daugenti’s.

That’s quite a story. Mr. Daugenti is 84 years old. He lost his brother when he was 9. He was a policeman in Milan, working first as an undercover agent against drug trafficking: «don’t laugh now – he told Roberto – but sometimes, in night operations, I even worked in drag». He was even able to locate some rogue FBI agents turned to druglords and arrested them while they were trafficking in Milan. Mr. Daugenti went up the ladder, became a marshall, but he had to quit, because of a shootout with a diamond trafficker in Milan’s Piazza Duomo in December 1974. He was seriously wounded, but managed to fight back.

Domenico told Roberto the story of Nicola’s. He was a submarine seaman. He was sent to Utah as a prisoner of war when his submarine was bombarded with torpedoes by Allied vessels. Ultimately the submarine was hit, the captain decided to emerge but to sink it before reaching the surface so as to prevent the Allies from taking it. The crew had to jump out of the submarine very rapidly. Four of them died in the process, The others, including Nicola, were apprehended and sent to Salt Lake City. There, as a prisoner, Nicola was able to write home. He said he was ok, and expressed a paradoxical worry: «now I am safe – he wrote – on the contrary you are going to be not». In fact, the war was then raging all over Italy turning into a civil conflict.


The notification of Nicola’s death for natural reasons was sudden. That letter was not taken lightly. His mother plunged into depression. His father was so devasted he had to quit working. So Domenico had to leave school and go to work as a fisherman with his elder brother. He regrets that, because he had good notes. He was the one, among the six children, that was supposed to go to college. Their family life unraveled, he said. «Most of the time we spoke – tells Roberto – I could spot a vibrant emotion in Mr. Daugenti’s eyes. What happened in Utah to his brother still deeply moves his soul».

it’s a great story to remember today, in the wake of Memorial Day. In the West we have all but forgotten the hardship of War on our soils. Nicola and Domenico Daugenti remind us that not all generations were as lucky as ours.


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