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WWII vet from LIC receives Purple Heart posthumously

More than 60 years after he was wounded and three years after his death, a Long Island City soldier finally received his due for his service during World War II. The family of Joseph Dipierno gathered at the Long Island City Library Monday to receive the Purple Heart he earned in 1945.

DiPierno was a 23−year−old machinist with the Army Air Force’s 395th Fighter Squadron on Jan. 7, 1945, when he and three comrades found themselves near a pair of soldiers assigned to minesweeping duty. Dipierno quickly guided his squad mates away from the other two soldiers.

“He said, ‘Let’s get out of here. I have a feeling something bad’s going to happen,’” said Jim Tsaveras, Dipierno’s grandson.

Shortly afterward, a mine detonated, killing the two soldiers and sending shrapnel into Dipierno’s group. The other three soldiers received Purple Hearts for their injuries, but Dipierno, who was treated in the field by a medic and released, did not pursue a medal application he had filled out at the time.

Tsaveras learned of the incident while going through his late grandfather’s papers and tracked down the other wounded soldiers.

One man credited Dipierno with saving their lives, Tsaveras said.

“I feel good,” Tsaveras said of the recognition for his grandfather. “I just wish he was alive to get it.”

Tsaveras received the medal from U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D−Astoria), who commended Dipierno’s service record.

“We can never fully repay our troops for their sacrifice,” she said.

It took 60 years for the family to learn of Dipierno’s heroism because he was reticent about his wartime experiences, said Theresa DiTucci, Dipierno’s daughter.

“With two daughters, I guess it wasn’t a subject he wanted to talk about,” she said, noting her father later opened up to his grandson Tsaveras. “We first saw his Bronze Star on his 80th birthday.”

Dipierno was a gifted baseball player who earned a spot on a general’s team during the war and was drafted by the New York Giants’ farm team when he returned to civilian life, his family said. But because Dipierno had started a family, he turned the offer down, Tsaveras said.

Instead, Dipierno settled into work at the Neptune Meter factory, where he worked as a machinist for 32 years.

He died in 2005 at age 83.

DiTucci, 65, remembered growing up in an industrial Long Island City in the 1940s and ’50s. “He worked at the factory around the corner,” she said. “Every day at lunch, he would come out on the balcony and wave to us.”

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e−mail at jwalsh@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 154.

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