|Raritan Men That Were Held as Prisoners of War by the Germans during World War II|
|Last month Raritan unveiled an Honor Roll wall that listed all the men and women from Raritan who served in World War II.
On that display those that had been Prisoners of War were identified by having the letters POW displayed next to their name.
Ironically, while much has been written about Raritan during World War II this was the first time that a list of POWs was done. During World War II eight Raritan men were captured by the Germans and became prisoners. (No Raritan men were prisoners of the Japanese.) In this article we tell a bit about each one of them.
|Joseph Frelinghuysen lived (as a young boy in the 1920s) on Route 28 in Raritan near the Somerville Circle.
The son of a former U.S. Senator, he was captured in North Africa in 1942 and was assigned to a POW camp in Italy. Inside the POW camp he learned Italian and planned his escape for months. In September of 1943, he made it outside the barbed wire fence of the POW camp and began the more difficult part which was the long dangerous journey back to the U.S troops.
Along the way he received help from the DiGiacomantonio family who risked their lives to aid him. After the war he helped that family immigrate to the United States and settle in Raritan.
Joseph Frelinghuysen documented his fascinating story of escape in the book Passages to Freedom which is today available on Amazon.
|Click for article on Joe Frelinghuysen|
|Louis Cassini of 12 Thompson Street had joined the army before the war started in January of 1941.
He was captured during the fighting in Tunisia, North Africa, in February of 1943.
After the war he remained in Raritan - working at the Raritan Valley Country Club. He passed away in 1981. His obituary did not mention that he ever married.
|Leslie Higgins of 9 Frelinghuysen Avenue was a tail gunner on a B26 Marauder Bomber in the Air Force.
He had flown on numerous bombing runs over Germany for which he was awarded the Air Medal.
In January of 1944 his luck ran out when his plane was hit causing him to bail out over Germany and he was taken prisoner.
After the war he was a supervisor at New Jersey Bell in Newark for 38 years. He was married to Clara Jean Wolferz. They had a son and three daughters. He passed away in 1988.
|Click for telegram on Leslie Higgins|
|Francis Macko of 30 Second Avenue was captured during the invasion of Italy in September of 1943.
Toward the end of the war the prisoners in his camp had to endure the hardship of marching around 20 miles per day for 10 weeks to another POW camp.
After the war he married Jennie Jannuzzi and lived in Bound Brook for 41 years before passing away in 1992. They would have one daughter Joan who provided us with a copy of the original telegram that informed his parents of his status as prisoner of war.
|Click for telegram on Francis Macko|
|Michael Kovalick of 2 Railroad Avenue (or 106 Thompson Street) had entered the army right after the Pearl Harbor attack in December of 1941.
He was a paratrooper who landed and was captured in France on D-Day, June 6th 1944.
These paratroopers, who jumped out of planes during the night just before the troops stormed the beaches of Normandy, played a major role in the battle -
although one that was not anticipated.
After landing they were supposed to group up and establish strongholds around dozens of key positions. However, they were mostly too scattered to achieve anything. But since these paratroopers had been dropped over an area covering hundreds of miles it confused the Germans - as a result the Germans were unable to determine where the main landing would be. No photo, obituary, or additional information could be found on Michael Kovalick. If anyone has any information, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
|George Sepesi of 6 Colfax Street fought with the Fifth Army.
He first saw action in battles at Sicily and was awarded a Purple Heart for injuries suffered in battle. He was captured in Italy in May of 1944.
After the war he worked as a woodworker for 43 years. He died in 2004. He and his wife Deborah would have one son Peter who lives in Bridgewater today.
|Joseph Sansone of 15 Gaston Avenue was married before the war to Rose Sternadori.
He, along with Reverend Rowland Koskamp, was taken prisoner at the Battle of the Bulge in December of 1944. During that battle when the other troops retreated after they realized that the Germans were overrunning them, Sansone and Koskamp both stayed behind to care for the wounded - setting up an aid station in a basement. Soon the building above them was demolished. Surrounded, the Reverend went out to talk with the Germans explaining that both of them had intentionally stayed behind to care for the wounded - some of which were Germans. He then followed up with a bold request of his enemy, let them go. However, the Germans would have none of it and took them captive immediately. Even a simple request that they be allowed to grab their overcoats was denied.
After the war Joseph Sansone lived in Raritan and worked for 20 years as a heavy equipment mechanic at the Belle Mead Depot and later worked in the local school system. He died in 1994. He and his wife Rose had three daughters and a son. His POW notification telegram survives and can be viewed online.
|Click for telegram on Joe Sansone|
|Reverend Rowland Koskamp of the Third Reformed Church in Raritan had a new wife and infant daughter when he volunteered to go overseas.
After a year serving with the troops, he was awarded The Bronze Star for his fine work.
During his captivity, in March of 1945, his POW camp was briefly liberated when U.S. tanks with troop transports (after traveling a long distance) surprisingly crashed through the prison fence. But their escape was quickly derailed when gasoline supply vehicles did not arrive and most of the vehicles ran out of gas. A few miles outside the POW camp they were stranded, cold, and now disorganized. So most men chose to return to the shelter of the POW camp believing that the Germans had fled for good. However, the Germans soon regained control of the camp and they were prisoners again. To prevent another liberation the Germans marched the prisoners to another more remote camp. During that march U.S. planes accidentally bombed the prisoners - killing many of their own - including Reverend Koskamp.
|Click for article on Rev. Koskamp|
||We are confident that we have identified all the Raritan POWs as the weekly newspaper The Raritan Valley News (which is available today in a private collection)
published a list of prisoners as the war in Europe was ending.
Other sources were the daily newspaper the Courier News (which is available and searchable online at newspapers.com) and the weekly Somerset Messenger Gazette (which is available on microfilm at the Bridgewater Library). Also, we were able to locate and obtain information from some of the families of prisoners.
|Next month (September 2022), Part 2 of the Raritan POWs story. What life was like inside a German POW camp|