George Ciampa, born in 1925, desired to have a career in flying. Following his high school graduation at the age of 17, he worked for Douglas Aircraft, an aerospace company producing aircraft during World War II. While working on the airplanes, he would sit in the cockpits and imagine flying.
Motivated by his love for aircraft and inspired by his brother and brother-in-law, who both served in the Air Corps, Ciampa tried to enlist with the Air Corps but failed the required vision test on two occasions.
In November 1943, Ciampa was drafted into the 610th Graves Registration Company, in which he would be required to register and bury the bodies of soldiers lying on the battlefield. He attended infantry training in Cheyenne, Wyo., and advanced training with autopsies in the Denver Hospital. At five and seven years old, he had lived through traumatic family deaths, leading to a fear of death. This made his assignment particularly difficult for him.
In March 1944, due to the high demand for pilots, the vision standards for joining the Air Corps were lowered. Knowing he could now pass the eye exam, Ciampa went through the application and screening process and was finally accepted. Unfortunately, he hadn’t known to notify his company commander that he was applying to the Air Corps. The commander became angry and reassigned him to the 607th Graves Registration Company, immediately leaving for England at the age of 18.
The stench of decomposing bodies and the reality of handling corpses while in range of German projectiles terrorized Ciampa, and shortly after the Normandy invasion, he broke down. Seeing this, a lieutenant pointed a pistol at Ciampa and said to get “back out there this second.” He complied and continued into the field, where his unit gathered about 75,000 corpses.
For his service during D-Day, handling bodies in the frigid landscapes during the Battle of the Bulge, and many more acts of heroism, Ciampa received several awards and honors. Among those include the Meritorious Unit Commendation Wreath, the French Croix de Guerre, the French Legion of Honor and the U.S. Army’s Meritorious Service Award.
In 2006, Ciampa started a nonprofit organization, Let Freedom Ring, dedicated to preserving the memory of and educating high school students and young people about World War II. He has created six documentaries, which include guests ranging from history teachers to students, and from combat Veterans to Germans who had been children during the war. His hope for the documentaries is that they would invite thought about what he calls the “high price of freedom.” During the war, he had witnessed everyday people make incredible sacrifices. He wants young people to appreciate the freedom they have because of those sacrifices.
Those interested in learning more about his organization and his documentaries can visit https://letfreedomringforall.org/. He also wrote a memoir about his Army service, called “Silent Dog-Tags.”
We honor his service.