Dealy was undoubtedly the most famous of the three pilots who were shot down. Born in Nashville, Tenn., he was one of five brothers who all served in the the U.S. Army Air Corps during 1942-1944. He was even featured with his two pilot brothers taking the enlistment oath in a widely shown MGM documentary.
“James (‘Jim’), Robert (‘Bob’), and John (‘Jack’) were pilots, Arthur (‘Art’) was a bombardier and William (‘Bill’) was a technical sergeant. All five brothers served in the Italian theater and all came home alive,” Dan Dealy, James’ nephew and a former U.S. Navy pilot himself, told Discovery News.
While identical twins John and Arthur were captured and taken into German POW camps, Robert and James were lucky enough to be helped out by Italian families after they were shot down.
“In a very real sense, I owe those Italian families a deep gratitude,” Dan Dealy said. "They put their own lives at risk to help my father Bob and my uncle Jim."
Archival research carried out by Vincenzo Frateschi from Sonnino, Latina, and James Dealy’s detailed diary about those dramatic events, allowed Ballini and colleagues to find the Italian who first helped Dealy as he touched ground. It was an 8-year-old boy named Enrico (“Enrichetto”) Onorati.
“I was just a child, but I knew exactly what to do," Onorati, who is now 77, recalled. "I knew the Germans were rushing to the site, so I hid the pilot and his parachute in a nearby haystack.”
When the Germans arrived, searching for the pilot, they started shooting into the brush and haybales around where he was hiding.
“My family, my neighbors, we were all scared,” Onorati said. "Had the Germans found out we were hiding the American pilot, they would have shot us all."
As the German soldiers finally left, Onorati’s family called one neighbor, Rocco De Angelis, who could speak English.
Lt. Dealy was then hidden by the De Angelis family until he was able to return to his squadron. It was actually Dan Dealy’s father, Robert, who picked James up to return him to their fighter group base.
“Both my dad and Jim became engineers after the War,” Dan Dealy said. They had long careers in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, continuing to contribute to the post-war growth and development of the United States."
James Dealy died in 2009, at 93. In the early 1990s, he donated his evasion clothing and a German machine gun to the Air Force museum at Warner Robins Air Force Base in Georgia.
“He had picked up the machine gun and an officer’s dagger while riding a donkey with the Army troops that were escorting German POW’s back towards the allied lines -- just before being picked up by my dad,” Dan Dealy said.
He added that the Dealys are planning to donate most of their family's World War II documents, photos and letters to the National World War II museum in New Orleans.
Meanwhile, Ballini and colleagues will try to recover the remains of O’Brien and Dealy’s planes. They also would be extremely interested in contacting the relatives of O'Brien and Kusch.