ALBANY, N.Y. — Somewhere on the bottom of Italy’s largest lake are the remains of two dozen American soldiers who died when their amphibious vehicle sank in 1945 in the waning days of the World War II in Europe.
An Italian volunteer group’s discovery of what could be the wreckage 900 feet down in Lake Garda has given aging veterans like Jerry Nash hope that, after nearly seven decades, the remains of their comrades can finally come home.
Nash, 89, of Hudson, N.H., was laying communication wire as the 10th Mountain pursued German forces into northern Italy’s rugged alpine region, home to the 50-mile-long Lake Garda.
When the enemy blew up tunnels through the mountains on the lake’s northern end, the division commanders sent soldiers across the lake in amphibious six-wheeled trucks, known by their military designation DUKW and known to GIs as ducks.
On the night of April 30, 1945, three DUKWs left the lake’s east side carrying members of the division’s 605th Field Artillery. One of the vehicles, jammed with 25 soldiers and a 75mm cannon, stalled during the journey and soon began taking on water.
Corporal Thomas Hough, the lone survivor, said the soldiers desperately tossed their equipment and ammunition overboard in an attempt to keep the vessel from sinking. But the DUKW went down anyway. Soon all had drowned but Hough, a former lifeguard from Dayton, Ohio, who was rescued by 10th Mountain soldiers on shore who heard the cries for help. Hough died in 2005.
The volunteer divers announced last December the discovery of a World War II DUKW sitting upright on the lake bottom. But the group has not yet been able to confirm it is the same vehicle.