At the outset of World War II, Teresa and Dante Bachini were living on Bowdoin Street in Winthrop with their six sons, daughter, and son-in-law. Then the draft started and one by one the young men were called to serve in the military.
Each day until they drew shades for the nighttime blackouts to protect coastal communities, the Bachinis displayed a service flag in their front window, overlooking the intersection of Bowdoin and Madison Avenue. As each son or son-in-law left, the Bachinis added a star.
“First there was one, then two,” said Richard Bachini of Chelmsford, now 84 and the youngest brother — the only one too young to serve during World War II and the only one still alive. “All of a sudden there were four, then five, and six.”
To recognize the sacrifice of a family from which five sons and a son-in-law served simultaneously during World War II and survived, the town of Winthrop will conclude its Veterans Day ceremonies Tuesday by dedicating the intersection of Bowdoin and Madison to the Bachini brothers and their brother-in-law, William McIntyre.
“Typically, the street corners are named after people who died in service to the country. Here we are varying a little bit,” said Richard Honan, a member of Winthrop’s Memorials Committee.
Imagine being parents of that many offspring serving at once, he said. “Not just in the service, but in time of war,” Honan added. “Every day must have been filled with anguish and wondering.”
“I don’t think there was anybody in town that had that many stars,” said Richard Bachini, who served in the Army during the Korean War, of the family’s star-filled service flag.
The brothers also had an unusually wide geographic reach during the war.
Enrico served as a medic in the South Pacific. Charles, the youngest of the brothers sent off to war, landed on the beaches in Normandy, France, about 10 days after the Allied invasion of Western Europe began. He worked his way with his unit through France, Germany, and Belgium before being captured and held for months as a prisoner of war.
David, the oldest, was in officer candidate school when he was sent home, after their father died. Leo was assigned to the Army Air Forces Band. Joseph served in the Coast Guard on a landing ship, which placed soldiers on beaches from Africa to Sicily and Normandy. McIntyre, their brother-in-law, was stationed stateside, as was Richard when he began serving near the end of the Korean War.
“It’s amazing,” said Charles Bachini Jr., whose father was the POW. “And the real unique thing is they all returned. There were some close calls, but they all returned.”
Three years ago, those in Charles Jr.’s generation began looking into asking Winthrop to name an intersection for the family. In May, they sent a letter to Winthrop’s veterans’ agent and the Town Council president, and their request was approved.
“We’re very thankful to the town for honoring them this way,” said Charles Jr., who lives in Spotsylvania County in Virginia.
Winthrop’s Veterans Day observances include a 9:30 a.m. flag ceremony at French Square and a main gathering at 11 a.m. on the Town Hall lawn.
At 12:15 p.m., members of the extended Bachini family and others will walk from Town Hall to the intersection of Bowdoin and Madison for the plaque dedication. The house where the family lived during World War II is at the intersection and the window in which the flag with six stars was displayed overlooks the dedication site.
The ceremony will double as a reunion for a family in which there were 30 first cousins in the generation after the World War II siblings.
“We have 84 blood relatives coming to this,” said Peter Bachini of Hamilton, a younger brother of Charles Jr. “We’ve told people get your pictures out — bring all the photos you have hidden in drawers.”
The relatives will have lunch afterward at the Cottage Park Yacht Club in Winthrop to remember the brothers who served and share stories.
“My brothers deserve this,” said Richard Bachini, who plans to attend.
After the Bachini brothers and their brother-in-law returned from military service, they rarely spoke about what they had been through, but Charles, the brother who was a POW, wrote a self-published memoir, “War: The Ultimate Madness,” in 1992.
“In recording these events, I seek no personal adulation,” he wrote in the prologue. “I was no hero. The real heroes never came home.”
Yet he faced hardship and horrors on the battlefield and in the prison camp, which he recounted in unsparing detail. At war’s end, released from captivity and free to return home, he went back to Bowdoin Street. His father had died while he was in Europe and his mother waited in the dining room, where “her beautiful white hair shone in the window light.”
Bryan Marquard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.