SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Relatives of a World War II veteran who died in a 1944 battle in the Netherlands that was part of an Allied campaign later depicted in the movie “A Bridge Too Far” have laid his remains to rest in central Illinois.
Mourners gathered at Springfield’s Camp Butler National Cemetery for Saturday’s funeral for U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Michael Aiello.
Aiello’s great-grandnephew, Brian Aiello, said the family now has a sense of relief, but there’s also sadness because many older relatives who knew Aiello have passed away during the last 15 to 20 years.
“We really wanted them to be here for this moment. It’s bittersweet, but it’s nice that he’s at least home now,” he told The State Journal-Register .
Military records show Aiello was 35 when he went missing on Sept. 30, 1944, during intense fighting in the Kiekberg Woods near the Waal River bridge at Nijmegen.
The military later issued a presumptive finding of death. His remains were exhumed from a Belgian cemetery several years ago and identified with DNA provided by relatives.
Aiello’s unit had been assigned to Operation Market Garden, an Allied campaign that called for glider and airborne troops to seize bridges in the Netherlands and hold them until British armored units arrived.
That operation, which failed, was portrayed in the 1977 movie “A Bridge Too Far.”
Aiello was born in 1909 in St. Louis. Three years later, his family moved to Sherman, Illinois, where he attended grade school and became a coal miner at the age of 13 after finishing the eighth grade.
Aiello later owned a restaurant in downtown Springfield, but primarily worked as a coal miner until he entered the Army in 1942.
Information from: The State Journal-Register, http://www.sj-r.com