Pfc. Salvatore J. Bondi - United States Army
79th (Lorraine) Division - 1944/1945

Pfc. Salvatore J. Bondi

Salvatore J. Bondi was born on February 3, 1922, to Mary and Salvatore Bondi of Greenwood Street in Morningside. Sal was the youngest of thirteen children. After two years at Arsenal High School, he quit school to take a job as a Drill Press Operator. After the United States entry into World War II, Sal enlisted in the Army and was sworn in on October 13, 1942.

Sal left for basic training on October 27, 1942. After infantry training at Camp Pickett, Virginia, Private Salvatore Bondi, Serial No. 33308456, was assigned to the Anti-Tank Company of the 315th Infantry Regiment, 79th Infantry Division, as an Anti-Tank Gun Crewman. The division left the United States on April 7, 1944, and after sailing across the Atlantic, arrived in England nine days later.

79th Infantry Division Shoulder Patch.

After training in the United Kingdom, beginning on April 17, 1944, Sal Bondi and the rest of the 79th (Lorraine) Infantry Division departed for France and landed on Utah Beach, Normandy, on June 12. The soldiers entered combat on June 19, 1944. The men of the Lorraine Division engaged in heavy fighting south of Cherbourg and entered the coastal town on June 25, 1944. It was their baptism of fire.

Over the next six months, Sal was involved in several major campaigns, including the battles in Normandy, Northern France, the Rhineland and Central Europe. During the Battle of the Bulge, units of the 79th Division were attached to the Third Army, and Sal was assigned as one of General George S. Patton's drivers.

The fiery three-star general, commander of the United States Third Army, was a leader who prefered to command from the front. On January 10, 1945, the General, with Sal at the wheel of his jeep, was surveying some front-line units near the town of Luneville in France.

General George S. Patton
U.S. General George S. Patton

As Sal recalls, "He stops me and gets out. He says, 'Go down that road a little bit and see what you see.' You know what I saw down there? All the damn Germans. They captured me. You know what he got out of that jeep for? He knew they were there. He knew he couldn't get captured. He was too smart for that."

"The Germans took me to Nuremberg and held me for four and a half months, until Patton came back and took the town about a month before the war ended."

Once liberated, Bondi spent the next few months at a base hospital recuperating. In September 1945, Sal was sent back to the United States to convalesce at a rehabilitation center for POWs in Ashville, North Carolina. Fifty pounds lighter and with the war behind him, Private First Class Salvatore J. Bondi, now a decorated veteran, began the long road to recovery.

The many medals and ribbons earned by
Sal Bondi during his service in World War II.
Ribbons and Medals earned by Sal Bondi in World War II.

During his time overseas, Sal was awarded the Purple Heart with one Oak Leaf Cluster, the Distinguished Unit Badge, a Silver Star, a Bronze Star, the Prisoner of War Medal, the European-African-Middle Eastern Service Medal with four Bronze Stars, and the Good Conduct Medal, along with several other distinguished ribbons and citations.

Sal's active duty status ended on October 11, 1945, and he received his official discharge from duty on August 26, 1946. He returned home to Pittsburgh to his family and his sweetheart, Josephine Garofalo, whose family owned a Shoe Repair Store and an adjacent Grocery Store on Brookline Boulevard. Sal and Josephine were married right away, and settled into the family home, located above the two businesses at 712 Brookline Boulevard.

Sal's Barber Shop

Josephine's brother, Frank Garofalo, owned the Shoe Repair Store. Her father owned the Grocery and, nearing retirement age, sold the store to Sal, who promptly began his own business, "Sal's Barber Shop." Sal and Josephine had two children, Agnes and Salvatore. The father and son are affectionately known as "Big Sal" and "Little Sal." For the past sixty-plus years, Sal's Barber Shop has remained one of the few constants in the ever-changing storefront vista along Brookline Boulevard's commercial district.

Sal's daughter Agnes has remained in the family home above the shop. Little Sal, after graduating from Barber College in 1973, moved to Los Angeles, California, and started his own hair-styling salon, where he prospered for over thirty years.

In 2005, Little Sal Bondi, and his wife of twenty years Lynn, returned to Brookline to purchase a home and spend more time with his mother and father. The younger Salvatore soon began working in the barber shop that his father first opened back in 1947.

Big Sal Bondi and Little Sal Bondi
Little Sal and Big Sal Bondi at the family shop on Brookline Boulevard.

For a few years, the father and son team of Big and Little Sal worked side-by-side. Only recently, after the passing of his wife Josephine, has ninety year old Salvatore J. Bondi settled into full-time retirement, although he still keeps a silent vigil, from his upstairs apartment, over the barber shop and family business that he began over sixty years ago.

Now the sole owner of Sal's Barber Shop on Brookline Boulevard, Little Sal Bondi displays with pride his father's many war momentos and photos for his customers to see. The walls of the shop are lined with decorations commemorating the life of Big Sal Bondi, one of Brookline's most distinguished World War II veterans.

Sal's Barber Shop - May 2012
Sal's Barber Shop - 712 Brookline Boulevard, Pittsburgh, PA 15226.

Note: Salvatore "Big Sal" Bondi passed away on February 20, 2014. The Community
of Brookline lost a good friend and the United States of America
lost another member of the "Greatest Generation."

* Thanks to Little Sal Bondi, son of Big Sal, for contributing this information. *
Written by Clint Burton - May 23, 2012