Brookline War Memorial
Bruno P. Riccardi

United States Army Air Services (1917-1947)

Staff Sgt. Bruno P. Riccardi
U.S. Army Air Corps (1941-1946)

Bruno Peter Riccardi was a long-time resident of Brookline and a Pittsburgh softball legend who spent twenty-five years as a truck driver for the Pittsburgh Press. Those who knew him best called him "Spot."

What many did not know was that "Spot" Riccardi was also a highly-decorated veteran of the World War II air campaign over Europe, and an honored recipient of the prestigious Distinguished Flying Cross for "extraordinary achievement."

Bruno Riccardi was born on September 21, 1919 to parents Riccardo and Maria Riccardi of Mingo Junction, Ohio. He had two brothers, Dominic and Bernard, and two sisters, Cecelia and Jeannette. The Riccardi family moved to Pittsburgh and he grew up in the Hill District on Webster Avenue.

Bruno P. Riccardi
Bruno Riccardi

Bruno attended Duquesne Prep High School, where he lettered in three sports: baseball, boxing and football. On the gridiron he played alongside Tom Rooney, brother of Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney. As a senior, Bruno was the school's boxing instructor. He later won the AAU 126-pound boxing championship as a member of the Irene Kaufmann Settlement team.

Riccardi later played center for St. Peter's Preps in 1939-1940 against football teams the likes of the Beechview Olsons, Etna Sycamores, Millvale Amicis, Butler Cubs and E.L. McNamaras.

Riccardi enlisted on July 17, 1941, and after basic training opted to join the Army Air Corps. He was assigned as a tail gunner on a B26 Marauder medium bomber. His tour of duty in Europe began on April 21, 1943 and lasted fourteen long months.

B26 Marauder
A B26 Marauder over Europe in 1943.

A Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article detailed an Associated Press report of a raid on a German airfield at Romilly-Sur-Seine, seventy-five miles from Paris, in which Staff Sergeant Riccardi, then a tail gunner on the aircraft "Bluebird," took part.

Escorting P-47 American Thunderbolts made yesterday's expedition a veritable "bomber's paradise." the Associated Press reported.

Back at Eighth Air Force headquarters in England, Sergeant Riccardi said "Heavy bursts of flak rocked our ship just as we dropped our bombs, but it was the only flak we saw on the trip. We saw only a handful of German fighters, and they scattered fast when the Thunderbolts got after them."

Bruno Riccardi's plane 'Geronimo.'
The nose art on Bruno Riccardi's B26 Marauder, called "Geronimo."

On April 22, 1944, Riccardi, now the tail gunner on another aircraft named "Geronimo," had just completed a bombing run over a rocket installation near Cherbourg, France, and was returning to England. The plane had been badly damaged and the crew was forced to ditch in the English Channel. All of the crew, except the pilot, Captain Austin R. Jordan, managed to escape the stricken plane and return safely to England. For his actions on that day, Riccardi was cited for his extraordinary valor and awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

A year later, in 1945, Riccardi's squadron was awarded a Unit Citation by President Harry Truman for "helping bring about the total defeat of the enemy." The unit also received meritorious citations from General Hap Arnold, commander of the Army Air Force, and from the Caterpillar Club.

In addition to the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Presidential Unit Citation, Riccardi, who flew fifty-six missions, was awarded a pre-Pearl Harbor Ribbon, the Air Medal with eight Oak-Leaf Clusters and four Battle Stars, and the European Theater Ribbon with one Bronze Star.

Distinguished Flying Cross       Air Medal       European Theater Medal

After his tour of duty ended on June 1, 1944, Bruno spent some time resting at the AAF Convalescent Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida. He was released from the hospital on April 15, 1945 and discharged from the service on January 18, 1946, at which time he returned home to his family in Pittsburgh.

Nine years later, on July 9, 1955, Bruno married Irma Jean Augustine and settled at 1605 Creedmoor Avenue in Brookline to start a family. He was employed for twenty-five years as a driver for the Pittsburgh Press and was a member of Teamsters Local 211. Bruno and Irma Jean raised three children: Mark, Bruno and Gina.

Bruno Riccardi and his 1985 Brookline softball team.
Bruno Riccardi (front-right) and his 1985 Brookline softball team.

An accomplished player and manager in slow-pitch softball, his Skip & Hogan team won an ASA National Championship in 1962, defeating a team from Toledo by the score of 5-4. For his contributions to the sport of softball, Bruno Riccardi was a Dapper Dan Award winner.

Then, in 1969, he was inducted into the Western Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame. This was followed up on May 2, 1992 when Bruno was granted a spot in the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame - Western Chapter.

In 1972, Bruno was honored locally for his military achievements by the Soldiers and Sailors National Military Museum and Memorial, located in Oakland. Riccardi's photograph and the story of his medal-winning heroics are memorialized in the Hall of Valor.

Soldiers and Sailors Memorial in Oakland.
The Soldiers and Sailors National Military Museum and Memorial in Oakland.

Bruno Peter "Spot" Riccardi passed away on February 9, 2004, at the age of eighty-four. Friends and family were received at Beinhauer's Mortuary and a mass was held at the Church of the Resurrection. Bruno's body is interred at Calvary Catholic Cemetery in Hazelwood.

* Information gathered from Journal writer Dan McGibbeny - 1985; Modified by Clint Burton - September 6, 2019 *

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Brookline Veteran's Park - April 26, 2014.

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