Captain Joseph A. Zanetta, a 1935 graduate of Jamestown High School, who served in the U.S. Army during WWII from April 1941 to February 1946 as a Battery Commander and in the Korean War from 1951 to 1952, has been immortalized in writing not once, but twice.
Captain Zanetta’s story is part of former Robert H. Jackson Center President Rolland Kidder’s 1996 book, A Hometown Went to War. In it, Zanetta recounted how his stealth “Mystery Division,” part of General Patton’s 3 rd Army and 12th Armored Division, liberated the death camp at Dachau, Germany:
“Nothing could have prepared us for what we saw at Landsberg and Dachau. I can still smell the death in the air at Dachau. The people who were still alive were so skinny and starved that they could hardly stand up. … The death camps were the epitome of evil. … I just hope the world never sees anything like it again.”
Now, Captain Zanetta’s words and memories are on display at the Robert H. Jackson Center.
Captain Zanetta returned to the U.S. after World War II with a bullet-riddled Nazi flag from the Dachau camp, which served as an everyday reminder for him of the evil he had witnessed in Europe. The Nazi flag was donated by Joseph M. Zanetta, Esq., Captain Zanetta’s son and former Jackson Center Board member, along with his siblings: Anthony Zanetta, Nancy Stevenson and Patricia Franco. It is displayed as part of “The Perpetrators” exhibit at the Jackson Center, a series of lithographs created by artist Sidney Chafetz, depicting the complicity of industrialists, businessmen, professionals, soldiers, churchmen, physicians, lawyers and bureaucrats who implemented and executed the Nazi’s schemes. The plaque pictured has been added to the display in honor of Captain Zanetta.
“As Captain Zanetta emphasized, we need to educate ourselves and remember these atrocities so that painful part of the world’s history is never repeated. By doing so, we honor those who are currently serving, as well as all veterans who fought to protect our country,” said Kristan McMahon, President of the Robert H. Jackson Center.
The Robert H. Jackson Center is open on Wednesday, November 11 for Veterans’ Day, offering free docent-led tours from 10am-2pm. Masks and social distancing are required. Calling 716-483-6646 to schedule your tour is highly encouraged. While the tours are free, donations to the Center are gladly accepted. Visit roberthjackson.org to preview additional exhibits at the Center and find out more about our virtual programming.