Memorial Day: A Time to Remember the Fallen

Copilot of a B-24 Liberator bomber, Army Air Corps 2nd Lt. Olympio Zanini, 23, died May 19, 1944 on a bombing run over Brunswick (Braunschweig), Germany.

His sister, Lenora Palovic of St. Paul Parish in Johnston City said he had been on his fifth bombing run when he was killed in action.

It doesn’t matter how long ago a loved one is lost during war, a family remembers. Lenora said she thinks of her brother almost every day along with other family members who have died.

He was an older brother that she loved and respected who was anxious to fly, even as a teenager.

Now almost 91, Lenora remembers “Limp” as a devoted son and brother. Their father, Caesar, was killed in a coal mining accident in 1927 in Stiritz when Limp was 5 and Lenora 2, and that loss must have shaped his life so that he was well aware of the meaning of the word “responsibility.”

He worked hard in high school to earn the $2.00 per half hour he needed to take flying lessons in Marion.

Johnston City High School had an aviation club, and he definitely belonged to it. He just loved to fly.

In the 1930s, when everyone found it was difficult to find money for necessities, especially a mother with two children, Limp walked along the railroad tracks and picked up coal that had fallen from the box cars to heat the family’s home, Lenora said.

According to “They Are Not Forgotten — Men of Johnston City, Illinois Who Died in Uniform” by Bill Hampsey and Helen Lind in 2008: “When the war came, he tried to join the Air Corps but was underweight. It was his third trip to the Army examiners before he was successful.”

While Limp already had earned his pilot’s license in high school, he went into training and earned his military “wings” before being shipped to a base in England as a member of the 392nd Bomb Group, 579th Squadron.

During his time away from Johnston City, Lenora said Limp wrote letters to their mother, Maria, in Italian since she “couldn’t speak a word of English.”

Limp looked forward to flying and to reuniting with the bomber the crew had named the “Virgin Sturgeon,” but that plane was sent to England ahead of them and went down on another mission.

The plane he and his crew flew into Braunschweig that day with so many others was not named. They were tasked with bombing oil fields, Lenora said, and that raid was not unexpected by German fighter pilots.

Their Liberator was hit, and at the time, only a few of the crew members were found.
While the Zaninis received a telegram that Olympio was lost, they did not know what had happened to his remains.

After two years, the family received a letter that he had been buried in Holland. They were able to have his body brought home in 1949 and buried at Lakeview Cemetery in Johnston City. He now rests with his father and his mother who died in 1982.

The young man of 19 who was “quiet with a good sense of humor” joined the Army Air Corps and died at 22. He continues to be loved and remembered by his sister and all of the people who have come after him.

Lenora remembers “walking the cemetery” so many years on Memorial Day as those who have lost loved ones will do this year. May they all rest in the arms of God.