As a studio we have passions that drive us. Having an affinity and interest in WWII is something Mike and Neal (especially Neal) talk about. We wanted to capture some WWII stories and when the opportunity to interview Michael Ventrella came up, we couldn’t have been more excited! Over the years Neal has participated in WWII re-enactments and has traveled all over the country to do so.
His friend Cameron was introduced to Michael in his hometown of Bethel, CT. We couldn’t wait to go and interview him and tell his story and capture his experiences in the war. We loved putting together this passion project and would love to interview more men and women from WWII to preserve their stories for future generations.
If you know of anyone that would like to produce a mini-documentary of their WWII experiences, please reach out to us via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Here is a bit more about Mr. Ventrella:
Michael Ventrella is a 93 year old veteran of The Second World War with an unlikely war story. He traveled to the United States as a 10 year old boy with his father to escape Fascist Italy as tensions grew in Europe. Ventrella later attempted to volunteer into the U.S. Navy and was rejected because of poor eye sight. Four years later he was drafted into the Army and was soon assigned to the 34th Infantry Division which landed at Naples, Italy. From there the division moved to Anzio beachhead.
As the company moved into a valley on the outskirts of Anzio, Ventrella spotted a man with binoculars on top of a farm house nearby, so he and the lieutenant went to investigate. They learned that it was an Italian farmer attempting to see who was maneuvering near his property, and invited the two into his house for wine. The lieutenant left the house to bring wine back to the company in the valley below, leaving Ventrella behind. After many hours, Michael fell asleep and woke up to find that his company had moved on, leaving him behind. Recognizing that he would be considered AWOL (Absent Without Leave) he decided to catch a train to the south of Italy to visit his mother & family who remained in country. After the visit, he reported back to his company and the lieutenant took disciplinary action and had him court-martialed for being AWOL.
Ventrella was sent to Africa where the U.S. Army had a Disciplinary Training Center for U.S. servicemen. Michael explains that the Disciplinary Training Center for him was worse than combat. He was among fellow servicemen who were being disciplined for rape or murder of civilians & other various related war crimes. After months at the detention center, after it was determined that he was not so much a criminal soldier, he was placed on guard duty overseeing the other servicemen. Ventrella was released and reassigned to the 88th, and later the 91st Infantry Division, which at that time was stationed in the north of Italy on occupation duty as the war had ended.
Michael Ventrella is a proud veteran of The Second World War, but by no means condones war itself. He spoke strongly against it, but explains that the war was a necessary sacrifice after having learned about what the Nazi’s were doing to innocent people.
His story of wartime service is unique and we were really pleased to have been able to capture it.
You can read Michael’s full story here: Faces of Freedom – Michael Ventrella – Article
Produced by – Montage Media Productions
Interview – Mike Henriques
Research Producer – Cameron Jones
Director of Photography – Neal Howland
Lighting DP – Mike Henriques
Audio – Neal & Mike
Editor – Neal Howland
National Archives Film Footage – Internet Archive
– The Battle of San Pietro 648968 263.1803
– U.S. Army Training Film TF 21-1024 12126 65.54
– 17813 111-ADC-4011
– 17686 111-ADC-3884
Music Licensed by – MusicBed
Production Gear: Canon 5DMK3, Panasonic GH4, Sennheiser ME-66, Roland R-44, Comer 1800 Light, Apple Final Cut Pro X, FCPX