Baldwinsville While Joyce Fike was Christmas shopping for her son, Vermont Army National Guard Capt. Zachariah L. Fike, she discovered a WWII medal in an antique shop that she thought would make the perfect gift for her son. But this wasn’t just any medal; it was a Purple Heart medal, which she purchased for $100. Inside the box with the medal was a dog tag with the same name as was engraved on the back of the medal, Corrado A.G. Piccoli, below the words “For Military Merit.”
A life member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart and an avid military memorabilia collector, Captain Fike himself had received a Purple Heart after being wounded in a rocket attack in Afghanistan on Sept. 11, 2010.
“This is a special medal that definitely needs to go back to the family,” he said.
His mother’s gift was the start of what would be a year-long obsession to discover what had happened to U.S. Army Private Corrado Piccoli, and to possibly find a family member to whom he could return the medal.
With the aid of the Internet, Fike began researching local and national archives for the name and service number engraved on the dog tag. He learned that Corrado Piccoli had been born in Italy in 1923 and immigrated to Watertown with his parents, Bernardino and Vincenza, at the age of three. Fighting for his adopted country, Bernardino Piccoli was himself a veteran of WWI. Corrado enlisted in the Army in January 1943, and soon thereafter was shipped overseas to fight in Europe with Company H, 180th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division, which fought in Anzio and Southern France. In August, he proudly wrote his parents that he had visited his birth country. Only two months later, a telegram from the War Department informed the Piccolis that their son had gone missing on Oct. 7. A few days later, a second message confirmed he had been killed in action in Fremifontaine, France.