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A big band coastie and his Italian prisoners go to town

• Jan 8, 2019 at 5:00 PM

During World War II, our armed forces had a large presence in Charleston, South Carolina, and the U.S. Coast Guard was no exception, noted Petty Officer 1st Class William Bleyer in a story for the Coast Guard’s official blog.

“A crew member on the Coast Guard boats patrolling the harbor was a young, aspiring big band musician named Tony Agresta,” Bleyer wrote. “Agresta was reflective of the diverse array of people which made up the U.S. military during WWII. The son of an Italian immigrant from Salerno, he had grown up in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, and quickly developed a reputation as an outstanding trombone player.”

According to Bleyer, Agresta chose to join the Coast Guard during the war because it had a good reputation and he was impressed by its band.

In addition to all of the military facilities, the Charleston area was also the site of several prisoner of war camps. The first prisoners at the West Ashley POW camp were Italians who had been captured during the fighting in North Africa.

The story includes Agresta’s escort of Italian prisoner for a jaunt in downtown Charleston, the rest of his war service and his post-war musicianship.

Read the complete blog post: “A big band coastie and his Italian prisoners go to town in WWII.”

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