Fighting Santoros getting squared away

This article was published 6 year(s) ago.

Seven of the eight Santoro brothers, from top, left, are Charlie, Paul, Leo and John; from bottom, left, are Harry, Tom and Joe.


MEDFORD — They were “The Fighting Santoros” and the name fit the family well.

When America joined the fighting in World War II after the Pearl Harbor bombing, many joined the call to defend our country, but this Medford family went far above and beyond in showing their patriotism.

No less than eight Santoro brothers fought for their country at the same time in World War II, seven of them serving overseas at once.

The last surviving brother Rosario “Charlie” Santoro, 90, who is a lifelong Medford resident, got quite a thrill last weekend when he and number of other New England residents, all World War II veterans, were transported at no cost to Washington, D.C. by Honor Flight New England for a day-long tribute.

The trip included visits to the various military memorials in Washington.

“I never shook so many people’s hands in one day in my life,” Santoro said, “It was great to see so many other veterans, too. They treated us great.”

Large families were in no short supply in mid-20th century America and the Santoros tipped the scale and then some with one of the biggest “rosters” in city history, 17 children in all. Ten brothers and seven sisters, the children of Eugene and Concetta Santoro grew up on Wheeler Street in South Medford, most of them born just after the turn of the century.

Rosario Santoro served in the Navy, joining the military in 1945, the last year of the war. He was one of the seven “Fighting Santoros” serving overseas. His duties included hauling troops and supplies to various islands in the Philippines, and then evacuating Australian prisoners of war from Japan at the close of the war in August 1945.

Santoro’s brothers included Jim, Joe, Leo, Paul, John, Tom, Harry,  The Santoro family kept a meticulous history of the eight “Fighting Santoros,” with Laura Jane Lucas the latest historian. She is the daughter of Mary Santoro Meano, the third eldest daughter of the 17 Santoro children.  

Still sharp as a tack when it comes to family history himself,  Charlie Santoro can rattle off all of his brothers’ ranks, military service ranks and the years and places they served, a mini-verbal history book.

The only Fighting Santoro brother who served stateside in World War II was Giacomo “James” Santoro, who  was a member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary from 1944-45 and was assigned to guard the oil supply tanks in East Boston.

Another brother, Paolo “Paul” Santoro was honored with the Purple Heart when he was wounded in action by a hand grenade while helping another soldier to safety, Paul recovered quickly and returned to the war, like a true Fighting Santoro.

“We were all very proud of (Paul). I’m proud of all my brothers who served,” Charlie Santoro said.

The city of Medford is also proud of the Fighting Santoro clan. On Veterans Day in 2011, former Mayor Michael J. McGlynn led a citywide ceremony where four street corners were named after Medford families whose family included multiple members who served in World War II. The corner of Main and Wheeler streets was named “Santoro Brothers Corner” in their honor.

According to Medford Veterans Services director Ernest Lindsay, some 10,514 Medford residents served World War II, or about 17 percent of its 63,083 population in 1940, one of the highest rates in the state for one community. The names of all who served, including the 224 residents killed in action, are listed on a World War II memorial on Winthrop Street near the entrance of Medford High School.

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