The General Next Door

King Street's Sal LaRosa Earned Stars in WWII January 9, 2003 By Ann McGough Salvatore
LaRosa has lived on King Street since 1952. This 85-year-old is a retired United States Army
Major General and a veteran of the Second World War. In the fall of 2002,

General La Rosa was honored by the Boston-based First Corps of Cadets as one of 16 members
of the 'Greatest Generation.' This apparently average man's life and military career have been
anything but ordinary. General La Rosa was born in East Boston on May 14, 1917. When he was
just one-year-old, Sal's mother died of Spanish influenza, and so he and his older sister Santa,
returned to Sicily with their father and grandfather so that extended family could assist in the
children's upbringing.

Ten years later, Sal and his family returned to East Boston. Since Sal's English was poor, he
attended summer school for two consecutive summers. He recalls that his English as a second
language program was taught exclusively in English and his teacher did not speak any Italian. In
1930, Sal graduated with Honors from the Theodore Lyman Grammar School.

In 1933, he graduated from the Donald McKay Middle School where he was also on the honor roll,
captain of the school cadets, president of the student council, and class president. Salvatore La
Rosa has always been a man to take the road less traveled. When it came time to select a high
school, he did not go to East Boston High School where all of his friends were going. Instead, he
traveled across the city to the more academically rigorous Boston English High School.

At English, LaRosa enlisted in the 26th Tank Company 26th Infantry Division of the Massachusetts
General Guard. During his senior year he was appointed Captain 1st Company, 1st Regiment of
the school cadets. He graduated with the grade of major of cadets and was a member of the
English High School football team. After graduating from English in 1936, La Rosa attended the
West Point (United States Army Academy) Preparatory School at Fort McKinley, Portland, Maine.
In July 1937, La Rosa enlisted in the Army Reserve and attended a one-month training in the
Citizens' Military Training Camp at Fort Devens in preparation for a Reserve Commission in the

On January 27, 1939, he was appointed 2nd Lt. Infantry United States Army Reserves. La Rosa
did not attend West Point, but instead pursued a law degree, studying evenings at Northeastern
University. In June of 1941, La Rosa was given a one-day leave from active duty to attend
Northeastern's commencement exercises. He received a standing ovation when he received his
diploma dressed in the uniform of the United States Army. There was a shortage of officers, he
was told, so La Rosa was denied his request for three days off to take the Massachusetts Bar
examination. On April 7, 1941, La Rosa was called up to active duty with the 26th Infantry Division
at Camp Edwards in Massachusetts and assigned to Company D, 104th Infantry Regiment. Due
his mastery of the Italian language,

General La Rosa was transferred to Military Intelligence School in Camp Ritchie, Maryland where
he trained as an interrogator of prisoners of war. In 1943, he was promoted to the rank of Captain
and was subsequently transferred to Casablanca, Morocco. Not long after arriving overseas, La
Rosa was transferred to the Allied Military Government of Occupied Territories (AMGOT) Military
Government School at Tizi-Ouzu, Algeria. On September 6, 1943 La Rosa embarked on a Landing
Ship Tank (LST) at Bizerte, Tunisia, on the way to the Italian invasion at the Gulf of Salerno. Upon
arriving at Salerno City, La Rosa was immediately dispatched to Amalfi as Civil Affairs
Officer/Military Mayor. In October of 1943 La Rosa was dispatched to the Benevento Province of
Italy. It was in Benevento that Salvatore La Rosa met a young woman named Cerere, whom he
married on October 15, 1944.

La Rosa was promoted to Major on January 7, 1945 at the young age of twenty-eight. As Civil
Affairs Officer, La Rosa was in charge of rebuilding the industry of occupied countries. Agencies
such as the chamber of commerce, agriculture, public works, and health and sanitation had to be
re-established and managed under his direction. An important component of La Rosa's work in
this capacity was the collection and distribution of food to the inhabitants of war-torn areas. La
Rosa was transferred to the Austria Occupation Military Government Planning Team in April 1945
and was delegated to personally hand over the command of the Tyrol Region to the French under
Charles DeGaulle. Next, La Rosa was transferred to the American Zone Military Government in
Vienna, Austria. After World War II, La Rosa continued to serve in the United States Army. He
received the rank of Brigadier General and was afterward promoted to Major General, making him
a two-star General. Because of his training in law, General La Rosa served the United States Army
as a Prosecutor in the Court Martial. "I won all of my cases. I did not take the bar examination so I
do not have my license, but I did all of my homework," General La Rosa says.

While still active in the Army Reserves, La Rosa owned and operated a submarine shop in East
Boston and a pizzeria/delicatessen in Stoneham. He recalls that when his father's landlord offered
to sell him the East Boston sub shop, he was not interested. "But, he told me to come watch how
the business ran. After a week, I saw what a goldmine it was. The business cost me $25,000. I paid
for half of it in cash and took a mortgage out for the other half. Within three months I had paid off
the mortgage." General La Rosa and his wife had three children. Benedetto, who later changed
his name to Benedict, was born in 1945. Filomena was born in 1947. Rita was born in 1954. In
1949, La Rosa took his wife and two oldest children for a month visit to Italy. He recalls that the
highest dignitaries, who were very grateful for General La Rosa's work in Italy, received him and
his family. "While in Florence, we visited the Prefect and his wife.

They apologized that we could not stay with them because Princess (now Queen) Elizabeth and
her husband Phillip were there on a State visit. But, his wife took us around." Although Major
General Salvatore La Rosa had a successful 30-year career with the Unites States Army, he is
haunted by some errors that were allegedly made on reports filled out long ago. La Rosa is
currently lobbying President George W. Bush to investigate reports that do not reflect La Rosa's
stellar record. When asked why a two-star general who has been highly decorated for his valiant
efforts in the service of the United States Army is so concerned about what might be nothing more
than typographical errors or instances of mistaken identity, General La Rosa responds, "This has
been bothering me for twenty years. It is my record. Someone looking at my record would get the
wrong impression of me. I am a fighter. I fought for my two stars. I never asked for anything for
free. I only want what I have earned."