Vito Trause was born on July 19, 1925 and was raised in Carlstadt, New Jersey. He was a standout football player at East Rutherford High School, which was subsequently renamed Henry P. Becton Regional High School. Prior to his graduation, Vito enlisted in the United States Army in 1943. After enlisting, he was shipped to Fort McClellan, Alabama where he underwent 17 weeks of basic infantry training.
Following basic training, Vito was sent by rail to Brooklyn, New York where he boarded a transport ship that was part of a 500 ship convoy. It was not until he was underway in the Atlantic that he learned that he would be heading to North Africa. After completing his mountain warfare training in North Africa, Vito embarked on a British ship with his fellow soldiers and landed in Naples. He participated at both Monte Cassino and Anzio as an infantry scout. It was after Anzio that he was captured by Waffen-SS troops during a scouting mission.
Subsequently, he was transferred by the Germans to Bologna, where he was placed on a prisoner-of-war (POW) train bound for Munich, Germany. Throughout the 4 day journey, Vito endured terrible conditions. He was stuffed in a box car with 60 other American POWs and the train was constantly strafed by British fighters and many POWs were killed prior to arriving at Stalag VII-A, Germany’s largest prisoner-of-war camp. Vito spent 5 months as a prisoner-of-war where he was worked tirelessly every single day from 5:00 a.m to 11:00 p.m. He worked on railroads and recovered dead bodies. He toiled along with Jewish prisoners of nearby Nazi concentration camps through much of the winter, working without proper boots. When his foot swelled, threatening him with amputation or possibly death, a Jewish prisoner stole a pair of shoes from a corpse and smuggled them to Trause under his coat, a dangerous transaction for both of them.
Trause believes the act saved his life.
Following his liberation by Allied troops in 1945, Trause attended victory celebrations in Paris, and eventually returned to the United States.
Back stateside, his faithful service was recognized, and Trause received numerous honors for serving with distinction on the battlefield. In total, he received the Good Conduct Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, the American Campaign Medal, and the European, African, and Middle East Campaign Medal with three Bronze Stars.
After his discharge from the U.S. Army, Vito worked at two companies throughout his lifetime. First with Magnavox TV, and later at East Rutherford Syringes. Trause’s service and personality left a lasting impression on his community. Among his many accolades, both the Township of Washington and the Borough of Westwood honored him with twin resolutions, renaming his home block in his honor. The renaming required the approval of both municipalities, but both the Township and Borough found that “[Trause] exhibits all of the attributes of a citizen to whom we all would aspire to emulate.”
But his awards and legacy do not end there. In 2018, Trause received his high school diploma at the age of 92.
Vito Trause passed away on October 31, 2019 at the age of 94. He is survived by his two daughters, Cynthia and Victoria, who live in Washington Township.
We are grateful for his service to this country!
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The Division of Veterans Services was established in 1977 to provide resident veterans and their dependents with information and assistance in obtaining earned entitlements from federal, state, and local governments, as well as any that are available from the private sector.
Through a quarterly newsletter and direct client contact, the division provides Bergen’s veterans organizations and their auxiliaries and individual residents with up-to-date benefit information.