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VCU Archaeology

Enemy Fire: “…we bombed the railroad yards north of Rome”

by Bernard K. Means


Domenick D’Adamo visiting in the Virtual Curation Laboratory as Kristan Egan observes. Photograph by Christina Stewart.

Just the other week, I was contacted by James Triesler, Director of Education at the Virginia War Memorial.  He had a piece of flak (more on that shortly) that he wanted to know if I could 3D scan. James was interested in using replicas of the flak in his work with school groups and others that visited the Virginia War Memorial–including enlarged copies that would help when talking with larger groups. I asked how he got the flak and James said it was loaned to him by a 96-year-old World War II veteran.  I, of course, said I was happy to 3D scan the flak–and was willing, if the veteran was amenable, to scan the latter as well.  This would be my third World War II veteran that I have scanned and 3D printed, including a very miniature Russell Scott shown below.

The veteran, Domenick D’Adamo, was willing and came to my lab on Wednesday, August 16, 2017. He was accompanied by James, his granddaughter Lily Jones (who works for the Virginia World War I and II commission), and a Virginia War Memorial Intern, Nazeer Qaim, who was on the last day of his internship through Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of History. In the lab that day, in addition to myself, were two graduates of Virginia Commonwealth University, Kristen Egan, who is working in the lab on a project involving Virginia slavery, and Christina Stewart, who was volunteering her time and editing 3D scans of mammoth and mastodon fossils casts. With the exception of the selfie below, Christina was kind enough to take all the photographs presented in this blog.


From left to right: Nazeer Qaim, Bernard K. Means, Kristan Egan, Christina Stewart, Domenick D’Adamo, James Triesler and Lily Jones.

After Domenick D’Adamo had a seat, he first showed us a name button that he had with him. I set up this button to be 3D scanned during the time I would give a tour of the lab to the assembled group and while I 3D scanned Domenick. On an earlier occassion, James had interviewed Domenick, who was the bombardier in a B-24.


Triesler – Now you just showed us a pin, a button, and it says A slash C on it. What does that mean?
D’Adamo – It means Aviation Cadet.
Triesler – So you would wear this on your uniform when you were in training? (Triesler hands it back to him.)
D’Adamo – Thank you, yes.
Triesler – So, like in Roswell, New Mexico, in that area.
D’Adamo – Yeah, and in Santa Anna too, when we were at Ground School.
Triesler – Okay, very good.
D’Adamo – See we had ground school first and had a lot of math, weather, and stuff like that.

Domenick was interested in 3D printing, so I showed him how 3D printing worked. Unsurprisingly, the room we were in had two 3D printers in operation (each of the other two rooms in the lab also had 3D printers busily whirring away).  On one, I was 3D printing another copy of the mastodon tooth from Philadelphia that once belonged to Ben Franklin.  I also showed everyone various 3D printed items.


Domenick D’Adamo holds a 3D printed German Luger. Photograph by Christina Stewart.

Domenick particularly responded to the German Luger replica and its fidelity to the real object.  I also asked, as I do to most visitors to the lab, if they would like to see a real mastodon tusk–something that I still have on loan. Everyone expressed interest in handling something that was over 15,000 years old.

Domenick then began talking about the tiny little object that he had in a small plastic bag. A piece of flak.


Domenick D’Adamo holds out the piece of flak. Photograph by Christina Stewart.

I’ll  let Domenick’s words describe the significance of this tiny object, as he did in another interview with James.


Domenick D’Adamo reminiscing about the flak. Photograph by Christina Stewart.

“…we bombed the railroad yards north of Rome and coming back, that was about a 950 mile trip, coming back something knocked out our number 3 engine and we had to fly all the way back to the base on three engines.  We found out what happened was a little piece of flak hit the oil line and oil was leaking out and the pilot had to cut it off and here’s the little piece of flak [Domenick laughs and hands a piece of  flak in a plastic bag to Triesler] It knocked out the oil line on the aircraft and the mechanic who worked on it, he gave that to me.”


Next, I took out our Structure scanner, attached to our iPadMini 4, and 3D scanned Domenick.  The lighting in the lab was a bit problematic so we did a second 3D scan in the hallway outside the lab.

I gave Domenick my 3D business card and a purple mastodon on a surf board, which he found amusing, and mastodon earrings to Lily.


Lily Jones holds a World War I entrenching tool. Photograph by Christina Stewart.

I was honored to 3D scan Domenick, his flak, and his name badge–and happy to do my small part in telling his story. I have already 3D printed the flak, the name badge, and Domenick.



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