CAMDEN, N.Y. (WKTV) - Four Camden women experienced history after making the trek to Italy to meet Italian volunteers working effortlessly to surface a World War II DUKW (Duck) amphibious vehicle that has been submerged in Lake Garda in Italy. The women brought tokens of their appreciation for the volunteers determination.
The DUKW had been traveling up Lake Garda, three days before the end of World War II, with 25 American Soldiers on board. Those soldiers had weapons and were on a mission to attack German tanks at the top of the lake. When they finally reached the top, the weather conditions were unbearable. According to Kathy Duerr of Camden, the lake seemed like an ocean and the conditions created a frightening situation for those on board, " They were on a mission and couldn't come up the side of the lake because all of the mountain tunnels the Germans bombed, they couldn't drive through so the only way to get to top of lake to the Germans was to use these duck amphibious vehicles. They started at the bottom of the lake it was calm but by night time to top of lake had huge waves and a storm came up and they tried to push everything heavy off but it didn't happen and they got swamped with water."
Twenty-four of the soldiers died, one was able to swim to shore. No remnants, bodies or the ship were found until this year. The volunteers who found the boat have been fundraising to bring it to shore and bring closure to the Americans, something Kathy Duorr and her friends appreciated.
"I said lets get some legion things and VFW things and take them there and show them all the appreciation we have for all the work the Italians are doing to bring up the duck," said Duerr , "We brought them some legion license plates, Christmas bulbs from Freedom Park in Camden. World War II pins, we pinned on them. From New Hartford legion, one of the girls dressed up in her legion outfit and brought them a legion hat and license plate and a veterans bookmark."
Duerr said the Italian volunteers were more than appreciative and the women were excited to be a part of history.
Melanie Evans of Camden said, " It felt wonderful to be a part of something and these people. These Italians are just like we are, we're all patriotic whether to their country or our country, we are fighting for the same cause... peace in the world."
Duerr said the Italian volunteers hope to surface the duck and keep it in a glass enclosure inside a local museum. If they find any bodies or artifacts from the people on the ship, they will return it to America for the families.
The Italians hope to have the duck and any remnants brought to shore by early next year.