Diego Dantone remembers his father Sabino Dantone’s work as an Italian Red Cross volunteer during the Korean War. The Italian Red Cross mission marked the first Italian mission abroad with the United Nations. Sabino Dantone passed away when his son was nineteen, but Diego Dantone accompanied his mother to a memorial event in Korea in 2010. The aging veterans he met there inspired him to direct and produce a documentary, A Forgotten War, to honor Korean and Italian collaboration during the war. Diego Dantone is proud of his father’s work and the friendship between the Korean and Italian people.
A Nice World without War
Diego Dantone lost his father, Sabino Dantone, at age nineteen. He remembers his father crying when Sabino first heard the news of the 1991 Gulf War, and he shares his father's sentiments that war is a shame. Sabino Dantone had joined the first Italian Red Cross team that served in the Korean War. The elder Dantone did not speak of the war to his young son, but Diego Dantone remembers his father and mother being proud of the friendship between the Korean and Italian people.
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No More War
Diego Dantone remembers his mother and father as happy people. He feels Sabino Dantone would have wished peace and happiness to the Korean people. He agrees to allow his documentary for use in educating Italian school children about the Korean War.
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Interviewing School Children in the 68th Hospital
The Italian Red Cross operated in the 68th Hospital located in a Korean school. Diego Dantone visited the school when he filmed his documentary, A Forgotten War. The atmosphere of the place was still powerful even though the school had been damaged by fire and rebuilt. As the interview ends, Diego Dantone sends his father a message that he misses him and loves him, wishing they had shared more before Sabino Dantone died.
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[Beginning of recorded material]
I: It’s October 14, 2019. The beautiful city of Italy. What is the name of the city here?
MALE VOICE: [INAUDIBLE]
D: Ah, yeah.
I: [INAUDIBLE] Yes.
I: And this is very special day because the Korean cruise, Munmal, right? Munmal just came into this port and celebrating the, um, the Italian help to the Korean War.
D: That’s right.
I: So this is very special. My name is Jung Woo Hahn. I am the President of Korean War Legacy Foundation,. In our website, we have more than 1500 interviews of Korean War veterans from 18 countries including Italy. And next year will be 22 country interviews. Only one in the world. And we are doing this to preserve your father’s memory and honorable service. But at the same time we want to make it into a educational material so that the teachers in middle school
and high school continue to talk about the War that your father fought for. We are doing this especially the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs, MPVA, commissioned my foundation to take this interview so that they can make a special 70th anniversary version of the Korean government website. It’s my great honor and pleasure to meet you. Please introduce yourself, your name and spell it for the audience please.
D: Okay. My name is Diego Dantone.
D: D-I-E-G-O, and the surname is D-A-N-T-O-N-E. That’s my surname which used, used to be my father’s surname, and I’m very proud of it. And, uh, as you say, these are special day. As always when it comes to, to the Korean Embassy invitation. And especially today comes to my mind when
you say the Minis, the Korean Ministry, Federal in, in Korea.
D: I met him, I don’t know if it’s still him. I don’t remember the name, uh. But I did, uh, uh, documentary about the Korean War. And, uh, I do remember during the, the recording of the documentary they helped me a lot.
I: So you were the
D: as well as, uh, the Korean Embas, Embassy in Rome.
I: So you were the director or producer?
D: Director, producer and cameraman.
I: You did everything. So what is the title of the documentary?
D: Um, uh, A Forgotten War. Sorry about that
I: Forgotten War.
D: A Forgotten War.
I: A Forgotten War. And tell me about your father. What’s his name, and what’s his birthday?
D: Okay. My father’s name is Savino, S-A-V-I-N-O.
And the, his, uh, birthday is on the seven of July. Unfortunately, my father passed away 26 years old, years ago, sorry.
I: Twenty-six years ago.
D: Yes, yes.
I: But could you repeat your father’s birthday?
D: The seven of July.
I: July seventh. What year?
D: Uh, sorry, uh, forty, I don’t wanna go wrong, uh. He passed away when I was 19. It was 67.
D: So I don’t wanna give a wrong, uh, date.
I: So tell me about what your father did during the Korean War?
D: Basically, my father was, uh, in multiple roles, let’s call it like that. Eh, first of all, use,
used to work for the Red Cross, Italian Red C ross
D: and, uh, because he used to speak, uh, English as well and a bit of Korean, used to work with a American troop as well. So he used to work as a telephone operator.
I: A telephone operator.
D: That’s right, during the, during the War with Americans as, as a, a Red Cross, with Italian Red Cross. That used to be the
first mission, Italian mission abroad, and with that mission, Italy, uh, entered in the United Nation. So it was really, we are, we really, uh, are good [INAUDIBLE]
I: Exactly. So before he went to, before he joined, volunteered to join the team, Italian team, what did your father do in Red Cross? Did he work in the Red Cross/
D: No. He, he, he basically
he went, uh, as a volunteer and, uh, I, uh, I do remember because of the documentary of, um, I found out my father diary.
D: He was basically in a ship like this going from Italy to Korea and writing to his family. So when I found his diary, I was really, you know, it was really touching.
I: Wow. So you still have that diary?
D: I do.
I: Ah. So why don’t we translate it into English?
D: I did.
I: You did?
I: Then can you, could you share that with us?
I: So that people can know about him, okay? I think that would be great.
D: Um, you know, because of my father passed away when I was 19, unfortunately I didn’t speak about so, too many things, me and my father.
And especially about the Korean War because it, my father didn’t want to speak about war.
D: And, but I do remember when it was, uh, around 1991 I guess, during the Korean War, the Gulf War
D: Nineteen ninety-one I guess.
D: When he heard that on tv and radio, I saw him, I saw him cry straight away.
No, no, not, not talking, no, no, no even one words. He just started to cry straight away. And I realized what war is, you know. It’s a shame, big shame unfortunately.
D: Because, you know, could be nice world without, you know, any war.
I: So your father joined the team, first team, from Italy, and they left from October 16 of 1951, right?
I: Did he join the first team?
I: And then when did he return from Korea?
D: Uh, he, he’s been a couple of years I guess. I don’t remember the exact date.
I: And you took the documentary. You don’t remember that?
D: Yeah, sorry about that because you know, uh, I did record the doc, documentary a while ago.
I: Several years?
D: It was in, back in 2011.
I: Okay. He went back to Korea?
D: No, no, my documentary. I recorded it, yeah.
I: Okay. So let’s say that your father stayed in Korea for like three years.
D: No, less than that.
I: Less than that. Tell me anything that he remembered and tell you, told you about his experience in Korea.
D: As I said two minutes, a while ago, uh, he didn’t speak much about the, the War. But I do remember I was, still was a kid, I start to come in, uh,
the invitation to go to Embassy in Rome. So that’s why I know [INAUDIBLE] since I was a kid. So now I’m 45. So I used to remember my father’s coming, my father and my mother come in this, uh, real, let’s call reunion, eh, Veteran’s Reunion, and they was really proud.
D: My father and my mother, uh, I cannot tell you, a specific story about my father what about told me about the War. I was too young. Still a kid. But I do remember they proud of my father and, and my mother unfortunately passed away as well a cou, nearly three years ago. But they really was proud of the Korean and Italian, uh,
I: Um. Had he been back to Korea after he came from Korea, no?
I: How bout you?
D: Yeah. I’ve been there, uh, twice.
D: With my mom in 2010. That’s when I, I decide to do a, the documentary.
D: Because [INAUDIBLE] coming from all the 16 nation, military nation and the five nation of the Red Cross
D: which was including Italy.
I: So did you know anything about Korea before you visit Korea?
D: Yeah, but just in, um, in books, in tv. But when I saw in person all the veterans from, you know, all the veterans because, you know, the Korean War was, uh, now nearly 70 years ago. But back in that was 60, 75 years, uh, ago.
So the youngest. maybe that he was, uh, 18 years old. So all of them, there was around 80, 90. It was really, how can I explain, was touching seeing them, you know, hugging each other from, from all the, the nation. That’s when I decide to do the documentary. In that particular case, I was, uh, owning my own video company.
So I decide okay. Let’s do it. Let’s produce. Let’s do the documentary for my father’s memory and for all the veterans in Italy and Korea as well. So I’m proud of it.
I: When your father visit, went to Korea in 1951, Korea was one of the poorest country in the world.
D: In the world, I know.
I: Completely flat, destroyed
I: Nothing [INAUDIBLE] particularly standing.
I: Now do you know the rank of Korean economy?
D: Is in, uh, the
[INAUDIBLE] in the world, and I’m really [INAUDIBLE]
I: Eleventh largest economy in the world.
D: And I’m really proud of it because I do remember when the North Korea attacked the South Korea, and the all South Korea people went at the corner of the Busan City, and that’s when Italy and American, uh, uh, military came to help them
and then start the, to go back and, uh, fighting back. And, uh, I do remember it was, the situation was as ugly as you said.
I: Um hm.
D: Really, really destroyed. And in 50 years, they went back, and they really do the best.
I: Yeah. It’s a fascinating story. I mean Italy is known for ship building, right? You are very strong in ship building industry. Korea started in 1970’s. We didn’t know
how to build the ship. Now we are one or two, number second in the world. Can you believe that?
D: I do believe because I’ve been there. I knew the Korean, I know the Korean people. I know they are very hard worker. And I was really fascinating about that, and about the, the Korean culture. And, uh, and I’m proud of my father what he did. I’m proud of my mother because when we back in, when we went
in, uh, Korea for, uh, visiting Seoul, we was treated like, a, King and, uh, Queen. And, uh, I still remember when I was, you know, in young age, you know, Korean Embassy used to invite us all the times, two, three times a year, and I used to think one day gonna, they’re gonna stop. They never gonna stop.
I: Um hm.
D: And when I realized that, I even more proud of my father and my mum and my family.
I: Exactly. By 2030, Korea projected to be number seven in the world.
D: Good then.
I: Italy will be eight. So let me ask this final question. If your father still alive today, okay, next year will be the 70th anniversary of the break out of the Korean War. What would your father say to the Korean people that he loved?
D: My father and my mother as well, they used to be very happy people, smiling people. And even if I didn’t speak about my father about the Korean War, I’m sure my father was gonna say to the Korean people let’s love each other and, and live, uh, happy life or smiling life.
I, I do remember my father even in, working out in difficult situation any my mother as well, they used to be always smiling.
D: That’s for, for sure what he was gonna say to the Korean people. No more war.
I: Hm. This is very special. This is the best Korean Navy battleship, the cruiser Munmu, and we built it. We built it. So I’m so proud, and I wanna thank, uh, for the Korean Navy to
allow us to have this film here. But since you are, you were the producer and director of the film that you made, Forgotten War, okay? That’s why we are doing this. We don’t want that War to be forgotten in our younger generation.
D: Thanks I know that.
I: Right? So we have our own documentary. I can share that with you. And you can share that documentary with us for only educational purpose, not commercial, okay?
And we are going to make this one into curriculum book so that Italian History teachers can teach about the War they fought 70 years ago. What do you think?
D: I know. I think it is a, it is, a, for only educational purpose.
D: Why not, because that didn’t belong to me anymore. It went, uh, as I said before, was, uh, it’s been sold to [INAUDIBLE] my, uh, video company. I’m no part anymore.
It’s a shame I have to say because it was nice to, to do, you know, lots of jobs and especially the Korean documentary. But it’s for, it, uh, it’s for educational purpose, why not?
I: Yes, yes.
I: Okay. So let’s talk about that. Let me ask you this final question. You never been into, uh, you never fought during the War, but you were there twice because of your father.
D: Yeah. I wanna say, I wanna say just one thing otherwise I’m gonna forget.
When I been there, the, the hospital, the 68 hospital, that’s the name of the Italian, uh, hospital in today, uh, during the Korean War, uh, it was a, in a school. And I’ve been there and there is still a school, and, uh, when I was there,
it was really impressive because, um, I could touch the atmosphere. And, uh, interviews and the kids over there, it was like I been there long ago.
I: So your documentary has that?
I: Oh, that’s beautiful. I think we need to get out about that and then write , write as a lesson plan so that people can learn about it, okay?
D: There is, um, little monument in there.
D: Uh, because it’s been rebuilt to the school because it, back in the days, he was, it went, uh, fired. So they rebuilt again, they, they built that school again. So
I: I wanna work with you to excavate all these stories and let people know about this, okay? What is your final say to the Korean people based on your experience visiting twice of the Korea. What is your message to, and for your father?
D: A final message, uh, is as I said before, I’m proud of, of Italy in Korea. I’m proud of this friendship and, uh, it’s nice to, to say these things through television, to [INAUDIBLE] to, to tv because people need to know.
War, it is never good. But friendship can last forever.
I: Yes. Thank you so much again to, uh, to share your very tight schedule here, and your friends are waiting in the party room. So we’ll end this interview. But I wanna get in touch with you so that we can continue to talk about, okay?
D: I just wanna say thank you to you guys and, uh, as I said before, I’m, I’m really proud of my father and my mother and, uh, my family as well.
I: Why don’t you say something to your father in Heaven? On special day today, in the Korean cruiser.
D: Papa, I love you and, uh, I miss you. And I could share a lot of things with you of, you know, I love, I could share more things with you, men’s things I mean, because when you passed away, uh, I was still 19. But you teach me
a lot of things I never forget, even if we didn’t talk much and didn’t share our love. But you, you are here.
I: [INAUDIBLE] Thank you.
[End of Recorded Material]