Son of Forgotten World War II Hero Shares His Story to The World

Important details of events can be forgotten if not properly documented. Such an event that may not be so well-known to the public is the story of Peno Lella. Lella Sr. was an Italian soldier who was forced into the war between the Nazis and the allies during World War II.

            To help spread word of such an individual is the son of the hero himself, Michael Lella. Lella appeared at the Whittier Branch Library October 10 to promote the novel Beneath A Scarlet Sky. The novel is inspired by his father’s life during the war. The story of the novel revolves around Lella Sr. as he is thrusted into joining the Nazis in his teenage years and is assigned to be the driver of General Hans Leyers. Leyers is also known to have been Adolf Hitler’s left-hand in command during the war.

While under the service of Nazis, Lella Sr.’s position gains the attention of the allies and is eventually given the title of a spy. While spying for the allies, he relayed information back and help them avoid any possible ambush or attacks from the Nazis. Even before joining the fight, Lella Sr. first began his heroics by helping an underground railroad navigating Jews over the Alps to safety. In the course of a year, Lella Sr. helped save hundreds of Jews from being transported to concentration camps and certain death. Howerver, it was Lella Sr.’s spying for the allies that earned him the nickname “The Observer” and thus feeding information to help turn the tide of the war.

            Because the novel is historical-fiction, the events that transpire within the story are inspired by true events. Author Mark Sullivan had to create original dialogue in order to help tell the story with about “90 percent [being] true,” says Lella. Lella describes his father’s time after the war saying, “the experience continues to haunt him to this day.” And although he continues to spread word about his father and American soldiers saving Italy from Nazis, Lella believes that the events that transpired in the past are still not widely known and therefore called “The Forgotten Front.”

            Lella’s father is still alive and living in his homeland of Italy at the age of 93. His actions during the war have gained the attention of Columbia Pictures to adapt the story with actor Tom Holland playing the title role of Peno. Pascal Productions will help produce the adaptation and will develop it into a six-episode mini series that should be released within the next three years or so. Beneath A Scarlet Sky is available now through all Amazon outlets.