Lewis (Luigi) Albanese was born in Cornedo Vicentino, Vicenza, Italy. When he was 2 years old, his mother, Giannina Albanese (b. 1927), brought him to the United States. They joined Ralph Albanese (1927-2002), Lewis's father, who owned a Seattle pizza parlor.
Lewis grew up in Seattle and attended Franklin High School. At Franklin High School he especially excelled in wood shop and volunteered to create stage sets for plays. He graduated in June 1964 and went to work at Boeing Aircraft.
He was drafted in October 1965 and took basic training at Fort Carson, Colorado. On August 2, 1966, he flew to Vietnam. His unit soon entered the battle.
Lewis Albanese's Vietnam War
After only three months in Vietnam, on December 1, 1966, Albanese's unit was moving through the forest to establish a defensive position. As the troops neared their objective, they came under intense enemy machine-gun fire from a well-concealed position. Private First Class Albanese was moved to cover the unit's left flank. This brought him under withering enemy fire. When his platoon was in danger of being overrun, Albanese attacked the enemy position and neutralized it. He was wounded in this action and died the next day.
On February 16, 1968, in an award ceremony held at the Pentagon, Secretary of the Army Stanley Rogers Resor (1917-2012) presented the Medal of Honor to Private First Class Albanese posthumously. Resor spoke of the lives that Private First Class Albanese had saved. His mother received the medal and his sister Rosita (b. 1952) was in the audience.
Remembering Lewis Albanese
On Joint Base Lewis McChord is Albanese Hall, a training center, which honors the Medal of Honor recipient. In his birth city of Vicenza a street is named in his honor. An Italian author, Franco Lovato, published a biography of Lewis Albanese. He described him as the only Italian-born soldier to receive the Medal of Honor in Vietnam. In Lewis, A Man, A Hero, Lovato recounts Private First Class Albanese giving his life to save others.
Another Albanese from Seattle also died in Vietnam. Sergeant Luigi Frank Albanese (1948-1968), not a relative, was killed in action on January 27, 1968.