Enso Bighinatti


Enso Bighinatti was a member of the 1940 graduation class. He was a varsity player in four sports: baseball, basketball, football, and track. He was a starter on each team all four years while being active in numerous class organizations. During his senior year, he was selected most all-around student and best athlete.

After graduation Enso worked for New Britain Machine before enlisting in the US Army Air Force in December 1942 along with his best friend, Vic Baccaro, also a Berlin Hall of Fame member. He became a radio gunner on a B24 Liberator Bomber and was shot down over Germany on his 34th mission, was captured, imprisoned for almost a year, and then escaped during a camp evacuation march as the Russians approached. He received a Purple Heart and an Air Medal with 5 Oak Leaf Clusters.

After the war, he enrolled in CCSU as a physical education major and then transferred to Springfield College but came down with polio as he was registering for his final semester. On a visit to Washington with his late wife she suggested he apply to the Red Cross because he frequently mentioned that they had saved his life with their relief packages. This started his 43-year career with the organization.

From 1970 to 1975 he was the National Director of Disaster Services, responsible for the planning and implementation of its disaster relief programs and preparedness systems throughout the United States. He worked on nearly every disaster from the time he joined the ARC in 1951. He played a major role in the Cuban Bay of Pigs prisoner exchange in 1963, and he accompanied H. Ross Perot on his two world-circling attempts to deliver relief packages to US prisoners held in North Vietnam in 1969/70.

From 1975-1981 he was Under Secretary General of the League of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Geneva, Switzerland where he directed and administered over 125 major international disaster operations throughout the world. From 1982-1984 he served as Assistant to the President of the American Red Cross and after retiring in 1984 he served the next 10 years as a volunteer and founding member of the National Board, US Emergency Food and Shelter Program (FEMA), He is listed in Who’s Who in America. In 2002 he wrote a book about his life’s journey titled “Came Hell or Highwater” detailing his youth growing up in Berlin, his war experience, and his time with the Red Cross. He passed away in June of 2004 at the age of 82.

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