Veterans Oral History Project by yurtgc548


									                                                     Town of Huntington

                                              Veteran’s Oral
                                              History Project
      “Patriots, ALL
FOR LOVE OF COUNTRY                          From WWII through the
IN THE SERVICE OF AMERICA”                      Persian Gulf War
                                                                  Volume II
                                             Presented by Councilman Steve Israel
                                                           Sponsored by:

                                                                   Town Board
                                                                  Frank P. Petrone
                                                   Steve Israel                    Susan Scarpati-Reilly
                             Submitted By,          Councilman                         Councilwoman
                               Sol Axelrod        Marlene Budd                      Mark Cuthbertson
                                                   Councilwoman                          Councilman
                        HUNTINGTON VETERANS
                           ORAL HISTORY
                             VOLUME II
A project to record personal recollections of Huntington veterans who served their country
                       in the wars and conflicts of the 20th Century.

                                       Presented by

                      Huntington Town Councilman Steve Israel


                                      Sponsored by

                            Veterans Oral History Committee

                                Councilman Steve Israel
                                Len Totora Jr., Chairman
                                    Mario Buonpane
                                   Victor Martinetti

                  Project Coordinators: Donald McKay & Carol Rocco

            A Special Thanks To The Following Volunteers And Contributors:

David Ambro, Bart Allen, Rose Baylis, Lisa Broughton, Karen I. Brown, Elizabeth Cone,
Joyce Conklin, Alfred DiGiacomo, Alejandra DiSalvo, Meryl Feingold, Alan Gershuny,
    Jared Gianatasio, Jim Hall, Michael Higgins, Josephine Jahier, Kathryn Quigley,
             Ellen C. Kelly, Winnie Scarola, Ann Sullivan and Len Totora.
 World War II

A    t the time of going into the service, I was 20 years old and
     previously had deferred status due to working on my father’s
farm in Northern Minnesota. I decided that I wanted to be more
involved in the war, so I enlisted in the Navy. My mother and
father were not very happy, but they bought me a Bulova watch
and wished me well the day I left.
      I spent five weeks in boot camp at the Great Lakes Naval
Training Station near Chicago, Illinois. Boot camp was very physi-
cal, up at 4:30 a.m., lights out at 9:00 p.m. No liberty or leave
until boot camp was completed. I then attended a special Gunnery
School in Gulfport, Mississippi where I learned how to operate and
shoot the weapons I eventually would be using aboard ship. This
lasted for four weeks and then I was assigned to the “Armed
Guard” (this branch of the Navy was to protect our merchant fleet
from enemy attack). I was then assigned to the Armed Guard
Center in New Orleans where I spent only a few days and then was
assigned to S.S. Thomas Guardia (merchant ship). The gun crew
consisted of 28 men. The guns aboard the ship were 8-20 mm
machine guns, 3.5” gun on the bow and 5.38” gun mounted on
the stern. These weapons were used to guard against airplane and
submarine attacks.
      After taking on a large quantity of sulphur in Texas, we were
on our way to Bush Terminal, Brooklyn, New York where we fin-                      On all four trips overseas the convoys were attacked by sub-
ished loading the ship with ammunition, food, supplies and a deck           marines and on one occasion by an aircraft. Three men were
cargo of trucks and tanks. It was then off to Liverpool, a convoy           always on watch. Each man had binoculars and a head phone for
comprised of 80 cargo ships, an aircraft carrier and several destroy-       communication. The watches were four hours on and eight hours
er escorts.                                                                 off. When a general alarm sounded, every man was on duty and
      The North Atlantic was very rough and turbulent. The first            assigned to his gun station. The ship was blacked out completely.
two weeks passed without any incident. We had to zig-zag to                        The Liberty Ship which I served on was 440 feet long and
avoid the “Wolf Pack” (a group of German submarines). When                  56 feet wide, with five cargo holds. During the war they could
the weather cleared we were attacked by the German Wolf Packs.              build one of these vessels in two weeks. A torpedo could sink it in
Dept Chargers were launched close to our ship on many occa-                 less than two minutes. It was well known that if you were hit in
sions. I heard later that three of our merchant ships were sunk.            the North Atlantic, your chance of survival was slim.
      After unloading at Liverpool and Cardiff, Wales, it was back                 In 1944, I met my wife Anne in Times Square while on lib-
to the United States where our ship was reloaded in New York and            erty. We dated when I returned to New York and were married
Newport News, Virginia. Soon after the invasion of France we                in 1947. The following year we had our first daughter Cheryl. In
arrived at our next overseas port (South Hampton, England and               1954, I became a New York City police officer and later was pro-
then onto Lehavre, France). The third trip was to the                       moted to detective. I moved to Long Island and had two more
Mediterranean Sea, and the Ports of Marseilles, France and Oran,            daughters, Caroline and Colleen. I retired from the Police
North Africa. My fourth and last trip was to Antwerp, Belgium.              Department in 1974 after 20 years, and in 1997 we were married
The “Battle of the Bulge” was in action and everyone was fearful            50 years. We now have seven grandchildren ranging in age from 2
that the Germans would take Antwerp. While entering the Port of             years to 28 years old.
Antwerp single file, the U.S. ship behind us hit a mine and sank
within a few minutes.                                                       Interviewed by: Karen I. Brown

 Vietnam War

I  am a veteran of the Vietnam War. I enlisted in the United
   States Marine Corps in 1964. I was living in Geneva, Ohio and
was an 18 year old just out of high school. I was sent to boot
                                                                            go to the corner of Cao Van Tran Street, and make a right. We no
                                                                            sooner turned the corner when after traveling only a short distance
                                                                            down the street, that all hell broke loose. We were now in a city
camp at Paris Island, South Carolina. After graduating boot camp,           with tall buildings which proved a great advantage for the enemy, as
I was transferred to Marine Barracks, Brooklyn Navy Yard. This              he was able to snipe at us from elevated and protected sites. In a
was quite a shock to a boy from a small town in Ohio; to all of a           matter of minutes, we were mowed down before we knew what was
sudden find himself in one of the largest cities in the world. I            happening. The only thing that saved me during that time, was the
spent the next 28 months of my enlistment here. This is where I             fact that I was standing next to a tree that grew out of the sidewalk.
met my wife who was living in Brooklyn at the time.                         For the next 30 days it was more of the same, as our Battalion went
      In May 1967, I was sent to Camp Pendleton, California for             on to sustain 680 casualties out of the 850 men in the battle. The
advanced infantry training prior to being sent to Vietnam. On               battle for Hue City was then and still considered one of the major
June 8, 1967, I landed in Vietnam and was immediately sent to               victories in the Vietnam War. Luckily I was never wounded. To this
An Hoa, attached to Fox Company, Second Battalion, Fifth                    day I give that credit to my wife, Madeline, who lit a candle for me
Marine Regiment.                                                            every day I was there.
      The area of An Hoa was to be the future site of an industrial                Some of my other random memories are the monsoon rains,
complex. The first part was the building of an electrical power             C-rations and using Kool Aid to mask the foul taste of the water
plant fired by coal power. This site was picked due to its close            we got out of the rice paddies. I also remember being able to be
proximity to the Nong Song coal mines. The basic duties for the             with my wife for our first wedding anniversary in Hawaii for my
battalion was to keep the road and bridge to Danang open and                rest and recuperation time. The music was Motown, Beetles and
clear and to keep security at the coal mines and the industrial             the Beach Boys. The most significant one that I remember was,
complex. One of my most memorable times was on the night of                 “We’ve Got to Get Out of This Place”, by the Animals.
July 3, when our company was at the coal mines. That night the                     On June 8, 1968, I flew out of Vietnam to Okinawa, Japan
Viet Cong tried to overrun the hill. We were successful in defend-          where I began my processing for my trip back to the states. In a
ing the hill, but not without some heroic efforts by our unit. In           few days I landed in El Toro Marine Base near Los Angeles. About
the morning, one of the men was found dead lying over his                   a week later I was discharged from the Marines after four years. I
machine gun with many dead enemies piled up around him. He                  returned to my home and a very supportive family in Ohio. In
later was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. I also lost             September of that year I started college. After two years, we moved
one of by best friends, Francis Monin, who was killed in the cross          backed to Brooklyn. I started a career in the Marine Insurance
fire of the night.                                                          Industry, where I remain today. My wife and I love Long Island,
      In the fall of 1967, I was promoted to squad leader, which            especially Huntington. We hope to live here our whole lives. We
meant I was now in charge of 15 men. One night I was ordered                have two children and two grandchildren.
to take out my squad on a nighttime ambush. The idea was to                        If I had to do it all again, I wouldn’t hesitate for a moment
catch the enemy who would plant booby traps along the highway               to enlist. The GI Bill paid for my college education. I get together
for the next day in order to disrupt the morning convoy that                every two years with the men I served with in Vietnam for a
would be coming to the base camp. One of my men tripped a                   reunion. A book called “Streets of Fire” was written about the bat-
booby trap, he was killed and several others wounded. This was              tle of Hue City by Eric Hammel. My children were able to read
the first time I had anyone in my charge killed. It was another of          about it and now have a better appreciation for what I went
the many tragic moments that most of us went through that you               through.
were never trained to deal with. We stayed at this camp until Jan.
13, when they transferred our entire Battalion up north to Phu              Interview by: Karen I. Brown
      We operated here for a couple of weeks. On January 31,
while out on a patrol, we ran into a daytime ambush. I had one
man killed and another wounded. This was the beginning of a one
week period that would have five men killed and another nine
wounded. This was the start of the Tet holiday time for the
Vietnamese people.
      On February 1, we were put on helicopters and sent to the
city of Hue, where we later learned that some 8,000 enemy sol-
diers had taken over the entire city. Our job was to retake the city.
After landing, we were told that some American troops were
trapped somewhere in the city and we were to go and bring them
      My squad was given the task of leading the way. I was told to

 World War II

I  was 18 years old during the time of World War II and lived in
   Manhattan. I played professional baseball at the time. I received
a letter in the mail that I was to be drafted into the service. So I
                                                                            Mulligan (from Connecticut), came over to me and said, “Why
                                                                            didn’t you shoot him?” Screaming and yelling at me in the pitch
                                                                            dark, I didn’t say anything. In the meantime, here comes again
went down to the Army, but the line was around the corner. So I             the madman! We had barbed wire and machine guns set-up, but
went to enlist in the Marines. I started out in boot camp, located          we never got him. We then left the island and onto another cam-
in Paris Island, South Carolina, on June 16, 1942. I was assigned           paign. To this day, when my wife and I get together with some of
to the 10th Battalion. My captain was “Captain Smith”. We spent             the guys, they always would say, “Hey, John, what about the mad-
16 weeks on Paris Island. It was tremendously hot during June,              man from Emrrau?” We all never forgot him, to this day. The
July and August of that year! I never thought I could do it, but            Japanese would torture our soldiers. One guy that they captured
you just did what you had to do. I had become a rifleman.                   had his tongue cut out.
       The South Pacific was our conflict. The Japanese were tough!                No one really knew the time or the day, they didn’t keep
We spent 5 months in the States, then 45 months over seas. First            track. We were being bombed on Christmas Eve and didn’t even
we went to Hawaii and then to different islands. We went to Pearl           know it. In fact, my sister gave birth, and I didn’t know about it
Harbor. If you’ve never been there, you’ll never know how much              till a year and a half later. My mother would send me fruit cake
things have changed. Once a month you were allowed to go into               for Easter and I wouldn’t get it till Christmas, and it would be all
town with six or seven guys. Conditions in Pearl Harbor were                torn apart. That’s the way it was in the Pacific. It was different in
very good, we ate like Kings.                                               Europe. There, the guys had civilization. We had the stinky, hot
       We were called the “Forward Avenue Dens”. You would get              and humid jungle! In our environment, there were a lot of land
plenty of rations and water. The first five months you couldn’t             crabs. They would climb into the foxholes where you were hid-
complain. Later on, however, it got bad. Not until we got back              ing. (We didn’t have tents until later on). You would just dig a
home, did we realize how lucky we were. There was a saying for              hole and sleep there and throw a log over the hole. We had it
the three “S’s”: They called it, “Shit, Shower and Shave”. Because          tough, but everybody’s situation was different.
you were allowed only at times two to three minutes (sometimes                     I left the service with rank of sergeant on December 18,
just one minute) to get ready. You had to keep moving, every-               1945. It was a cold, blinding snow blizzard in North Carolina. I
where you went you had to run and it was rushed. Also, on your              never forgot it. I was glad to be back to civilian life. In a way, it
dog tags there were three “S’s”, which stood for “Selective Service         was difficult to adjust, but you’re happy to be back and that you
U.S. at Sea Marine Corp Enlisted”. You first went through the               survived it. They gave us 52 weeks and $20.00 a week. They
Army, then to the Corp. They also put your blood type on the                called us the “52-20 Club”. I didn’t want any part of that. I felt
tags.                                                                       the sooner I went back to work, the better. And I did. I never col-
       I was the only one in the family to serve in the service. I          lected a nickel.
wore a sharp shooters metal and different campaign ribbons for                         My wife, Nicolina, and I got married April 4, 1948. I
different places that we were at. It was real hard to go from civil-        worked 11 years for Sperry Corporation and the rest of working
ian life to military life. It took me about 13 to 15 weeks to adjust.       years for Grumman. We did whatever we could for the military.
We got screamed at and called names, but that was apart of the
training. (Nose to nose) - the first thing my Drill Instructor said         Interviewed by: Karen I. Brown
was, “the two things I hate, is guys from New York, and Italians”
Most of my platoon was from New York, and 50 percent were
       We had 64 guys in our platoon, No. 513. Harry Hopkins Sr.
and his son were in my platoon. He was the right-hand man to
President Roosevelt. He was the secretary of state at that time- the
second most powerful man of the country in 1942.
       Once a week, you were given two hours to write letters.
Another time, we landed on an island called Emrrau (Central
Pacific) after 40 days aboard a tub. The place was desolate and the
heat was intense. A total 800 of us Marines got off. An Air Force
Fighter Squadron was there from Canada. They told us to be care-
ful because there was a bunch of Japanese causing all kinds of
trouble on the island. When I was on duty that night, I was walk-
ing and heard something coming up through the bushes scream-
ing. Well, every night for 13 days he would do this, to torture us,
we called him “Wilbur.”
       We got so scared all the time from this act. Every night he
would come running up different areas. My first sergeant, John J.

 FRANK T. SCIRE                                                                                  MARTIN GIANATASIO
 World War II                                                                                                               World War II

L    ooking for adven-
     ture at the age of
18, Mr. Scire decided
                                                                              W       ith the sounds of
                                                                                      Bing Crosby echoing
                                                                              in the distance, my grandfa-
to join the Navy. After                                                       ther, Martin Gianatasio,
high school, he enlisted                                                      prepared to leave for World
to “see the world.” All                                                       War II. He enlisted into the
his buddies and a                                                             United States Navy in 1942
brother-in-law had                                                            and his only words when
either enlisted or been                                                       asked the reason for his
drafted, so Frank felt he                                                     enlisting were, “My country
had to do his part too.                                                       needed me.”
       He was interested                                                            At the age of 22, my
in electronics training.                                                      grandfather first tried to
He took the Navy’s                                                            enlist into the United States
eight month training                                                          Air Force. He found that he
course in electronics                                                         would be more useful on
and graduated as a                                                            the water, so the U. S. Navy
Second Class Petty Officer. Mr. Scire was assigned to the USS                 seemed more enticing. As an electrician first class from 1942-
Orleck DD886 and was responsible for the operation and main-                  1945, he traveled the world to try to help put an end to Hitler
tenance of all radar, sonar and communication equipment aboard                and Facism. My grandfather was on two United States Naval
ship.                                                                         ships, the Abnacki and the U.S.S. Thompson. While on the
       The USS Orleck was responsible to patrol the islands in the            Abnacki, which was the first steel tug boat in the Navy, he served
Asiatic area, to locate and identify hostile ships and submarines             as an electrician. It would be on this ship that my grandfather
and take necessary action. Hostile action took place on two occa-             would have his most memorable event in the armed service. He
sions, both events were successfully terminated. USS Orleck                   and the other officers were hauling supplies from America to
escorted convoy ships with nuclear weapons for tests at Eventok               England to help supply Normandy, the greatest amphibious battle
The Orleck was out to sea three to six months at a time. Mr.                  ever, and the largest towing of barges in the history of the U. S.
Scire remembers after being sea sick for three months he finally              Navy up until that point. They had 27 fleet tugs, which were all
got his “sea legs” and then became “land sick” when arriving at               towing evasion barges across the great Atlantic.
port in Sasebo, Japan. It then took time to regain land stability.                  This experience would also be the worst he would ever face
       He recalls one incident that occurred while on pursuit of a            while in the service. One day during the journey a wooden tug
hostile submarine. When the submarine finally surfaced it was so              was dropping supplies to the Abnacki when the wooden tug’s bow
close to the USS Orleck, the ship’s guns could not be lowered. The            struck the anchor which was steel. The wooden boat made a final
crew was ready with hand guns, pistols and rifles in case of a con-           mistake, coming in on the windward side instead of the leeward.
flict. Luckily, after the pursuit, the submarine surfaced to surrender.       The boat would find its fate at the bottom of the murky Atlantic.
The USS Orleck guided the sub into the harbor and took control.               The tug sunk and there was a great loss of American lives. He later
       At the age of 19, Mr. Scire got to see the world. Some points          jointed the crew of the Naval destroyer the U.S.S. Thompson for
of land contact were Pearl Harbor, Japan and the Philippines,                 the remainder of his career.
Korea and the Marshall Islands.                                                     As the son of an immigrant entrepreneur, he was instilled
       He returned to Brooklyn after his service during World War             with such values as hard work and discipline. Everything he was
II and took advantage of the GI Bill by attending and graduating              taught helped prepare him for the demanding lifestyle of the Navy.
from three universities and receiving a Ph.D in science and engi-             Although he found it rigorous he thought it helped him to learn
neering. In 1963, with his wife Jacqueline and daughter Marianne,             what life really expects in the long run. He was and still is proud
Mr. Scire moved to Huntington and settled in Melville. He attrib-             to have served in the United States Navy.
utes his full education, experience and understanding of different                  My grandfather has lived in East Northport close to one half
people to his Naval experiences during World War II.                          century. He married his childhood sweetheart, Eileen. They have
                                                                              two sons and three grandchildren.
Interviewed by: Carol Rocco
                                                                              Interviewed By: Jared Gianatasio (grandson)

 PAUL POMERANZ                                                                                    THOMAS J. ROSEN
 World War II                                                                                                           Vietnam War

P    aul Pomeranz was born in the Bronx on December 1, 1924.
     He lived with his family through the Depression of 1929, and
attended public schools, graduating from Dewitt Clinton High
                                                                           D      uring December 1966, I was 24 years old and lived in
                                                                                  Rego Park, Queens. I was drafted into the Army. I went to
                                                                           basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina and received
School in June 1942. World War II was already going full blast at          Advanced Individual Training at Fort Dix, New Jersey. I then
that time. The United States entered the war in 1941, after hav-           went to Officer Candidate School located in Aberdeen, Proving
ing been attacked by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor on December 7            Grounds, Maryland, and was commissioned second lieutenant
of that year.                                                              October 11, 1967.
       After graduating High School, Paul attended Ohio                           I was first stationed at Fort Knox, Kentucky working with
University for six months. On March 10, 1943, Paul enlisted in             foreign officers who came there to receive training in armor tac-
the United States Army as a soldier in the Mountain Infantry. He           tics and warfare. ( Both of my daughter’s were born during this
spent 14 months training as an infantryman, which was to                   time). I decided that I was going to make the Army my career.
become the famous 10th Mountain Division.                                  My original commission was an ordinance, but then I took a
       In early 1944, Paul became restless, because the 10th               branch transfer to Military Intelligence.
Mountain looked like it was not going to see any action and was                   I went to Vietnam in November 1970 and returned in
destined to spend the war in the United States. He was transferred         November 1971. I was an advisor (in the southern part of
into the USSAF (Army Air Corp) for pilot training. Since the Air           Vietnam, living in the BacLieu Province), to the local
Force had too many pilots, he became a tail gunner in the 351              Vietnamese forces. There were times when I was out in the
Bomb Group, flying in a B17 based in England and bombing                   field and came under enemy fire. Other then that, it was a
Germany.                                                                   peaceful stay.
       On his sixth mission with the 8th Air Force, Paul’s group                  I was fearful on one particular mission when we were
was attacked by hundreds of German fighter planes. September               going to sleep. We heard some incoming rounds of gun fire. I
12, 1944 was the last great effort of the German Luftwaffe to try          was in good hands with the people that I was with so it was
to stop the massive allied air attacks. In two days, 90 American           over shortly. They got us out of the situation and brought us to
Bombers were shot down, Paul’s bomber being one of them.                   the base camp.
       Paul was shot down 25 miles outside Berlin, the target was                 My father, Samuel Rosen, spent some time in France dur-
Ruhrland, a Synthetic Oil Refinery. After parachuting 30,000 feet,         ing World War II. He was stationed in the Army, and after he
Paul landed in a tree - only four feet from the ground.                    got wounded, he served in the Judge Advocate. His experiences
Miraculously, he was unhurt. Hours later he was captured by the            in France were a great influence on my sister, brother and me.
Gestapo while foraging in a potato field looking for food. He was                 Most difficult for me during this time of war was my
turned over to the German Luftwaffe, and was then sent to a                separation from my wife, Vicki, and two daughters. I was
German prison camp in East Germany.                                        drafted and I was willing and proud to serve my country and
       Paul was incarcerated at Stalagluft IV, a prison camp holding       make the best of it by becoming an officer. My military career
8,000 American and 2,000 British flyers. He was kept there for             ended on August 28, 1973.
five months. Conditions were abominable, food and heat were vir-                  It was quite an adjustment coming back to civilian life. It
tually non-existent. On Feb. 6, 1945, the prisoners were forced            was harder for my wife because she was in her glory by being
out on the road and were to march west. They marched for two               involved with the Officers Wives Club and other activities.
months during the coldest winter in many years. There was very             She was a volunteer, and chairwoman of the Red Cross when I
little food and shelter.                                                   was in Arizona (after I came back from Vietnam). At Fort
       In early May of 1945, Paul was finally liberated by the             Knox, she worked in the Labor and Delivery Room at the
English and was sent to the hospital for three weeks to be treated         Hospital. I was able to be with her when our second daughter
for malnutrition and frostbite. He had lost 65 pounds during his           was born and I was the first non-medical person to be allowed
captivity. In June 1945, he returned to the United States and spent        in the delivery room. Back in 1970 it wasn’t typical for the
the remainder of his service in the Army at the Pawling                    father to be in the birthing room. That was a great experience!
Convelesant Hospital in Pawling, New York.                                        We relocated to Huntington in October 1973, because of
       On November 15, 1945, Paul Pomeranz was honorably dis-              the job I took with the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company,
charged from the Army of the United States and returned to civil-          which I’m still working for 24 years later. We couldn’t have
ian life and his family.                                                   been happier!
                                                                                  I enjoy being with my family, exercising, playing golf and
Interview by: Karen I. Brown                                               visiting my older daughter who lives in Indiana, with her hus-
                                                                           band and our grandson. Overall, I decided to make the experi-
                                                                           ence of being drafted and the war a positive one.

                                                                           Interviewed By: Karen I. Brown

 Vietnam War

A     s a draftee into the Army, I served on active duty during the
      Vietnam War from 1966-72. Inducted in August 1966, I
took basic training at Ft. Gordon, Ga., and eventually ended up in
                                                                              shot down and killed there. The other New Yorker was blown up
                                                                              by a booby trap and spent three years in physical rehabilitation at
                                                                              St. Albins Medical Center. He is doing well today, but shows the
Engineer Officers Candidate School at Ft. Belvoir, Va. I went on              signs of much scarring. Somehow I survived extremely dangerous
to flight school in Texas and Alabama and completed my military               events with little damage.
education at the University of Southern California Institute of                      The worst experience that I recall occurred during a large
Aeronautical Safety Management. The Army had been drafting                    troop insertion at a landing zone. Several aircraft were destroyed
larger numbers by 1966 and a good number of us were college                   in-flight, killing all aboard and my aircraft in particular suffered
students and graduates.                                                       major damage. We never got to the ground. I flew straight to the
       In 1969, I found myself being shipped to Vietnam where I               hospital with several dead and everyone wounded. Starting with
served as a combat helicopter pilot. The life expectancy was about            18 people in the ship, I was the only one to walk away. It is still
eight days. Keeping the aircraft flyable was a monumental task as             one of my worst memories and has a traumatic effect on my life.
we abused and overflew them continuously. Numerous times we                          I was discharged on August 22, 1969 and was in the first
were shot down or had mechanical failures causing emergency                   25,000-man withdrawal. We went to Hawaii and I was there for
landings. The exposure was tremendous, having less than eight                 about three to four weeks. I then transferred to Germany. I was a
seconds to enter and leave a landing zone. It was common to lose              Aircraft Accident Investigator, there wasn’t a whole lot of calls for
passengers and crew members to ground fire during a landing.                  that in Hawaii. So they transferred me to Europe, to be an
       Having survived without major physical injury, I consider              Accident Investigator and Safety Director. So that’s what I did for
myself to be one of the lucky ones. The predominance of a heli-               my last three years of active duty.
copter pilots duty was one of two functions, insert and extract                      I went to night school in Germany, and the University at
troops and supplies from combat zones, or fly heavily armed gun-              Maryland. I was trying to complete my bachelor’s degree, which
ships used to suppress ground opposition. I flew the troop and                was interrupted when I was drafted. I got some engineering edu-
supply ships, affectionately known as “Huey’s” for the designation            cation when I went to Engineer School and my flight training.
of UH-1 type aircraft.                                                        But when I got back from active duty, I went back to college on
       I served with the 9th Infantry Division, stationed on the              the GI Bill. I bought my first house on the GI Mortgage, with
Mekong River of the Delta area in a town known as IV Corps.                   no-money-down. So, there were some definite benefits that came
The heat was excessive, frequently surpassing the 100-degree mark             out of being in the service.
and far more than that inside a dark green helicopter. Weight loss                   The perception of what the soldiers did in Vietnam is very
was common. The soil was orange tinted and it stained our skin.               distorted here. I just can’t forget that, nor do I want to. I think a
       We were the more fortunate ones, in that we lived in wood-             lot of people have to realize that the people they were angriest at
en barracks, had private rooms, and daily showers. Food on the                were the people that had the least control as to what was going on
other hand was not so great. We ate on paper plates; used plastic             over in Vietnam. I felt that the civilians had a right to stand-up
utensils and the food tasted like the serving pieces. The only relief         and say “No”!
was to fly out to the Navy ships and dine with them. They had                        I don’t believe in war, I hope there is never another war. What
table linens, true china and silver service, and Philippine waiters.          needs to be clarified is that we have responsibilities. I was drafted,
       Vietnam was a very unusual experience in more ways than                and I looked at it, “the Draft is the Draft, the Draft is the Law, and
one could imagine. For instance, we were in a “pacification” pro-             until the law changes, I’m obligated to respond to that.” I knew the
gram, which meant don’t shoot unless shot at, and get permission              consequences were that I may end up in Vietnam. I didn’t want to
to shoot back unless it meant true self-defense. You never knew the           believe that being drafted meant going to Vietnam, I wanted to
enemy because of the guerrilla war efforts. We used to say of the             believe I had an obligation to my nation, and I had to fulfill that. I
Vietnamese, “Friendly by day, enemy by night.” You just didn’t                was always bothered by those who wouldn’t even support the
know. You would be in constant combat danger, yet go to Saigon                protest, but could criticize us for fighting.
and some of its suburbs, and you’d think you were on vacation in                     I had met my wife in Europe, she was an American School
some lush jungle. Having met a director of RMKBRJ, an engineer-               Teacher for the United States government. We got engaged and
ing firm, I was afforded a private tour of temples and museums,               married in Germany. We have two children. I had stayed with the
restaurants, and other resorts that revealed a different, and beauti-         National Guards reserves for many years. I was in the Insurance
ful, cultural past that belonged to this war torn nation. It only             Industry for 20 years. Ironically, one of the guys that I kept in
fueled the internal conflict that we all suffered as to what our actual       touch with all these years, owns the Summit Aviation Airport here
place in Vietnam was.                                                         in Farmingdale (Republic Airport), and had asked to me to come
       I had four very close friends during my military experiences.          work here as his sales/marketing director. This past year I joined
We were classmates in OCS and once commissioned, became                       forces with him. So, I’m back in Aviation again!
roommates. One from Texas, one from New York (as I was) and
one from Ohio. We all progressed to flight school at the same time
and eventually served in Vietnam during 1969. The Texan was

 World War II - U. S. Navy

2   0th Battalion - Metalsmith First Class - Enlisted April 1942.
    Reported to active duty in July 1942. Sent to Camp Allen,
Norfolk, Virginia. The 20th Battalion was commissioned in
                                                                             purification crew and found it most interesting and it also gave me
                                                                             the opportunity to get on the job training by some very talented
                                                                             Seabee tradesmen.
August 1942. Upon finishing boot training, we were shipped out                      A short distance from Woodlark there was another island
to Port Hueneme, California.                                                 named Kiriwina. The Army engineers and Australian Army were
       Our stay in California was rather short. In the beginning of          building air strips and revetments which were designed for the use
October, half of our battalion shipped out on the Navy transport             of four engine bombers and fighter escorts. This was to be used as
USS Coolidge and a short time later, we shipped out on USS                   the start of our offensive against the Japanese and the date set for
Mount Vernon. Both of these ships were very fast so they traveled            the start of bombing missions was October 12th. We received
across the Pacific without escorts. We landed in Noumea, New                 orders to send approximately three hundred men up to Kiriwina
Caledonia and joined the other half of our battalion.                        to help the engineers finish on time. Twenty-four hours before the
       The harbor of Noumea was inundated with loaded cargo                  deadline, we had finished three miles of air strips, forty revetments
ships. There was a desperate need for much of the equipment and              and the operations building. During this time, air raids were com-
supplies loaded on these ships. Supplies were needed on                      mon but the damage caused by the bombing were quickly repaired
Guadalcanal where our Marines were fighting desperately to secure            and now we were going to get our bombers in the air. Some of the
the island from the Japanese. Our battalion was given two assign-            fellows were fortunate to see our bombers and fighter planes take
ments. One was to unload the cargo ships and the other was to                off on their first mission to bomb the Japanese held islands,
help repair some damaged war ships. The first section of our bat-            Rabaul and Gasmata. This was the start of the New Guinea
talion was unloading ships when we arrived and now they were                 Campaign and the goal was the eventual return to the Japanese
joined by some of us and the others were repairing various ships.            held Philippines and then onto Japan.
To name a few, the flat top, USS Enterprise, heavy cruisers, USS                    By December, 1943, we had left Kiriwina and returned to
Minneapolis, USS Columbus battleship, USS South Dakota, etc.                 Woodlark. We all followed the advances being made against the
       In early spring, special Seabee battalions arrived and our out-       Japanese and it was encouraging. We were happy that the aggres-
fit was relieved from those duties. We were informed that our half           sor, Japan, was beginning to feel the sting of our military on land
of the battalion was ordered to be part of the Leatherneck                   and sea. In the beginning of April, we were told to secure the
Amphibious Task Force and we had to start amphibious training.               island.
We boarded the Navy transport, USS McCauley and for two                             On April 15th, we boarded the SS Mansfield and headed for
weeks we were out in the harbor on maneuvers. Everyday we                    Milne Bay, New Guinea. We unloaded all the equipment in Milne
climbed over the side of the ship with full pack and down the rope           Bay and I do not think it stopped raining for the two weeks we
ladders into a LCT (landing craft tank). Landed on the beach,                were there. Unfortunately, a few of us were infected by the malaria
back to the ship and back up the rope ladder. There were many                breeding mosquitoes before we left.
other exercises we went through during maneuvers and we were                        We left Milne Bay and sailed to Brisbane, Australia, We were
told that we did well.                                                       loaded into buses and taken to the resort town of Toowomba which
       A short time later, we were told to pack up and get ready to          was a U.S. Navy Submarine Rest Camp. The submarine boys were
leave. We were transported down to the docks and could not iden-             all out to sea, so we enjoyed two weeks of R & R (rest & relaxation).
tify the six ships that were up on the beach. The bow of these ships                When we returned to Brisbane, we boarded the SS Cape
were wide open and a ramp was in place from the beach into the               Neddick and landed on the island of Banika. We met up with the
bow of the ship. We were told that the ships were named LST’s,               other part of our battalion but no one was going home. We had
(landing ship tanks), and were built for amphibious landings. After          drawn another assignment and that was to turn this island into a
spending two weeks climbing up and down rope ladders on the                  storage depot. There were not too many smiling faces, but orders
troop ship, we now found ourselves walking up the ramp of the                are orders.
LST, into the tank and then up a short ladder to our quarters. I                    Finally, the long awaited word was received to prepare to
did not hear one complaint about the new LST’s. Our quarters                 leave the islands for the GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE. We boarded
were fine, the chow was almost gourmet and we were out of the                the Sea Fiddler, an Army transport and sailed over to Guadalcanal
island mud. One week later, we landed in Townsville, Australia.              to pick up some casualties. From there, we crossed the Pacific and
       Finally the task force was all assembled and it was good-bye          landed in San Francisco just five days short of two years overseas.
to Townsville. We sailed across the Coral Sea and the sea was                I was discharged on October 17, 1945. AMEN.
rough. The LST draws four feet of water in the bow and twelve                       Editor’s Note: Victor Martinetti is a member of the Veterans
feet in the stern. In rough seas it bobs up and down like a top and          Advisory Board and is the Chairman of the Huntington Town
many of us missed a few good meals. We were finally told that we             Veterans Committee. Mr. Martinetti spearheaded the tremendous
were headed for Woodlark Island and to be ready for the worst.               project of the development of the World War Monument which
We landed without incident but no one had told us the Japanese               was built on the front lawn of Huntington Town Hall. This mon-
had a night shift that flew bombers.                                         ument bears the names of over 4,000 World War II Veterans from
       We were kept busy building roads but there was not much               the Town of Huntington.
for a metalsmith to do on an island. I was assigned to the water             Interviewed By: Carol Rocco
 JOSEPH J. MCKENNA, JR.                                                                               JOSEPH BERBENICH
 World War II                                                                                                                    Korean War

J  oseph McKenna enlisted in the United States Navy in 1942 at the
   age of 20. By the following January, the Navy was looking for men
for a new division of the Navy called the Armed Guard. Mr.
                                                                                 F   or Joseph Berbenich, signing up for the Marine Reserves
                                                                                     before his 18th birthday was the culmination of all his child-
                                                                                 hood dreams. It was his goal for as long as he could remember.
McKenna was sent to Little Creek, Virginia where he was trained in               His duty began in 1948 and boot camp was all he had hoped for
gunnery on a ship to be part of this new division. After training, he            and more. When he completed his year, he became engaged to his
was sent to the Armed Guard Center in Brooklyn and waited for                    grammar school sweetheart, Joan Catherine Corrigan. He was
assignment orders.                                                               ready for anything.
       His first assignment was as a gunner aboard the Panam, a mer-                   What he did not count on was being called back before he
chant ship. The Navy Armed Guards were in charge of guns aboard                  had a chance to marry Joan and settle down. He was off to Korea
merchant ships and the Merchant Marines helped handle the ammu-                  with the First Marine Division in the fall of 1950 where he served
nition. The ship was torpedoed and sank in 20 minutes. “I was on                 during the harsh winter of 1950-51. The surprise notwithstand-
the bridge on watch. We saw something pass the bow. Ten seconds                  ing, he still considers his time in the service as the “best time of
later we got hit. We were told to man the guns, but our gun barrel               my life.”
was broken.”                                                                           Before the Chinese came down into South Korea, he said,
       Survivors were picked up by a Coast Guard cutter about 100                they “led the life of Riley” in Korea. There was camaraderie among
miles off the Carolina coast. During the rescue, instructions were               the men and although there was a war mentality and they were
given to jump off the life boat while the bow was up. One man, how-              always on their guard, he said the Korean people were very good
ever, hesitated and he was crushed between the cutter and the life               to them. “The problem was you didn’t know who the emery was.
boat. Mr. McKenna was awarded the Purple Heart for wounds                        In the daytime they might have been nice, and at nighttime they
received during the sinking. An ammo box was knocked over and                    were out fighting in the fields.”
injured his leg.                                                                       But everything changed when they had to push the Chinese
       After a 10 day leave for his leg injury, Mr. McKenna was assigned         back up the Chosin Reservoir that winter. “The weapons were
to the SS John E. Schmeltzer, a liberty ship that transported General            freezing, the men were freezing. We lost more people to frostbite
Clark’s 5th Army to Northern Africa and British General Montgomery’s             than we did to gunshot wounds.” What gave them the edge to
8th Army to Salano. The first night out, the German’s had sent reconi-           win was that they had supplies and food, where the Chinese did
sance planes over and they shelled the Schmeltzer. An entire British anti-       not. And the most dangerous time of the maneuver was coming
aircraft unit got wiped out in the attack.                                       back down the reservoir. In addition to temperatures of 20-30
       While on the Schmeltzer, Mr. McKenna helped transport sup-                below freezing, they still had some Chinese and North Koreans
plies to France just in time for D-Day. They had to wait for the                 troops to contend with on the way south, with mountains on
beach to be secured. Mr. McKenna received a medal for the invasion               either side.
of Normandy.                                                                           “The days were better times to rest, because at night the
       The words of caution issued by the Armed Forces during the                Chinese were great for coming at you. If you stopped you found a
war about “loose lips sink ships” were well heeded by Mr. McKenna.               bayonet in your face. Most of the travel was in the afternoons or
On the Schmeltzer one day, he and some buddies were playing check-               evenings, because in the daytime you could see the enemy.”
ers when the music stopped on the radio and a woman announcer, a                       A year later he was sent back stateside and never got called
propagandist for the Germans, said hello to the ‘boys on the                     back again. “It was a good place to be and a good place to come
Schmeltzer.’ It took Mr. McKenna and his shipmates by surprise. In               home from.” When he did come home, he married Joan, in
another incident, he had been approached in Norfolk, by a man he                 November of 1952. In 1967 they moved to Huntington, for what
didn’t know who asked him to bring back some perfume from                        he describes a “good life” which has included raising 5 children
Marseille and tried to hand him a couple hundred dollars. “How did               and running a successful business.
he know where I was going,” Mr. McKenna said. “I reported him.”                        While he devoted the next 40 years to his family, he never
       Mr. McKenna recalls some tense moments during his service                 forgot he was a Marine. And when Desert Storm began in 1990,
career. One such incident involved friendly fire from United States              he tried to re-enlist at the age of 58.
planes mistaking the Schmeltzer for an enemy ship and dive bombing                     “I might not have been able to do much shooting but.... I
it. “We had to start firing at them. Maybe they couldn’t recognize               could drive a truck...something to help.” He was told they had
who we were, it happened a lot. Shoot first and ask questions later.”            enough people to do the job. “Fortunately they did.”
Fortunately, nobody was hurt in the fracas. “I saw a lot of ships torpe-
doed, especially tankers. They usually had to stay outside of the con-           Interviewed by Lisa Ann Broughton
voy. I saw one ship go down with guys hanging on to the bow. At the
time, it did not even bother me. I had no fear.”
       Mr. McKenna said it wasn’t until he got older that he realized
how terrible it all was and how he had been in grave danger at certain
points. “I was in a hurricane. I never saw waves that high. I was told
to stand bow watch.” He was discharged December 20, 1945.
Interviewed by: Josephine Jahier
 World War II

A     lfred DiGiacomo (926 Signal Bn, TAC, 9th AF) was born
      November 29, 1922 in Huntington Station. He enlisted in
the Army Signal Corps, November 1942 and trained at Ft.
                                                                                   “Outside the fence were houses for the administrators.
                                                                            Children actually played outside this place.
                                                                                   “I met an English speaking prisoner who took me on a tour
Monmouth, Drew Field and Seymour Johnson Field, North                       of the barrack, toilet, showers, hospital and crematorium which
Carolina. In October 1943, he embarked on the Queen Mary to                 still contained human remains. Six hundred men slept in 100-foot
the British Isles and was assigned to the 926 Signal Battalion              long barracks, six men deep, side by side on wood board bunk
attached to the 9th Tactical Air Force.                                     beds, four tiers high. If someone died during the night they had to
       The assignment of the 9th Tactical Air Command was to                wait until morning to remove him.
provide air support for the ground forces. DiGiacomo, with other                   “The toilets were in a separate building. They were open
members of his battalion, landed in Normandy shortly after D-               latrines. I was told that if someone was ill and weak and was sit-
Day to set up and operate communications. He dashed through                 ting on a latrine, there were instances of his being pushed into the
France after the breakout and was slightly wounded in the Battle            latrine so someone could get his food ration that night. They were
of the Bulge. He crossed the river Rhine at Remagen and was in              given two meals a day. They worked in a nearby factory until the
Wiemar where he visited the Buckenwald Camp. After the war in               allies bombed it out of existence. It was at Buckenwald that lamp-
Europe ended, he was assigned to the Pacific theater for the inva-          shades were made of tattooed human skin. Over 50,000 people
sion of Japan. The war ended while he was still in Europe.                  died at this place.
       Alfred DiGiacomo had earned six battle stars, European                      “We were feeding the prisoners with a controlled diet. As
Theater medal, Good Conduct medal, Meritorious Service order                they became stronger they worked in our kitchen. One Polish man
and Belgium Fourragere.                                                     was adopted by some men of Polish descent in our unit. We called
       After being discharged, he studied architecture and became           him ‘Buckenwald Benny’. When we moved out of Wiemar so the
and architect; designing numerous public buildings.                         Russians could take over, we dressed Benny in an army uniform
       He recently retired from Cornell University. He and his wife,        and took him east. After our unit broke up Benny remained in a
Mary, are the parents of six children and live in Ithaca, New York.         displaced persons camp. The men that adopted him were able to
       Editor’s note: The following is Alfred DiGiacomo’s eye witness       get him to the United States sometime later. He settled in the
account of the Buckenwald concentration camp in May 1945.                   Chicago area and appeared on ‘This is your Life’ TV show.”
       “I walked over to the Buckenwald concentration camp which
is located near our quarters in German Army barracks. My friend
Erickson, who was one of the first of our group to visit the camp,
warned me how horrific it was (he also said “now I know what we
were fighting for”). It was still a shock to me to see the living
skeletons, some of whom simply sat on the ground too weak to
move and the dead wasted bodies stacked like cordwood next to
the crematorium. It was reported that 500 to 600 people per
week were cremated here.
       “The camp was enclosed with high fences with towers at var-
ious intervals. Wooden barracks were lined up in rows. The crema-
torium was in a brick building. There was also a hanging gallows.
Since there was no trap, it was execution by slow strangulation.

 FRANK DIGIACOMO                                                                    CHARLES MICCIANTUONO
 World War I                                                                                                                  World War II

F    rank DiGiacomo of Huntington Station served with the 77th
     Division, First Battalion Company G, 308 Infantry Regiment.
He was an infantryman.
                                                                              I  was only 10 years old and lived in Brooklyn at the time of
                                                                                 World War II. I became a Korean veteran by enlisting in the
                                                                              Navy in June, 1951. I served abroad a fleet oil and gas tanker ship
       Mr. DiGiacomo entered the Army on October 8, 1917 and                  for the planes and aircraft carriers. It was called the U.S.S. Severn,
trained at Camp Upton in Yaphank. On March 28, the 77th                       A. O61. I was on one side of the fence while the action was on the
Division, with a strength of 26,500 men, moved to the ports of                other side.
embarkation. They sailed to Liverpool during the months of                          Prior to going into the service, I was dating my wife Loretta,
March and April, and then in May 1918 to Calais, France.                      and it was kind of difficult being away from her. From June
       They trained in France and served in the Baccarat sector in            through September, I was in boot camp at Banebridge, Maryland
June 1918. In August, the men were assigned to the French Sixth               (very hot and humid). A special song that comes to my mind dur-
Army. They fought at Vesle sector, and St. Mihiel in the Oise-Aise            ing boot camp was Tony Bennett’s “Because of You”. During
offensive from August 11 to September 16, suffering losses of                 leave, we would get together. I was sick with an infection in my
4,600 men killed, wounded and missing.                                        leg and was in the hospital for a week.
       On September 26, when Pershing got his American Army                         Traveling was a tremendous benefit. I got to see Italy, the
together, they began the Meuse Argonne offensive. The Argonne                 Island of Sardinia, Messina, Algiers, Tangiers and Lisbon, Portugal.
sector is filled with woods and ravines. It was defended in depth             Before Christmas 1951, my father’s parents, his three brothers and
with machine guns and trenches. It was a difficult battleground.              two sisters were living in a small town in Italy called Corato, a
On October 2, Mr. DiGiacomo’s battalion, the 308th Infantry,                  Province of Bari, which is a seaport that borders the Adriatic Sea.
advanced ahead of the line with no flank support. The enemy                   I got a four day leave and a second class ticket to Bari.
worked its way behind them and they soon found themselves sur-                      I met an Italian school teacher on the train who spoke
rounded. They formed a defense perimeter and fought off the                   English. He said, “let me take you to the bus depot which will
enemy attacks.                                                                take you right into the town you want to go to.” So, I got off the
       Their commander, Major Whittlesey, rejected the enemy                  train and he directed me to the bus depot. We ended up enjoying
demand for surrender. They were under heavy fire constantly and               demitasse coffee together. He would not allow me to pay, so the
water had to be taken from a nearby stream covered by enemy                   man treated me. When I finally reached the town and got off,
machine guns. Their losses were heavy: 550 men walked in and                  another man directed me to my destination, so I tipped him with
only 194 walked out. A total 107 were killed. On October 7, they              a package of cigarettes. This was the first time I had ever seen my
were finally relieved.                                                        grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. It was very exciting!
       Mr. DiGiacomo said several bullets went through his clothes                  Upon leaving the Navy, I worked part time to put money
without wounding him. Another clipped off a small piece of his                away for a home. I could have gone to school which would’ve
nose. He recalled the sounds of war such as the machine gun                   benefited me, but I didn’t take advantage of this.
chatter and the sound of incoming artillery (rushing sound of air                   The end of the Korean War was in 1953. I was glad they
changing to a whistle when it was upon you). He also described                signed the Peace Treaty. When there is a war, somebody dies.
their life in the trenches and what it felt like to go “Over the Top.”        Somebody said, “the old men make the mistakes, and the young
He had his clothes torn at one time by a grenade blast, receiving             men die”. Just like this thing going on now with Iraq, I hope it
minor wounds. He was gassed in one attack, was temporarily                    doesn’t evolve into another violent situation again!
blinded and suffered lung damage (which finally killed him).                        In August, 1953, I was discharged (ranked third class electri-
       Mr. DiGiacomo also told of how his captain was wounded.                cian) and came home by October 10, 1953. Loretta and I got
Mr. DiGiacomo carried him on his back from the battle front                   married and lived in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn at the time. In January,
until Mr. DiGiacomo became exhausted. The soldier who took                    1960, we moved to Huntington. We are the proud parents of five
over from Mr. DiGiacomo received all the credit. Mr. DiGiacomo                children and now have 11 grandchildren.
was not well versed in the English language at that time.
       The 77th Division remained in the line, participating in the           Interviewed by: Karen I. Brown
second and third battle of the Argonne until it was relieved on
November 12th - a day after the armistice which marked the end
of World War I. In that engagement they suffered 5,200 casual-
ties. The 308 Infantry had 3,364 men in July and in October, it
totalled 2,265. In April 1919, they sailed from Brest to New York.
Mr. DiGiacomo was discharged at Camp Upton on May 21,
1919. He became a United States citizen automatically for serving
in the U. S. Army.
       Frank DiGiacomo lived at 19 Railroad Street in Huntington
Station until his death. He is buried in St. Patrick’s Cemetery.
Submitted By: Alfred DiGiacomo.

 Korean War

       “I went into the Army because they were taking people out                    As an officer, Mr. Hurd was responsible for training men for
of college for the Korean War,” Peter Hurd recalled. As a student            military police service. Not all men were cut out for the duty. “I had
at St. Lawrence University in upstate New York, Mr. Hurd partici-            one guy who tried to commit suicide,” he said. “I decided that he
pated in the school’s ROTC program. Upon graduation, he was                  did not belong in the military police, he should have been in the
commissioned as an officer.                                                  Airborne. Because if he wanted to commit suicide, he could just
       Six months later, he was assigned to active duty in the mili-         jump out of the plane and not pull the chord. So I transferred him
tary police at Ft. Gordon, Georgia. While many found the trans-              to Airborne. I never heard from him but he was happy to be going.”
formation from civilian to military life difficult, Mr. Hurd was                    Following his service, Mr. Hurd obtained a job with the
prepared. “I did not have to make much of an adjustment,” he                 Peabody Shirt Company. While he did not travel while in the mil-
said. “I was regimented very early, I went to very strict church             itary, he racked up many miles in the private sector. “I traveled the
schools. There were really no problems from a discipline point of            territory of Bermuda, Nassau, Cuba and Puerto Rico,” he said.
view. I had already been through that.”                                      “That’s when Havana was one of the greatest towns in the world.”
       At Fort Gordon, Mr. Hurd was assigned to the 504th                    He later went into outdoor advertising.
Military Police Brigade - one of the most elite military police units               He is very proud of his service to his country. “I think every-
possessed by the United States. “It was kind of a show battalion,”           one should go through the military. I think it kind of rounds you
he said. “We did a lot of parades and show things.” The unit had             out, gives you discipline and direction. I was happy to do it and
to be sharp at all times because a gentleman by the name of                  would do it again if I had to.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower used to stop by the base periodically.
       “He used to play all the time at Augusta (home of The                 Interviewer: Ellen C. Kelly
Masters),” Mr. Hurd said. “He was a real golf nut. He would be at
the post all the time.”

 ALFRED J. BAKER                                                                                                 BILL MARION
 Vietnam War                                                                                                                World War II

A    lfred Baker enlisted in the Army Reserves in June 1961. He
     was 17 and was made a Squad Leader during basic training
in Ft. Dix, New Jersey. He enjoyed the training period and to
                                                                             B    ill Marion was a sergeant in the United States Marine Corp.
                                                                                  He was never in combat but was overseas during World War
                                                                             II. He was trained for the invasion of Japan which never hap-
this day remembers the wonderful physical condition and build-               pened. Mr. Marion enlisted in the Marine Corp immediately
ing of discipline he received. He was impressed about how effi-              after graduating high school at the age of 18. He was eager to
cient the Armed Services were.                                               enlist. Many people were doing it at that time, so he thought that
      Mr. Baker enlisted in the Reserves because he wanted to be a           it was what he was supposed to do. Several of his friends left
police officer. His family was rescued from a gas leak by a police           before graduation and ended up dying in combat. No one else in
emergency service unit when he was a young boy and from then                 his family was in the service.
on he could think of nothing else but becoming a policeman.                         According to Mr. Marion, placement in location of service
      When he arrived at Ft. Dix, the first few days were very diffi-        was destined by your last name alphabetically, A to M went to
cult. The “shots” the recruits received stand out in his mind. The           replace killed and wounded in Iwo Jima and N to Z went to the
experience was surreal. During June of 1961 and 1962, President              invasion of Okinawa. There was Bill Marion’s destiny - possibly
Kennedy activated the Reserves due to Check Point Charlie - the              saved by his last name. He spent 22 months in the South Pacific -
Berlin Wall incident. Instead of coming home after his training,             trained in Hawaii at Camp Tarawa with the Fifth Marine Division.
Mr. Baker went on active duty and was sent to Ft. Lee, New                          A difficult adjustment from civilian to military life was leav-
Jersey. He was in the Quarter Master Unit. He was discharged in              ing his pleasant home life to living with all different types of peo-
August of 1962.                                                              ple. His most memorable experiences were traveling overseas, visit-
      Mr. Baker became a police officer, serving in the 69th                 ing Hawaii, China, Japan and the South Pacific.
Precinct. He spent 25 years serving in the Emergency Service Unit                   He will never forget the Japanese city of Sasebo. The city was
and retired in 1990. Mr. Baker said he learned a lot about life              destroyed - leveled by an incendiary bomb. Sasebo was 40 miles
from the men he served with in the Army.                                     west of Nagasaki. On his march through Sasebo to his station at a
                                                                             Naval base, he saw unbelievable devastation. Even the ships in the
Interviewed by: Joyce Conklin                                                harbor were destroyed. “At 19, I will never forget what I saw - it
                                                                             was just burned into my mind.”
                                                                                    When Mr. Marion left the service he was glad to get home.
                                                                             At age 21, he had much to do.
                                                                                                               Interviewed by: Meryl T. Feingold

 World War II

A     nthony Costa served aboard the “Lucky Phoenix” in World
      War II and saw his ship, like its mythical namesake, truly rise
from the ashes of destruction to survive more than three years in
the Atlantic and Pacific theaters.
       Mr. Costa enlisted in the Navy after graduating from high
school in 1940 and was discharged a Gunners Mate Third Class.
In September, 1941, the Phoenix escorted a troop ship carrying
10,000 men to the Philippines. The Phoenix was one of three
ships that escorted a total of 30,000 troops.
       On December 7th, 1941, in Pearl Harbor, Mr. Costa was
waiting to go to the battleship USS California when he heard
what sounded like 150,000 planes dropping bombs. There were
explosions everywhere, dive bombers, torpedo planes overhead.
The Oklahoma rolled over, spilling fuel all over the surface of the
water. All six battleships were sunk or damaged.
       The Phoenix then did convoy duty, evacuating the Asiatic,
Dutch and Australian fleet from Java. In July and August of
1942, it patrolled in Guadalcanal. In September, 1943, the
Phoenix took Secretary of State Cordell Hull to a conference in
Casablanca. In February, 1944, the ship carried General
MacArthur from Australia to the Admiralty Islands invasion.
Japanese bombers dove on the Phoenix in April, 1944, killing one,
wounding four, and damaging the ship. It was attacked again by
torpedoes. In December, 1944, it was attacked by Japanese sub-
marines. The Phoenix aided in the taking of Corregidor in
Manila, and the oil fields and refineries in Borneo.
       In August, 1945, the Phoenix received word of the dropping
of the atomic bomb and on its way back to the United States the
war officially ended. The first stop on the way home was Pearl
Harbor, Mr. Costa’s most memorable war experience, the place he
had left some three and half years before. His homecoming was
especially joyous because his brother, whom he had not seen for
four years, was returning from service in Europe.
       The Phoenix earned twelve battle stars, nine in the Asiatic-
Pacific, two in the Philippines and one in the American defense,
for a total of twenty five engagements, filled with blood and tears.
It was to be decommissioned in the Philadelphia Navy Yard after
its legendary contribution to the allied victory.
       For Mr. Costa, his return to civilian life was “like starting a
new adventure - it was very much looked forward to.”

Interviewed by: Rose Baylis and Ann Sullivan

 World War II / Korean War

C     olonel Francis S. Gabreski was the top American Air Ace in
      the European Theatre of Operations with 31 enemy fighters
destroyed in aerial combat plus three on the ground. Colonel
Gabreski was also an Ace in the Korean War with 6.5 fighters shot
down in aerial combat. Today, Colonel Gabreski is the top living
American air ace.
       The military aviation career of Colonel Gabreski began in
July 1940 and he graduated from Maxwell Air Force Base,
Alabama in March 1941. He was assigned to the 45th Fighter
Squadron of the 15th fighter group in Hawaii. He was at Wheeler
Field when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. In November
1942, he was sent to England and flew Spitfires in 20 combat mis-
sions. In February 1943, he was assigned to the 56th Fighter
Group in England.
       In July 1944, Colonel Gabreski was on furlough awaiting
transportation directions to the states when he volunteered to lead
his squadron into Germany. Returning, he elected to hit a German
airfield that had many planes parked on it. On his second pass at
the field, his prop tips hit a small rise in the runway, bending the
prop tips with resultant engine vibration, forcing him to make a
crash landing. He fled from his aircraft and eluded the Germans             Operations. In the summer of 1956, he was assigned to Myrtle
for five days. After being captured he was a prisoner of war for 10         Beach Air Force Base, South Carolina, as commander of the 354th
months in Stalag Luft 1, and was liberated by the Russian Army in           Tactical fighter Wing. After 4 years at Myrtle Beach, Colonel
April 1945.                                                                 Gabreski was assigned to command the 18th Tactical Fighter
       During his tour in the European Theatre of Operations, he            Wing, F-100 Unit at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa.
flew 165 combat missions in British Spitfires and American P-47                    In the summer of 1963, the Colonel assumed the post of
airplanes. After his liberation from the prisoner of war camp in            Inspector General for the Pacific Air Forces. His last assignment
May, 1945, Colonel Gabreski returned to the United States and               before retiring from the military was Commander of the 52nd
was assigned to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, as Chief of          fighter Wing at Suffolk County Air Force Base from August 1963
the Fighter Test Section. At this time, he attended the                     to November 1967.
Engineering Flight Test School qualifying him as a test pilot. He                  Colonel Gabreski was integrated into the regular Air Force as
remained in this capacity until April, 1946, when he separated              a first lieutenant on May 29, 1947. On March 11, 1950, he was
from the Air Force to accept a position with the Douglas Aircraft           promoted to temporary rank of colonel and attained his perma-
Corporation in California.                                                  nent rank of Colonel on December 1, 1959. As eighth “Jet Ace”
       In April, 1947, Colonel Gabreski was recalled to active ser-         in aerial history, he has accumulated over 5,000 hours flying time,
vice and assigned as Commanding Officer of the 55th Fighter                 with 4,000 hours of this being jet time. He is current in modern
Squadron, 20th Fighter Group, Shaw Air Force Base, South                    jet fighter aircraft.
Carolina, He served in this capacity until September, 1947, when                   Colonel Gabreski’s combined score of enemy aircraft destroyed
he entered Columbia University under the Air Force Educational              during World War II and the Korean conflict stands at 37 1/2 and
Program to study the Russian language and Political Science.                makes him top living Air Ace in the United States today.
       In August, 1949 Colonel Gabreski was reassigned to the                      Colonel Gabresky was married to Catherine Cochran and is
56th Fighter Group at Selfridge Air Force Base, Michigan, as                the father of nine children, six daughters and three sons, two of
Commanding Officer. In June, 1951, he was assigned to the 4th               whom are Air Force Academy graduates and pilots in the U.S.
fighter Interceptor wing in Korea and later as commander of the             Air Force.
51st Fighter Interceptor Wing. While with the 51st, Colonel                        When he retired from active military service in 1967,
Gabreski became history’s eight “Jet Ace” on April, 1952.                   Colonel Gabreski had flown more combat missions than any other
       Colonel Gabreski returned to the United States, June 16,             American fighter pilot. He had held command of fighter wings
1952, and was assigned to the Office of Inspector General, USAF,            longer than any other Air Force Officer. But Colonel Gabresky
at Norton Air Force Base, California, where he was Chief of                 “Gabby” did not stay retired long. He worked for Grumman
Combat Operations Section.                                                  Aircraft Corporation for many years, and later, as a result of his
       In 1954, Colonel Gabreski was chosen to attend the USAF              proven managerial skills, took over as President and General
Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, graduating              Manager of the Long Island Railroad.
in 1955. He was then assigned to Headquarters, 9th Air Force,
Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, as Deputy Chief of Staff,              Interviewed by: Carol Rocco

 DONALD GUNDERMANN                                                                          RICHARD W. JOHNSON
 Vietnam War                                                                                                                Vietnam War

D     onald Gundermann, president of Gundermann &
      Gundermann of Huntington, was only a few months from
his college graduation when he was drafted into the Army during
                                                                             R     ichard Johnson had
                                                                                   graduated from
                                                                             Huntington High School a
the Vietnam War. As he waited with 2,000 men receiving overseas              year earlier and before he
assignments, alphabetically by last name, the orders were all for            knew it he was on his way
Germany - until they came to him. He was the first to be                     to Fort Dix, New Jersey.
assigned to Vietnam. Mr. Gundermann was engaged to his college               He was drafted into the
sweetheart and they had decided to wait to be married if he was              U.S. Army at age 19. He
sent to Vietnam.                                                             went to boot camp with a
      He has many memories of his military years - some funny,               young Hispanic man also
some heart wrenching. The food was pretty bad so he and a                    from the Town of
bunch of his buddies decided to raid the food storage building               Huntington.
where some good dehydrated food was rumored to be. A guard                          After boot camp,
spotted them and they were fired on. The soldiers made it back               Richard was sent to Fort
with their food - only to discover it was succotash. “I can’t believe        Sill, Oklahoma to train as
I risked my life for succotash,” he said.                                    a cannoneer in field
      They were near the northern border of the DMZ and were                 artillery. After three months of training, he volunteered for para-
being shelled, so they had sandbagged their camp. A general came             trooper school in Ft. Benning, Georgia. He completed two
and told their commander that he didn’t like the looks of the                months training there. He then received orders to go to Ft. Hood,
sandbags and he wanted the area clean. They were told to sweep               Texas, 2nd Armored Division, coincidentally, the same division
and rake the dirt. Mr. Gundermann thought this was a ridiculous              that Elvis Presley was in. The 2nd A.D. was nicknamed “Hell on
order since it jeopardized the safety of the men. His commander              Wheels.” They were a mechanized field artillery brigade. Richard
agreed but said he had to follow orders.                                     volunteered to go to Vietnam. He arrived at the port of entry
      Mr. Gundermann said that his most memorable moment                     Cam Rahn Bay and was sent to Long Binh Plantation.
was when his plane took off from Vietnam for home - always a                        He then received his orders and was further sent to field
dangerous departure because of attacks from the jungle. When                 artillery compounds. He was stationed in Anloc, a rubber tree
the plane was airborne, he heard a sound he had never heard                  plantation which was a fire support base. Richard’s job was to do
before - and hasn’t since - a kind of “primal scream” from the 200           fire missions, firing rounds of ammunition overhead to assist sup-
men on that plane - a combination of all their pent-up emotions              port troops advance. He was sent to a total of five different fire
during the two years in that terrible war. He says when he is                support bases doing the same job.
reminded of that time, he can still hear that collective scream!                    One time he remembered a real frightening incident. A
      Mr. Gundermann and his college sweetheart were married as              mortar landed within 25 feet - luckily it was a dud.
soon as he returned to the United States. They are the parents of                   Richard recalls that any soldier in Vietnam less than 90 days
three children. One of his happier memories of his service years is          was considered a “newbee.” During a fire mission, Richard and a
“having the opportunity to work shoulder to shoulder with people             “newbee” got caught in front of a 175 millimeter Howitzer
so very dissimilar to the people I grew up with and who I would              Cannon, which is one of the largest field artillery guns used by the
never have gotten to know so well under any other circumstances.             U.S. Army. Richard got them both in a fetal position to try to
It was a very broadening experience.”                                        avoid sound concussion - which could have easily destroyed their
                                                                             hearing. Again as luck would have it - he was fine.
Interviewed by: Ann Sullivan                                                        Ironically, the scariest memory he recalled was his departure
                                                                             from Vietnam. He was on a bus in the middle of the night head-
                                                                             ing for Vungtau Airport - 60 soldiers, no weapons and pitch black.
                                                                             They all felt totally vulnerable at this point. He said you could
                                                                             hear a pin drop until they arrived at the airport. One year after his
                                                                             arrival he headed home through Hawaii to San Francisco.
                                                                                    Richard feels he is one of the lucky veterans of the Vietnam
                                                                             War because he suffered no physical or emotional injuries. He
                                                                             believes his tour of duty gave him a real education on life and how
                                                                             fragile it can be.

                                                                             Interviewed by: Carol Rocco

 STANLEY B. KLEIN                                                                                    ANTHONY LABITA
 World War II                                                                                                             World War II

D     r. Klein attempted to join the service at age 17. He graduated
      high school and wanted to join the Navy V - 12 program in
1944. Unfortunately, his eyes were bad and the Navy did not take
                                                                            A    nthony LaBita entered the
                                                                                 service at the age of 18.
                                                                            Originally a candidate for the
him. He wanted desperately to join the Navy as his father had re-           paratroopers, he opted and
enlisted in 1941 in Navy Intelligence. Dr. Klein’s father served in         went instead to a top secret
WWI in the cavalry - as a non-commissioned officer. After WWI               communications unit. He
he resigned because he was not allowed in the Officer’s Club, only          worked his way up to the rank
West Point or Virginia Military Institute graduates were allowed.           of tech sergeant during his par-
After Pearl Harbor his dad re-enlisted in the Navy V-12 program.            ticipation in World War II.
      Both father and son served their country simultaneously -             His unit, which consisted of
father in the Navy at age 41 and son at age 18 in the Army                  six people, arrived in the
Air Corp.                                                                   European Theater just in time
      Dr. Klein, the Town of Huntington historian, entered New              for the Battle of the Bulge.
York University and attended from January, 1944 to June, 1945               Being the communications
and at age 18 he voluntarily joined the Army Air Corp. He com-              team, his unit acted as the link
pleted boot camp in Keesler Field, Biloxi, Mississippi. He experi-          from the army lines to head-
enced tremendous prejudice from his drill sergeant, who disliked,           quarters. They had to set themselves up on the highest hill possi-
according to Dr. Klein, “northerners, blacks, and Jews.” After boot         ble so that their visibility would be increased and the communica-
camp, he did further training in Denver, Colorado - where he was            tions data could travel father.
trained as an administrative assistant. He was sent to the 5th Air                 Mr. LaBita joined the Army because he felt it was the right
Corp in the Philippines. He witnessed the freeing of the                    thing to do at the time. His unit received two combat stars and a
Philippines which was an agreement with the United States in                presidential citation for their effort during wartime. He experi-
1902 to occur in 40 years. However, it occurred four years later            enced much during the war. One time, his unit was surrounded
on July 4, 1946 because the Japanese were in control of the                 for 36 hours and they had to get food air-dropped in. Another
Philippines in 1942. It was an exciting time for the Philippines            time during the night his unit got a call to leave camp. When they
and Dr. Klein was fortunate to meet and speak with Vice                     returned, their tent was riddled with machine gun holes. Once
President Quirino during the ceremonies. Later, the vice president          when he was crossing the Rhine, he witnessed dead United States
became president of the Philippines after President Rojas was               paratroopers hanging from the trees. Mr. LaBita believes these
assassinated.                                                               experiences helped him mature quickly. Also during the war, his
      Dr. Klein was the non-commissioned officer in charge of               unit witnessed the atrocities of the concentration camps in Belson.
personnel records for the Fifth Air Corp in the Philippines under           The thing Mr. LaBita remembers the most is the stagnant smell in
General Kelly. The Fifth Air Corp was nicknamed “Kelly’s Kids.”             the air. Their unit had interrupted the Germans, who were burn-
They were the tactical Air Force and coordinated efforts with the           ing and burying prisoners of war.
ground troops “mechanized cavalry.” Their job was to take out                      To Mr. LaBita, the war was a great adventure and learning
specific targets to help the ground troops move forward. Their              place. He developed great friends with whom he had a wonderful
mission was targeted on the Island of Luzon, the capital island of          time. However, he saw numerous atrocities. He recollects vividly
the Philippine Islands.                                                     the most horrible personal experience, which was watching two of
      General Kelly would get all generals together to plan air             his friends get decapitated by a wire strung across the road they
strikes and after plans were completed, General Kelly would                 were driving on.
always visit the chaplain. One day, Dr. Klein was curious and                      He credits the military with helping him decide on college
asked General Kelly why he went to the chaplain. Replied                    and major in psychology. All in all, he is happy to have served his
General Kelly: “Young man, I hope you never get to a command                country during its time of need, believing that there was just a
position, but if you do and you do everything right, you have to            “spirit of that was where you belonged.”
consider that you have killed 10 percent of your men.” Dr. Klein
never forgot these spine-tingling words from a man who really               Interviewed by: Michael Higgins
cared about his men during World War II.

Interviewed by: Carol Rocco

 World War II

                                                                                 a staff sergeant in the United States Air Force, was finally liberated
T     hey say war is hell. But for prisoners of war it can be even worse.
      When the Second World War came to an end a half century
ago, nations were liberated, cheers rang out around the globe and
                                                                                 on May 3, 1945.
                                                                                        Recently, Mr. Colamonico returned to Germany and visited
celebrations were launched in cities, towns and villages all over                Stalag 17 and several of the other towns he had passed through
the world.                                                                       during the war. He said that much has changed and that there is a
       For Michael Colamonico of Huntington, liberation from the                 lot that is difficult to remember. Some of his experiences in captiv-
brutal German army was the end of a hellish nightmare. “I have to                ity he will never forget, however, and remain as vivid today as
tell you, I looked death in the eye. It was an incredible experi-                when it happened.
ence,” recalled Mr. Colamonico. “When we were liberated, it was                         “When I was first captured, they had me in a building with
a nice sunny morning. The skies seemed to open up and it just                    an opaque window and I remember one day looking at it and see-
seemed to turn from dark to light. When we saw that American                     ing God. I tell you I saw God right there. A lot happens to you
major come driving up the road in a jeep, a scream went up.                      when you’re a prisoner,” said Mr. Colamonico, a Brooklyn native
Guys starting crying. We had been under tremendous stress that                   drafted into the military in August, 1942. “I can remember as
was being lifted. It is really hard for people to imagine it.”                   clear as it was yesterday saying to God, ‘why is this happening to
       For most people, New Year’s Eve is a festive holiday event.               me.’ I never did anything wrong in my life.”
For Mr. Colamonico, it signals the anniversary of his capture by                        After the war, Mr. Colamonico returned to Brooklyn and to
the Germans. At the tail end of a 13 hour bombing run, the B-17                  the textile industry, enjoying a long career selling for J. P. Stevens.
bomber on which Mr. Colamonico was the top turret gunner was                     After his retirement, he became active with veterans affairs issues
shot down by a German Messerschmidt fighter plane over France,                   and joined the Nassau/Suffolk Long Island American Ex-Prisoners
December 31, 1943.                                                               of War Association, which meets at the Northport Veterans Affairs
       “This guy came in so close that I could see the whites of his             Medical Center. For two years, from 1988 to 1990, he served as
eyes,” said Mr. Colamonico of the German fighter pilot that shot                 commander of the group. He is now a member of the Veterans of
down his bomber. “I know that I hit him and that is what I was                   Huntington Committee.
going to put in my report when we got back.”                                            Editor’s note: In late May of 1997, Mr. Colamonio’s 92nd
       That never happened, however. The German fighter was hit                  Bomb Group bomber crew was honored in France with ceremonies
but when it passed the mighty B-17 it shot out one of the engines                and testimonial dinners in the Vandee region, south of Brittany.
and set the plane on fire. The pilot went into a critical nose dive              They were honored by the citizens and underground patriots who
to douse the flames, then regained control of the plane and leveled              saved gunners, Harold Maher and Anthony Mills, crew members
out to avoid dropping into the water and eventually coming in for                on Mike’s B-17 Bomber from captivity. The French underground
a crash landing in the German occupied French town of Vandee.                    patriots brought them to freedom from the German occupied
       “We were preparing to die,” Mr. Colamonico said. “If we                   French town through Spain during the D-Day Invasion. Of the 10
would have hit the water we probably would not have been here                    member crew, two evaded capture. Sergeant Alex Dominski was
today.”                                                                          shot three times during the group’s dash for freedom and was
       After the crash landing, four were captured and two escaped.              killed. Seven were captured and became prisoners of war.
Mr. Colamonico was taken and held over night in a freezing cold                             Only Mr. Colamonico and his pilot, Lieutenant Colonel
room with only his undergarments on. He was then taken to Paris                  Michael Stroff, were able to attend these memorable ceremonies
and on to Frankfurt, Germany where he was interrogated by the                    honoring the crew of the B-17 Bomber. A Town of Huntington
German military. Finally, he was taken to the infamous Stalag 17                 proclamation and letter from Air Force Chief of Staff General
in Austria, where he spent the next 17 months in captivity.                      Ronald Fogelman were personally presented to the mayors of each
       “They tried to starve us out, they tried to freeze us out, they           town honoring the citizens of LeSables D’Lonne, Chateau
tried to heat us out but we were trained to tell them nothing, but               D’Lonne and Arais, for their bravery in helping the crew of the B-17
name, rank and serial number and that’s all we told them,” said                  escape from the German occupied French towns. Special recogni-
Mr. Colamonico. “When you are in captivity your life is on the                   tion was given to the women who risked their lives hiding the
line every day. The only way you come out with your sanity is to                 American crew.
live in hope. Captivity brings out the worst and best in you...We                       Thus the history of the B-17 Bomber’s “Rough Group” mis-
all did the best that we could to stay alive.”                                   sion was pieced together by the historians from the French govern-
       As the war progressed, the Russians began to advance toward               ment and from the accounts of the mission through the official
Stalag 17. With defeat approaching, the German soldiers were                     bomb group history of the events that took place on December
fearful of surrendering to the Russians and instead preferred to be              31, 1943. This memorable and emotional reunion took place at
taken into custody by American troops. On April 7, 1945, Mr.                     the actual crash site in Chateau D’Lonne.
Colamonico and a group of prisoners were taken out of the prison
camp and began marching with the German soldiers away from                       Reprinted with permission from the Northport Observer
the camp and toward advancing American troops in Germany.                        Additional interviewing: Carol Rocco
They marched for a month before finally ending up in Braunau,
the home town of Adolf Hitler. It was here that Mr. Colamonico,

 World War II

W       hen Mr. Macchiarella joined the Army, he never imagined
        that his army career would be so eventful.
       Born in Huntington - actually Cold Spring Harbor on
Turkey Lane - he attended Huntington High School. He left for
Camp Bowie, Texas with 18 high school buddies. He recalls that
out of the 18 young men, four were killed in action serving in
World War II.
       In Camp Bowie, he was in the Armored Battalion - a tank
battalion - training in desert like conditions. He was then sent to
Shreveport, Louisiana for more tank training to conduct battles
against the 4th Armored Division in training drills.
       In the fall of 1943, Mr. Macchiarella and his 749th Tank
Battalion spent 31 days crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a convoy of
71 ships. They were not aware of their destination, somewhere in
the Atlantic the ships divided, half to Africa and half to Scotland.
He was with the Scotland group and after arrival, he was on a
train to England. The 749th Tank Battalion trained more intense-
ly in the mountains of England.
       The 749th Armored Battalion arrived in Normandy on June
28, 1944. It landed with the First Army and was sent as support
with the 66th, 76th, 79th, 83rd, 44th, 100th, 70th and 63rd
Divisions. The 749th Tank Battalion consisted of 54 medium
tanks and 17 light tanks. The 749th Battalion would contact
                                                                                   Another incident happened when Mr. Macchiarella was on a
enemy - draw fire and get as close as possible and report back for
                                                                             routine mail run and picking up wounded for his battalion when
big tanks to back up. Mr. Macchiarella said his battalion was in
                                                                             out of the woods came a German officer and over 100 tired, hun-
194 consecutive days of battle. His tank was the first to cross the
                                                                             gry German soldiers. He was amazed they just came over to him
Seine River just before Paris - they captured General Rommel’s
                                                                             and surrendered. He made them pile all their weapons and ran over
headquarters - but Rommel escaped. Rommel was caught fleeing
                                                                             them with his tank. They followed behind his tank into the camp,
by air observation and was fired on.
                                                                             all holding onto a rope since they could barely walk. The enemy
       Before the Invasion of Normandy, General Patton met with
                                                                             was broken tired men. The American soldiers in the camp sat the
the 749th Tank Battalion and Mr. Macchiarella will never forget
                                                                             German soldiers down and fed them sandwiches and hot coffee.
his words to the men. There was a hush over the entire division
                                                                                   Mr. Macchiarella recalls there is a story for each of the 194
when General Patton delivered his commanding talk to the men.
                                                                             consecutive days he was in combat and a total of 311 combat days
“There’s one great thing you men will all be able to say when you
                                                                             overall. In 1945, he volunteered to go to Japan and join a task
go home. You may all thank God for it. Thank God that you at
                                                                             force to lead soldiers into Tokyo - he trained with the Navy
least, 30 years from now, when you are sitting around the fireside
                                                                             Amphibious Tank Battalion. This never happened and they were
with your grandson on your knee and he asks you what you did in
                                                                             disbanded when the Atom Bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.
the great World War II, you don’t have to say, ‘I shoveled shit in
                                                                                   Mr. Macchiarella came home in December 1945 and went
Louisiana.’ Deep sincerity and seriousness lay behind the General’s
                                                                             to work the very next day. Eventually he had his own business for
colorful words and well the men knew it, but they loved the way
                                                                             over 40 years in Huntington, 3-D TV & Appliance. He is married
he put it, as only he could do it.
                                                                             and has one daughter. This year, he and his wife will be celebrat-
       Mr. Macchiarella has many combat stories to tell - it’s diffi-
                                                                             ing their 50th wedding anniversary. He has a good life in
cult to describe any one that is more important than the other.
                                                                             Huntington and remembers back to his military days with great
One incident he will never forget was in June 1944 in a little
                                                                             pride for having been able to be a part of history that helped to
French town of Hav Du Puis. He stopped to talk to some of the
                                                                             keep this country safe.
town people and he spotted some French children. They ran over
and Mr. Macchiarella gave them some candy he was carrying.
Right at this point, some artillery went off and suddenly there was
some shooting. In an instant, the children were all killed by a              Interviewed by: Carol Rocco
German soldier - Mike chased the German soldier through alleys
and cornered him. Mr. Macchiarella captured the soldier and he
wanted to kill him for what he had just done - but he turned him
over to the French police. Mr. Macchiarella couldn’t do to this sol-
dier what he had just done to these kids.

 World War II

O     n his 17th birthday, Marty Davis enlisted in the United
      States Coast Guard, which was a division of the Navy during
World War II. He reported for duty camp in January, 1945.
                                                                             vice on a DE. At this time, Marty received a change in rating to
                                                                             medical corpsman.
                                                                                    From Pearl Harbor, his ship sailed to Eniwetok and
      Dr. Davis received his training at Manhattan Beach, Coast              Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands and then to Guadalcanal and
Guard Training Base in Brooklyn, near Sheepshead Bay. After                  Tulagi in the Solomon Islands, where it performed patrol duty. At
eight weeks of training, he was sent to the Brooklyn Naval Base              this time, Pettit was assigned to the Fifth Fleet in preparation for
where he was assigned to a Destroyer Escort, U.S.S. Pettit (DE -             the American Invasion of Japan. Its assignment was to support the
253), a Destroyer Escort. This warship was 306 feet long, 37 feet            landing trips at Kyushu, Japan with a countdown invasion date of
wide, weighed 1,450 tones and had a wartime complement of 11                 November 1st. Concerning the invasion, Dr. Davis said, “We
officers and 207 crewmen. During his first night aboard, the ship            knew about the impact of Kamikaze suicide planes at Okinawa,
departed from New York to protect a convoy en route to England               where almost 50 percent of the 52 destroyer escorts were sunk or
and France.                                                                  damaged with great loss of life. We cheered when the atomic
      Traveling as fast as the slowest ship in the convoy, the trip          bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki brought the war to an end.
took 12 days through the North Atlantic route. The ocean was                 To this day, I believe that the unfortunate death of 200,000
rough and harsh, while the weather was cold and wet. Since his               Japanese has to placed in comparison with the millions of
rating was as a seaman at that time, he manned a 40 mm dual                  American and Japanese casualties that would have occurred had we
purpose gun on a schedule of four hours on and eight hours off,              invaded Japan.”
working on the ship for one of those eight hours and sleeping the                   There was a personal factor for Dr. Davis concerning elimi-
other. The gun crews had to be at their gun station regardless of            nation of the need to invade Japan. Another brother, Herm, was a
weather conditions or seasickness... and Dr. Davis was seasick               Marine who was captured by the Japanese in Tientsin, China at
practically the entire trip.                                                 the outbreak of the War. It was known that orders were issued by
      To make matters worse, there were only 204 bunks (beds)                the Japanese to massacre all allied POWs at the time of the inva-
for 207 enlisted men. As a lowly newcomer just out of boot camp,             sion. At War’s end, Herm was repatriated from a prison camp
he was assigned to a hammock that swung and crashed in all                   north of Tokyo, where he was performing slave labor in an iron
directions while the DE reacted to the wild ocean like a bucking             mine. Fortunately, he was in good health when freed.
bronco. Using his daily calendar like a dance schedule, he arranged                 “When the War ended, I was lucky to have been aboard a
to line up a schedule of bunks when they were not being used. Of             ship that was given an assignment that anyone would envy. We
course, he never had more than four hours of uninterrupted sleep             were assigned to Pago Pago in the Samoan Naval District and
while on this schedule. Bed-hopping ended when he got his own                given the orders to search the islands and atolls of the Southeast
space three months later.                                                    Pacific for any lost American and Japanese aviators. This was to
      Departing six days later from Londonderry, Ireland, the USS            be done in two, six week segments and the trip encompassed
Pettit escorted a returning convoy to New York, stopping at the              using a map from the 1700’s and visiting/searching such exotic
Earle (NJ) Naval Munitions Center to unload ammunition and                   places as Tahiti, Bora, Bora, Pitcairn Island (where I met the
explosives for safety reasons before entering New York Harbor.               descendants of the Bounty mutineers), Palmerston Island (where
After five days, the ship departed on a similar assignment to the            3,500 residents descended from an English sailor and three native
British Isles and was there at the time of the Nazi surrender.               women), Cook Islands, Austral Islands and about 80 other beauti-
      Like many other boys at that time, Dr. Davis joined the ser-           ful locations. I felt, even at my early age, that I was observing a
vice during his senior year in high school at Elizabeth, New Jersey.         primitive and beautiful culture that someday would be drastically
It was early June 1945 when his ship returned to the United States           altered by modern civilization.
from the second European trip. Pettit was docked at Bayone Navy                     “In January, 1946 we departed for San Diego with marine
Yard and the ship was scheduled to leave for the Pacific battle areas        passengers, then the Panama Canal, Boston (in the midst of a
the next morning. By coincidence, his high school class was hav-             freezing winter) and finally to Green Cove Springs, Florida where
ing its graduation ceremony on the night before departure.                   Pettit was decommissioned.”
Determined to take part in the graduation program before leaving                    Dr. Davis was discharged in May 1946 and started college in
for the unknown, he went AWOL for six hours with the help of a               the fall. He earned a bachelor of arts at State University of
friendly Marine gate guard. Traveling 12 miles by train to                   Pennsylvania, and Master’s and Doctorate degrees from Columbia
Elizabeth, he received his diploma at the ceremony, said good-bye            University. In 1983, after 29 years of service in education, he
to everyone and returned to his ship as he had come.                         retired as the superintendent of schools at Cold Spring Harbor.
      En route to Pearl Harbor, the Pettit crewmen were drilled              Since then, he has been president of Martin Davis Associates, a
constantly and intensively for anticipated Japanese air and sea sui-         financial and retirement consulting organization. He and Shain
cide attacks. There was a short port call at Guantanano Bay in               Davis live in Lloyd Harbor and they have three children and four
Cuba before going through the Panama Canal to San Diego and                  grandchildren.
then to Hawaii. While at Pearl Harbor, he met his naval officer
brother, Bill, who was stationed there following long Pacific ser-           Interviewed by: Carol Rocco

 World War II

V     incent J. Murdoch went into military service when he was
      just over 21. Family dependency had delayed his induction to
that point. He answered the eventual draft. “It was a call to serve.
Our nation was at war and most of us had the sense that not only
was the country threatened, but so also was life in this world as
we knew it.”
       Mr. Murdoch said it was not easy becoming a soldier.
“Regimentation takes getting used to; but as with all things in life
you must look beyond self. Sure I preferred civilian living; I soon
learned that I was not unique. What I was doing along with mil-
lions of others in the Armed Forces was for a noble purpose. I sup-
pose our enemies likewise felt their cause was admirable. As histo-
ry demonstrates, though, they were the driven products of evil
totalitarian leaders bent on inhuman conquest of the world.”
       Mr. Murdoch was trained for combat duty in the Army Air
Corp and flew as a nose-gunner in the 454th Heavy
Bombardment Group, a B24 liberator unit of the 15th Air Force
stationed near Bra, Italy. Targets of the 15th were: oil refineries,
seaports, munitions and ball bearing factories, communication
centers, and railway marshaling yards in Germany, Austria,
Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Romania. On his last aerial mission
to Liz, Austria, his bomber was severely damaged by ground fire                   Mr. Murdoch has been through many parts of the world.
and fighter attack forcing a crash-landing near Truest, a city bor-          He says there is no match for our nation for living conditions and
dering Italy and Yugoslavia. He and other surviving crew members             our Long Island is a beautiful, terrific place to call home.
were taken prisoner and were held briefly in Staling Lust 4, locat-
ed near Setting in the Polish Corridor. When the Russians began              Interviewed by: Bart Allen
their winter offensive from the East, all prison camps were aban-
doned as German forces fled their bitter enemy.
       For nearly six months, Mr. Murdoch along with other cap-
tured personnel were on close guard and forced to march through
the harsh winter months of 1944-1945 without the barest necessi-
ties for survival - food, clothing, shelter. The march through parts
of Poland and Germany covered over 1000 miles. Finally in May
of 1945 combined British and American Armored Divisions
                                                                                    “Our victory crushed a totalitarian threat to
reached them. They were liberated and returned to Allied Military              the world and preserved our way of life in the
control in early June 1945.                                                    United States. We shared the conviction that
       When asked if it had all been worth it, Mr. Murdoch said                while our democratic government system has its
that being part of the final Victory was enough satisfaction for any           imperfections, it is second to none.”
man; however he would always be immensely gratified. In addi-
tion, knowing that the first-aid he provided for some of his
wounded or injured crew members, when their plane crashed, was
probably instrumental in saving their lives. Mr. Murdoch’s service
awards include the Purple Heart, Air Medal, and WW2 Victory
decorations. He left service as a sergeant in October 1945.
       Questioned about the Atomic attack on Japan, Mr. Murdoch
maintained that it was a militarily strategic measure to curtail fur-
ther incalculable casualties and bring the war to a swift conclusion.
“Our victory crushed a totalitarian threat to the world and pre-
served our way of life in the United States. We shared the convic-
tion that while our democratic government system has its imper-
fections, it is second to none.”

 Korean War

T    wo months after my 17th birthday, I enlisted in the service.
     This was the thing to do in those days. Most young men did
not go to college - we went into the service. The war wasn’t on at
the time, but in those days, if you weren’t planning on going to
college, most people went in the service because you still had the
draft. I figured I was going to get drafted anyway so I opted to
join the Air Force..
      I expected the discipline. I left high school to go into the ser-
vice. I didn’t plan on returning to school. Ironically, I ended up
going to school for radio maintenance at Scott Air Force Base,
Illinois. When I was there, the Korean War started. I began
schooling and they shortened it to six months. I was assigned to
advanced school for another four months. In addition, I went to
Facsimile School and to Instructor’s School. I taught Radio
Direction Finding for 10 months before receiving orders which
transfered me to the 5th Airways and Air Communication Service
Squadron (I & M) in Tokyo, Japan.
      The mission of the 5th AACS was to accomplish installation
engineering, removal and field maintenance of communications
and electronics equipment of the AACS in the Far East Theater of
operations. We were responsible for radio and radar aids to air
navigation; radio and land line communications for handling all
operational message traffic necessary to the establishment of mili-
tary airways; and flight of military aircraft. I enjoy travelling and
because of this assignment, I was fortunate to visit Guam, Iwo
Jima, Okinawa, Japan and all of Korea.
      The closest I got to the front was Kimpo which was two-
and-half miles south. I got to see Captain Joe McConnell’s F-86
Saber Jet with its three rows of red stars. He was America’s first
Triple Jet Ace, shooting down 15 enemy “migs.” I remember one
occasion meeting Mickey Rooney - he was on his was to give a
USO show at Kimpo. The other part of the show was Don “Red”
Barry who was a cowboy star.
      I was in Korea (K-55 Ossan) when they signed the Armistice
on July 27th, 1953. We were in the boondocks with my team doing
a tower installation when news came that the Armistice was signed
by North and South Korea. Worked stopped and the party began!!!
      I rotated back to the United States and was discharged at
Mitchell Air Force Base on January 14, 1954. The service enabled
me to meet my wife, Kathleen while in training in Scott Air Force
Base. We got married in St. Louis - her home town. After I was
discharged from the service we came to live in Huntington and we
raised three children. This year we will celebrate our 47th wed-
ding anniversary.
      Serving my country has always been a tremendous source of
pride to me.

Interviewer: Kathryn Quigley

 Vietnam War

F   rom the time he joined the United States Air Force to when he
    retired from the Air National Guard, Sal Girifalco of
Huntington Station flew on exciting missions helping Americans
                                                                             the war was not right. It was not a place where you thought you
                                                                             were doing some good.”
                                                                                    He flew for three months in Vietnam, often covering hun-
in dangerous and hostile situations in places such as our nation’s           dreds of miles each day, and often flying in monsoon conditions
capital, Alaska, Turkey, Thailand, Israel, Jordan, Vietnam, and              over a country where there were no clear battle lines. Before and
Long Island’s own coast.                                                     after his time in Vietnam, he was deployed all over the world,
       “One time, when I was a brand new co-pilot in the Air                 delivering and picking up troops and supplies to outposts in
Force, my first deployment to Europe, we were suddenly whisked               Alaska, Turkey, Thailand and the Middle East. His last deploy-
away — our whole unit to an isolated place in Germany —                      ment involved getting supplies to Israel during the Arab Israeli
because Jordan was having a civil war, and, I do not know how                War, in 1973.
they did this, but we became part of the Red Cross for a week.                      After leaving the Air Force, Mr. Girifalco became a member
They painted over our airplanes, put red crosses on them, and I              of the Air National Guard in Westhampton Beach, in which he
guess we were somehow loaned or owned by the Red Cross for                   flew for 15 years on missions as diverse and exciting as refueling
that short time. We flew into Jordan during the civil war. It was an         helicopters in mid air and dropping supplies and life rafts for civil-
interesting mission. We did not know what to expect — if we                  ian rescues, and as sad as searching for boats and ships down at
would be shot at or welcomed. They were fighting on the ground.              sea. All in all, Mr. Girifalco says his experiences have changed his
What we did was bring in a field hospital, a MASH unit. There                life. His bravery has certainly changed the lives of others.
were about 20 airplanes and we went in one after the other. We
did not shut our engines down...just landed and rolled stuff
out...only a few minutes on the ground...because we didn’t know              Interviewed by: Elizabeth Cone
what to expect there.”
       Mr. Girifalco flew C-130s, military airlift planes for much of
his career. In the Air Force, he was deployed anywhere supplies or
troops were needed around the world, sometimes in the unlikeliest
of places. During the turbulent 1960s and early 1970s, he once
carried troops to Washington D.C. “I was in the Air Force and
protests were still going hot and heavy, and I remember being part
of a deployment where we had to bring troops into Washington
D.C. because of civil disturbance. Protesters were there. It was a
really funny feeling bringing troops into your own capital, bring-                  “We had brought some troops in and we were
ing troops against your own people.”                                           bringing some back. I remember standing on the
       More disturbing for Mr. Girifalco, however, was a mission to            ramp of the airplane...I saw this massive South
bring back troops from the front lines during the Vietnam War.                 Vietnamese infantry and they all wanted to get on
“We had brought some troops in and we were bringing some                       the plane because I was taking them to safety...
back. I remember standing on the ramp of the airplane, the back                They all just wanted to get out. They carried on
of the airplane which lowers to the ground. I saw this massive                 their wounded, stepping on the wounded as they
South Vietnamese infantry and they all wanted to get on the plane              were going. The anxiety and horror in their eyes,
because I was taking them to safety. They were right there on the              because they had just come from the lines, and
battle line, and they all had guns, and I remember thinking, what              wanted to get to some degree of safety, made an
one of them could be North Vietnamese, Viet Cong, infiltrators.                impression on me... Seeing the horror up close, the
So I made everyone unload all their weapons and we had to call                 result of the war, was not pleasant.”
out American security police to make sure they did not overload
the airplane. They all just wanted to get out. They carried on their
wounded, stepping on the wounded as they were going. The anxi-
ety and horror in their eyes, because they had just come from the
lines, and wanted to get to some degree of safety, made an impres-
sion on me. We had some pretty bad people back there. I remem-
ber the stench of gangrene. The load master physically got sick a
couple of times. Seeing the horror up close, the result of the war,
was not pleasant.”
       While Mr. Girifalco was a loyal Air Force Captain and
American, he says seeing Vietnam up close gave a very different
impression from what he had seen on television, and reinforced
his opinion about the war. “Seeing the country, being there, I felt

 JOSEPH L. SOVIERO                                                               EILEEN SCATTERGOOD SOVIERO
 World War II                                                                                                             World War II

D     uring World War
      II, I enlisted in
the Navy and served
                                                                             J  oe and I were
                                                                                high school stu-
                                                                             dents together in the
from January 1944 to                                                         old Huntington
1946. I was assigned to                                                      High School which
a destroyer escort, USS                                                      is now Huntington
Roche. Our purpose was                                                       Town Hall. I was
to take convoys from the                                                     stationed in Norfolk,
United States to Europe.                                                     Virginia during
We would be on the                                                           World War II when
outskirts protecting                                                         we were reacquaint-
them from air strikes.                                                       ed in 1943.
Roche was commis-                                                                  In 1942, I was
sioned at the Brooklyn                                                       a telephone operator
Navy Yard on February                                                        in the Town of
21, 1944 with Lt.                                                            Huntington. One
Robert E. Parker in                                                          day while shopping
command. It would take                                                       in the New York City’s Macy’s Department Store I spotted a
three weeks to cross the Atlantic. I made six trans-Atlantic trips on        recruiting poster, “Release a Man for Sea Duty.” This really stuck
the Roche.                                                                   in my mind and I knew I was so patriotic and wanted to do my
       Throughout the winter and spring of 1945 the Roche made               part for the war effort. I joined the Navy and trained at Hunter
five trips escorting convoys to England. On one trip, in the Mid-            College. I served at the Naval Air Station in Norfolk Virginia
Atlantic we rescued 11 men from the water after a collision of the           where I worked in the air plotting office, checking planes in and
USAT McAndrew and the French Carrier Bearn. We were just                     out. We tracked pilots and planes. I remember meeting the famous
picking men up out of the water!                                             actor Robert Taylor at the base and I saw Charles Lyndbergh land
       The Roche was also serving as an anti-submarine patrol as a           at the Virginia base testing a new plane with “fold-up” wings. My
precaution against Japanese submarines which were unaware of the             brothers also served in the Army during WWII - so when I decid-
August 15 Japanese surrender. One most memorable trip, on                    ed to join the service I was quite surprised that my parents backed
September 22, 1945, we were enroute to escort the Florence                   my decision.
Nightingale. On the morning of September 29, I heard a loud                        I returned home to Huntington in November, 1945 with
explosion. It ripped through the ship and then another loud explo-           the rank of First Class Petty Officer. Joe and I managed to meet
sion was heard. Everyone went to their battle stations and then we           up once again and this time we had our first date. It was New
knew we hit a floating mine. The ship’s crew jumped to action to             Year’s Eve 1948, at a dance at the American Legion Hall, Post No.
secure the ship and maintain the watertight hatches when the fan-            360 in Halesite.
tail was destroyed. We lost three men and there were many                          We have been together ever since that New Year’s Eve dance.
injuries. Doctors from the Nightingale came over to our ship to              Joe and I married in 1950. We have four children, two boys and
aid the injured. Eventually the men transferred to the                       two girls, ten grandchildren and three great grandchildren.
Nightingale for treatment. The Roche was taken in tow; and 15                      Serving our country has always been a source of pride to Joe
days after the surrender on board the Missouri, Roche entered                and I. Fortunately for us it was the beginning of a lifetime of
Tokyo Bay.                                                                   memories together.
       Roche was decommissioned and sunk off Yokosuka on
March 11, 1946. All crew were reassigned.
                                                                                                                    Interviews by: Carol Rocco

 World War II

S   tan Brodsky, a well-known local artist, remembers the terror,
    alone in a foxhole, in the Vosges Mountains of France, during
the worst winter there in 40 years.
       At the age of 18, Mr. Brodsky was drafted into the Army
and sent to a Military Police Unit for training. A year later he was
transferred to Company F’s Mortar Section. One night in
December, 1944, after only one month’s combat duty, he was sud-
denly ordered to a Mortar Squad of Company A of the 100th
Division and promoted to buck sergeant.
       On a bright fall afternoon in November, 1944, his company
first entered the Vosges Mountains to replace troops. It felt like
“going to a lovely vacation spot with beautiful camping grounds.”
But when they saw the faces of the men crawling out of the fox-
holes, and heard German “88’s” (artillery) they awakened to the
horror of war.
       He remembers comrades killed by mines; days and nights
enduring bitter cold; climbing mountains; digging holes; and
being pinned down by machine guns, mortars and artillery. In
some way, he thinks his youth helped to save his sanity. “When
you’re nineteen, you think, ‘I can get through this’,” he said.
       Mr. Brodsky, a recipient of the Bronze Star, had a serious
bout with hepatitis and was hospitalized. He spent his 20th birth-
day there. He might have avoided returning to the front because
of his illness but chose to go back. As the war wound down, his
division saw large numbers of German troops surrendering, rang-
ing from boys of 16 to men over 50. During his overseas tour, Mr.
Brodsky sent and received many letters. He kept them all and has
his own written history of his war experiences.
       During the war, as he said, they were often miserably cold,
living on “C” or “K” rations, and exhausted from lack of sleep.
Once they came upon an abandoned farmhouse stocked with
food, wine and even a chicken which they killed and cooked.
There he found some watercolors and a pad. He sketched many
scenes, but mostly the countryside and places he liked - not of the
ugliness and horror of war.
       One of his favorite memories is New Year’s Eve, 1944, in a
foxhole, in Alsace, with a buddy who had some packets of cocoa
and offered them for a celebration. At midnight, in the darkness
of their hole, they poured the precious powder into their canteen
cups, added water, and heated the cocoa on a tiny tablet. It was a
very special moment.
       He has been to a 50th anniversary reunion of Company F.
When he speaks of his experience, it sounds as if he were telling
you something he did last month. That is how vivid these memo-
ries are! Mr. Brodsky was a professor of art at C.W. Post for 30
years and a resident of Huntington since 1965. He and his wife
have two children.

Interviewed by: Ann Sullivan

 Korean War

J  ohn Ritchie remembers the hardships of both the Koreans and
   of the Americans who fought in the Korean war. He remembers
a guy who got a “Dear John” letter and shot himself, and he
remembers Korean children scrambling for food among the left-
overs tossed out by American soldiers. He feels, however, that he
was lucky to serve in Korea. “In Korea, I saw a different culture,
and different people, than I would have in Europe. I was lucky to
have experienced all that and not get hurt.”
      Mr. Ritchie served as a corporal in the United States Army
during the Korean War, and he says his serial number will be
embedded in his mind for the rest of his life. He was the first
member of his family in the service since his uncles were in the
Swedish Army in the early 1900s. He was a member of the 13th
Signal Corps of the 1st Cavalry Division up near the 38th Parallel,
and although he says he has put the Korean War and his experi-
ences in it behind him, the stories he tells surely affected his life.
      According to Mr. Ritchie, he and his fellow Signal Corps
members would drive wherever, whenever they had to—often with
no headlights, just pinholes of light to see by. They didn’t know
the country, so they had a shotgun riding in their army jeep with
them. His name was Honcho, and he was a Korean who was
familiar with the country, and knew the best way to get wherever
they were going. Honcho carried a shotgun (weapon) for protec-
tion while they were driving.
      “We would deliver all types of messages, coded, declassified,                  Mr. Ritchie is thankful he never got hurt. Before he was
non-classified messages, and if the crypt center got a message                 drafted, he had met a girl, and he went home to marry her after a
where all the bells went off, that was top priority, secret, and it had        two-year separation. The GI Bill enabled him to go to college to
to be taken care of right away. It might be important or it might              earn a degree in engineering, and he worked on Long Island for
be an invitation from the general back in Tokyo to invite the gen-             many years in the defense industry.
eral of the 1st Division over for supper.                                            For Mr. Ritchie, the war is long over. “Once it is over and
      “One time, we were going over a bridge, but the bridge had               you’re back home, you put this in your past. It is a part of my life
been bombed, so we had to drive down through a dry gulch and                   but not something I talk about a lot.”
when we drove down there, and back on under the bridge, there
were kids. They were orphans and that’s how they were living,
under the bridge. They had to just take care of themselves. They               Interviewed by: Elizabeth Cone
were probably anywhere between five and six, twelve and fourteen.”
      Sometimes, the enemy would be in front, and the message
center would be between the North Koreans and the front line,
and cannons would be firing over their heads. Most of the time,
though, the 1st Cavalry had Turks on one side and South Koreans
on the other. According to Mr. Ritchie, “The Turks, to me, are
one of the fiercest fighting types of people. They would like to do
hand-to-hand combat. They didn’t want to be firing guns. They
wanted to be right up there, chopping away at these guys.”
      Mr. Ritchie said you could never have any lights on at night
in Korea. “Bed Check Charlie was a North Korean flying in a sin-
gle engine plane who would fly over and nonchalantly drop bombs
outside the plane,” he says. “It wasn’t a B-25 or anything. These
were hand-dropped, and he had no idea where he was dropping
them — they could be on a camp, they could be in the mountains
— because everything was dark. We could hear the bombs going
off, but fortunately, they never hit anything in our area.”

 World War II

O      ne of the youngest lawyers to be
       accepted to the bar, Mr. Schwartz
received his law degree in 1939. Shortly
                                                                                                      blasting away. They missed but he realized
                                                                                                      the danger to the children in the school
                                                                                                      house. “I ran out, jumped in one of the
after that, at 24 years old, he enlisted in                                                           trucks and drove it into the woods. The
the Navy as part of the midshipman pro-                                                               planes turned around and came back and
gram.                                                                                                 they missed again. I got the second truck
       Mr. Schwartz considers himself a lucky                                                         into the woods as well.” The planes eventu-
man. He had gotten through his tour of                                                                ally flew off.
duty during the war with some very close                                                                     At the time, the Germans were using
calls. His first assignment was supposed to                                                           advanced unmanned rockets called V-1’s
be aboard a destroyer, the SS Reuben James,                                                           and V-2’s. “We heard them all the time.
but vision in one eye was not up to par. The                                                          One night the noise of the motor all of a
Reuben James was torpedoed by the                                                                     sudden stopped directly overhead. There
Germans and all hands were lost.                                                                      was a huge explosion and the next morn-
       After Pearl Harbor was attacked, Mr.                                                           ing I went out and there was a huge
Schwartz volunteered for duty as part of an                                                           crater.” The rocket had exploded very
ordinance unit in the Army. As first                                                                  close to the command post where Mr.
sergeant, a position he was informed by a                                                             Schwartz and his unit were staying.
colonel was the best job in the Army, he                                                                     The unit was assigned to the Battle of
was trained to handle ammunition and                                                                  the Bulge and were actually foot soldiers for
shells and in bomb disposal. Among about                                                              a time. “We lost so many men in a week or
180 men, the unit was stationed at a former                                                           two, about 40 men.” After getting replace-
National Guard camp. The men were                                                                     ments, the unit was attached to the Fourth
trained to take fuses out of unexploded live                                                          Army. “That’s when I got to Buchennwald,
bombs and mines.                                                            in April, 1945. We were not the very first soldiers there, but peo-
       Mr. Schwartz’s unit, the 576th Ordinance Ammunition                  ple were still dying while I was there, just collapsed and dying. In
Company, was sent to England in 1944. As part of the invasion,              the barracks, lying in bunks and dying. When we went into the
their job was to work with Army engineers to clear the beaches,             ovens, there were big pile of bodies. That was pretty awful.”
defuse mines and set up ammunition points. With two companies                      After leaving Buchennwald, the unit was passing through a
of men handling this detail, the first was to land with the invasion        town called Neunberg. “The most amazing thing happened. Men
forces and the second would back them up. At the toss of a coin,            in stripped uniforms came running out of the woods. One man in
Mr. Schwartz said his company was in the second wave. The first             my company had come from Poland where he left his dad and
unit in sustained heavy casualties.                                         brother. He recognized one of the people running out of the
       Just about this time, General Patton took over the Third             woods from his home town. He learned his father and brother
Army and the unit was assigned to him. Mr. Schwartz’s unit was              were killed. He also learned what was going on. SS troopers had
assigned to set up ammunition dumps on the beach head at Utah               come to the concentration camp, loaded the prisoners on trucks
Beach. “Finally we landed on Utah Beach. We ended up in a tank              and made them get off the trucks in the woods. They had them
battle at Orsonville, France. It was a major tank battle. As first          line up at the edge of a ditch they dug and were machine-gunning
sergeant I was all over the place. I had to detach men with                 them.” Some were lucky enough to runaway just moments before
artillery, tanks, etcetera, to keep the flow going.”                        Mr. Schwartz got there.
       Outside of Paris during the evacuation, Mr. Schwartz’s unit                 “When I got home, [after the war], my parents, my wife and
caught some Germans coming out of the city. A shot rang out and             my family all wanted to me to share my experiences. I couldn’t.”
Mr. Schwartz was hit on the ear. A 19-year-old comrade was also             Forty five years later, Mr. Schwartz attended a lecture given by
hit and fell into Mr. Schwartz’s arms. He died. For Mr. Schwartz,           children of survivors of concentration camps. “At the meeting,
it was a very sobering experience.                                          these survivors were trying to get first hand information. I had
       While in France, his unit was assigned to drive a couple of          pictures I had taken. They took the pictures and blew them up
trucks loaded with high explosives in a convoy. They came upon              and sent them to the Holocaust Museum in Washington. Mr.
an area that was wooded on one side of the road and a school                Schwartz said it’s still difficult for him to talk about many of the
house on the other. The men could see the faces of children                 things that he saw during the war, but sometimes he feels it is
pressed up against the windows in the school house. “All of a sud-          important to share it.
den, two German planes fly over. They began diving at us and
making this weird, screeching sound, an incredibly awful sound.             Interviewed by: Josephine Jahier
The drivers stopped the trucks and ran into the woods.” The
planes strafed the convoy and Mr. Schwartz saw the machine guns

 World War II

L   ess than two weeks after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor,
    Hamilton Rowan enlisted in the United States Navy. At the
time, he was a sophomore at Dartmouth University and when the
                                                                                 The Rowan family has a rich military history. During World
                                                                          War I, Mr. Rowan’s father served as vice president for the New
                                                                          York Central Railroads. He volunteered for service and was placed
school year ended, he joined the military as an aviation cadet.           in charge of the railroads in France. Mr. Rowan’s sister-in-law, now
      “I knew how to fly when I went in,” he said. “At                    deceased, joined the Marine Corps during World War II and
Dartmouth, I participated in the Civilian Pilot Training program.         attained the rank of corporal. His brother served with the Marine
When I enlisted, I had quite a number of hours in the air.”               Corps as a captain during the Korean War.
      During cadet training, Mr. Rowan received word that his                    The proud tradition continues today. Mr. Rowan’s son is an
best friend, the son of guardians he lived with after coming to           18-year veteran of the Marine Corps. He is a staff sergeant at
America from his native England, was killed while flying in the           Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia. He is a non-commis-
battle for Guadalcanal. For this reason alone, Mr. Rowan decided          sioned officer in charge of maintenance for the Presidential
that he wanted to be a Marine pilot. “I was so upset over this.           Helicopter Squadron. “He flies in the presidential helicopter,” Mr.
When I applied (to the Marine Corps after training), they asked           Rowan said.
why I wanted to fly. I had one reason, I told them ‘I want to                    Mr. Rowan’s daughter-in-law is also a United States Marine
replace my greatest friend.’”                                             who serves with her husband at Quantico as a master sergeant.
      His request was granted and after additional training in            She is a liaison to the United States Pentagon. “We have a Marine
Corpus Christi, Florida, Mr. Rowan was commissioned an officer            history and we are very proud of it,” Mr. Rowan said.
and assigned to the Long Range Photo Recognizance Squadron in                    He is a decorated veteran. Mr. Rowan was awarded the
California. It was then off to the South Pacific.                         Distinguished Flying Cross; four Air Medals; Asiatic-Pacific
      His duty was to pilot B-24 Liberators. “Instead of carrying         Campaign Ribbon with five stars; an American Campaign Ribbon
bombs, we had cameras in there,” he said. “The main mission of            for anti-submarine patrols; and the World War II Victory Medal.
our squadron was to make the invasion maps of the different               “It is a matter of pride that I have them,” he said. “You do not
islands in the Pacific. We would fly over the islands maybe two to        boast about them.
three months before any invasion. It was very interesting.”                      “I got a lifelong respect for the military,” he said. “If you go
      It was also very dangerous. “We were always in danger of            into the Marine Corps, it is a special breed of service. It’s a bond
getting hit,” he said. “Your missions were long and you were going        of brothers. That is not nonsense. A Marine will always help
over uncharted territory so to speak. The missions were so long           another Marine.”
that we had no escort protection. You were always shot at.”
      One mission piloted by Mr. Rowan remains the longest                Interviewer: Ellen C. Kelly
mapping mission conducted by the United States military - more
than 14 straight hours. “We did the invasion maps for Guam,” he
said. “When we landed, the engines actually sputtered to a stop.
We had no more fuel to taxi. We just made it. I think we were fly-
ing on fumes.”
      Mr. Rowan’s closest encounter with the enemy came while
he was taking a shower while in the South Pacific. Japanese sol-
diers were very good at infiltrating areas occupied by Americans.
While taking a shower one day, a sniper in a nearby palm tree                    “When I applied (to the Marine Corps
opened fire. Mr. Rowan quickly grabbed a rifle. “This chap up in            after training), they asked why I wanted
the tree did not appreciate me taking a shower,” Mr. Rowan
recalled. “He was a bad shot and I was a better one.”
                                                                            to fly. I had one reason, I told them I
      In December of 1945, Mr. Rowan was discharged. He                     want to replace my greatest friend.”
returned to Dartmouth and completed his college education. He
worked six years as a banker and then landed a job with the for-
mer Republic Aviation in Farmingdale. “It was a very exciting time
to be at Republic,” he said. “This was the early days of space
(exploration). I underwent a lot of the astronaut training so I
could relate it to engineers to design space vehicles. I actually
spent two weeks in a decompression chamber. I lived in it. My
wife was not too happy about that.” Mr. Rowan left Republic in
1962 and joined the American Kennel Club. He worked with this
organization for 25 years, retiring as the head of the Field Trial


To top