Brookline War Memorial
The Cannon and Veteran's Memorial Park

<The War Memorial>    <Casualty Lists>    <Remembrances>    <155mm Schneider>

The Brookline Monument.

The Brookline Monument, better known as "The Cannon" has been a mainstay on Brookline Boulevard for many years, dating back to 1934. It is the showpiece of Brookline's Veteran's Memorial Park, or Triangle Park as it is officially known.

The memorial sits on the small island situated between Brookline Boulevard, Queensboro and Chelton Avenues. The cannon, a World War I artillery piece, stands quiet watch over the commerical district and honors the legacy of Brookline's fighting men and women in arms.

The Brookline Veteran's Memorial.

At the entrance to the park is a fine granite and bronze memorial commemorating local soldiers that have fought in the various conflicts from World War I through the present-day War on Terror in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

The Brookline Monument.
Veteran's Memorial Park in the 1970s. The original white marble monument is partially visible.

The park contains a few benches and a flower garden. Each year, the local Memorial Day Parade begins at the Veteran's Memorial. The parade is preceeded by a somber ceremony in honor of those who fell in battle. The Cannon is one of the most recognizable features on Brookline Boulevard, and has always been a favorite amongst the youngsters who like to climb aboard and turn the wheels.

Children play on the Cannon Monument in 2012.
For decades, children have been fascinated by the Cannon at Veteran's Memorial Park.

The present-day Cannon is actually the second rendition of the monument. The granite monument itself is also a replacement. The first cannon, also a World War I field artillery piece, and the initial white marble monument were placed in 1934, commemorating the Great War. After the United States entry into World War II, the original howitzer was hauled away during a scrap metal drive in October 1942.

The Brookline Monument
 heads off to war in 1942.
Brookline's original Cannon being hauled away for scrap metal on October 13, 1942.

After World War II, a new cannon was obtained, a model 1917 Schneider 155mm Howitzer, and re-dedicated in 1946. The present-day polished pink granite and bronze monument was installed in 1992, replacing the aging marble piece, after the conclusion of the first Persian Gulf War.

Veteran's Memorial Park
Veteran's Memorial Park

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The Former Site Of Brookline's Freehold Real Estate Office

In 1905, when the Brookline section of the former West Liberty Borough was undergoing the transformation from a rural farming district into a modern residential and commercial community, the Freehold Real Estate Company established a small sales office on the triangle. The original one-room wooden shack was replaced by a two-room brick building in 1912. The office was a busy place for many years as the community grew.

Brookline Boulevard, 1910    Brookline Boulevard, 1913
The Freehold Real Estate office along Brookline Boulevard in 1910 (left) and again in 1913.

In 1932, as a result of the financial crisis caused by the onset of the Great Depression, the Freehold Office in Brookline was closed. The land was sold to James McGaffin, a prominent Brookline businessman and owner of the McGaffin Construction Company.

Despite the struggling economy, the 1930s were a time of great change in Brookline. The Joint Civic Committee was busy working on many initiatives to help modernize and improve the community. One such project was to establish a Veteran's Memorial to honor Brookline soldiers who fought in World War I.

On April 18, 1934, Mr. McGaffin sold the triangle to the city for the purpose of establishing a permanent memorial. The cost was $5750, and the land was designated as the Brookline Boulevard Triangle Park. Shortly afterwards, the original cannon and white marble memorial were placed and dedicated.




Brookline Military Casualty Lists

<World War I>      <World War II>      <Korean War>      <Vietnam War>

<The War on Terror>

This section is a work in progress. We are still gathering information.

Listed below are many of the sons of Brookline who gave their
lives to preserve freedom and contain aggression during
World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died.
Rather, we should thank God that such men lived.”
General George S. Patton
 

United States Army (1775-present)  United States Army Air Services (1907-1947)  United States Navy (1775-present)  United States Marine Corps (1775-present)  United States Coast Guards (1790-present)  United States Air Force (1947-present)

World War I (1917-1919)


Cronin, Raymond P.
Berkshire Avenue
USMC


Luppe, Charles
Ferncliff Avenue
Army


 History of Pittsburgh and Western PA Soldiers in World War I 

For a listing of World War I fatalities from Pennsylvania:
The Carnegie Library - Soldiers of the Great War

For a listing of World War I fatalities from Pittsburgh:
Soldiers of the Great War - Volume III

WW1 Memorial - Washington D.C.
The World War I Memorial - Washington D.C.

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World War II (1941-1945)


Alm William H.
Pioneer Avenue
Army


Arensberg, Roy T.
Fernhill Avenue
Army


Brickley, Edward G.
Woodward Avenue
Army


Bruni, Lawrence A.
Berkshire Avenue
Army


Capogreca, James J.
Bellaire Avenue
Navy


Copeland, Clarence R.
Creedmoor Avenue
Navy


Cullison, Thomas J.
Birtley Avenue
Army


Dempsey, Howard F.
Berkshire Avenue
Army


Dempsey, Walter F.
Milan Avenue
Navy


Diegelman, Edward R. Jr
Norwich Avenue
Army


Dornetto, Frank P.
Jacob Street
Navy


Fagan, Gerald B.
Woodbourne Avenue
Army


Falk, Harold E.
Pioneer Avenue
Army


Fehring, Robert M.
Fernhill Avenue
Army


Hynes, Richard E.
Waddington Avenue
Army


Jackson, Robert E.
Brookline
Army


Kestler, Paul C.
Creedmoor Avenue
Navy


Ketters, Robert
Berkshire Avenue
Army


Mahoney, Michael J.
Oakridge Street
Army


Majestic, Arthur B.
Starkamp Avenue
Army


Mayberry, Alexander G.
Breining Street
Army


Mazza, John
Alwyn Street
Army


McCann, Robert F.
Edgebrook Avenue
Navy


McFarland, Hugh R.
McNeilly Road
Army


Miller, William J.
Norwich Avenue
Army


Napier, Edward J.
Brookline Boulevard
Army


Nicholson, John D.
Woodbourne Avenue
Army


O'Day, John R.
Creedmoor Avenue
Navy


Orient, Andrew D.
Fordham Avenue
Army


Pisiecki, Raymond A.
Wolford Avenue
Army


Reeves, Alfred M.
Brookline Boulevard
Army


Reitmeyer, John P.
Bellaire Avenue
Navy


Rhing, Bern M.
Berkshire Avenue
Army


Shannon, Harry C.
Brookline
Army


Simpson, James D.
Woodbourne Avenue
Army


Spack, Harry
Linial Avenue
Army


Vierling, Howard F.
Fordham Avenue
Army


Wagner, Ralph G.
Shawhan Avenue
Army


Wentz, Walter L. Jr
Woodbourne Avenue
Army


Zeiler, Harold V.
West Liberty Avenue
Army

For a listing of World War II fatalities from Pennsylvania:
The National Archives
Army and Army Air Corps
Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard

For a listing of US Army World War II fatalities from Allegheny County:
The Carnegie Library

WW2 Memorial - Washington D.C.
The World War II Memorial - Washington D.C.

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Korean War (1950-1953)

Patrick Gallagher

Gallagher, Patrick J.
Bodkin Street
Army

Details

James Gormley

Gormley, James W.
Brookline Boulevard
Army

Details

Gerald Hilliard

Hilliard, Gerald G.
Edgebrook Avenue
Army

Details

James McKenna

McKenna, James E.
Bellaire Place
Army

Details


For a detailed listing of all Korean War fatalities from Allegheny County:
The Korean War Project

Korean War Memorial - Washington D.C.
Korean War Memorial - Washington D.C.

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Vietnam War (1965-1973)

James Robert Bodish

Bodish, James R.
Plainview Avenue
Army

Virtual Wall
Additional Details

James Gilbert Collins

Collins, James G.
Dunster Street
Army

Virtual Wall
 

James Charles Wonn

Wonn, James C.
Mayville Avenue
Navy

Virtual Wall
Additional Details


Note: For some time we listed Sgt. Richard J. Lacey as one of Brookline's fallen soldiers.
Richard was actually from Mount Lebanon. We apologize for the misinterpretation.


For a listing of all Vietnam War fatalities from Allegheny County:
Pennsylvania Geneology Trails

For a listing of all Vietnam War fatalities from Pittsburgh:
Donnan.Com

Vietnam War Memorial - Washington D.C.
Vietnam War Memorial - Washington D.C.

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The War on Terror (2001-present)

There have been no fallen Brookline soldiers in the Persian Gulf War (1991),
the War in Iraq (2003-2011), or the War in Afghansitan (2001-present).

 Pittsburgh Casualties in The War on Terror 

For a complete, sortable listing of Coalition fatalities in the War on Terror:
Operation Iraqi Freedom       Operation Enduring Freedom

US Army soldiers in the mountains of Afghanistan
United States Army soldiers resupplying in the mountains of Afghanistan.

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Editor's Note: These casualty lists were compiled from archived issues of the Pittsburgh Press and Post-Gazette (March, 1917 - March, 1919), the Mount Washington Times (December 1941 - July 1946), the Pittsburgh Press and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (December 1941 - July 1946), the Brookline Journal (1950-1954) and the Carnegie Library and Ancestry.com online resources. All names listed have been verified as casualties through the National Archives or the Defense POW/Missing Persons Office online resource. The home of record is listed as the address of the soldier's next-of-kin.

As for our World War I and World War II research, we've made every attempt to be as accurate and thorough as possible. There were many missing newspaper editions and not all daily casualty lists were available. These daily published lists were the only consistant resource available for the Army and Navy's World War I and World War II records containing street addresses. Hence, it is likely that we have omitted names that should be present on this record. It is also inevitable that Brookline natives who moved to another city or state may not be identified as being from Pennsylvania. These names would be impossible to locate using the resources available at the present time.

A Work In Progress

This page is an ongoing work in progress. If anyone has any information to add to this page, or notes any errors, please email us at memorial@brooklineconnection.com. With your help we can continue the evolution of this casualty list. Our goal is to present this record of Brookline's fallen servicemen with the admiration, respect and honor befitting their sacrifice.

Special thanks to John Rudiak, Carol Anthony, David Wonn and Doug Brendel for their assistance with the research.

Standing Guard
The National Cemetery in Minneapolis, Minnesota on a June morning.
Photo from the Minneapolis Star/Tribune - 2012.

Additional World War II Information

Our research into World War II casualty lists also uncovered several postings regarding local soldiers that were wounded, missing or held as prisoners. The following is a recap of information regarding Brookline veterans wounded in action, missing in action, or held as prisoner of war. This is not to be considered a complete account. These names were culled from the Pittsburgh Press and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, subject to the limitation of missing editions. Our research is ongoing ...

Wounded: Aaron Paul S Jr - Starkamp Street, Bauer Richard A - Berkshire Avenue, Bishop William R - Rossmore Avenue, Bogart Larry - Breining Street, Bower Richard A - Creedmoor Avenue, Brown James R - Jacob Street, Brunk Carl A - Pioneer Avenue, Carrigan Joseph W - Brookline Boulevard, Copeland William M - Creedmoor Avenue, Cunningham Edward J - Brookline Boulevard, Czech George B - Bellaire Place, Dudics George Jr - Fernhill Avenue, Dunbar Frank - Woodward Avenue, Dunn Robert K - Woodbourne Avenue, Dye Charles L - Fordham Avenue, Elstner Francis L - Rossmore Avenue, Frediani Lawrence F - Merrick Avenue, Frew Jack R - Wedgemere Avenue, Gorski John F - Pioneer Avenue, Green Elmer D - Lynnbrooke Avenue, Gregg Paul - Saw Mill Run Boulevard, Hagel Robert L - Gallion Avenue, Haggerty Francis L - Chelton Avenue, Heck Richard N - Bayridge Avenue, Henry Robert P - Plainview Avenue, Herrle Harold J - Kenilworth Street, Hogan James T - Bellaire Place, Hogel Joseph A. - Milan Avenue, Kuntz William J - Brookline Boulevard, Land, William - Berkshire Avenue, Lang Charles H - Whited Street, Lutton James L - Brookline Boulevard, Mahoney David R - Berkshire Avenue, McKelvey Gene B - Bellaire Avenue, Moses William A - Fordham Avenue, Orth William J - Bayridge Avenue, Oswant John E - LaMarido Street, Quallich Robert P - Fortuna Street, Schilling Thomas M - Rossmore Avenue, Smith Harry A - Berkshire Avenue, Stull John R - Sageman Avenue, Sturm Jesse J - Edgebrook Avenue, Thom Albert - Timberland Avenue, Trimble Arthur P - Bayridge Avenue, Troppman Daniel A - Chelton Avenue, Whetsell John W - Castlegate Avenue, Ziegler Maurice S - Woodbourne Avenue.

Missing: Benninger Robert J - Woodbourne Avenue, Brickley Edward G - Woodward Avenue, Burkley Joseph A - Whited Street, Kost William C - Linial Avenue, Linke Walter A - Ferncliff Avenue.

Prisoner of War (Germany): Butterworth Norman - Norwich Avenue, Courtney Samuel E - Greencrest Drive, Drexler Daniel T - Bellaire Avenue, Dudics Edward - Fernhill Avenue, Fluke Richard C - Woodbourne Avenue, Flynn William J - Woodbourne Avenue, Jordano Frank A - Fernhill Avenue, Kosinski Raymond J - Woodward Avenue, Kost Peter - Linial Avenue, Manners Christ D - Brookline Boulevard, Streicher Frederick E - Bellaire Place, Theis Richard C - Fordham Avenue, Trunzo Anthony F - Plainview Avenue, Walker Raymond L - Plainview Avenue, Watkins David A - Fordham Avenue, Welsh Richard J - Merrick Avenue.

Prisoner of War (Japan): Arcuri Louis - Bellaire Place.

NOTE: None of the soldiers listed above as Missing-In-Action have been found on military death rolls. All of the Prisoners-Of-War listed above were repatriated. Source - www.ancestry.com.

Additional World War I Information

Wounded: Hamilton A W - Plainview Avenue, Knowlson Roscoe T - Berkshire Avenue.

Missing: Sheridan James L - Fordham Street.

Standing Guard
A soldier of the Old Guard stands watch over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Photo taken during Hurricane Sandy - October 2012.




The Brookline Monument.
Veteran's Memorial Park
and The Cannon.




Remembrances

Joseph P. Caldwell
Louis Arcuri
John P. Reitmeyer
Ralph Reitmeyer
Leo Reitmeyer
Vince Reitmeyer
Tom Reitmeyer

Frank P. Dornetto
Salvatore J. Bondi
Richard A. Bauer
Frederick E. Streicher
Joseph Conway
Richard J. Welsh
Joseph F. Loy
Jack E. Foley

Thomas J. Cullison
Ernest Galko
Pete Patterson
Bruno P. Riccardi
Charles F. Roland
James C. Wonn
Richard J. Lacey

The bronze plaque honoring all American Veterans
on the Brookline Veteran's Memorial.




Joseph P. Caldwell - Grand Army of the Republic
Dedication of Honor Roll - September, 1943

Joseph P. Caldwell, 96-year
old Civil War Veteran.

Echoes of Three Wars punctuated the ceremony yesterday when an honor roll was dedicated in Brookline. The tablet bearing the names of 1500 men and women in military service, sponsored by Post #540 of the American Legion, was unveiled on ground adjoining the Post home on Brookline Boulevard. Joseph P. Caldwell, 96-year old Civil War veteran, watched the ceremony with Colonel John H. Shenkel, post commander, beside him. Reprinted from the Pittsburgh Press - September 27, 1943.

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Joseph Caldwell was born November 13, 1847, in Allegheny City (presently the North Side). When he passed away in 1946, at age 98, Caldwell was the final surviving member of the last Pittsburgh-area post, McPherson Post 117, of the Grand Army of the Republic.

Caldwell was sixteen when he enlisted as a private in the third version of Captain Joseph M. Knap's Independent Pennsylvania Light Artillery Battery, organized in Pittsburgh. Members of the battery were on a 100-day emergency enlistment. The battery was ordered to Washington, D.C. and attached to 3rd Brigade, Hardin's Division, 22nd Corps, Dept. of Washington, then 1st Brigade, Hardin's Division, 22nd Corps for garrison duty in the defenses of Washington north of the Potomac. Private Caldwell served from May 19, 1864 until September 15, 1864.

Captain Joseph Knap's Independent
Pennsylvania Light Artillery Battery
Joseph M. Knap's Independent Pennsylvania Light Artillery

The Pennsylvania Artillery of Hardin's Division was involved in the Battle of Fort Stevens on July 11-12, 1864. The skirmishes were part of the Confederacy's final invasion of the north, led by General Jubal Early of the Army of Northern Virginia. President Abraham Lincoln rode out from Washington to observe the artillery duels between the opposing forces. The President stood on the parapets at Fort Stevens, in the line of fire of the Confederate guns.

The Grand Army of the Republic was a Union veteran's society, with membership limited to Civil War veterans only. Posts continued until the last surviving member died. McPherson Post 117 became a bygone part of Pittsburgh's military tradition on August 30, 1946.

After the war ended in 1865, Caldwell worked as a contractor in Butler County, where he owned a farm. He retired in 1928 and moved to Pittsburgh, settling in the community of Brookline. Joseph Caldwell spent the next seventeen years in Brookline. His final year was spent at the home of his son in Overbrook.

Joseph P. Caldwell

For eighty years, Civil War veteran Joseph Caldwell never missed a Memorial Day Parade. He was in attendance at every South Hills Memorial Association parade in Brookline until failing health kept him at home in 1946. That year, Major General Manton S. Eddy came to visit Caldwell and made a short speech at his bedside.

Joseph P. Caldwell was the last man surviving out of a total of 25,930 residents of Allegheny County who served with the Union Army during the Civil War. Of those soldiers, approximately 3,000 were killed or wounded during the conflict.




Petty Officer Louis Arcuri - U.S. Navy
Prisoner of War in Japan - 1942/1945

Petty Officer Louis Arcuri was a six-year Navy veteran who returned to active duty in 1939. When the Japanese attack on Luzon began, on December 8, 1941, P.O. Arcuri was stationed at a Communications Center in Manila. He retreated along with the rest of the Allied forces to the Bataan Peninsula, then to Corregidor, where the Battle for the Phillipines came to an end with the American and Phillipino surrender.

On May, 6, 1942, P.O. Louis Arcuri became a prisoner of the Japanese Empire. He survived the Bataan Death March, and in December of 1942, Arcuri wrote a letter home to his brother, Michael Arcuri of 1431 Bellaire Place. The letter arrived in July, 1943. The following article is reprinted from the Pittsburgh Press dated July 21, 1943.

Article from Pittsburgh
Press - July 21, 1943

Brookline Man Held In Japan Writes Parents

One of the first communications received in the district directly from a prisoner of war in Japan was received yesterday by a Brookline family.

The postcard, handled through the International Red Cross at Geneva, Switzerland, was from Petty Officer Louis Arcuri to his brother, Michael Arcuri, 1431 Bellaire Place.

"I am well and safe in Japan," the card read. "My health is usual. I have had no news of the family since November 1941. How are you and the family, especially father. Remember me to father. Love. Louis."

The printed card was dated December 22, 1942. It bore a Japanese censor stamp and was forwarded from Prisoners Information Bureau, of the Office of the Provost General in Washington.

Petty Officer Arcuri, 33, was reported missing after the fall of Corregidor. He was reported a prisoner last January 4. A veteran of six years previous service, he returned to active duty in 1939, and served as a radio man. He was stationed in Manila.

Allied command center inside Malinta Tunnel.
Allied Command Center located in the Malinta Tunnel - Corregidor - May 1942

After the war, Petty Officer Louis Arcuri was repatriated and returned to the United States after nearly 3 1/2 years in captivity. He had spent time in POW camps in the Phillipines, Formosa, and Japan. The last camp where he was held was Tokyo POW Camp Branch #2 (Kawasaki) Tokyo Bay Area 35-139.




John P. Reitmeyer - Shipfitter 2nd Class - USS Juneau
Naval Battle of Guadalcanal - November 13, 1942

Shipfitter John P. Reitmeyer

John Paul Reitmeyer was born on July 18, 1909, the fourth of ten children. John and his parents, August and Rose Reitmeyer, along with brothers Harry, Frederick, Vince, Leo, Gilbert and Ralph, and sisters Francis, Rita and Jean, lived on Woodward Avenue in Brookline.

John attended Resurrection Elementary and graduated from South Hills High School in 1927. He took a job working with his grandfather at Moorehead-Reitmeyer Electric Motor Repair Shop in Oakdale, where he was employed for two years.

In December 1929, John enlisted in the United States Navy. During his four year tour of duty, he took flying lessons, but never qualified as a Navy pilot. After his enlistment ended in 1933, John returned home to Pittsburgh and stayed at the family's new home at 530 Bellaire Avenue, which was purchased in 1930.

He went back to work with his grandfather for a short time, then moved on to the sheet metal trade. John became an ironworker, employed at the Dravo Corporation's shipbuilding yard on Neville Island. He also spent time with the Heyl-Patterson Construction Company, doing metal work at facilities throughout the state.

Dravo shipbuilding yard on Neville Island.
The Dravo Corporation shipbuilding yard on Neville Island.

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, John re-enlisted in the Navy and was rated as a Shipfitter 2nd Class, assigned to the USS Juneau (CL-52), a new ship moored at the Brooklyn Naval Yard. A naval Shipfitter's duties include fabricating, assembling and erecting all structural parts of a ship. They were the skilled mechanics who kept a ship at sea structurally sound. In battle, they were called upon to perform whatever tasks necessary to keep their ship seaworthy.

Before leaving for the war, John commented to family members that it was his duty to go back to sea on this recently commissioned ship because so many of the sailors were so young, and had never before been on a ship, let alone out to sea. He felt strongly that his experience was needed on the USS Juneau.

The USS Juneau was a light cruiser commissioned in February 1942. After blocakade duty near Martinique, the ship was sent to the South Pacific to support United States operations at Guadalcanal. The Juneau saw action in two of the major naval engagements that contributed to the American victory at Guadalcanal, which halted Japanese expansion towards Australia and turned the tide of battle in favor of the Allies.

After his tour of duty began, John was able to return home once to visit with the Reitmeyer family in Brookline. His youngest brother Ralph recalls, "That was in July of 1942."

Once his leave was up, Ralph remembers taking his brother to the Pennsylvania Railroad Station on Grant Street, in downtown Pittsburgh, for the trip back to the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Ralph had only recently earned his driver's license.

"John was always kidding me about my poor driving," Ralph says. "I was a nervous wreck."

"He boarded the train and that was the last time I saw him."

USS Juneau - 1942
The Light Cruiser USS Juneau (CL-52) in 1942.

In October 1942 the USS Juneau was engaged in the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands and, in November, the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal.

On November 13, 1942, a Japanese task force, including several warships escorting a troop convoy, approached Guadalcanal. This was a major attempt by the Japanese to reinforce their island garrison and launch an offensive operation to clear the island of the Americans. As the Japanese ships neared Guadalcanal, they were met by Rear Admiral Daniel J. Callaghan's relatively small Landing Support Group, which included the USS Juneau. At 01:48 the two forces met and began to exchange fire. A fierce battle ensued.

The USS Juneau was hit by a torpedo and began to list. The ship was forced to withdraw. By morning, the Japanese force had been beaten back, and their reinforcment effort halted. This was a major turning point in the battle of Guadalcanal.

Listing severely, the USS Juneau, along with two other damaged cruisers, began the journey to Australia for repairs. At 11:00 on the morning of November 13, the USS Juneau was hit by two torpedoes from the Japanese submarine, I-26. The ship broke in two and sunk in a mere twenty seconds. Shipfitter Reitmeyer was below decks and did not survive the sinking.

Over 100 sailors survived, only to languish for days in the water. News of the sinking was not reported due to the tenuous situation at that time during the Battle of Guadalcanal. The admiralty did not want to risk allowing the Japanese to know the extent of the damages to the fleet. When rescue aircraft arrived, eight days later, only ten survivors remained.

USS Juneau Memorial

A memorial to the USS Juneau has been erected near the docks in Juneau, Alaska. Among the sailors lost as a result of the USS Juneau's sinking were the five Sullivan Brothers.

* Thanks to Tim Reitmeyer, nephew of John Reitmeyer, for contributing this information. *
Written by Clint Burton - May 24, 2012

Electrians Mate Ralph Reitmeyer - United States Navy
USS Picking (DD-685) - 1943/1945

Ralph Reitmeyer, born on September 26, 1924, joined the Navy in 1943, after graduating from South Hills High School. He was assigned to the recently commissioned Fletcher-class destroyer USS Picking (DD-685), as an electrical repairman.

On board ship, Ralph's duty station was below decks in the Engine Room. He worked the Fire Room Board Watch. An Electricians Mate was responsible for maintaining proper steam pressure from the two Fire Rooms in order keep the ship's generator in proper working condition. The generator provided power for all of the electrical systems and the turbines.

The USS Picking's first assignment was with the North Pacific Fleet, stationed at Dutch Harbor. The Picking was part of Destroyer Squadron 49, made up of eight destroyers and three light cruisers, that patrolled the waters off the Alaskan Aleutian Islands. This tour of duty in the northern Pacific lasted from December 1943 through July 1944.

USS Picking (DD-685) - 1943
The United States Navy Destroyer USS Picking (DD-685) in 1943.

The Picking then steamed to San Franciso, California for a refit and overhaul. In September, the ship sailed for Pearl Harbor, then off to the war in the South Pacific. On October 25, 1944, while performing escort duties for the 7th Fleet near the Philippine Islands, the ship received news of the Battle off Samar Island, and rushed to provide protection for the Leyte beachhead, the target of the Japanese attack.

The USS Picking was heading into one of the largest naval battles in history, the centermost action of the Battle of Leyte Gulf, also known as the Second Battle of the Philippine Sea.

Off Samar Island, a powerful Japanese force, including the Battleship Yamato, engaged a much smaller American force made up mostly of escort carriers and "tin cans", the lightly armored Fletcher-class destroyers. This outgunned and underarmored group of American ships was all that stood between the Japanese and the exposed and unprotected landing forces on Leyte.

The USS Picking joined the battle on the periphery of the main engagement. During the battle, the ship's guns engaged several Japanese warplanes, and splashed two in the process, before the Japanese attackers were compelled to withdraw.

At the time of the Battle off Samar, Ralph's battle station was on the search light platform, located midway up the Number One Stack. He would climb up the stack to the platform, turn the lights on and operate the shudders. During a daylight call to stations, there was nothing much to do but stand on the platform and watch.

Ralph remembers that day. "I was up on the platform, watching an occasional Japanese plane attacking one of the nearby ships. Our gunners were firing and the japs were firing. They were good flyers, but lucky for us they weren't great shots."

"Our boys were better, and got two of them with the 40mm guns."

A Japanese plane goes down during
the Battle off Samar Island.
A Japanese warplane shot down at the epic Battle of Leyte Gulf.

"We took some hits when one plane passed by on a strafing run, and the ship suffered one casualty. It was a friend of mine who was manning the radar tower on top of the flying bridge. From our perches high atop the main deck, we were within yelling distance of each other."

"One of the bullets hit him in the leg. He was taken down to the main bridge for first aid."

Captain Semmes, our commanding officer, came out to see him. He looked across the way and saw me standing all by myself on the search light platform on the stack."

"What are you doing out there?" the Captain yelled at me.

"This is my battle station, Sir." Ralph replied.

"Well get down off there," the Captain ordered. "We don't need any more casualties!"

That was the last time Ralph manned the search lights. His battle station was switched to Damage Control. "From that point on, my job was to stand on the deck waiting for any sort of problem that needed addressed."

After the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the Picking returned to escort duties. In January 1945 the ship provided anti-aircraft protection for the beachhead at Lingayen Gulf and screened the landings at San Antonio. She provided fire support and protection as troops went ashore on Mariveles, February 15, and on Corregidor, February 16. The destroyer also provided convoy escort to ships bringing reinforcements and supplies to the invasion forces.

There were several occasions when the Picking participated in search and destroy missions, tracking Japanese submarines with sonar. Although they dropped many depth charges in pursuit of the enemy subs, the Picking never claimed a sinking.

The crew of the USS Picking (DD-685) - 1945
The crew of the Destroyer USS Picking in 1945.

After the Philippine Island campaign. The USS Picking provided fire support during the first month of the Battle of Okinawa. The battle lasted 82 days, from early April until mid-June 1945. The battle has been referred to as the "Typhoon of Steel" due to the ferocity of the fighting, the intensity of kamikaze attacks from the Japanese defenders, and to the sheer numbers of Allied ships and armored vehicles that assaulted the island.

The Picking traveled up and down the coast, assisting the ground forces by bombing Japanese strongholds and bunkers dug deep into the hillsides.

On May 18, 1945, the destoyers USS Picking and USS Longshaw were off the Okinawan coast, near the city of Naha, bombing the airfield and hillside bunkers, when several unexpected developments led to one of the Picking's most memorable and, in some ways, most forgettable, moments of the war.

As Ralph relates:

"We were in a cove and the tide went out quickly. The Longshaw became grounded and efforts to get the ship off the coral reef were unsuccessful. She was a sitting duck. The Japanese on the coast began firing at the Longshaw and the ship was taking severe damage and casualties were mounting. The Captain of the Longshaw ordered the ship to be abandoned."

"We moved in close, firing at the coast. We managed to recover all of the surviving crewmen from the ship and then moved quickly out of harm's way, beyond the range of the Jap guns."

"At this point it was decided to destroy the Longshaw so that the Japanese could not board her and retreive anything of value."

Captain Semmes ordered that torpedoes be fired at the ship, rendering her useless. We lined up for the shots and that's when things went from bad to worse, in quite an unexpected way."

The USS Longshaw (DD-559) - May 18, 1945
The USS Longshaw, grounded on a coral reef, was severely damaged
by Japanese guns along the Okinawan coastline on May 18, 1945.

"Our torpedoes were propelled with alcohol, like the gasoline in a car. Sometimes life on a ship can get boring, and some of the torpedo crewman would dip into the torpedo alcohol at night for a little enjoyment. In the morning, this would be replaced. It was business as usual for the men. Well, the night before they weren't thinking that we'd be firing torpedos the next day!"

"Now, the guys didn't drink it all, but they consumed enough of the alcohol that none of our torpedos had enough propellant to reach the target."

"Obviously, Captain Semmes was unaware of the situation. We fired ten torpedoes at the Longshaw, and one after another, their wakes fizzled out before impact. After a while he became a bit suspicious."

"We had to call in one of the light cruisers to put a few shots into the Longshaw. Later, when the tide came back in, the disabled ship was towed out to sea and sunk."

"Captain Semmes ranted on and on that if he could prove what happened to the alcohol, he would have had the entire torpedo crew hung from the yardarm."

"Well, I guess that was just one of those things. You never know with war. Anything can happen. We have joked many times about that day at our reunions."

After their fire support role at Okinawa was completed, ship went on picket duty, screening the offshore invasion fleet. They remained at this assignment until June 23, when they sailed for the U.S. base on the island of Saipan.

Electrians Mate 3rd Class Ralph Reitmeyer and the USS Picking were stationed at Saipan when the war came to an end in August 1945.

USS Picking World War II Medals
Medals earned by the USS Picking during service in World War II.

Regarding his brother John, who was lost in the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, Ralph remembers him coming home for leave in July 1942.

"Once his leave was up," Ralph says, "I drove John and his girlfriend to the Pennsylvania Railroad Station on Grant Street, in downtown Pittsburgh, for the trip back to Brooklyn Navy Yard. I had only recently earned my driver's license."

"John was always kidding me about my poor driving and I was a nervous wreck."

"He boarded the train and that was the last time I saw him."

Shortly after his assignment to the USS Picking, in 1943, Ralph came across a sailor that was present when the USS Juneau was sunk.

The sailor told Ralph that as their small convoy of damaged ships withdrew from Guadalcanal towards Australia, they were below deck, lining up for breakfast. The Juneau was under way on their port side. While they ate breakfast there was a huge explosion. By the time they made it upstairs to the deck, they were shocked to see that the Juneau was gone. "The ship went down very quickly," the sailor said.

Ralph left the Navy on April 10, 1946, and worked at J&L Steel, then Moorehead-Reitmeyer Electric Motor Repair Shop, before settling into a career as a Motor Repairman for Pennsylvania Electric Coil Company. He married Dolores Yochum in September 1950. The couple had nine children: Ralph Jr., John, Charles, Gerard, Warren, Kenneth, Ray, Roy and Arthur.

In May 1951, Ralph and Dolores purchased a home in Brentwood, a southern suburb near Brookline. In July 1966, The USS Picking held a reunion. Ralph was chosen as Master of Ceremonies. He had a great time meeting his fellow shipmates, including Captain Semmes. Ralph and his Captain reminisced over their wartime experiences, and were reminded about some of the lighter moments that stood out in their mind, like Ralph's days at his battle station manning the search lights, and the day the torpedoes unexpectedly fell short of their target.

USS Picking (DD-685) - 1941
USS Picking reunion, July 1966. Ralph Reitmeyer is seated front row, second from the right.
Captain Semmes is seated next to Ralph, third from the right.

Ralph and Dolores Reitmeyer lived and prospered in Brentwood until 2000, when they purchased their retirement home in Clairton.

Today, at eighty-seven years of age, Ralph still lives at his home in Clairton. Dolores passed away in 2001. Since then, Ralph spends most his time relaxing, working on crossword puzzles, reminiscing about the old days and doing all he can to enjoy his twilight years.

* Thanks to Ralph Reitmeyer, and his nephew Tim Reitmeyer, for contributing this information. *
Written by Clint Burton - May 25, 2012

Shipfitter Leo Reitmeyer - United States Navy
USS Medusa (AR-1) - 1941/1945

Leo Reitmeyer was born on September 7, 1913. Like his brothers Ralph and John, he also served in the United States Navy during World War II. Leo left school to join the Navy in 1938 and was stationed aboard the USS Medusa, a repair ship that was moored at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

Skilled in metal-working like his older brother John, Leo was assigned as a shipfitter. He was aboard the Medusa on that fateful December morning, the day that will live in infamy, and witnessed first-hand the Japanese attack that prompted America's entry into the war.

USS Medusa (AR-1) - 1942
The Repair Ship USS Medusa (AR-1) at Pearl Harbor in February 1942.

The USS Medusa (AR-1) was one of the ships that fired some of America's first shots of World War II. They engaged one of the Japanese mini-submarines sent to infiltrate Pearl Harbor ahead of the carrier-based air attacks. The Medusa fired upon, then tracked, the enemy intruder until the destroyer USS Monaghan arrived to put the submarine out of action. During the air attacks, anti-aircraft machine gunners from the Medusa claimed two Japanese Aichi D3A1 dive bombers shot down during the attack.

After the attack, the ship and her crew went to work in her primary role as a repair ship, provided equipment, ammunition, food, beverages and fuel to many of the ships and units in and around the harbor. The ship also assisted in efforts to rescue men trapped in the hull of the capsized anti-aircraft training ship Utah.

USS Curtiss and USS Medusa at
Pearl Harbor - December 7, 1941.
The damaged USS Curtiss (AV-4), left, and USS Medusa (AR-1), at their
moorings soon after the Japanese raid on December 7, 1941.

The USS Medusa remained in Pearl Harbor for over a year, assigned to the Service Force, to aid in the clean-up efforts around the port.

In April 1943 the ship headed for the combat area in the South Pacific. The ship was involved in repair work at several of the fleet service ports, with duty at Havannah Harbor, Milne Bay, Guadalcanal, Manus Island and San Pedro Bay in the Philippines. When the war ended, the Medusa continued her fleet repair work until returning to the United States in November 1945.

USS Medusa five cent token        USS Medusa five cent token

Shipfitter Leo Reitmeyer continued his service in the Navy for another three years, retiring as a ten-year veteran in 1948.

After his days in the Navy, Leo returned to Brookline and began a career as a Postal Service employee. He married Helen Torisky, and the couple purchased a home on Midland Avenue. Helen and Leo had three kids: Leo Jr., Francis and Kathy. World War II veteran and life-long Brookline resident Leo Reitmeyer, a Pearl Harbor survivor, passed away in 2000.

USS Medusa (AR-1) - Pearl Harbor Addendum

Pearl Harbor under attack Dec 7, 1941.    Pearl Harbor under attack Dec 7, 1941.
The Japanese sneal attack on Pearl Harbor brought the United States into World War II.

The following is an excerpt from the report of the Commanding Officer of the USS Medusa, Lt. Commander John Miller, on the actions of the ship and crew during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor:

"About 0755 I heard a loud explosion, and looking out the port of my room, saw what appeared to be the hanger on the south end of Ford Island in flames and a large column of smoke reaching into the air.

The General Alarm was sounded immediately and all hands went to General Quarters. On my way to the bridge I gave the magazine keys to the Gunner's Mate on duty with orders to open the forward magazine, then the after magazine.

Enemy planes appeared to make a simultaneous attack – the bombers attacking Ford Island coming from the Southwest, and the torpedo planes coming from the Southeast.

On reaching the bridge orders were given to the engine room to get ready to get underway immediately. I then proceeded to the Signal Bridge where Mr. Foley was in charge of Fire Control. He was mounting two .30 caliber machine guns, one on each end of the Signal Bridge.

At approximately 0805 the first shot was fired by the Medusa from #5 3" A.A. gun. From this period on I have no estimate of time but both A.A. guns and both machine guns kept up a continuous fire during the attacks. The majority of planes attacking the Medusa-Curtiss sector were flying at an altitude of not over 400 feet; a few were not over 100 feet.

During the attack it was reported that a submarine periscope was sighted about 1000 yards on our starboard quarter or about 500 yards astern of the Curtiss. I gave orders to open fire on the periscope – shortly afterward the Curtiss opened fire. The submarine fired a torpedo at a small dock astern of Curtiss. The submarine then broached to the surface with conning tower in plain sight. Many shots could plainly be seen hitting the conning tower from both the Medusa and Curtiss. While being shelled, the submarine appeared by be backing toward the Curtiss.

About this time the Monaghan (DD354) was seen standing down the channel west of Ford Island. She headed directly for the submarine at about fifteen knots. The order cease firing was given when Monaghan was abeam of the Curtiss. She appeared to pass immediately over the submarine and dropped two depth charges. The first charge appeared to drop right on top of the submarine as the volume of water shooting into the air was heavily colored with a black substance. The second charge did not have the black coloring.

The Commanding Officer of the Monaghan should be commended for the promptness with which he made the attack, and the excellent seamanship displayed in very restricted waters.

I definitely saw four planes shot down. One fell on the boat deck of the Curtiss and burst into flames; one dropped bomb close to the stern of the Medusa and immediately thereafter disintegrated as the result of a shell hit which I believe was made by Medusa #6 A.A. Gun.

One flew over the bow of the Medusa about 200 feet in the air and was met by a barrage from our .30 caliber machine guns and a strong barrage from Destroyer Mine Division Three. This plane fell in the water about 1500 yards on our port beam and was picked up next day by a lighter.

One fell on the bank astern of the Medusa where the engine and a part of the wing appear to be imbedded in the bank.

The courage and conduct shown by the officers and men who came under my personal supervision was of the highest order especially when one considers the surprise element which entered into the attack. Each man aboard performed deeds which in ordinary times would single him out for the highest commendation.

War is Declared!
Newspapers across the country carried the news of the Japanese sneak attack.
President Roosevelt asked for, and received, a Declaration of War.

Sgt. Vince Reitmeyer - United States Army Cook
North Africa, Sicily and Italy - 1942/1945

Vince Reitmeyer, brother of Navy veterans John, Leo and Ralph, born in 1911, left school at age sixteen to work for a local grocer. After a few years working with the professional butcher, Vince had mastered the trade and had achieved quite a reputation at carving a side of beef.

At age thirty, in January 1942, Vince was drafted into the United States Army. The master butcher was, without much debate, rated as a cook. From the beginning, Vince's prowess with the clever earned him a reputation as a man skilled in the art of cutting meat. He achieved the rank of Sergeant before sailing for North Africa the following November.

A typical front-line mess kitchen, Italy 1944
A Tank destroyer crew show their enthusiasm at the arrival of the rations
truck with their Christmas turkey. 5th Army, Bisomo Area, Italy.

Sgt. Vince Reitmeyer was present when the United States took it's first steps on the long road to victory in Europe, landing in North Africa with the American invasion forces. Over the next three years, Vince traveled along with his unit, keeping the chow lines running from the beaches of North Africa to the sands of Sicily, and finally to the mountains of Italy. Vince Reitmeyer was serving in Northern Italy when the War in Europe came to an end on May 7, 1945.

After the war, Vince and his wife Helen purchased a home in Brookline, where they lived with their son Hugh David. Vince worked as a butcher for several of the local grocery chains. He passed away in 1983.

* Thanks to Ralph Reitmeyer, brother of John, Leo and Vince Reitmeyer, for contributing this information. *
Written by Clint Burton - May 25, 2012

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United States Joint Service Color Guard
on parade at Fort Myer, Virginia.
United States Joint Service Color Guard on parade at Fort Myer, Virginia.

The Reitmeyer Family - A Strong Military Tradition

The Reitmeyer family of Brookline has a strong military tradition. In addition to the contributions and sacrifice of the four family brothers, John, Leo, Vince and Ralph, during World War II, future generations of the family have also gone on to distinguished military careers. A Reitmeyer son has served in all five branches of the Armed Forces: Navy, Marine Corps, Army, Air Force and Coast Guard.

Following in their father's footsteps, Ralph Reitmeyer's first and second born, Ralph Jr. and John, both served in the Air Force. Harry Reitmeyer, brother of John, Leo, Vince and Ralph, had seven children of his own: Harry Jr. Bob, Sue, David, Annys, and twins Tim and Tom.

Of Harry Reitmeyer's seven children, four went on to serve in the United States Armed Forces. Harry Jr. served in the Army during the 1950s. Bob was a Navy Pilot in the early 1960s. David was an Army Helicopter Pilot who completed two tours of duty in Vietnam. Harry's youngest son Tom spent twenty years as a Naval Aviator, reaching the rank of Commander.

Commander Tom Reitmeyer - United States Navy
F14 Tomcat - Radio Intercept Officer

Tom Reitmeyer was born October 15, 1951. He attended Resurrection Elementary and graduated from South Hills Catholic High School in 1970. Four years later he had earned a degree in Urban Management from the University of Pittsburgh. After an unsuccessful run for State Legislator, Tom applied for a Navy Commission in 1977. He was following in the footsteps of his older brother Bob, a former Navy Pilot.

F14 Tomcat Fighter-Interceptor
F14 Tomcat Fighter-Interceptor.

After spending four-plus years in Naval Intelligence, he switched to duty on an F14 Tomcat fighter-interceptor. Tom was a flight officer, or Radar Intercept Officer (RIO), responsible for the fighter's weapons and radar systems.

Radar Intercept Officer Tom Reitmeyer
Radar Intercept Officer Tom Reitmeyer, March 1989.

On April 15, 1986, Tom flew a mission in support of the United State's bombing of Libya. On that mission, his carrier-based F14 flew along as fighter escort for the raid. The attack was in reprisal for a series of terrorist bombings by extremist groups with ties to the regime of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Tom's Navy career continued for another decade until his retirement in 1997. After twenty years of distinguished service, he had reached the rank of Commander.

Tom Reitmeyer

In addition to his undergraduate degree in management, Tom Reitmeyer also earned a Master's Degree in administration. He spent time as an associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University, where he taught "Leadership and Ethics." With over fifteen years experience in private industry, Tom is the founder of Decision Now, a leadership, consulting and coaching firm.

Tom currently lives in Virginia Beach. He and his ex-wife Kim Kearns Reitmeyer (Elizabeth-Seton High School '73) have raised four children: Peter, Maggie, Molly and Joey. Kim now lives in Flagstaff, Arizona, near their two daughters and their two grandchildren.

  

Continuing the Reitmeyer family military heritage, Commander Tom Reitmeyer's youngest son, Joseph, is a Lieutenant in the United States Coast Guard. Tom's oldest son, United States Marine Corps Major Peter Reitmeyer, is a helicopter pilot assigned to HM1 Squadron. Both have seen duty in the Middle Eastern theatre during the present-day War on Terror.

Major Peter Reitmeyer    Marine One of the Presidential Helicopter Squadron
Major Peter Reitmeyer stands next to the Presidential helocopter (left)
and Marine One taking off from the White House lawn.

Major Peter Reitmeyer's current unit is responsible for the operation of the Presidential Transport Squadron. When Marine One lifts off from the White House lawn, we can all rest assured that the President of the United States of America is in the capable hands of a veteran pilot, born in Brookline, whose family has both a long and storied history of dedicated military service to our country, and strong neighborhood roots.

The President and First Lady on their way to Marine One.
The President and First Lady on their way towards boarding Marine One. It was Major Reitmeyer's first lift.

* Thanks to Tim and Tom Reitmeyer, and their uncle Ralph Reitmeyer, for contributing this information. *
Written by Clint Burton - May 26, 2012




Frank P. Dornetto - Watertender 1st Class
USS Indianapolis (CA-35) - 1943/1945

Seaman Frank P. Dornetto

Frank P. Dornetto was born on February 28, 1922, the third son of Theresa and Dominico Dornetto. The Dornetto family, including brothers Joe, Louie, William, and sisters Sarah and Elvera, lived on Webster Avenue in Pittsburgh's Hill District. Frank attended Franklin High School for two years, then quit school to work at his father's gas station and parking lot. In 1940, the Dornetto's purchased a new home on Jacob Street in Brookline.

Shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, Frank enlisted in the United States Navy. His brothers also served in the armed forces, with older brother Joe entering the Army Tank Corps, and younger brothers Louie and William entering the Army Air Corps and Army Infantry, respectively.

Seaman Frank Dornetto completed his naval training at Great Lakes Naval Station on February 22, 1943, and soon afterwards was rated as a Watertender. A Watertender is a crewman aboard a steam-powered ship who is responsible for tending to the fires and boilers in the ship's engine room.

The ship Frank was assigned to was the USS Indianapolis (CA-35), part of the United States Pacific Fleet. With most of the U.S. battleships damaged at Pearl Harbor, the burden of carrying the war to the enemy fell to the heavy cruisers. The USS Indianapolis had already seen significant action in the South Pacific, and was tendered at the Mare Island Ship Yard, near San Francisco, California, for a refit and overhaul.

USS Indianapolis (CA-35)
The Heavy Cruiser USS Indianapolis (CA-35) on July 10, 1945.

In November 1943, the USS Indianapolis became the flagship of Vice Admiral Raymond Spruance's 5th Fleet. From November 1943 through January 1945, the Indianapolis and the 5th Fleet engaged in several major campaigns, including the Battle of Tarawa, the Battle of Makin, the Battle of Kwajalein, the assault on the Western Carolinas, the assault on the Mariana Islands, the Battle of Saipan, the Battle of the Philippine Sea, the Battle of Tinian and the Battle of Peleliu. In September 1944 the ship conducted operations against the Admiralty Islands, then returned to Mare Island for overhaul.

Dornetto, promoted to Watertender 1st Class on March 12, 1944, was granted leave while the Indianapolis was docked at Mare Island. He returned home for a welcome visit with family and friends. After overhaul, the Indianapolis and WT1C Dornetto returned to the Pacific Theatre, in February 1945, as part of Vice Admiral Marc Mitscher's fast carrier task force. The ship conducted operations against the Japanese "Home Islands," including action at the Battle of Iwo Jima and the Battle of Okinawa.

On March 31, 1945, the USS Indianapolis suffered serious damage as a result of a direct bomb hit by a Japanese warplane and returned to Mare Island for repair. Frank was granted leave and again returned home for another visit with his family.

When it was time to return to California, Frank's sister Elvera recalls that for the first time, he felt insecurities about returning to duty. A premonition of impending disaster gnawed at him. Putting his feelings aside, the now decorated veteran returned to his ship for another foray into the War in the Pacific.

Water Tender Frank P. Dornetto
Frank P. Dornetto - 1945

In July 1945, the USS Indianapolis received top secret orders to proceed to Tinian Island, carrying parts, and the enriched uranium, for the atomic bomb Little Boy, which would later be dropped on Hiroshima. The Indianapolis departed San Francisco on July 16 and three days later arrived at Pearl Harbor. The ship then raced on unaccompanied, reaching Tinian Island in record speed on July 26. After delivering it's nuclear cargo, the Indianapolis sailed for Guam.

After a short stay, the ship sailed toward Leyte in the Philippines. At 00:14 on July 30, the USS Indianapolis was struck by two torpedoes on her starboard bow, launched from the Japanese submarine I-58. The explosions caused massive damage. The crippled ship took on a heavy list, and twelve minutes later rolled completely over.

Within minutes the USS Indianapolis plunged into the depths, taking approximately 300 of her 1096 member crew down with her, including Watertender 1st Class Frank P. Dornetto.

The survivors of the sinking suffered a fate that has gone down as one of the saddest stories in the history of the United States Navy. Due to the top secret nature of the mission, and the accompanying radio silence, these survivors were stranded for three and a half days in the water. Search efforts were delayed, and once located, only 321 crewmen were rescued. Nearly five hundred sailors died of drowning, exposure to the elements and persistent shark attacks.

USS Indianapolis Memorial

The USS Indianapolis (CA-35) was one of the most highly decorated warships in the United States Pacific Fleet, earning a total of ten Battle Stars. The USS Indianapolis National Memorial was dedicated on August 2, 1995. It is located on the Canal Walk in Indianapolis, Indiana. An image of the Heavy Cruiser is etched in limestone and granite. Crewmembers names are listed on the monument, with special notations for those who lost their lives.

USS Indianapolis Memorial

Pictured below is the American flag that was presented to Frank Dornetto's parents by Navy representatives after a memorial service at St. Peters Catholic Church shortly after the end of World War II. The wood frame, containing Frank's war medals and service caps, was crafted by Mr. Michael Esposito. It currently hangs in the home of Frank's sister, Elvera Esposito, on Pioneer Avenue in Brookline.

  

* Thanks to Mrs. Elvera Esposito, younger sister of Frank Dornetto, for contributing this information. *
Written by Clint Burton - May 18, 2012




Pfc. Salvatore J. Bondi - United States Army
79th (Lorraine) Division - 1944/1945

Pfc. Salvatore J. Bondi

Salvatore J. Bondi was born on February 3, 1922, to Mary and Salvatore Bondi of Greenwood Street in Morningside. Sal was the youngest of thirteen children. After two years at Arsenal High School, he quit school to take a job as a Drill Press Operator. After the United States entry into World War II, Sal enlisted in the Army and was sworn in on October 13, 1942.

Sal left for basic training on October 27, 1942. After infantry training at Camp Pickett, Virginia, Private Salvatore Bondi, Serial No. 33308456, was assigned to the Anti-Tank Company of the 315th Infantry Regiment, 79th Infantry Division, as an Anti-Tank Gun Crewman. The division left the United States on April 7, 1944, and after sailing across the Atlantic, arrived in England nine days later.

79th Infantry Division Shoulder Patch.

After training in the United Kingdom, beginning on April 17, 1944, Sal Bondi and the rest of the 79th (Lorraine) Infantry Division departed for France and landed on Utah Beach, Normandy, on June 12. The soldiers entered combat on June 19, 1944. The men of the Lorraine Division engaged in heavy fighting south of Cherbourg and entered the coastal town on June 25, 1944. It was their baptism of fire.

Over the next six months, Sal was involved in several major campaigns, including the battles in Normandy, Northern France, the Rhineland and Central Europe. During the Battle of the Bulge, units of the 79th Division were attached to the Third Army, and Sal was assigned as one of General George S. Patton's drivers.

The fiery three-star general, commander of the United States Third Army, was a leader who prefered to command from the front. On January 10, 1945, the General, with Sal at the wheel of his jeep, was surveying some front-line units near the town of Luneville in France.

General George S. Patton
U.S. General George S. Patton

As Sal recalls, "He stops me and gets out. He says, 'Go down that road a little bit and see what you see.' You know what I saw down there? All the damn Germans. They captured me. You know what he got out of that jeep for? He knew they were there. He knew he couldn't get captured. He was too smart for that."

"The Germans took me to Nuremberg and held me for four and a half months, until Patton came back and took the town about a month before the war ended."

Once liberated, Bondi spent the next few months at a base hospital recuperating. In September 1945, Sal was sent back to the United States to convalesce at a rehabilitation center for POWs in Ashville, North Carolina. Thirty pounds lighter and with the war behind him, Private First Class Salvatore J. Bondi, now a decorated veteran, began the long road to recovery.

The many medals and ribbons earned by
Sal Bondi during his service in World War II.
Ribbons and Medals earned by Sal Bondi in World War II.

During his time overseas, Sal was awarded the Purple Heart with one Oak Leaf Cluster, the Distinguished Unit Badge, a Silver Star, a Bronze Star, the Prisoner of War Medal, the European-African-Middle Eastern Service Medal with four Bronze Stars, and the Good Conduct Medal, along with several other distinguished ribbons and citations.

Sal's active duty status ended on October 11, 1945, and he received his official discharge from duty on August 26, 1946. He returned home to Pittsburgh to his family and his sweetheart, Josephine Garofalo, whose family owned a Shoe Repair Store and an adjacent Grocery Store on Brookline Boulevard. Sal and Josephine were married right away, and settled into the family home, located above the two businesses at 712 Brookline Boulevard.

Sal's Barber Shop

Josephine's brother, Frank Garofalo, owned the Shoe Repair Store. Her father owned the Grocery and, nearing retirement age, sold the store to Sal, who promptly began his own business, "Sal's Barber Shop." Sal and Josephine had two children, Agnes and Salvatore. The father and son are affectionately known as "Big Sal" and "Little Sal." For the next sixty years, Big Sal and his barber shop have been one of the few constants in the ever-changing storefront vista along Brookline Boulevard's commercial district.

Sal's daughter Agnes has remained in the family home above the shop. Little Sal, after graduating from Barber College in 1973, moved to Los Angeles, California, and started his own hair-styling salon, where he prospered for over thirty years.

In 2005, Little Sal Bondi, and his wife of twenty years Lynn, returned to Brookline to purchase a home and spend more time with his mother and father. The younger Salvatore soon began working in the barber shop that his father first opened back in 1947.

Big Sal Bondi and Little Sal Bondi
Little Sal and Big Sal Bondi at the family shop on Brookline Boulevard.

For a few years, the father and son team of Big and Little Sal worked side-by-side. Only recently, after the passing of his wife Josephine, has ninety year old Salvatore J. Bondi settled into full-time retirement, although he still keeps a silent vigil, from his upstairs apartment, over the barber shop and family business that he began over sixty years ago.

Now the sole owner of Sal's Barber Shop on Brookline Boulevard, Little Sal Bondi displays with pride his father's many war momentos and photos for his customers to see. The walls of the shop are lined with decorations commemorating the life of Big Sal Bondi, one of Brookline's most distinguished World War II veterans.

Sal's Barber Shop - May 2012
Sal's Barber Shop - 712 Brookline Boulevard, Pittsburgh, PA 15226.

Note: Salvatore "Big Sal" Bondi passed away on February 20, 2014. The Community
of Brookline lost a good friend and the United States of America
lost another member of the "Greatest Generation."

* Thanks to Little Sal Bondi, son of Big Sal, for contributing this information. *
Written by Clint Burton - May 23, 2012




Lt. Richard A. Bauer - United States Army
From North Africa to Austria - 1942/1945

The following is an article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, dated September 14, 1945, detailing the return home of First Lieutenant Richard A. Bauer of Berkshire Avenue. Lt. Bauer, a tank company officer, fought in the War in Africa and Europe, from the initial Allied invasion on the beaches of North Africa in 1942, to the mountains of Austria in 1945. After nearly three years at war, Richard Bauer of Brookline was finally home.

Officer, Wounded Five Times, Back At Home Again

Five times his wife and mother endured the agony of reading War Department telegrams that First Lieutenant Richard A. Bauer had been wounded - but last night they held him, hale and hearty, in their arms.

No crowds lined Brookline Boulevard as a motor caravan bearing the lieutenant home sped past. The war was over, and people no longer became excited about parades - and dinners were cooking in many a kitchen. Then, too, many other mothers were thinking of sons not yet returned.

But once the husky, quiet-spoken lieutenant reached the modest frame house at 1207 Berkshire Avenue, it immediately became the mecca for hundreds of relatives, friends and clamoring children to whom soldiering is still just play.

It hadn't been play for Lieutenant Bauer. The Purple Heart with four Oak Leaf Clusters on his chest testified to that. And it was just one ribbon on two solid rows that decorated his tunic.

Tears rimmed the eyes of his mother, Mrs. Margaret Bauer, and his wife, pretty, chestnut-haired Mary Bauer, as they hurried down the platform at the Pennsylvania Railroad Station to meet the lieutenant. His wife had met the lieutenant in Harrisburg, but his mother had yet to see her son.

Lt. Richard A Bauer, center, gets a
welcome home kiss from his mother and wife.
Lieutenant Bauer gets a welcome home kiss
from his mother and his wife Mary.

A broad-shouldered, clean-cut soldier in a smart uniform moved toward them, his eyes eager and searching. "It's him," whispered Mrs. Bauer, "it's my boy." The lieutenant saw her and quickened his pace.

Without a word he crushed his mother into his arms. His wife stood by, crying happily. When he finally lifted his face, the lieutenant's cheeks were set with tears, and this time they were his own.

Then the mob of welcomers enveloped Lieutenant Bauer. "This is the worst battle I was ever in," he said, wiping smudges of lipstick from his face.

The party walked past a train-bound group of inductees who waved at Lieutenant Bauer without knowing who he was. They saw the five gold stripes on his sleeves and the ribbons that splashed his tunic with color.

At his home on Berkshire Avenue, First Lieutenant Richard Bauer was mobbed by neighborhood children. Two-year old Brian Fornear tugged at the soldier's legs until he was picked up. Then little Brian, frightened by the noise, began to cry.

Curly-haired Mary Lou Cuddyre, 4, was next. She kissed the lieutenant. He chuckled. "I'm glad you're too young for lipstick," he said.

Everyone went to the basement in the Bauer home, where an uncle, former Sergeant Edward R. O'Keefe, had built a bar and festooned it with the approved forms of GI art. One sign read:

"There will be no need to dig garbage pits or slit trenches tonight. By order of First Lieutenant Bauer."

Lieutenant Bauer had a few beers while he waited for his mother's chicken and spaghetti dinner. He didn't talk about himself. He talked about his buddies in Company A of the Seventieth Tank Battalion.

"They made it possible for me to be here," he said.

Lieutenant Bauer, 26, who has amassed 148 points, expects to be discharged from the Army on Sunday. Formerly a clerk, he said he will enter the University of Pittsburgh as a freshman.

The basement walls were covered with German trophies he had sent home. Kids peered through the windows, fascinated both by the trophies and by the man who won them.

For First Lieutenant Richard Bauer, a decorated war veteran, a soldier that had fought from the sands of North Africa to the heart of the Nazi menace in Germany, the war is over, and it's time to prepare for civilian life.

It will be quite a lifestyle change after the battlefields of Europe, that of a student rather than a soldier. A welcome change, and one that will surely be surrounded by plenty of family and friends.

70th Tank Battalion Shoulder Patch.

Notes on Company A, 70th Tank Battalion

The 70th Tank Battalion was formed as an independent medium tank battalion in June 1940, equipped with M2A2 light tanks. The Battalion began training for amphibious operations immediately. It received M3 Stuart light tanks in 1941, and was redesignated the 70th Light Tank Battalion.

The unit sailed with the 1st Infantry Division, on January 9, 1942, for the French island of Martinique in the West Indies. It was the only U.S. tank battalion combat ready for an amphibious operation. Company A was detached from the battalion and landed in North Africa as part of Operation Torch, attached to the 39th Regimental Combat Team.

M3 Stuart Light Tank - 1942
The M3 Stuart Light Tank was the main battle tank of the
U.S. Tank Corps before the arrival of the M4 Sherman.

After the allied victory in North Africa, the battalion landed in Sicily as part of Operation Husky, in July 1943. After the Battle of Sicily, in November 1943, it was withdrawn to England, where it was re-equipped as a standard tank battalion with M4 Shermans.

The battalion suffered some casualties when, during Exercise Tiger on the morning of April 28, 1944. During a D-Day training mission, German E-boats on patrol from Cherbourg spotted a convoy of eight LSTs carrying vehicles and combat engineers of the 1st Engineer Special Brigade in Lyme Bay and attacked. Several LST's were damaged or sunk, and 638 casualties, both Army and Navy, were reported.

M4 Sherman Tank of the 70th Tank Battalion in
Normandy passes GIs and a wagon-load of German POWs.
M4 Sherman of Company A 70th Tank Battalion passes a squad of GIs
guarding several German POWs in Normandy, France.

On D-Day, June 6, 1944, the battalion landed on Utah Beach as part of the 4th Infantry Division, supporting the 8th Infantry Regiment led by General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.; For Operation Overlord, Companies A and B were equipped with amphibious DD Sherman tanks. Company A fought in the northward drive to Cherbourg, and in the breakout from Saint Lo. It battled it's way through France and into Belgium, entering Germany on September 13, 1944.

Company A fought in the Hurtgen Forest in November 1944, and moved to the Ardennes a month later. They fought in the Battle of the Bulge, and on March 29, 1945, crossed the Rhine River. The Battalion moved quickly through Germany, reaching the Danube River on April 25, 1945. Company A of the Seventieth Tank Battalion ended the war near the Austrian border.




Lt. Frederick E. Streicher - U.S. Army Air Corps
Prisoner of War in Germany - 1944/1945

Lieutenant Frederick E. Streicher was a pilot in the Army Air Corps that was shot down over Austria on April 2, 1944 and listed as missing in action on the May 16, 1944 casualty lists. He became a prisoner of war in Germany. While a prisoner he lost a leg due to wounds suffered during his capture. Lt. Streicher was freed in February 1945. He returned home to his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Frederick E. Streicher of 2637 Pioneer Avenue, in March 1945. Below is an article reprinted from the Pittsburgh Press, dated March 4, 1945.

Freed Prisoner Home Minus Leg
Brookline Pilot Keeps Promise Pals Made

He didn't think he'd ever get back after his capture by the Nazis, but Lt. Fred Streicher was at home with his parents in Brookline today.

His right leg missing, Lt. Streicher was one of nine repatriated Pittsburgh prisoners of was who returned last week aboard the Swedish Exchange Liner Gripsholm. He is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Frederick E. Streicher of 2637 Pioneer Avenue.

Shot down when he was on a mission over Steyr, Austria, last April 2, Lt. Streicher was hidden by the Austrian underground until April 18 when he was captured as the Germans raided the town where he and ten fellow airmen were hiding.

B17 Flying Fortress
B17 Flying Fortress Heavy Bomber

He had sprained both ankles when he baled out. They were still painful when the Germans took the town and caught him when he made an effort to escape. He was shot through the thigh. Nazi bullets snuffed out the life of his co-pilot who was with him.

He related yesterday how a German soldier had beaten him with the butt of his rifle, although he was bleeding excessively from the leg wound. "Three of my ribs were broken," he said.

Carried back behind the lines by the Germans, Lt. Streicher was placed on a pile of straw in a stable where his right leg was amputated without benefit of an anesthetic, he said.

Later after he had been moved to a German prisoner camp, Lt. Streicher underwent two more operations. He described, too, how he and fellow prisoners had to live on potato soup for two months and were dying of starvation when the first precious Red Cross boxes of food began to arrive.

"Ten of us made a promise," said Lt. Streicher, "that if we ever got out alive we'd make a contribution to the Red Cross."

Lt. Frederick E. Streicher, left,
makes a donation to Red Cross.
Lt. Streicher makes his donation
to the American Red Cross.

And that was one of the first things on his itinerary when he arrived in Pittsburgh yesterday. He went to the Dravo Corp., where he worked as an electrical wireman before the war, and there presented $100 in cash to Mrs. W. J. Neuenschwander, a member of the Red Cross Board of Speakers' Bureau.

After a thirty-day leave Lt. Streicher will enter convalescence at the Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C.




Corporal Joseph Conway - U.S. Marine Corps
USS Bunker Hill - May 1945

The USS Bunker Hill (CV/CVA/CVS-17, AVT-9) was one of twenty-four Essex-class aircraft carriers built during World War II for the United States Navy. The ship was commissioned in May 1943, and served in several campaigns in the Pacific Theater of Operations, earning eleven battle stars and a Presidential Unit Citation.

On May 11, 1945, off the coast of Okinawa, the ship was crippled by Japanese kamikaze attacks, suffering the loss of 346 men killed, 43 missing, and 264 wounded. The USS Bunker Hill was one of the most heavily damaged carriers of the war.

Marine Corporal Joseph Conway, of 1504 Chelton Avenue, a member of the original crew since the date of the ship's commissioning, manned an anti-aircraft gun. Corporal Conway was at his station when the ship was attacked. The following article is reprinted from the Pittsburgh Press, dated June 28, 1945.

Cpl Joseph Conway

Brookline Marine On Carrier Only Survivor Of Gun Crew

Marine Corporal Joseph Conway, "plank-owner" on the Bunker Hill, was the only man in his gun crew to escape death when two Jap suicide planes smashed into the giant carrier.

Corporal Conway, 23, a "plank-owner" because he has been with the Bunker Hill since her commissioning, was one of at least eleven district men aboard the carrier, flagship for the famed Task Force 58. Presently, two of the eleven are listed as missing.

The Marine, son of Mr. and Mrs. William Conway, of 1504 Chelton Avenue, Brookline, is now in San Diego, California, waiting for the furlough which will permit him to go to Tennessee to marry the girl he met when he was a prep student there.

Knocked Down

"I was the only man in my gun crew, maybe even on my side of the ship, that wasn't killed or badly hurt when they hit us," the Corporal wrote his brother Jim.

He said he was knocked down, and when he scrambled to his feet he found himself in a welter of death and destruction.

"I ran to my locker and that steel locker was melted right down. We had to use blow torches to cut the lockers open."

In Marines Three Years

Corporal Conway enlisted in the Marines three years ago.

Another Brookline man on the Bunker Hill, Seaman Paul Kestler, 18, of 1700 Creedmoor Avenue, is reported missing in action. He has two brothers in service, Corporal Edward and Private Albert Kestler.

USS Bunker Hill on May 11, 1945
after Japanese kamikaze attacks.
USS Bunker Hill after Japanese attacks - May 11, 1945.

Corporal Joseph Conway, of Chelton Avenue, survived the Bunker Hill tragedy uninjured and made it home to marry his sweetheart from Tennessee. Seaman Paul Kestler, whose family lived a mere two blocks away on Creedmoor Avenue, was not so fortunate. Seaman Kestler was reported as Killed In Action a week after the above article was published, on July 5, 1945.

Other district natives aboard the Bunker Hill on May 11, 1945 included: Seaman Harvey Toms (KIA) of Mount Washington, Commander Joseph Frauenheim (Wounded) and Petty Officer Peter Chergotis of East Liberty, Seaman John Stevenson of Greenfield, Seaman James Seifert (Wounded) of Castle Shannon, Lieutenant Andrew Miklausen and Petty Officer Jacob Guzelle of Imperial, Seaman G. F. Weisner of Coraopolis, Petty Officer Charles Costello of Jeanette and Petty Officer Joseph Corea of Butler.




Staff Sgt. Richard J. Welsh - U.S. Army Air Corps
Prisoner of War in Germany - 1943/1945

Staff Sgt. Richard J. Welsh was a radio operator in the Army Air Corps serving in a medium bomber group in the North African Theatre of Operations. During the opening stages of the Italian Campaign, on September 29, 1943, Sgt. Welsh, a veteran of nearly ten missions, was on a bombing run near Benvenuto, Italy, when his plane was hit and seen plunging downward. A lone parachute was reported to emerge from the stricken bomber before it crashed.

No one could have known at the time, but it was the radio man, Sgt. Richard J. Welsh, of 1133 Merrick Avenue, that had escaped the doomed aircraft. The following article is reprinted from the Pittsburgh Press, dated November 8, 1943.

Sgt Richard Welsh

One Of Two Crash Survivors
Is Deserted By Lady Luck

Two 20-year old Pittsburgh district Army fliers who survived a crash landing in Sicily recently have been parted by the fortunes of war.

One of them is still flying, but the other is now reported missing in action after another crash landing.

The Army told of the crash landing which ended safely for Lt. Ivor P. Evans of Aliquippa and Staff Sgt. Richard J. Welsh, of 1133 Merrick Avenue, Brookline, but it remained for their mothers to tell the sequel.

Missing - All Right

"My boy is now missing in action," said Mrs. James W. Welsh.

"My son is still all right", reported Mrs. Samuel Evans. "We had a letter from him last week."

Lt. Evans, a navigator, and Sgt. Welsh, a radio operator were members of the crew of "Old Shadrach," a Mitchell bomber assigned to raid a target near Rome, the Army reported.

While almost directly over the target, flak "conked out" one engine, and the planed dropped out of formation.

"We threw everything we could overboard," the Army quoted crew members. "We even joked about throwing our bombardier over because he weighed 200 pounds."

Steadily the plane lost altitude until it was a bare 5000 feet over the fog shrouded mountains of Italy.

"Dick Welsh kept in touch with the American Air Sea Rescue Service at Palermo," the Army dispatch continued. "The told us they were sending two Spitfire fighters to guide us in. Then Dick threw the radio out the hatch to relieve the bomber of the weight."

B25 Mitchell Bomber
B25 Mitchell Bomber

Make Crash Landing

"As we prayed, the Spitfires appeared and led the crippled bomber to an airfield at Palermo. The pilot was compelled to crash land the ship, but all crew members got out safely," the Army story said.

"Dick wrote us of that escape." his mother said. "We were very happy."

But last week a letter came from the Adjutant General's office to confirm a telegram which reported Dick missing in action near Benvenuto, Italy, September 29.

" ... your son's plane was seen to crash to the earth," the letter said. " ... a lone parachute was seen to leave the plane as it plunged downward ... you will be notified immediately when further information is received ..."

For Mrs. Evans, wife of a Jones & Laughlin Corp. steel worker, word of Sgt. Welsh's fate magnified still further her own son's "charmed life."

"This is the fourth time he's escaped," she said. "A plane he was in crash landed last January in South Carolina and he escaped."

"Shortly after he reached Tunisia last summer he escaped death again when he was the only soldier to come out uninjured after their army truck was sideswiped by a big civilian truck."

Brothers in Army

Sgt. Welsh, son of a general contractor, is one of two brothers in the Army. His older brother, Lt. William Welsh, 30, is a flight instructor in Oklahoma. A 17-year old brother, James, is now trying to persuade his parents to permit him to enlist in the Navy, Mrs. Welsh said.

Sgt. Welsh graduated from South Hills High School several years ago and worked as a surveyor for the Carnegie-Illinois Steel Co. prior to enlisting October 13, 1942. He went overseas last July 21.

Lt. Evans graduated from Aliquippa High School in 1941, and worked in the mill before enlisting in January, 1942. He went overseas last June, and has two brothers in the Army, Pvt. William P. Evans, a paratrooper in England, and Corp. Gomer Evans, in Ordnance at Philadelphia.

Sgt. Richard J. Welsh, the lone survivor of the B25 Mitchell bomber that crashed near Benvenuto, was taken prisoner by the Germans. At the time he was liberated in 1945, Sgt. Welsh was being held at German POW Camp #091. Two other Brookline natives of the Army Air Corps, also held as prisoners-of-war by the Germans, were liberated from the same camp; Staff Sgt. Peter Kost of 424 Linial Avenue and Staff Sgt. David A. Watkins of 500 Fordham Avenue.

It seems that Sgt. Richard J. Welsh of Brookline wasn't deserted by "Lady Luck" after all.

Lt. Ivor P. Evans of Aliquippa, Sgt. Welsh's crew mate from "Old Shadrach", also survived the war.




Joseph F. Loy - Marine Corps Raider
(1943-1945)

The following story was submitted by Lucy Santella in February 2014 and edited slightly.

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Today’s modern military is highlighted by various Special Forces. Each branch of the service has its own elite units, uniquely trained to take on the most arduous and dangerous assignments. In the 1940s, during the early years of the War in the Pacific, the Army had Merrill’s Marauders and the Marine Corps had the Raider Battalions. These specialized light infantry formations were involved in some of the bitterest jungle fighting of the Far Eastern campaign, and forged a reputation as some of America’s most skilled and deadly soldiers.

One of those elite fighting men was Brookline’s own Joseph F. Loy, a long-time resident of Merrick Avenue, who passed away peacefully on May 2, 2011 at the age of eighty-six. Joe Loy was a quiet and unassuming man, a dedicated husband and father who enjoyed spending his time mowing the grass, breeding tropical fish and tinkering with model trains.

During World War II, however, Joe was anything but quiet and unassuming. He was a decorated veteran of the Third Battalion of the United States Marine Corps Raiders, and a survivor of the Battles of Bougainville, Guam and Okinawa.

Joseph Loy - 1943.
Joseph Loy - 1943

From the end of the war until the day of his passing, Joe Loy was a member of the Marine Corps League, South Hills Pittsburgh Detachment 726. In April 2011, an article was written about Joe that was scheduled to be published in Semper Fi magazine. The finished article was printed and presented to Joe only days before his death. Unfortunately, the story never made it to the print room. Thanks to Joe's daughter Lucy, it is recalled here:

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RAIDER TREASURE
by Shawn Kane (enhanced by Clint Burton)

As you travel along Merrick Avenue, there is nothing to make these nondescript houses stand out in this small suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. One thing that may catch your eye as you scan the rows of red brick houses is the American and Marine flags proudly flying out in front of one. Inside this house is Joe Loy, a proud man who is anything but nondescript.

Joe is a member of our Marine Corps League, South Hills Pittsburgh Detachment 726. He is a World War II veteran and one of the few who became a Marine Raider. I would like to share my experiences with him and tell the story of this Raider treasure.

Joe is now eighty-six years old. He has poor eyesight, is hard of hearing and has trouble with his mobility. For these reasons he is not able to attend our Marine Corps League meetings or participate in any of our activities.

In March of last year, fellow Marine Corps Leaguer Bob Daley asked me to accompany him on a visit to see Joe. It can be difficult at times to carry on a conversation because of Joe’s disabilities. When Bob and I had a question for him, I would write it down on paper in large block letters, give it to him and await his response.

While we were there, we noticed that his American flag was pretty beat up and the Marine Corps flag he usually flew was no longer there. We promised him that we would get him new American and Marine Corps flags. As we were leaving, Bob and I saluted him. Joe sat up straight in his chair and snapped off a return salute.

His daughters, who are regular attendees of our annual Marine Corps League birthday celebration, told Bob later of how thrilled Joe was to see us. We had really lifted his spirits. In truth, Joe had lifted our spirits. It was truly a fulfilling experience to meet Joe and I was excited to visit him again. We brought him the American and Marine Corps flags and put them up just before last Memorial Day. Joe was overjoyed upon seeing those flags.

Joe Loy (center) with Marine Corps friend
Robert Daley and author Shawn Kane.
Joe Loy (center) with Marine Corps friend Robert Daley and author Shawn Kane.

On one of our visits we asked Joe if he would like to tell of his Raider experiences. A local professor/historian/author Todd DePastino runs a WWII veteran breakfast and takes down the stories of veteran’s experiences. Joe said he would love to talk about it. At the appointed date, Bob, Todd and I went to see Joe for an enlightening afternoon.

Joe grew up on the South Side of Pittsburgh. In the early part of the 20th century, it was a tough, working class and immigrant neighborhood. He joined the Marine Corps on February 1, 1943. At the time he joined, Parris Island was under quarantine. In one of those unusual quirks of the Marine Corps, he was a kid coming from east of the Mississippi who went to boot camp at MCRD San Diego.

Joe joined the Raiders on New Caledonia. They were told that if they joined there would be an extra $50 per month more in their paychecks. However, Joe said he never saw that extra money. That sounds just like the government! He was assigned to I Company, Third Raider Battalion. His first action took place during the Solomon Islands campaign.

For the Bougainville operation, Third Raider Battalion went into battle as part of the 2nd Raider Regiment. Joe is modest in the telling of this and says they did not see a lot of action there. However, accounts of the landing state that both K and I Companies encountered heavy enemy resistance.

On the first of November, the Third Raider Battalion (less Company M) assaulted Puruata Island off Cape Torokina. Japanese defenses in the landing area consisted of a single company supported by a 75mm gun. One platoon occupied Puruata and a squad held Torokina Island, while the rest of the Japanese infantry and the gun were dug in on the cape itself.

The Island of Puruata was the first
objective of Third Battalion at Bougainville.
Puruata Island was the first objective of Third Battalion at Bougainville.

The small Japanese force gave a good account of itself. The 75mm gun enfiladed the eastern landing beaches, destroying four landing craft and damaging ten others before being silenced. Machine guns on the two small islands and the cape placed the approaches to this area in a cross-fire. The result was havoc among the initial right flank assault waves, which landed in considerable disorder.

The Third Raiders silenced the machine guns on Puruata Island on the first day of the invasion, and destroyed the last defenders on that island by late afternoon on November 2. Total raider casualties to this point were three killed and fifteen wounded.

After moving over to the main island at Cape Torokina, the Marines slowly extended their perimeter. There were occasional engagements with small enemy patrols, but the greatest resistance during this period came from the terrain itself. The island consisted largely of swampland and dense jungle beyond the beachhead. The thing most Marines remember about Bougainville was be the deep, sucking mud that seemed to cover everything not already underwater.

On the morning of November 5, while Companies I and M were busy covering a vital roadblock along the main causeway that led to the American beachhead, an attack was underway to clear a major enemy strongpoint further down the line. Japanese resistance was stubborn and Company I joined in the battle. Shortly after noon the enemy retired from the scene.

Third Battalion Marine Raiders near
a captured Japanese dugout on Bougainville.
Third Battalion Marine Raiders near a captured Japanese dugout on Cape Torokina.

The Raider Regiment celebrated the Marine Corps' birthday on November 10 by moving off the front lines and into reserve. Other than occasional patrols and short stints on the line, the next two weeks were relatively quiet for the Raiders.

For the next month the Raider Regiment served as Corps Reserve. With the Army assuming the bulk of the combat duties, these highly trained assault troops spent most of their time on working parties at the beachhead airstrip or carrying supplies to the front lines.

On December 21 the Raiders moved back to the front, but by now the operation had progressed to the mopping-up phase. The Regiment remained on the island of Bougainville until January 12, 1944, when they boarded transports and sailed to Guadalcanal.

It was after the Solomon Island campaign that the short life of the Marine Raiders came to an end. Third Raider Battalion was disbanded and renamed the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines of the 1st Provisional Brigade.

The four Raider Battalions replaced the famed China Marine Regiment that fell at Corregidor, Philippines. Joe had been a member of the Raiders for less than one year before the unit reclassification. As part of the 4th Marines, he was once again assigned to I Company.

The next operation that Joe participated in was Guam. The 1st Provisional Brigade, a component unit of Major General Roy S. Geiger's III Amphibious Corps, was assigned the southern beaches in the Agat-Bangi Point area.

The landing was made successfully on the morning of July 21, 1944. The 1st and 2nd Battalions were the main assault force, with the 3rd Battalion held in reserve. Once the beachhead was secured, the Regiment moved rapidly inland and encountered light enemy resistance.

By noon the two assault battalions had reached their initial objective, advancing over 1,000 yards. Just before midnight the right flank of the Brigade line was the target of a flurry of mortar shells. Japanese infantry attacked under the light of flares and there was a brisk bayonet and fire fight before they were driven off.

Men of the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines
advance off the beach at Guam.
Men of the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines advance off the beach at Guam.

The 1st Brigade was relieved of its perimeter positions on July 23 and brought to the rear to regroup. Their next assignment was to attack enemy defenders on the Orote Peninsula. They moved back into the line on July 25 and repulsed a Japanese counterattack that same evening. The next morning the Marines moved slowly forward against a formidable maze of defensive positions.

On July 27, with Companies I and L in the lead, and accompanied by a platoon of tanks, the Third Battalion broke through the enemy's defensive line after heavy and costly fighting. During the afternoon, a hotly contested advance was made through a grove of coconut palms, with Company L alone suffering seventy casualties.

Two days later the Marines were in position to seize the Orote airfield. The immediate resistance was light and the assault went smoothly. Later, Third Battalion was able to overcome a fiercely defended enemy strongpoint located near the ruins of the airfield control tower.

After the battle for Orote was over, the 1st Provisional Brigade patrolled Southern Guam as the main advance rolled northward. On August 7, the Brigade was recommitted to the front lines and seized the northern tip of the island. The end of organized resistance on Guam was declared August 10, 1944.

During the Battle of Guam, Joe was a BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle) man. He chokes up as he tells us of the time on patrol when he ran straight into a Japanese soldier. The enemy had just come out of a foxhole. Neither of them fired and both jumped back.

Luckily, Joe was the first one to come to his senses. He pumped all twenty rounds of his BAR into the still stunned enemy. He quickly changed magazines and killed the rest of the Japanese soldiers in the foxhole who were trying to crawl away.

After Guam was secured, the 4th Marines returned to Guadalcanal at the end of August for rest and reorganization. The next operation planned was the Invasion of Okinawa.

The 4th Marine Regiment became a part of the 6th Marine Division and landed on Okinawa April 1, 1945. The Division's first objective was to clear the northern part of the island. They headed up the Ishikawa Isthmus and by April 7 had sealed off the Motobu Peninsula.

Men of the 3rd Battalion,
4th Marines land on Okinawa.
Men of the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines land on Okinawa.

Clearing the peninsula of the enemy, where the terrain was mountainous and wooded, was a difficult task. Japanese defenses were concentrated in a twisted mass of rocky ridges and ravines. There was heavy fighting before the Marines finally cleared the remaining Japanese defenders on April 18.

At the end of April, the Division moved south to join in the battles that were raging around the main enemy defensive position, the Shuri Line, near the Okinawan capital of Naha.

Joe tells us about his BAR man, Joe Haverman, on Okinawa. Haverman was shot in the neck and lay in a ravine exposed to enemy fire. Joe tried to round up some Marines to rescue Haverman. One man said, “Joe, I’ll help” and that was the last thing he said. He was shot in the back, dead.

A number of other men were wounded while getting Joe Haverman out of danger and back to the aid station. Joe never knew what happened to Haverman, whether he lived or died. Later on, Haverman’s sister wrote to Joe and told him that he had saved her brother’s life.

Joe was wounded twice on Okinawa. The first time happened on May 21 during the Battle for the Shuri Line. On that date a bullet creased his head and Joe had to be evacuated. The round had actually shattered his helmet, and a piece of the helmet went into his buddy’s foot. That Marine's name was Dennis Hines from New York. Dennis went on to be awarded the Silver Star.

When Joe was examined at the aid station, he found out how lucky he had been. The doctor told him that he was within an inch of being killed. Joe left the field hospital before he was supposed to. He wanted to get back to his unit.

He rejoined them on June 4 and participated in the amphibious assault on the last Japanese defensive position on the Kiyan Peninsula. Joe was wounded for a second time just two days later. Shrapnel from a mortar round pierced his right shoulder. After being transported to the rear, Joe Loy's front line combat days came to an end.

Joe was evacuated to an Army hospital on Saipan. He spent a week recuperating there and eventually returned to his unit. He reunited with the Third Battalion after they had moved on to Guam following the conclusion of the Okinawan campaign. The Marines were now preparing for the planned invasion of mainland Japan.

After the peace treaty was signed Joe went on occupation duty in Japan. On August 20, the 4th Marines landed at Yokusuka, near Tokop. Third Battalion came ashore and quickly secured the large Naval Base without resistance.

The 4th Marines were present for the
liberation of POW camps in Yokohama.
The 4th Marines were present for the liberation of Allied POW camps in Yokohama, Japan.

A memorable scene took place a few days later when 120 Marines of the old Fourth, the China Marines who had been captured at Corregidor, and held for over three years, were brought down from their former prison at Yokohama to review a parade of the new Fourth, the old Marine Raiders who kept the storied tradition and esprit de corps of the Regiment alive in their honor.

When his time in Japan was over, Joe left the Far East and arrived back in San Diego on December 3, 1945. He was honorably discharged from the service on December 27, and returned by train to his home in Pittsburgh.

It was just a couple months shy of three years since Joe had joined the Marine Corps. In that time he had experienced quite an odyssey. From Raider to 4th Marine, from Bougainville to Guam and Okinawa, and a lot of fighting in between. His war time travels ended upon the shores of Japan, standing tall among the few and the proud.

Joe's efforts during some of the epic battles of the Pacific Theatre helped to shape the grand fighting history of the United States Marine Corps. He is a treasure to all of us here at the South Hills Detachment, and his service record epitomizes the dedication and sacrifice that our Marines of yesteryear made and handed down to us.

Joseph F. Loy is a model for all to emulate and we are privileged to have him as a member of our Detachment.

Marine Raiders Insignia       4th Marine Regiment Insignia
Insignia of the Marine Corps Raiders and the 4th Marines.

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After returning from the war, Joe settled on the South Side and started his own business, Joseph F. Loy Tire Service, located at 1657 Saw Mill Run Boulevard near Brookline. He and his wife Bernice were married on May 3, 1948. They went on to have eight children, Ken, Marianne, Timothy, Nancy, Jeanne, Claudia, Gerard and Lucy.

The Loy family moved to Brookline and settled on Merrick Avenue in 1958. Joe continued with his work retreading tires for the next sixteen years, then retired in 1975 after the business was severely damaged in a fire. He sold his interest to a friend, Ronnie Menzel, who renamed the shop Ronnie's Tire Service. The business still exists today.

Joe and Bernice Loy - 1938.
Joe and Bernice Loy in 1948.

During his retirement years, Joe indulged in some of his favorite hobbies. He began breeding tropical fish, and at one point had nearly thirty tanks full of exotic species. He won several trophies and ribbons for his prized fish. Another pasttime was model trains. Over several years, he constructed a magnificent model train layout in the game room of his Brookline home. Joe was also fond of working outside. This led to his starting "Joes Lawn Service," cutting grass for neighbors and family members for a nominal charge.

When Joseph F. Loy, the decorated Marine Corps Raider veteran and dedicated family man, passed away on May 2, 2011, he was survived by seven children (Joe's son Gerard passed away in 1984 at age twenty), thirteen grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren. Family and friends say that behind Joe's sometimes gruff Marine Corps persona, he was actually a real teddy bear when it came to his grandchildren, especially when they were babies.

His youngest daughter, Lucy, remembers sitting with her father the night before he passed:

I sat with him, holding his hand, almost questioning his quiet demeanor that evening in particular.

I told him "Good Night," and called him a King.

"King?" he asked.

Then I explained.

"Yes, King of this house and King of your family."

He smiled.

What a legacy my father has left behind. His is a true reflection of honor, love and bravery.

We couldn't agree with you more. God Bless Joseph F. Loy, a true American hero, a loving father and grandfather, and the community of Brookline's Raider Treasure.

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Editor's Note: As a child growing up in Brookline, I had heard from my father that Joe Loy was a prestigious Marine Raider. My dad also served in the Marine Corps and was his friend. My memories of Mr. Loy are vague, but I do vividly remember seeing his flags flying every time I passed his home along Merrick Avenue.

One couldn't help feeling a brief surge of patriotism seeing the Stars and Stripes and the Marine Corps Emblem flying proudly from the home of such an esteemed World War II veteran.

What I remember most about the Loy family is their seventh child, Gerard, born in 1963. When I was eleven years old, Gerard joined my baseball team, B.Y.M.C., which was coached by Joe Power and my father, Jerry Burton. We weren't very good in 1973, but came on strong the following year by winning the 1974 Little League championship.

As the years passed I sort of lost touch with Gerard. We moved in our separate directions, but I always considered him a friend. I recall being deeply shocked when I learned of his passing in 1984 as the result of a tragic car accident. So many of my friends felt the same way. To this day, when reminiscing on our glory days, we speak of G-Man fondly.

In 2011, when my father told me of Mr. Loy's passing, I couldn't help being pulled back into my memories of both he and his son Gerard. My father lost a friend, as myself and my friends had so many years ago.

* Article compiled by Clint Burton - February 23, 2014 *




Captain Jack E. Foley - United States Army
101st Airborne Division - 506th Easy Company
1943/1945

Jack E. Foley was born August 18, 1922 to Randall and Viola Foley. His mother was played the piano and was an accompanist in one of Pittsburgh's silent movie theatres. His father originally worked for U.s. Steel, then moved on to a career as a PPG salesman. The Foley family, including brothers Jim and Dick, lived in Brookline at 1109 Woodbourne Avenue.

Foley was a senior at South Hills High School in 1939 when Hitler's Blitzkrieg swept across Poland and plunged Europe into war. In his French class, it was Jack's responsibility to provide daily updates to his classmates on the German advances, from the battles in Poland through to the campaign in France. His knowledge of the French language would come in handy a few years later.

Foley graduated from South Hills High in 1940, then enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh. He was working toward a degree in political science and economics. During the 1942-43 season he earned a varsity letter as a manager for the university's Pitt Panther basketball team.

"On the 7th of December 1941," Foley recalled, "that Sunday I was with my fraternity initiating our new pledge class. I was in my second year at University of Pittsburgh. On May 18, 1942, I enlisted in the Army Reserve. I wanted to graduate first and then go in the Army. I also attended summer classes, so by January 1943 was considered a Senior and could have graduated in September."

Cpt. Jack Foley

After careful consideration, Jack and nineteen other members of his fraternity decided that they could not wait. All members of Pitt's ROTC program, the twenty cadets left school and were commissioned into military service on June 29, 1943. He quickly attained the rank of Corporal and became eligible for Officer Candidate School.

On November 19, 1943, Jack graduated with the rank of Second Lieutenant. His first assignment was with the Coastal Artillery Corps, in charge of a 1918 three inch gun defending a part of Puget Sound at Fort Worden in the State of Washington. Then, in May 1944 he was transferred to Texas, where his unit was converted to Field Artillery. It was at this time that Lieutenant Jack Foley decided to become a paratrooper.

"I didn't want to go to Europe as a green second lieutenant. I wanted to do something special," Jack explained. "The paratroopers were daring, unique. They were tough. They wore boots. That was where I wanted to be."

In October 1944, he graduated with his jump wings and was shipped off to Holland as a replacement officer, where in December 1944 he joined Company E of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. Easy Company was made famous by Stephen Ambrose's 1992 book "Band of Brothers" and the HBO mini-series series which first aired in 2001.

Jack and the other replacement paratroopers ironically made the journey to Holland by truck, and their assignment to the various divisions done with a dash of simplicity.

"I can tell you about my only nighttime combat jump. It was off of the tailgate of a platoon truck, and it was an altitude of about four feet," Foley recalled. As for their division of record, "It was done very scientifically. They went right down the line and said, `You're in the 17th, you're in the 82nd, and you're in the 101st division' to each one of us."

506th Infantry Regiment Coat of Arms    101st Airborne Insignia    506th Infantry Regiment Insignia

After skirmishes in Holland, Company E moved into France, where Lieutenant Foley fell ill and was taken in by a French family. He never forgot their kindness.

After recovering, Foley rejoined the unit in Mourmelon le Grande. They celebrated Thanksgiving 1944 in an old German Mess Hall, then settled in with the rest of the company to await replacements, equipment and supplies.

Then, on November 16, 1944, the Germans launched their unexpected and fierce counterattack against the Allied front in the Ardennes Forest. This large-scale Axis offensive became known as the Battle of the Bulge.

"On Monday the 18nd of December 1944, at noon, we loaded up on trucks and by late afternoon we left Mourmelon in the direction of Bastogne," Jack remembers. "After hours of traveling packed together very tightly, we jumped off those trucks and the next morning, the 19th of December 1944, we marched through Bastogne and straight to Jacks Woods (Bois Jacques) where we took a defensive position."

The American defenders held the line for several days against frequent and determined German attacks. The weather was bitterly cold and the snow was deep. Supplies were rationed and after a few days of staunch resistance, the American situation became desperate.

Despite the hardships and the unrelenting German pressure, Easy Company held their positions, as did the rest of the besieged American defenders holding the line around Bastogne.

Eventually, General George S. Patton and units of his Third Army broke through the German lines to end the siege. As the American position improved, the tide of battle turned and the Allies began to push back against the enemy.

Foley was involved in the assault on the town of Foy, north of Bastogne, as leader of first platoon. The town was heavily defended and the fighting was fierce. While Lieutenant Foley was advancing along with his men, they came across a barbed wire fence and surrounded a house where they'd seen three German officers run and hide.

Foley kicked in the door and ordered them to come out. When they refused, he threw in a hand grenade. After the explosion the German officers emerged, bleeding and shaken. As Lieutenant Foley began questioning the captives, two of them reached into their coats for guns while the third yelled, "Dummkopf!" One of Foley's men cut the Germans down with a submachine gun.

"We had taken no prisoners," Foley later recalled, "but we did bring back the concealed pistols."

Easy Company in Foy
A painting depicting soldiers of 506th Easy Company in the liberated town of Foy.

Later on during the action at Foy, while advancing on another enemy position, snipers concealed in a hay-stack shot two of Foley's men. Jack himself was shot right through his boot. His remaining men launched some grenades on the hay-stack, eliminating the German snipers positioned there. Foley and his men then continued on to secure their objective. Afterwards, Jack was sent to an aid station, then to a base hospital to recover.

After the battle of Foy, Company E was relieved and sent southward to the town of Hagenau, near the German border. Foley rejoined the unit in February 1945. During the action at Hagenau, there was frequent enemy shelling, and mortar rounds were coming in all day and night. While on patrol, Lieutenant Foley was again wounded, this time in the wrist by shrapnel.

After Hagenau, Lieutenant Foley and Easy Company entered Germany, where they came across the Nazi concentration camp at Dachau. Foley and his platoon entered the camp, where they witnessed first-hand the morbid atrocities of the Holocaust. These images haunted Jack for the rest of his life.

"We weren't the first ones on the scene, but it was the sorriest thing I ever saw," Foley said of the camp, located about sixty miles west of Munich. "The people were emaciated. There were three bins: one bin had nothing but human hair, one had spectacles and one had nothing but teeth."

As the war neared its conclusion, Lieutenant Foley was present when Easy Company captured Adolf Hitler's Eagle's Nest mountain retreat in Berchtesgaden. When the war ended, the company remained in Berchtesgaden on occupation duty, then was transfered to Zell Um Zee in Austria.

Foley, like many veterans, always favored the amusing war stories. One such story occured after President Franklin Delano Roosevelt died on April 12, 1945. General Dwight Eisenhower ordered unit commanders to hold a short memorial service two days later. Lieutenant Foley, who never cared for President Roosevelt, gathered his platoon and pulled a St. Joseph missal from his pack. He read a few passages to his troops and later joked that he was "the only man who ever buried (Episcopalian) Franklin D. as a Catholic."

Lt. McCutcheon and Capt. Jack Foley
Lt. McCutcheon and Capt. Jack Foley in Austria, 1945.

Foley returned to the United States on January 3, 1946 and marched with his men in a spectacular parade in New York City on January 12. He came home on leave for thirty days, then returned to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where he was promoted to Captain and transfered to the 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division.

Captain Jack Foley, a decorated WWII veteran and Bronze Star recipient, was discharged from the service on April 16, 1946. He returned to his home in Brookline and went back to the University of Pittsburgh to finish his degree. He graduated in September 1946.

After college, Jack Foley began a career at ALCOA, the Aluminum Company of America, based in Pittsburgh. He was employed in advertising and writing in-house newsletters for the Aluminum Cooking Utensil Company in New Kensington, the Cutco Company in Olean, N.Y., the ALCOA Wrap Company in New Kensington, and finally the ALCOA headquarters in Pittsburgh.

Jack took part in a memorable ALCOA ad campaign in the early 1970s in which the company trumpeted the "improbable" uses of its wide range of aluminum products. These included the first aluminum tennis racket and an aluminum bat that Foley himself presented to Roberto Clemente at Three Rivers Stadium.

Jack Foley retired in 1982 to his home in the Crescent Hills section of Penn Hills, where he and his wife Mary Lou had lived most of their adult life. Jack and Mary Lou raised five children: Karen, Barbara, John, David, and Nancy.

Jack Foley and his Screaming Eagle
Jack Foley and his screaming eagle in 2004.

Away from work, Jack Foley enjoyed the theatre, travel and tennis. He joined his wartime comrades on four trips back to Europe. Jack had a particular fondness for the Pitt basketball program.

Foley was a regular attendee at Easy Company reunions, and enjoyed the lasting camaraderie that existed between himself and his fellow paratroopers. His wartime experiences did, however, have a haunting effect. He often grew depressed at Christmas time because of the memories of December 1944 in Bastogne, when the German panzers and artillery relentlessly pounded away at the U.S. forces holed up in their frozen foxholes. Memories of the inhumanity of Dachau also cast an eerie shadow on this normally upbeat man.

Medals awarded to Capt. Jack Foley.
Medals awarded to Captain Jack Foley include the Bronze Star.

In 1992, renowned author Stephen Ambrose published his book "Band of Brothers, E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne: From Normandy to Hitler's Eagle's Nest." During the course of his research, Ambrose interviewed Captain Foley. Several of Jack's remembrances are documented within the pages of the book.

Then, in 2001, the HBO Mini-Series "Band of Brothers," produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, received wide-spread acclaim and turned many of the Easy Company soldiers into national heros.

Band of Brothers    Actor Jamie Bamber portrayed Lt. Jack Foley.

Jack Foley's character is featured briefly in the final four episodes of "Band of Brothers." He is played by British actor Jamie Bamber. His character is perhaps most visible in the episode "The Breaking Point," where he and Sergeant John Martin lead soldiers around Foy after Lieutenant Norman Dyke freezes in terror behind a haystack.

Captain Jack Foley of Brookline, the decorated veteran of World War II and member of the now-legendary Easy Company Band of Brothers, passed away on September 14, 2009.

* Article pieced together from various sources by Clint Burton - March 13, 2014 *




Lieutenant Thomas J. Cullison - U.S. Army Infantry
The Story of Tau and Tommy

The following story was submitted by Don Sayenga and enhanced with additional content.
It is the story of a dog named Tau and his best friend, Tommy Cullison.

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When we were growing up in the 1940s, there was a wonderful dog named Tau. All the kids in the neighborhood regarded Tau as "everybody's dog." Tau was always wandering about and was welcomed and fed in everyone's home. The only thing we kids knew was that Tau was Tommy Cullison's dog. It really seemed to us kids as if Tau spent most of his time wandering around looking for Tommy.

Tommy Cullison - 1941.
Tommy Cullison, 1941

Tommy and his brothers, William and Dick, lived with their parents at 2336 Birtley Avenue. The Cullison family were members of the Brookline Methodist Church. After graduating from South Hills High School, Tommy spent a year at the Fork Union Military Academy in Fairfax, Virginia, then continued his education at Bethany College in West Virginia. At Bethany, Tommy became a star athlete. There is a commemorative plaque on the campus grounds honoring his achievements.

While away at college, Tommy and his fraternity brothers adopted a stray dog named Tau. A warm friendship grew between Tau and Tommy, and the dog adopted Tommy as his keeper. When the war began the fraternity house closed its doors and Tommy brought his furry companion home to Brookline.

Tommy entered the Army and received an officer's commission. Lieutenant Thomas Cullison came home on leave after completing his infantry and armor training. His older brother William, a Navy Lieutenant, was also home on leave at the time. After a short visit with his family and friends, and his favorite dog, Tommy bid them farewell and went off to war. He sailed for England in August 1943 and never returned.

Tommy Cullison and family - 1943.
Lt. Tom Cullison (center), with family members Bill Jr., Mary, Bill Sr. and Dick, during leave
in 1943. Tommy's fraternity dog Tau is sitting up on his hind legs in the front.

For several years Tommy's fate was a mystery. We were all told that he was "missing." While Tau made his way around Brookline in search of his best friend, many of the neighborhood kids wondered what had happened to Tommy, one of the "big kids" who we all looked up to. Many years later we discovered the true fate of Tommy Cullison. His story is one of those nightmares that young kids were never told about during the war.

Tommy was lost in the Lorraine Campaign, which was General George S. Patton's high-speed maneuver to strike directly across eastern France into Germany in the fall of 1944. Tommy was an officer in Rifle Company E, 2nd Battalion, 11th Infantry Regiment, 5th Infantry Division of General Patton's legendary Third Army.

Insignia of the 5th Division, the Red Diamonds.                   Insignia of the 11th Infantry Regiment.
Shoulder patch of the 5th Inf Div (left) and the insignia of the 11th Inf Reg.

With war clouds forming over Europe, the 5th Infantry Division was reactivated on October 16, 1939. After maneuvers during the spring and summer of 1941, the first units of the Division were shipped out to Iceland to garrison the island in case of a possible German invasion. By May 16, 1942, the entire division had arrived.

While in Iceland, the 5th Division performed the arduous, and monotonous, duties of manning observation posts, unloading boats, building roads and buildings, and maintaining training schedules. During their time in Iceland, the men witnessed several offshore merchant ship sinkings, Luftwaffe overflights, and an occasional alert due to U-Boat sightings.

Major General Leroy Irwin, a veteran of the battles in Tunisia, assumed command on July 3, 1943, and in August, the Division moved from Iceland to Tidworth Barracks in south central England. Here the division was reorganized and brought up to strength with new arrivals from the United States, including Second Lieutenant Thomas J. Cullison of Brookline.

After two months in England, the Division relocated to Northern Ireland to receive advanced training for the invasion of mainland Europe. The soldiers spent nine months in Ireland, then on July 4 boarded troop transport ships and began the slow journey through the Irish Sea to the English Channel and on to the shores of France.

General George S. Patton addresses the soldiers of
3 BN, 10 REG in Kileel, Ireland, March 30, 1944.
General George S. Patton addresses the 5th Division soldiers of 3rd Battalion, 10th Regiment while
on field exercises in Kilkeel, Northern Ireland. The Division spent nine months preparing for battle.

The 5th Infantry Division, known as the Red Diamonds, landed on Normandy's Utah Beach on July 9, 1944. Initially assigned as part of General Omar Bradley's First Army, the Division's baptism of fire would take place in the hedgerow fighting north of Saint Lo. After a short stay in Montebourg, on July 14 they relieved the veteran 1st Division and took up positions in the vicinity of Caumont.

For the next ten days, the soldiers of the Red Diamond Division and its 2nd Battalion, 11th Infantry, fought in the hedgerows against the elite units of the German 3rd and 5th Fallschirmjager Divisions. Under constant shelling, strafing by Luftwaffe aircraft, and the threat of German patrols, the men held the line until relieved on July 23.

The 2nd Battalion, 11th Infantry launched a successful attack near Vidouville on July 30, seizing Hill 211, then advancing fifteen miles before meeting another strongpoint manned by snipers, machine guns and two 105mm howitzers. After clearing the German position, the 2nd Battalion continued on to the banks of the Vire River. The 11th Infantry Regiment was then pulled out of the line and sent to an assembly area near Dampierre for reorganization.

Once the Saint-Lo breakthrough was accomplished, the division was reassigned to the newly formed Third Army on August 4. Equipped with motorized transportation, the 5th Division began a mad dash across France. The division moved with such speed and audacity that it often outpaced the armored divisions, becoming the spearhead of General Patton's advance.

On August 7, after passing through the towns of Avranches and Rennes, the division was ordered to seize the large city of Angers and its bridges over the Maine and Loire Rivers. Early on August 8, the 2nd Battalion attacked the city from the west and approached a railroad bridge that had recently been captured intact by the 3rd Battalion. Several units, including Company E, were ordered across the bridge to establish a bridgehead on the east bank of the Maine River.

In the darkness of night, the Germans that still occupied a hilltop stronghold on the west bank, overlooking the river, launched a series of determined assaults in an effort to throw back the Americans and blow up the bridge. The span had been wired with explosives and was ready to be destroyed, but the swiftness of the initial American assault caught the enemy by surprise and they did not have time to set off the charges. The Americans were under constant fire from 88mm, 20mm and 40mm artillery as well as machine gun and mortar fire.

The railroad bridge at Angers, shown here on
by Signal Corps on August 10, 1944.
The railroad bridge across the Maine River leading to Angers, captured on August 8, 1944.
The bridge and surrounding countryside was the scene of desperate fighting by Company E.

The attacking Germans would run downhill toward the bridge, firing machine pistols and rifles. The Americans holding the bridge could not see the attackers in the darkness and fired at the flashes of flame from the German burp guns. Many of the attackers were carrying explosives around their waist and shoulders for the purpose of blowing up the bridge. In many instances these packages would be struck by American fire, detonating the explosives and blowing up the screaming carrier.

Germans were killed just fifteen yards from bridge, but none managed to reach it. At the height of the desperate fighting, Lieutenant Cullison and Company E recrossed the bridge and joined the battle. The Company E counterthrust threw the Germans back to their original line and secured the bridge until daybreak. Another attack at sunrise was also repulsed with heavy enemy casualties. The remaining Germans abandoned their positions and fled.

Once the bridgehead across the Maine was consolidated, the 2nd Battalion pushed forward. Company E attacked and cleared a German strongpoint at Chateaubriant, then advanced with the rest of the battalion to the northeast along the river's edge, clearing small pockets of resistance on the way towards the main Angers bridges.

By the morning of August 10, the battalion had reached the outskirts of Angers. There were three bridges in the city spanning the Maine River. Two were blown up by the Germans, but the third was captured intact by the quick, aggressive action of 2nd Battalion. With the Americans in possession of a major bridge to expand their bridgehead, the remaining Germans soon abandoned the city.

The 2nd Battalion passes through Angers.
The 2nd Battalion entered the heart Angers via the Rue St. Jacques on September 10, 1944.
The Germans hastily retreated after the Americans captured the Maine bridge.

For his actions during the Battle of Angers, Lieutenant Cullison received the Bronze Star for leading an assault on German anti-tank and bridge defenses. The Bronze Star Citation reads:

"Second Lieutenant THOMAS J. CULLISON, 0318765, 11th Infantry Regiment, United States Army. For meritorious service in connection with military operations against the enemy from 7 August 1944 to 10 August 1944 in the vicinity of ANGERS, France. Lieutenant CULLISON as a platoon leader during an assault on an enemy held city led the platoon with unusual ability and fearlessness. Due to his aggressive action and excellent execution of command the enemy was forced to abandon prepared anti-tank and bridge positions thereby enabling our forces to enter the city. Lieutenant CULLISON's intrepid leadership and devotion to duty reflects great credit on himself and is in keeping with the highest traditions of the armed forces. Entered military service from Pennsylvania."

Units of the 5th Infantry Division
advancing on Fontainebleau.    Major General Irwin, 5th Inf Division, points
out features of the Verdun forts across the
Moselle River from the village of Dornot.
Units of the 5th Infantry Division advancing on Fontainebleau (left) in August 1944, and Major General Irwin,
5th Division commander, pointing out features of the Verdun forts across the Moselle River from Dornot.

After liberating Angers, the 5th Division moved on to capture Chartres on August 18, with 2nd Battalion taking nearly 800 prisoners. The next city to fall was Fontainebleau, on August 25, where the 2nd Battalion secured the first American bridgehead across the Seine River.

Five days later, on August 30, the division crossed the Marne River and seized the city of Reims. The 11th Regiment captured Verdun on September 1, and the Red Diamonds occupied positions east of the city to reorganize for the assault on the German stronghold of Metz.

In twenty-seven days the 5th Division had covered 700 miles. It was now preparing to enter Germany. However, while positioned east of Verdun, all forward advance was halted due to a shortage of fuel. The Third Army had outrun its supply lines. A resupply of ammunition and gasoline was received on September 6, allowing a continuation of the drive eastward. Unfortunately, this short lull enabled the Germans to halt their flight and prepare a strong defensive line on the east side of the Moselle River.

5th Division advances to the Moselle River - Sept 1944
The 5th Division advanced in three columns towards the Moselle River and the city of Metz.
Lt. Thomas Cullison and Rifle Company E were in the southernmost formation.

Once resupplied, the division advanced to the west bank of the Moselle River. From staging areas south of Metz, the division was ordered to secure a vital bridgehead across the Moselle from the village of Dornot to protect its southern flank during the upcoming campaign. The four companies of the 2nd Battalion, 11th Infantry Regiment, along with Company K of the 10th Infantry and a small contingent of the 7th Armored Division, were assigned to make the crossing. On the morning of September 8, under cover of an artillery barrage, the assault began.

The objective was to secure several World War I forts that stood on high ground overlooking the Moselle River. Once these objectives were captured, the 11th Regiment was to pivot right and link up with units of the 10th Regiment, which would be advancing from the second American bridgehead assault at Arnaville, a few miles further south. American intelligence believed the forts opposite Dornot to be lightly defended by scattered remnants of the German Army. This information turned out to be faulty.

When the crossing began, Platoon Leader Lieutenant Thomas Cullison and Company E were moving towards Dornot after spending the previous day clearing out small pockets of resistance near the town of Gorze. The initial crossing of the Moselle at Dornot was made, under persistent enemy harrassing fire, by Company F, G and H. These units cleared the small patch of woods opposite the village and consolidated their positions before beginning the advance towards Fort St. Blaise.

Soldiers of the 11th Infantry Regiment pass through Dornot.
Units of the 11th Infantry Regiment pass through the village of Dornot on their way to the river crossing.

Company E boarded the assault boats and began their crossing in the early afternoon. At the same time, Company F and Company G began the two thousand yard advance up the hill towards Fort St. Blaise. The attack went smoothly and without incident until the infantry reached the outskirts of the fort. German sniper fire killed one officer and forced the men into a defensive posture. Then all hell broke loose.

Powerful elements of the 17th SS Gotz von Berlichingen Division, along with the 282nd Battalion and a battalion from the SS Signal School in Metz counterattacked unexpectedly and with determined ferocity. The grenadiers swept down upon both flanks of the 11th Infantry, supported by Flak tanks, assault guns and powerful artillery.

The two advancing companies of Americans were cut off. Company E, which was now across the river in force, was ordered to advance into the gap and cover the retreat of the two forward companies. This proved impossible as the Germans had already infiltrated into the fields between the hill and the woods.

Units of the 5th Infantry Division
carrying boats to the Dornot crossing.    Units of the 5th Infantry Division
crossing the Moselle at Dornot.
Units of the 2nd Battalion, 11th Infantry crossing the Moselle River at Dornot on September 8, 1944.

While Company E and Company H, along with the 10th Battalion's Company K and the small contingent of armored infantry, hastily formed a horseshoe-shaped defensive perimeter along the edge of the woods, the two advance companies were forced to fight their way back to the American line. The bridgehead in the woods next to the river's edge was no larger than two football fields. The local inhabitants refered to this wooded area as Bois Du Fer A Cheval, or Horseshoe Wood.

It took several hours for the two assault companies to make it back to the friendly line. In the meantime, the four companies holding the bridgehead were under murderous fire. Casualties from the persistent and accurate German artillery, and the small arms fire of the attacking grenadiers, caused numerous casualties and forced a cessation in the attempted crossing of reinforcements. With plans in place for engineers to build a pontoon bridge across the river, orders were issued for the companies already in the bridgehead to hold on at all costs. The soldiers did as ordered.

Only heavy concentrations of covering fire from the supporting American artillery battalions on the hills surrounding Dornot prevented the Germans from retaking the small bridgehead and protected the Americans as they dug in. Company E, holding the point of the horseshoe defense, was particularly hard hit by a series of furious enemy assaults.

Engineers and Medics advance to the river's edge at Dornot.
Combat Engineers and Medics advance to the river's edge at Dornot.

The woods were filled with cries for medics. Realizing that such calls would disclose positions, as well as indicate the number of casualties, orders were issued that no one was to cry out. The exhibition of self-discipline that followed was one of the heartening feats of courage during the hectic days in the bridgehead.

As instructed, the Americans dug in and held their ground. Over the course of the three-day battle, the Germans assaulted the bridgehead thirty-six times, inflicting tremendous losses upon the out-numbered American soldiers. The situation within the bridgehead was dire.

Several times the Germans tried to trick the defenders. The 1st platoon of Company E reported that a German officer would shout in English to "cease firing" while a group of the enemy would form for a local assault during the expected lull in American fire. The trick worked only once, and then only partially. When the order was repeated, it was given with a distinct foreign accent. Opening fire again, the platoon wiped out a group of fifteen to twenty Germans advancing on their position.

As casualties within the bridgehead mounted the Americans stubbornly fought off wave after wave of fanatical grenadiers. Despite the seemingly hopeless situation, the Americans refused to surrender. In fact, the official War Diary of the 37th SS Panzergrenadier Regiment notes that on the morning of September 10, the Americans had the superb effrontery to send a demand that the Germans themselves should surrender! If the demand was not met, the defenders promised to deliver such a concentration of artillery fire as their enemies had never seen before.

Map of the Dornot bridgehead battle - Sept, 1944
Map of the Dornot Bridgehead - September 8-10, 1944 - showing the path
of the American advance and German counterattacks.

As for the engineers attempting to build the bridge over the river to support the beleaguered defenders, accurate enemy artillery, mortar and machine gun fire rendered the task impossible. With no prospect of reinforcments, and considering the success of the Arnaville bridgehead to the south, during the evening of September 10 the battered remnants of the 11th Infantry Regiment were ordered to abandon the Dornot bridgehead and make their way back to the west bank of the river. With few usable assault boats remaining and no bridge, the Americans began an orderly evacuation.

Lieutenant Cullison, although wounded, was one of the only officers still in a condition to command. He helped direct the evacuation of the bridgehead. When his opportunity came to board one of the boats, he offered his seat to one of the wounded men. Tommy then tried to swim the one hundred yards to safety. The current was swift and the Germans were raking the crossing area with machine gun and mortar fire. After entering the water, Lieutenant Thomas J. Cullison was never seen again.

The following excerpt is taken from the book "CROSSING OF THE MOSELLE by the Second Battalion of the 11th Infantry Plus K Company":

"Riflemen in E Company voluntarily gave up their foxholes to machine gunners who came to reinforce them, and dug new ones for themselves. Officer leadership was not lacking. So many officers were wounded and killed because they would not stay in foxholes but had to be up and moving around, checking on positions. In addition to Lt. Drake, Lt. Matthew Wirtz of F Company, Lt. Stephen Lowry Co. K, and Lt. John Hillyard, executive officer of K Company, were killed.

"All the other rifle company officers were wounded. Men of E and F Companies reported that their platoon leaders apologized to their company commanders and first sergeant for being wounded.

"The men appreciated such things in leadership as occurred when the 536 radio operator of 1st Lt. Thomas J. Cullison, E Company, was fatally wounded by close sniper fire. Instead of ordering one of his men to recover the radio, Cullison said, 'Goddamit, now I've got to crawl out and get that radio back.'"

"He did that safely, keeping in communication and maintaining control from company to platoon. He was reported drowned during evacuation."

The Moselle River and the village of Dornot
The terrain east of the Moselle River (bottom). The 11th Infantry made their
three-day stand in the wooded patch near the river's edge.

Lieutenant Thomas J. Cullison, of Birtley Avenue in Brookline, was posthumously awarded the Silver Star medal for gallantry in action against the enemy. The Silver Star Citation reads:

"First Lieutenant THOMAS J. CULLISON, 0318765, 11th Infantry Regiment, United States Army. For gallantry in action from 8 to 10 September 1944 near DORNOT, France. Lieutenant CULLISON was a platoon leader with a forward element of our bridgehead forces that successfully repulsed numerous counterattacks upon their position. When it became vitally necessary for Lieutenant CULLISON to withdraw his platoon across the Moselle River for the purpose of reorganization due to numerical superiority of the enemy forces he labored uncessingly with untiring energy to effectuate and organize an orderly evacuation of his forces. Lieutenant CULLISON then directed the evacuation of our personnel to the west bank of the Moselle River with the use of assault boats. Lieutenant CULLISON himself completely fatigued by his efforts and the strenuous ordeal elected to swim across the river in order that more enlisted men could make use of the available assault boats and thereby enable them to cross to the friendly banks of the Moselle River. Lieutenant CULLISON by his courageous act and every thought and deep concern for his men failed to negotiate the opposite bank of the river. Lieutenant CULLISON's intrepid leadership, his bravery and deep devotion to duty, his gallant conduct reflects the greatest of credit on himself and is in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service. Entered military service from Pennsylvania."

Sign at the entrance to the woods where the
2d BN/11th INF held the Dornot bridgehead.          Monument erected near the site of the Dornot
bridgehead honoring the men of the 5th Division.
A sign (left) at the entrance to the woods where the 2d BN/11th INF fought to hold the Dornot
bridgehead, and a monument dedicated to the soldiers of the 5th Division. The monument
reads "In memoriam to the courageous soldiers of the 5th Infantry Division who crossed
painfully the Moselle river at this site in September 1944, for our liberty.

In the Battle for the Dornot Bridgehead, the 2nd Battalion of the 11th Infantry Regiment suffered a total of 459 casualties (40 KIA, 28 MIA, 172 WIA and 219 Non-Battle), almost 50% of its force. The high proportion of non-battle casualties attests to the physical and mental pressures endured by the men, and the unceasing severity of the three-day struggle.

<Detailed Account of the Battle for the Dornot Bridgehead>
"U.S. Army In World War II Special Studies - Three Battles: Arnaville, Altuzzo and Schmidt"

Despite the setback at Dornot, the second crossing of the Moselle, by the 10th Regiment, further south at Arnaville, proved successful. A large measure of the success of the Arnaville operation is due to the struggles and sacrifices of the men who held the Dornot Bridgehead.

With 1st Lieutenant Cullison listed as MIA, the soldiers of Rifle Company E continued to press on towards the inevitable triumph. Once the division had crossed the Moselle River in force, the 2nd Battalion began operations against the German fortress positions near Metz. After a long and bloody battle, the city of Metz finally fell on November 22. Wasting no time, the division continued on to cross the German border and capture the town of Lauterbach on December 4, then occupied positions and dug in along the west bank of the Saar River on December 6.

During the Battle of the Bulge, the division fought against the southern flank of the German front. In February and March, the division smashed through the Siegfried Line and crossed the Rhine River on March 22. In April the Red Diamonds took part in clearing the Ruhr Pocket, then drove across the Czechoslovak border on May 1. They reached Volary and Vimperk as the war in Europe ended. After the German surrender, the 5th Division was on occupation duty in Bavaria from May 15 to June 13, then returned to the United States in July 1945.

Lt. Tommy Cullison (right) and his
brothers Bill and Richard in 1943.

A newspaper clipping from 1943. The caption read:

Here are the sons of William "Rex" Cullison, interviewer at the downtown Employment Office. At left is Bill Jr., who is a Lieutenant in the Navy. Next is Richard, who left July 12 for the U.S. Air Corps. Then comes Thomas, who is a Lieutenant in the Army. Bill went to Penn State. Tommy attended Fork Union Military Academy, then Bethany College. Dick joined the Air Corps after completing South Hills High School. All these boys are widely known for their athletic prowess, starring in baseball, football, basketball, tennis and golf.

For several years after he went missing, the whereabouts of Lieutenant Thomas J. Cullison remained a mystery. His body was never recovered and he was officially listed as Missing In Action for five years. Finally, on December 12, 1949, Tommy's status was changed to FOD (finding of death) and he was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart for the wounds he suffered in the Battle for the Dornot Bridgehead.

Although his body was never found, Tommy's memory is honored at the Lorraine American Cemetery in Saint-Avold, Moselle, France. On each side of the memorial, which stands on a plateau to the west of the burial area, stretch the Tablets of the Missing. Upon them are inscribed 444 names, including:

THOMAS J. CULLISON
LT - 11 INF - 5 DIV - PENNSYLVANIA

The Lorraine American Cemetery and Memorial in France.
The Lorraine American Cemetery and Memorial located outside of Saint-Avold, Moselle, France.

The Lorraine American Cemetery and Memorial in France.    The Lorraine American Cemetery and Memorial in France.

The Lorraine American Cemetery and Memorial in France.    The Lorraine American Cemetery and Memorial in France.
The Tablets of the Missing stretch out from both sides of the Lorraine Memorial.

Tommy Cullison's name on the Tablets of the Missing
at the Lorraine American Cemetery in France.

As for Tommy Cullison's fraternity dog, Tau, he continued to roam the Brookline streets in search of his companion. Friends and neighbors, including the children who so fondly remembered Tommy, cared for and looked after him as if he were there own. As a result, Tau became the most beloved "Gold Star" dog in the community of Brookline.

Tau     Tau and Walt Selvig
Tommy Cullison's dog Tau with Walt Selvig at right in 1945.

Note: The Academy Award winning film "Patton" opens with an accurate rendition of General George S. Patton giving a rousing and memorable speech to members of his Third Army before entering the battlefields of France in August 1944. Lieutenant Thomas J. Cullison was in attendance at that gathering.

The 5th Division in France booklet

In December 1944, after the fall of Metz, the 5th Infantry Division published a booklet that was presented to all members of the formation. The book gives a detailed look at the wartime record of one of the U.S. Army's most decorated divisions, and provides an accurate account of the struggles and achievements of the 2nd Battalion, 11th Infantry Regiment of Platoon Leader 1st Lieutenant Thomas J. Cullison.

To view the entire booklet, visit The 5th Division In France.

Tommy Cullison - 1943.

A Long-Overdue Recognition

In April of 2013, the Brookline Connection began an initiative to seek Thomas J. Cullison's nomination for induction into the Hall of Valor at the Soldiers and Sailors National Military Museum and Memorial, located in Oakland. By virtue of his Silver Star citation, Tommy qualified for admittance to this prestigious community of wartime veterans. After contacting the Cullison family, Tommy's military credentials were prepared and presented to the nomination committee for review.

The induction ceremony - March 23, 2014.    Chuck Cullison, Tommy's nephew, and
Brookline Connection's Clint Burton.
The 2014 awards ceremony at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial (left) and, to the right, Chuck Cullison (nephew of
Thomas Cullison) and Brookline Connection's Clint Burton with the plaque that will hang in the Hall of Valor.

On March 23, 2014, Lt. Thomas J. Cullison of Brookline, was formally inducted into the Hall of Valor. It was a wonderful day for the Cullison family and everyone who was blessed to have known Tommy. It was also a great day for the Brookline community. One of our native sons, a courageous young man who made the ultimate sacrifice so that others might return home to their loved ones, has finally received the recognition he so rightfully deserved.

The induction ceremony - March 23, 2014.
The Cullison's, who came from as far away as Charlotte NC and New Orleans LA, after the award ceremony.

Thomas J. Cullison Bronze Star Citation.    Thomas J. Cullison Silver Star Citation.
Copies of Lt. Thomas J. Cullison's Bronze and Silver Star Citations.

Lt. Tom Cullison's awards.

Medals awarded to Lt. Thomas James Cullison include: (top row) Bronze Star (W/Oak Leaf Cluster), Purple Heart and Silver Star. (middle row) Expert Infantryman Badge, Sharpshooter Badge (w/Carbine Clasp), and Combat Infantryman Badge. (bottom row) European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal (w/stars for Normandy and Northern France campaigns), WWII Victory Medal and American Defense Medal.

Of special interest are the Expert Infantryman Badge, awarded for completion of advanced training in infantry tactics, and the Oak Leaf Cluster on Tommy's Bronze Star, which indicates that a second Bronze Star was awarded. Since his military records were destroyed in a fire at the National Military Records Center, we are unable to identify the circumstances for which that additional Bronze Star citation was issued. It is, however, further proof of what a remarkable soldier Lt. Cullison was in the service of our country.

* Thanks to Bill Selvig, Jim Addis, Don Sayenga and the Cullison family for contributing this information, *
Special thanks also to Mr. Barclay of the American Battlefield Monuments Commission
for the photo of Tommy's name on the Lorraine Cemetery Tablets of the Missing.
Written by Clint Burton - May 29, 2011 (Edited in March 2014)




Ernest Galko - Gunner's Mate
U.S. Merchant Marine and U.S. Navy

Born in 1922, Brookline resident Ernie Galko was just twenty years old when World War II started. Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor he joined the Merchant Marines. His first sea duty was on a Liberty Ship that was sailing back to port in the Gulf of Mexico. It suddenly was torpedoed and sunk by a German Submarine.

Sinking ship in the crosshairs
of a German periscope.

"It happened so fast, and without warning, that there was no time to put down the life boats. The guys in the engine room were lost. We managed to get some wooden rafts into the water and we hung on them for three days before we were rescued."

After that experience, Galko concluded that sailing on an unarmed Merchant Marine Vessel wasn’t for him, so he enlisted in the Navy. He went to Boot Camp in Newport, Rhode Island and then to New York for Gunnery School. The Navy, ironically, put him on another Liberty Ship, the USS John Brown. This time, he and ninteen other Gunners Mates manned three inch, four inch and 20mm anti-aircraft guns. All Liberty ships were Merchant Marine so Ernie was technically back where he started.

Ernest Galko
Ernest Galko

His home port was Baltimore and each time he returned, he was assigned to a new Liberty Ship. He went on to serve on the USS Joshua Chamberlain, the USS B. F. Shaw, and the USS Sublette. His service took him through the Panama Canal several times, down the coast of South America to Cape Town, to ports in England, Russia, and the Middle East, dropping off war materials and supplies along the way. He delivered tanks and ammunition to Normandy several days after the D-Day Europe invasion and recalls going ashore, standing atop the cliffs and looking out at the amazing display of ships and equipment on the beach.

A Liberty Ship of the US Merchant Marine.
US Merchant Marine Liberty Ship in 1945.

Galko also served in the South Pacific, delivering supplies to Australia, the Philippines and several island destinations. With the Japanese vigorously defending the approaches to their homeland, Galko and his crewmates saw plenty of action.

He recalls, "We got to fire the guns a lot with all the Japanese aircraft we saw."

Still active in the Pacific Theatre when the atomic bombs were deployed, his thought was, "I gave President Truman credit for having the guts to use them. Otherwise, we would have lost hundreds of thousands of our boys invading mainland Japan."

USS Tarawa (CV-40) - 1946
The aircraft carrier USS Tarawa (CV-40) underway shortly after commissioning
in early 1946. Planes of Carrier Air Group 4 are visible on deck.

His final assignment was on the aircraft carrier USS Tarawa. Discharged in 1947, Ernie returned to Brookline, married the girl across the street, and raised his family here. He still lives in the house on Edgebrook Avenue that his parents bought when he was fifteen years old. He is retired from the Brookline Journal, where he worked as a linotype operator.

Galko's only regret is that the crews of the Merchant Marines have never received proper credit for their sacrifices and bravery during the War.

"Without them the war would have been lost. This country owes them a lot."

* Information obtained from The Brookline newsletter, January 2011 issue *




Pete Patterson - Nose Gunner
U.S. Army Air Corps

Imagine being in the nose of an unheated B-24 bomber, flying at 21,000 feet over Romania, a most dangerous place to be in May of 1944. The temperature in the aircraft is twenty-five degrees below zero, and the only protection from the elements is a sheet of Plexiglas, a thin layer of aluminum and an electrically heated flying suit. Breathing oxygen through a rubber mask and wearing goggles, movement is hindered by the cramped space, thick flight suit, and the bulky 50-caliber machine guns pointing menacingly towards the horizon. As anti-aircraft shells burst all around, the threat of enemy fighter planes has the crew's nerves on a frenzied edge.

This is what it was like for Brookline's Pete Patterson, a nose gunner flying a mission against the heavily defended Ploesti oil fields on May 18, 1944. It was Pete's first mission, and as he steadied his nerves, a bitter reality set in. If he survived, there were forty-nine such missions to go before he could "Go Home."

The crew of the B24 Liberator 'Worry Bird'.
The crew of the B24 Liberator "Worry Bird." Pete Patterson is top row, second from the left.

Pete Patterson was born on October 10, 1922. His family lived on the lower side of Edgebrook Avenue until his teen years, then moved to Plateau Street in Carrick. After high school, Pete worked at A.M. Byers Company, a pipe mill on the South Side. Along with his brother and a few friends, he signed up for the Marines shortly after the Pearl Harbor bombing on December 7, 1941. While waiting to be “called up”, Pete was drafted into the Army instead, and left for duty in December 1942.

After boot camp, Pete was selected for the Army Air Corps and sent to Texas for Aircraft Engine Maintenance School. While there, he was chosen for Aerial Gunnery School and assigned to Tyndall Field in Florida for training. Eventually he was assigned to an aircraft crew as a nose gunner. Their plane was a B-24 Liberator Heavy Bomber that they christened “Worry Bird.” They flew to an airfield near Foggia, Italy, in April 1944, to become part of the 15th Air Force. The tour would last six months, until October 4, 1944.

The 15th Air Force was responsible for bombing railway networks in southeast Europe in support of Soviet military operations in Romania. Throughout the summer of 1944, Austrian aircraft manufacturing centers at Wiener Neustadt were bombed and oil producing centers were attacked. The 15th also attacked targets in preparation for Operation Anvil, the invasion of Southern France.

B24 Liberator Heavy Bomber
A B24 Liberator Heavy Bomber.

Pete recalls how poor the Italians were, and how the retreating Germans had destroyed the villages and took most of the food with them. His crew helped a young boy by having him do errands while they supplied food and clothing for his family. While on a seven-day break, after twenty missions, he went to the Isle of Capri and had a picture of his “sweetheart” (later to be his wife) painted on the back of his leather flight jacket. It cost $20 and six Hershey bars.

During his tour in Italy, Pete kept a log called “A GUNNERS LIFE,” where he recorded his feelings and some facts on each mission. From May 18, 1944 until October 4, 1944, Pete spent 240 tense hours in the air flying a total of forty-two missions, which equaled fifty because several “highly dangerous sorties” counted as double missions. These were flights over places deep in Germany like Munich and Friedrichshafen, and four bombing runs over the Ploesti Oil Fields in Romania, which had a huge concentration of anti-aircraft weapons and large formations of fighters as protection. The dangers were enormous.

Some large-scale missions involved over 800 bombers doing formation bombing. If a plane was hit and went out of control, it risked flying into another bomber and they would both go down. Sometimes the bombers would receive a direct hit on their munitions and blow up like a “puff of confetti.” Others drifted out of control and went downward in tight spirals until they hit the ground. Pete and his crew members would watch these aircraft go down and try to count the parachutes to determine who managed to “get out”. Meanwhile enemy fighters were attacking “out of the sun” and in a flash would riddle their aircraft with bullets. An alarming number of bombers were lost. By staying in formation, some safety was afforded from enemy fighters, but if a bomber lost an engine and fell behind, the German fighters would pick them apart.

B24 Liberator Heavy Bombers over Ploesti.
B24 Liberator Heavy Bombers in formation over Ploesti, Romania.

Pete is not sure how he managed to survive while others were lost. He had some narrow escapes, and still keeps a jagged piece of metal as a reminder. The flack shrapnel came through his position and knocked his headset off it's resting place. In his log, he writes, “If my head was turned the other way, I wouldn’t be here to write this.” Twice his aircraft was so badly damaged they had to throw everything they could out the door to get the weight down so they would stay in the air. Each time they landed, they would count the holes in the airplane and make “nervous jokes” about surviving the mission. Still, some crews were killed on their very last mission, and that fact haunted everyone as they counted down to their final one.

After receiving fifty mission credits, Pete wrote, “I’m about the happiest guy in the Air Force. What a feeling to know that I am all through. Boy, I could jump up and down, I think I will!”

Pete’s jubilation was short lived, for the war was not yet over. He was sent to a training base in Colorado to prepare for the Invasion of Japan. Pete recalls driving his 1941 Oldsmobile, for fun, up Pike's Peak. Luckily, the War in the East ended and he was discharged, on September 26, 1945. During his career in the Army Air Corps, Pete earned quite a collection of medals, commendations and Campaign Ribbons.

A stronger, more aware, and determined Pete returned home to marry his Brookline sweetheart, Cecelia Mancuso. The newlyweds bought a house on Creedmoor Avenue and raised two children, Kathy and Michael. Pete has led a busy life working at “The Mill,” doing painting and maintenance work, and golfing. Pete Patterson still makes his home in Brookline.

* Information obtained from The Brookline newsletter, May 2012 issue *




Bruno P. Riccardi - Tail Gunner
U.S. Army Air Corps

Bruno P. Riccardi was a long-time resident of Brookline and a Pittsburgh softball legend who spent twenty-five years as a truck driver for the Pittsburgh Press. Those who knew him best called him "Spot."

What many did not know was that "Spot" Riccardi was also a highly-decorated veteran of the World War II air campaign over Europe, and an honored recipient of the prestigious Distinguished Flying Cross for "extraordinary achievement."

Tommy Cullison - 1941
Bruno Riccardi

Bruno Riccardi was born in Mingo Junction, Ohio. His family moved to Pittsburgh and he grew up in the Hill District, attending Duquesne Prep High School. While in high school, he lettered in three sports, playing football with Tom Rooney, brother of Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney. During his senior year, Bruno was the school's boxing instructor. He later won the AAU 126-pound boxing championship.

In 1941, Riccardi joined the Army Air Corps and was assigned as a B26 Marauder tail gunner. On April 22, 1944, Riccardi's B26, named "Geronimo," had just completed a bombing run over a rocket installation near Cherbourg, France, and was returning to England.

B26 Marauder
A B26 Marauder over Europe in 1943.

The plane had been badly damaged and the crew was forced to ditch in the English Channel. All of the crew, except the pilot, Captain Austin R. Jordan, managed to escape the stricken plane and return safely to England. For his actions on that day, Riccardi was cited for his extraordinary valor and awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Bruno Riccardi's plane 'Geronimo.'
The nose art on Bruno Riccardi's B26 Marauder, called "Geronimo."

A year later, in 1945, Riccardi's squadron was awarded a Unit Citation by President Harry Truman for "helping bring about the total defeat of the enemy." The unit also received meritorious citations from General Hap Arnold, commander of the Army Air Force, and from the Caterpillar Club.

In addition to the Distinguished Flying Cross, Riccardi, a veteran of fifty-six missions, was awarded a pre-Pearl Harbor Ribbon and the Air Medal with eight Oak-Leaf Clusters and four Battle Stars.

Distinguished Flying Cross

Bruno returned home to Pittsburgh in 1946. Nine years later, in 1955, he married Irma Jean Augustine and settled in Brookline to start a family. He was employed as a driver for the Pittsburgh Press and was a member of Teamsters Local 211. Bruno and Irma Jean raised three children: Mark, Bruno and Gina.

An accomplished player and manager in slow-pitch softball, his Skip & Hogan team won an ASA National Championship in 1962. For his contributions to the sport of softball, Bruno Riccardi was inducted into the Western Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame in 1969 and the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame - Western Chapter in 1992.

Soldiers and Sailors Memorial in Oakland.
The Soldiers and Sailors National Military Museum and Memorial in Oakland.

In 1972, Bruno was honored locally for his military achievements by the Soldiers and Sailors National Military Museum and Memorial, located in Oakland. Riccardi's photograph and the story of his medal-winning heroics are memorialized in the Hall of Valor.

Bruno P. "Spot" Riccardi passed away in February, 2004, at the age of eighty-four.




A Letter Home From Charles F. Roland Jr.
Wounded in Korea - November 1950

Charles F. "Red" Roland Jr. joined the Army in January of 1949. He was sent to Japan in July of 1949, and moved into Korea in July of 1950. His Battalion was in battle continuously, fighting Northward all the way to Unsan, where they were caught in a trap. On November 2, 1950, during the Battle of Unsan Roland was wounded. From a hospital in Tokyo, Japan, he wrote the following letter home to his father, C. F. Roland Sr. of 832 Gallion Avenue. The letter was published in the Brookline Journal edition dated November 24, 1950.

Charles F. Roland Jr.

Toyko, Japan
November 9, 1950

Dear Dad:

Everything's under control! The Doc says it's a clean wound and will heal in good shape. My leg is plenty stiff right now, and it's too early to tell if any muscles were fouled up. There is a possibility that I may walk with a very slight limp.

It was pretty rough, pop. I got hit trying to break through a roadblock. You probably read of the 1st Cav. Battalion that was surrounded near Unsan. It was my battalion. That was a night of terror. I was the most surprised person in the world when I got hit. I was running when I got it, and it knocked me sprawling. I was up right away and managed to get the one who had shot me, and I guarantee he'll never shoot another G.I.

The Chinese were right on our heels, and it looked to me at the time that they were trying to take prisoners. Anyhow, I couldn't run anymore, so I fell into a small defilade and then I played dead. The damn place had water in it. The whole action took place alongside the river. Dad, I never prayed so hard in my life as I did the hour I laid there, every moment expecting a bayonet in the back or a bullet through the head. They were all around me. I could hear them moving and talking and they ran so close to me that they kicked sand into my face. All the while bugles kept blowing.

The enemy were on the high ground with automatic weapons and the force attacking where I was hit was the maneuvering element. They kept hitting us and then withdrawing. In the intervals when they were withdrawn, those on the high ground just raked the whole area. I don't know, that fire was what had bothered me the most up until the time I was hit. That's the reason I fell into the defilade.

Map of The Unsan Engagement, 1-2 Nov 1950
The Unsan Engagement, 1-2 November 1950.

Anyhow, for some reason, their fire lifted and those where I was withdrew across the river. I was lying about 100 yards from the road and when I heard some of our vehicles trying to make a run for it, I somehow managed to stumble to the road without getting shot again. I got aboard, but we only got a little way before they hit us again, so there was no other way but the hills. How we ever got through without running into more of them I'll never know.

The moon was at it's full brightness, and we could hear the shouting all around us. We had to wade the river. It was the coldest water I've ever been in. All this time I was getting weaker and weaker, through loss of blood, and my leg just wouldn't hold me anymore. I never would have made it if two guys whom I don't even know, hadn't half-carried me, half-dragged me up that last hill. I was out most of the way up. Anyhow, we rested about an hour on top, and I was finally able to put a dressing on my wound. Then with some help, I got down the hill and was picked up by a ROK jeep which carried me to the aid station.

Dad, I consider myself the luckiest guy alive. You can certainly thank St. Joseph for without Him and some others whom I asked, I wouldn't be here now. I never knew I had two holes in me until I got to the Med. Clr. Stations.

Take it easy ... Chuck




Ensign James Charles Wonn - U.S. Navy
Shot Down Over Laos - February 17, 1968

James Charles Wonn, of 753 Mayville Avenue, had a rather typical background that was very similar to thousands of boys from Brookline. He attended Resurrection Elementary School (Class of 1958), was a member of Our Lady of Loreto parish and graduated from South Hills Catholic High School (Class of 1962). Jim attended Duquesne University and enlisted in the Navy in the summer of 1965. It was his desire to become an airline pilot. Since Navy pilots were highly sought by the airlines, this was the route he chose.

After Jim received his commission as a Navy officer and was awarded his pilot's gold wings, he transferred to the Pacific Fleet. He was acting as a classroom instructor at Miramar Naval Air Station (the future home of the Top Gun School) while he awaited a fleet assignment.

At about that time the Navy was tasked with a very difficult, very secretive, and very dangerous mission in Vietnam and Laos. They were looking for volunteers for aircrew duty. Jim and several other single pilots volunteered so that the married pilots, many of whom had children, would not have to go to Vietnam. These men formed a new squadron (VO-67) to help stem the tide of enemy infiltration into South Vietnam.

Ensign James Charles Wonn
Ensign James Charles Wonn

The Lockheed P2 "Neptune"

The Lockheed P2 "Neptune" was originally designed for submarine searching, using magnetic detection gear or acoustic buoys. Besides flying maritime reconnaissance, the plane served as an experimental night attack aircraft in the attempt to interdict the movement of enemy truck convoys. Another model, the OP2E, dropped electronic sensors to detect truck movements along the supply route through southeastern Laos known as the "Ho Chi Minh Trail".

The Ho Chi Minh Trail was used by the North Vietnamese for transporting weapons, supplies and troops. Hundreds of American pilots were shot down trying to stop this communist traffic to South Vietnam. Many of them went down along the Ho Chi Minh Trail and the passes through the border mountains between Laos and Vietnam. Nearly 600 of these servicemen were not rescued.

The Neptune had precise navigational equipment and an accurate optical bombsight. Radar was housed in a well on the nose underside of the aircraft, and radar technicians felt especially vulnerable working in this "glass bubble" nosed aircraft. It was believed that the aircraft could place the seismic or acoustic device within a few yards of the desired point. To do so, however, the OP2E had to fly low and level, making it an easy target for the enemy's anti-aircraft guns that were increasing in number along the trail.

Lockheed OP2E 'Neptune'of
Navy Observation Squadron VO-67
A Lockheed OP2E "Neptune" of Navy Observation Squadron VO-67.

Navy Observation Squadron VO-67

Operation Igloo White, originally known as Operation Muscle Shoals, was a covert United States Air Force electronic warfare operation conducted in southeastern Laos from late January 1968 until February 1973. This state-of-the-art operation utilized electronic sensors, computers, and communications relay aircraft in an attempt to automate intelligence collection. This system assisted in the direction of strike aircraft to their targets along the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

Naval Observation Squadron VO-67 borrowed technology from the submarine service to help track enemy troop and supply movements. The Ho Chi Minh supply trail running from North Vietnam to South Vietnam through southeatern Laos was hidden by a "triple canopy" of jungle growth. This new squadron dropped sensors along the trail to detect magnetic anomalies (trucks and tanks) and acoustic anomalies (troops).

Because the suspected location of the trail was so wide - in some places more than a mile wide - the best places to find concentrations of enemy soldiers and equipment was in deep gorges between mountains where the supply route snaked south. Here, the enemy could not fan out over a broad hidden path. They were closely concentrated and the sensors could pinpoint their positions. So, the aircrews in VO-67 had to fly their planes into these gorges and drop the sensors, typically from an altitude of only 500 feet.

When signals were picked up of enemy presence, U.S. Air Force bombers would flatten the area, requiring VO-67 to install new sensors the next day. The North Vietnamese put defensive anti-aircraft guns along these mountain sides. Soon, VO-67 airmen were flying through a hailstorm of anti-aircraft fire on a daily basis at extreme low altitudes.

During the Battle of Khe Sanh, the operational focus of Muscle Shoals switched to the besieged Marines at the fire support base. On January 22, 1968, the first sensor drops took place. By the end of the month, 316 acoustic and seismic sensors had been dropped in forty-four strings. The aircrews of VO-67 flew many missions in defense of Khe Sanh (sensor implants and ground attack). The Marines at Khe Sanh credited forty percent of intelligence available to their fire support coordination center to the actions of VO-67.

VO-67 Crew 5 Patch

Operational Mission Over Laos

On February 17, 1968, an OP2E from Squadron VO-67 departed Thailand in a flight of four aircraft on an operational mission over Laos. The crew of the aircraft included Commander Glenn M. Hayden, pilot; Lt.Jg. James S. Kravitz, flight officer; Lt. Curtis F. Thurman, co-pilot; Ensign James C. Wonn, navigator; AO2 Clayborn W. Ashby Jr, ordnance; ADJ2 Chester L. Coons, plane captain; AN Frank A. Dawson, 2nd mechanic; ATN1 Paul N. Donato, 1st technician; and AN James E. Martin, aerial gunner.

The target location was along Highway 19, the primary road running from the Mu Gia Pass through the Steel Tiger sector of eastern Laos, then into South Vietnam near the US base at Khe Sanh.

After completion of the first target run, Commander Hayden reported to the accompanying fighter escort and Forward Air Controller that the aircraft had been hit by small arms fire but would continue with the second target run.

During the second pass, the fighter escort reported the starboard engine of the OP2E on fire. The Neptune acknowledged the report and aborted the rest of their mission. The plane started to climb into an overcast of clouds at 4000 feet in its attempt to return to home base. The fighter escort climbed to the top of the cloud overcast to await rendevous with the damaged OP2E. The Neptune never emerged above the clouds.

The last radio transmission from the aircraft was, "We're beat up pretty bad."

The fighter dropped below the clouds to search for the OP2E and found burning wreckage. No parachutes were seen, nor were any emergency radio beepers heard. Aerial search and rescue efforts were initiated, but found no signs of life around the wreckage.

Investigation of the crash site was not feasible because of enemy presence in the area. The aircraft crashed about 34 kilometers northwest of Xepone in Savannakhet Province, Laos. The crash site was situated 2,800 meters south of route 19 in rugged terrain on the side of a 550 meter ridge, approximately four kilometers northwest of Muang Phin. The aircraft was on a reconnaissance mission and carried no ordnance.

Because there was no direct witness to the crash of the OP2, it was not known whether any of the crew of nine survived, but assumed that they did not. All nine members of Crew-5 were classified Killed, Body Not Recovered.

VO-67 Crew 5 Patch

A Grim Toll

The squadron lost twenty airmen over its relatively short seven-month combat history. Nineteen of these twenty were classified as POW/MIA for decades, giving this squadron the distinction of having the greatest number of POW/MIA casualties of any unit from any branch of service during the ten years of the Vietnam war.

<Naval Observation Squadron VO-67 Website>

Navy Presidential Unit Citation

<Presdential Unit Citation - 2008 - YouTube Video>

For their actions at Khe Sanh and other combat missions, Naval Observation Squadron VO-67 was awarded The Presidential Unit Citation in May of 2008. This Citation is the unit equivalent of the Navy Cross and the highest award available to a military unit. This was one of only two such Citations awarded to a U.S. Navy unit for combat-related action in the last sixty years.

The Presidential Unit Citation was a long time coming for the veterans of VO-67. Due to the classified and top-secret nature of their operation, the United States was unable to acknowledge their missions over Laos, or even the existence of their unit, until the records of their accomplishments were de-classified years after the fact.

Ensign James Charles Wonn's Remains Returned - 1993

The crash site of VO-67 Crew-5's OP2E was located in rugged jungle covered mountains approximately six miles west of the town of Ban Namm which was located next to Highway 19; eleven miles south of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) that separated North and South Vietnam, nineteen miles northwest of the major communist city of Tchepone and 58 miles south-southeast of Mu Gia Pass, Savannakhet Province, Laos. The crash site was also located nine miles west-northwest of Binh Tram 34, an NVA way station used for a variety of purposes and 56 miles northwest of Khe Sanh, South Vietnam.

During 1992 and 1993, the Joint Task Force Full Accounting (JTFFA) actively investigated this crash site first with a site survey, then four joint field excavations. The first excavation was conducted in February of 1992, with three subsequent excavations in 1993. There was also one unilateral turnover of some partial remains/wreckage/personal affects to U.S. personnel during this same timeframe.

The excavation resulted in the recovery of over 400 bone and teeth fragments, one gold crown for a tooth and one anterior permanent dental bridge. Also recovered were personal items including Lt. Thurman's Military Identification Card and his Sears Roebuck Credit Card. Additionally, other crewmen's ID cards and dog tags were recovered along with parts of nine parachutes and other pieces of the Neptune's wreckage.

The bone and teeth fragments were sent to the Central Identification Laboratory, Hawaii (CIL-HI) for examination. They were able to match two of the teeth fragments to the dental records of Chester Coons and he was identified on the basis of those teeth. The bridge and the gold crown were possibly attributable to specific individuals, but it was decided to keep them as part of the group identification.

After examining the bone fragments, CIL-HI personnel were only able to identify them as human/possibly human. Further, because they were so small and fragmented, no DNA testing was possible and no individual identifications for any of the Neptune's crew could be made based upon the bone fragments. On December 16, 1993, the final determination was that all the remains were considered to be a "group identification."

The Wonn family at the interment
of Ensign James Charles Wonn at
Arlington National Cemetary, 1994
The Wonn Family at the interment of Ensign James Charles Wonn
at Arlington National Cemetary - April 24, 1994

Interment At Arlington National Cemetery

On April 24, 1994, the nine members of VO-67 Crew 5, Commander Glenn M. Hayden; Lt.Jg. James S. Kravitz; Lt. Curtis F. Thurman; Ensign James C. Wonn; AO2 Clayborn W. Ashby, Jr.; ADJ2 Chester L. Coons; AN Frank A. Dawson; ATN1 Paul N. Donato; and AN James E. Martin were intered in Arlington National Cemetery in one grave bearing all nine names.

David Wonn, the younger brother of Ensign James Charles Wonn, now lives in Boston, Massachusetts. David shared some recollections of that special, yet difficult, time when the Wonn family was reunited with James after twenty-five years:

"When the remains of Jim's crew were recovered, the only positive identification that we had of him from the crash site was an Our Lady of Loreto medallion, measuring only 1" by 1", in near perfect condition. Jim's fiance gave it to him before he went overseas. It was given to her by Father Arthur Garbin, our parish priest. Our Lady of Loreto is the Patron Saint of Aviators."

James Wonn's Our Lady of Loreto
Medallion that was found in Laos.
James Wonn's Our Lady of Loreto medallion that was found in Laos.

"I was working in Washington, D.C. at the time of the recovery operation in Laos, so I attended briefings and post mortems on their findings at the Pentagon. They showed me pictures of all of the things and the actual objects that they found after literally sifting the soil at the crash site."

"You can imagine the emotions that run through you while sitting around a conference room table with several military officers and reviewing all of this. When they showed me that medal, it was pretty hard to keep a stiff upper lip because I knew it was his."

"He was finally home."

"My mother kept the medal until she passed away and now my sister is holding it."

Ensign James Charles Wonn headstone
at Arlington National Cemetery
Washington D.C.

Ensign Wonn Honored At Home

In 1994, Ensign James Charles Wonn was inducted into the Seton-LaSalle High School Hall of Fame. Seton-Lasalle High School is the successor to South Hills Catholic High School. A graduate of the Class of 1962, James was joined, in 2002, by Richard Lacey, Class of 1964, an Army communications specialist who went missing in Vietnam on January 31, 1968. Also a of the South Hills and familiar face in the community of Brookline, Sgt. Lacey's remains were never recovered.

 Ensign James Charles Wonn - Virtual Wall 

* Information copied from Task Force Omega, Wikipedia and from the personal recollections of David Wonn. *
Written by Clint Burton - March 8, 2011




Sgt. Richard Joseph Lacey - U.S. Army
Tet Offensive - Saigon - January 31, 1968

Richard Lacey lived in Mount Lebanon and attended St. Bernards Elementary School. He was a graduate of South Hills Catholic High School. Richard was a regular around Brookline, referred to by his nickname "Monk," hanging out with his high school friends at Moore Park. He was nineteen with a year and a half of college behind him when he volunteered for the US Army. He was selected for Officer Training, but elected instead to stay in a technical field after completing the first phase of Signal Corps schooling.

After a year of technical training, Lacey was qualified to repair and maintain long communication lines and was sent to Vietnam in the summer of 1967. He felt lucky to be stationed at the Stratcom Communications Base, which was located on the extreme southern edge of Saigon, approximately five miles due south of Tan Son Nhut Airbase, Gia Dinh Province, South Vietnam.

Sgt. Richard Joseph Lacey
Sgt. Richard Joseph Lacey

Richard Lacey had been in Vietnam six months when the Viet Cong's (VC) 1968 Tet Offensive, and Battle of Saigon began. One of the first moves communist forces made as they initiated their offensive was to disrupt American and Allied lines of communication as completely as possible.

During the early morning hours of 31 January 1968, when the breakdown in local communications was most critical, then SP5 Richard J. Lacey and SP4 William C. Behrens departed the Phu Lam Long Lines Detachment for the Regional Communications Group located in Saigon. Their assigned mission was to relay calls for assistance from areas under siege. The two soldiers, who were travelling by jeep with Behrens being the driver and Lacey the passenger, headed north into the city of Saigon.

Both Richard Lacey and William Behrens were heavily armed. After they exited the main gate of the complex and turned left toward Saigon, they passed through Cholon (a predominately Chinese suburb of Saigon), then onward to the Regional Headquarters.

Along the way north, they passed the Vietnamese Phu To racetrack area. The cement bleacher and racetrack complex was being used as a field hospital by the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong. The enemy defended this area in a variety of ways. A machine gun crew was posted in an abandoned gas station on the road approaching their complex. As the unsuspecting Americans sped by, they were summarily attacked, and vanished.

The Battle of Saigon
North Vietnamese attacks in the Saigon area, January 31, 1968.

In the chaos of the street-to-street battle that raged throughout Saigon, Richard Lacey and William Behrens were not immediately missed. This was, in large part, because all travel throughout the city had been totally disrupted by the VC's offensive. When personnel at their destination realized the two men were long overdue, headquarters was notified that they were missing.

Four days later, on February 3, 1968, SP4 William Behren's body was identified at the Tan San Nhut Mortuary by members of his unit. There are no records of where or how William Behren's remains were recovered, or who brought them to the mortuary.

As the communist offensive was brought under control, a formal search and rescue/recovery (SAR) operation was initiated for Richard Lacey. The streets between the Phu Lam Long Lines Detachment complex and the Regional Communications Group facility were thoroughly searched and local residents questioned. Between 8 and 15 April 1968, the jeep in which Richard Lacey and William Behrens were traveling was recovered behind a villa near the racetrack. It was bullet-ridden and all removable parts from the engine had been taken. Other than recovering the jeep, no trace of SP5 Lacey was found. At the time the formal search was terminated, Richard Lacey's status was changed to Missing in Action.

Following the signing of the Paris Peace Agreements, 591 American prisoners were released from North Vietnam. Many of them had been captured in South Vietnam, but Richard Lacey was not among them. Government officials later expressed their shock that "hundreds" more Americans that were expected to be released were not.

Sgt. Richard Joseph Lacey's status was changed from Missing in Action to Killed in Action on November 13, 1978. His remains have never been recovered.

Richard Joseph Lacey

 Sgt. Richard Joseph Lacey - Virtual Wall 

In 2002, Sgt. Richard Joseph Lacey was inducted into the Seton-LaSalle High School Hall of Fame. Seton-Lasalle High School is the successor to South Hills Catholic High School. A graduate of the Class of 1964, Richard joined Brookline native James Wonn, Class of 1962, a Navy airman and Vietnam casualty, who was inducted in 1994 as one of Seton's distinguished alumni.

* Information obtained from the P.O.W. Network. *
Written by Clint Burton - March 15, 2011




The Invasion of Guam




American Legion Post #540
World War II Honor Roll

American Legion Post #540
World War II Honor Roll
Click on image for a clearer view of the names.




The 155mm Schneider Howitzer

The Cannon on display at the Brookline Veteran's Memorial is officially known as a Canon de 155 C modele 1917 Schneider. The 155mm heavy field howitzers were made in France and used by the Allies in World War I. They remained in the U.S. arsenal and also saw use in World War II. The guns were also used by France, Finland, Poland, Germany, Italy, Spain and Yugoslavia.

155mm Schneider in action - 1918    155mm Schneider in action - 1943
Left - An American battery equipped with 155mm Schneiders at Varennes in the Argonne, 1918;
Right - Live fire training by the 4th Infantry Division at Camp Carson, 1943.

155mm Schneider - 1919    155mm Schneider - 1940
Left - 155mm Schneiders after WWI in 1919; Right - U.S. artillery training in 1940.




The Brookline Monument - The Cannon

The Brookline Monument.
Brookline's 155mm Schneider howitzer watches over the Commercial District from Veteran's Memorial Park.

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