For a listing of
World War II fatalities from Pennsylvania:
The National Archives
Army and Army Air
Navy, Marine Corps
and Coast Guard
For a listing of
US Army World War II fatalities from Allegheny County:
The Carnegie Library
The World War II Memorial -
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For a detailed listing of all
Korean War fatalities from Pennsylvania:
The Korean War Project
Korean War Memorial -
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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
For a listing of all
Vietnam War fatalities from Allegheny County:
Pennsylvania Geneology Trails
For a listing of all
Vietnam War fatalities from Pittsburgh:
Vietnam War Memorial -
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The War on Terror (2001-present)
There have been no
fallen Brookline soldiers in the Persian Gulf War (1991),
Pittsburgh Casualties in The War on
the War in Iraq (2003-2011), or the War in Afghansitan
For a complete, sortable listing
of Coalition fatalities in the War on Terror:
Freedom Operation Enduring
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
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
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 email@example.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
The National Cemetery in Minneapolis,
Minnesota on a June morning.
Photo from the Minneapolis Star/Tribune - 2012.
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 ...
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.
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.
War I Information
Hamilton A W - Plainview Avenue,
Knowlson Roscoe T - Berkshire Avenue.
Sheridan James L - Fordham Street.
A soldier of the Old Guard stands
watch over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Photo taken during Hurricane Sandy - October 2012.
Joseph P. Caldwell - Grand Army of the Republic
Dedication of Honor Roll - September, 1943
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
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.
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,
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
"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."
The Light Cruiser USS Juneau (CL-52)
In October 1942 the USS Juneau
was engaged in the Battle of the Santa Cruz
Islands and, in
November, the Naval Battle of
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.
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.
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
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 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."
"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
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 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
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
"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.
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
"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
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
* 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.
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.
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.
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
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
"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 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
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
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
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.
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
One fell on the bank astern of the
Medusa where the engine and a part of the wing appear to be imbedded in the
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.
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
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 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,
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.
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
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
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 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.
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
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 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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
Frank P. Dornetto
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.
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.
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
Written by Clint Burton - May 18, 2012
Pfc. Salvatore J. Bondi - United States Army
79th (Lorraine) Division - 1944/1945
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
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.
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
U.S. General George S.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
Sal's Barber Shop - 712 Brookline Boulevard,
Pittsburgh, PA 15226.
"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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
"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
Notes on Company A, 70th Tank
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
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
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 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
Pvt. Carroll B. Westfall - U.S. Army
The following article and photos about
Brookline resident Carroll Westfall, written by Patricia Sheridan, appeared in
the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on June 30, 2014:
Carroll Westfall Continues To Restore
Artwork Into His Ninth Decade
The soul of an artist, the heart of a
warrior. That best describes Carroll Westfall, a decorated World War II veteran
who used his talent as an artist to help him cope with the violence he
World War II veteran Carroll Westfall and
the tools of his trade, at his Brookline restoration workshop.
"I wasn't drafted. I enlisted because
I heard about the bad things the Nazis were doing," he recalls.
At age ninety, he continues to work but says
the memories of those long-ago battles are "as fresh as if they happened
yesterday." His work as an artist and art restoration expert gives him an
opportunity to escape the memories.
"You have to concentrate. You get lost
in the detail and if you are restoring you must learn to imitate the artist.
It has been very helpful," he says.
As an infantry scout in the Army, he
went ahead of the unit, spending most of his time behind enemy lines trying
to ensure safe passage.
"A lot of times the enemy would let me
move ahead unharmed. I remember walking us into an ambush. At the last second,
I saw a glint of metal coming from a tank hidden in the trees. I fired to let
the troops know. The next thing I know, the nearest officer to me is hit by a
shell. He was there and then he was completely gone."
The Germans may have gotten the best of
him that time, but it was his skills that usually won out. He singlehandedly
took out three machine gun nests at different times and captured fifteen German
soldiers. Reluctant to talk about the war, he continued with his story after
"We were pinned down behind an embankment
and the SS were dug in on the other side of the ridge. Everyone who tried to
move was shot. After two days I had all I could take so I charged the machine
gun nest. They shot the rifle out of my hands so I threw a grenade,"
Mr. Westfall fought throughout Europe
and in the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium. He says he once eliminated a machine
gun position on a knoll when he surprised fifteen sleeping German
"They had dug a slit trench and were so
exhausted they didn't even hear the gunfire. I woke them up and was holding a
grenade. I pulled the pin and said if anyone moves we all die."
He held that grenade for more than fifteen
minutes waiting for his unit to reach his position.
"He killed many of them during the war,"
interjects his wife, Deborah, who has worked side by side with him for thirty-one
years. She is also an artist.
"It bothers me more now than it used to,"
He only did one painting from his war
years titled "Unburied." It depicted a friend of his who was shot while trying
to advance over barbed wire.
"It was bought by a naval officer, but
I didn't want to sell it for a long time," he says.
"It was very strong and the eyes followed
you," his wife says.
Mr. Westfall's bravery in battle earned
him the Bronze Star, two Silver Stars and several combat infantry medals. He
suffers from post traumatic stress disorder. "Sudden noises are a problem,"
says Mrs. Westfall.
It is his art, his work, that has
delivered him from the horrors of war, he says. Not long after returning from
Europe, Mr. Westfall turned to art restoration, specializing in Old Masters.
He continues to do restoration and his own work today.
"I enjoy working and have been doing it
nearly sixty years," he says, sitting at the easel in his home studio in Brookline.
"I remember starting to draw and paint when I was twelve."
A pen-and-ink drawing he did in 1938
sold at Dargate Auction Galleries earlier this month, inspiring a bidding war.
At the same auction, several other paintings he did and some he restored were
He began his professional artistic
career while still stationed overseas, attending the Wharton Technical School
in Wharton, England. He worked in London as an artist before moving to the
French Riviera, where he painted street portraits for a living in Nice and
Cannes. Finally he moved back to his hometown in Clarksburg WV, and in
1959 he made the move to Pittsburgh.
Carroll Westfall works on a restoration
(left) while another artwork sits half completed.
At one point, he had studios here and
in Manhattan, where he did restoration work with the big auction houses,
Christies and Sotheby's. He brings a portrait painter's eye for detail to his
restoration work. The oldest painting he has restored was one of Christ that
had been carbon-dated to the 1300s.
"I never felt intimidated by a work of
art I had to restore," he says. "Challenged and responsible, but never
Over the years his clientele have
included PNC Bank, Pittsburgh Field Club, Westmoreland Museum of American Art,
U.S. Steel and the Duquesne Club.
"When you are restoring a work, you feel
an immense responsibility to represent the piece as the artist intended it to
He takes that same tack with the
portraits he paints:
"A portrait is a very intimate
undertaking. You have much more of an opportunity to bring out the personality
than with a photograph."
"I prefer doing my own painting,
particularly portraits, but art restoration pays the bills."
A Short History Of The 100th
Infantry Division in World War II
Carroll B. Westfall was born in 1923
and lived in Kanawha County, West Virginia. He enlisted in the Army on July 5,
1943. After training he was assigned to Company C, 1st Batallion, 398th
Regiment of the 100th Infantry Division, known as the Century
The 100th Division embarked from New
York harbor on October 6, 1944, bound for the shores of France. After a short
time in Marseilles, the Division entered the front line on November 1, 1944,
near Baccarat, France, relieving the 45th Division.
The Division's baptism of fire came
only days later. Assigned as part of the U.S. Seventh Army’s VI Corps, their
mission was to penetrate the German Winter Line in the High Vosges Mountains,
on the edge of the oft-disputed province of Alsace.
The Vosges terrain was formidable
and the severe winter weather added hundreds of casualties to those inflicted
by the tenacious German defenders. Nevertheless, the 100th Division led the
attack through the Vosges Mountains.
Men of 398th Regiment advancing along
a roadway in eastern France.
For the first time in history, an
army succeeded in penetrating that vaunted terrain barrier to the Rhine Plain
and Germany. Within the first month of combat, the German Army Group G Chief
of Staff, General von Mellenthin, referred to the 100th as “a crack assault
division with daring and flexible leadership.”
While falling back toward Germany,
the enemy bitterly defended the modern Maginot fortifications around the
ancient fortress city of Bitche. After reducing these intimidating defenses,
in the last hour of 1944, the Division was attacked by elements of three
German divisions, including a full-strength SS-panzergrenadier division,
heavily supported by armor, in Operation NORDWIND, the last major German
offensive on the Western front.
As the units on the left and right
gave ground, the men of the 100th stood fast and the Division quickly became
the only unit in the Seventh Army to hold its sector in the face of the massive
In the brutal fighting which ensued,
the Division stubbornly resisted all attempts at envelopment, and despite
heavy casualties the 100th completely disrupted the German
Ultimately, the Division captured the
Citadel of Bitche in March 1945, and passed through the Siegfried Line into
Germany. The 100th Division was the first fighting force in 250 years to
capture the imposing Citadel, earning the victorious soldiers the title
"The Sons of Bitche."
The Division’s last major battle was
the attack on Heilbronn in April 1945, which required an assault crossing of
the Neckar River in small boats. This was done in full view of several German
artillery pieces which laid fierce direct fire upon the crossing site.
In over a week of savage urban combat,
the Division defeated elements of several German Army and Waffen-SS divisions,
seized the key industrial city, and pursued the beaten foe through Swabia
Pvt. Carroll B. Westfall saw action
throughout the entire 100th Division campaign. During the last Allied
drive, pursuing the enemy in the days before the German capitulation,
Westfall was awarded a Silver Star for heroism during the advance on the
town of Willsbach, Germany.
In combat for six months from November
1944 to May 1945, the Century Division advanced 186 miles, liberated dozens of
towns and cities, captured 13,351 enemy soldiers, and decisively beat elements
of five German divisions. In the process, the Division lost 916 dead, and
sustained 3,656 wounded and 180 missing in action.
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
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 Heavy
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
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
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
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. 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,
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.
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
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
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
"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
"I ran to my locker and that steel
locker was melted right down. We had to use blow torches to cut the lockers
In Marines Three
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 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
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.
One Of Two Crash
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
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.
"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
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
While almost directly over the
target, flak "conked out" one engine, and the planed dropped out of
"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
"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
B25 Mitchell Bomber
"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
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
The following story was
submitted by Lucy Santella in February 2014 and edited slightly.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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 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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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 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
Insignia of the Marine Corps
Raiders and the 4th Marines.
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 in
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
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
I told him "Good Night,"
and called him a King.
"Yes, King of this house and
King of your family."
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.
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
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
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
"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."
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
"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
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."
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."
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
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
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
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
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 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
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 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
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
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 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.
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
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.
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 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
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 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
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
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.
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
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.
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 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.
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
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
- 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
"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
"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 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
"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."
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
reads "In memoriam to the courageous soldiers of the 5th Infantry Division who
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
<Detailed Account of the Battle for the Dornot
"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.
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,
THOMAS J. CULLISON
LT - 11 INF - 5 DIV - PENNSYLVANIA
The Lorraine American Cemetery and
Memorial located outside of Saint-Avold, Moselle, France.
The Tablets of the Missing stretch out from
both sides of the Lorraine Memorial.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 Cullison's, who came from as far away
as Charlotte NC and New Orleans LA, after the award ceremony.
Copies of Lt. Thomas J. Cullison's Bronze and
Silver Star Citations.
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.
"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.
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.
US Merchant Marine Liberty Ship in
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."
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
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."
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
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
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
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 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."
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
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
A B26 Marauder over Europe in
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.
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.
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.
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.
November 9, 1950
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
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
The Unsan Engagement, 1-2 November
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
James W. Gormley - Field Artillery Observer
US Army - Korea - 1950/1951
James W. Gormley was born on
October 31, 1931 to Jeanne (Zitelli) and John W. Gormley. He was the
oldest of three brothers, James, Joseph and John. The Gormley family
made their home in East Brookline, at 1305 Brookline
Jim attended Resurrection
Elementary School, graduating in May 1945. He then enrolled at the
Connelley Vocational High School. While in high school, Jim worked
evenings as a baker at Benvenutti's Bakery in Carnegie.
Joe, John and James Gormley with
their father John, and mother Jeanne, in 1940.
On August 18, 1949, two months
after completing his secondary education at Connelley, Jim enlisted
in the United States Army. He finished basic training and was
stationed with the Third Infantry Division, 7th Infantry Regiment
at Fort Benning, Georgia. His Military Occupation Specialty (MOS)
was "Baker." While stationed at Fort Benning, Jim became engaged
to his high school sweetheart, Rosemary Doyle, another Brookline
Rosemary Doyle and James Gormley
When the Korean War began in
June of 1950, the 7th Regiment, known as the Cottonbalers, was located
at Fort Devens, Massachusetts. The regiment set sail for the Far East
from San Francisco, California, on August 20. They landed in Japan on
September 16, one day after the start of the Battle of Inchon.
The Division spent two months
near the port of Moji, Japan, in preparation for their deployment to the
Korean Peninsula. During this time, James Gormley volunteered to change
his military specialty from 017-Baker to 3705-Field Artillery Liaison
After completing his artillery
training and receiving a promotion to the rank of Corporal, Jim became
a Forward Observer in Battery A of the Third Infantry Division's 39th
Field Artillery Battalion. His Forward Observer Team was assigned to
the 7th Regiment.
As the tide of the war turned
in favor of the United Nations, the Third Infantry Division, known
as the "Rock Of The Marne" for it's exploits during World War I,
was assigned to the Far Eastern Command Reserve, earmarked for
post-conflict occupation duty in North Korea. Soon, their intended
mission was to be dramatically altered.
When the Peoples Republic of China
entered the war in November 1950, the 7th Regiment was quickly dispatched
to Wonsan on North Korea's eastern coast. They landed on November 21, and
joined with the division's 15th and 65th Infantry Regiments. The men
were transported to postions northwest of Hungnam.
At Majon-dong, Third Division
established a defensive position and began fighting. They helped cover
the withdrawal of the Army's X Corps rearguard elements (1st Marine
Division and 7th Infantry Division) during the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir. Elements of the 7th Infantry Regiment
formed the nucleus of Task Force Dog, a relief force that advanced forward
to create a corridor for the approaching columns.
The Hungnam harbor during the
evacuation (left) and the port being destroyed on December 24,
Once the withdrawing units had
reached the safety of the Port of Hungnam, the 7th Regiment helped form
a collapsing perimeter around the area. Skirmishes broke out between the
Cottonbalers and the pursuing PVA 27th Corps. With strong naval fire
support provided by an offshore task force, the badly mauled enemy units
never breached the Hungnam perimeter.
In what U.S. historians called
the "greatest evacuation movement by sea in U.S. military history",
a 193-ship armada assembled at the port and evacuated not only
the U.N. troops, but also their heavy equipment and roughly a third
of the Korean refugees. Gormley's regiment was the last unit to disembark
before the harbor facilities were destroyed. The 7th Infantry Regiment
left Hungnam by sea on December 24, 1950.
James Gormley in January
From January 25 through
February 9, after the fall of Seoul, the Third Division was engaged
in Operation Thunderbolt, the initial phase of the Eighth Army
counteroffensive to recapture the South Korean capital.
In March, the Division saw
action during Operation Ripper, or the Fourth Battle of Seoul. On
the evening of March 15, elements of the Third Division entered
the city. Threatened with encirclement, the enemy abandoned their
positions and retreated north into the mountains.
A limited Eighth Army offensive
aimed at seizing the Chorwon-Kumhwa-Pyonggang area, an important enemy
communication and supply zone called "The Iron Triangle," began in
April. The Division crossed the Sinchon River and attacked north towards
Chorwon and Pyonggang along the road running from Seoul.
On the 25th of April, 1951,
Gormley and his Forward Observer Team were assigned to Company A,
1st Battalion, 7th Regiment. The unit was holding positions in the
rear of the Division's advanced units, along a ridge line next to
With forward elements of the
Third Division only ten miles from their Chorwon objective, the enemy
counterattacked in force, not just at Chorwon but along the entire
United Nations front line. This was the start of the Chinese Spring
Offensive. The breadth and severity of the attack caught the Eighth
Army by surprise.
Map showing the Chinese attack
on Company A and Hill 283 near Chorwon.
Near Chorwon, the Third
Battalion was forced to retreat back to the ridge line near Hill 283,
where Gormley and his observation team were dug in with Able Company.
Plans were immediately put in place to withdraw the regiment to
defensive positions on the opposite bank of the river.
During the evacuation, Company
A was ordered to hold their hilltop position, which straddled the only
path off the hill, until all other units had passed through. When a key
outpost along the ridge was overrun, the Company's left flank was
threatened. Soon the enemy were also active on the right flank and
the situation became dire. Despite ferocious enemy pressure from both
sides, the soldiers stood their ground and held off
several waves of attackers.
At the height of the battle,
the Sergeant and others in the Forward Observation Team were wounded
and being evacuated. Instead of withdrawing with the rest of his team,
Corporal Gormley volunteered to stay behind with Company A and
continue spotting for the artillery.
The accurate and formidable
barrage laid upon the attacking force was devastating. The curtain of
fire provided by the heavy field guns succeeded in keeping the route
of retreat open. Gormley's efforts provided the men of First and Third
Battalion the necessary time to gather their equipment, evacuate the
wounded and abandon the hilltop in good order.
Exposed and under heavy enemy
fire, James and the remaining soldiers of the Company A covering force
held their position as long as possible before making a hasty retreat.
A final barrage of smoke and explosive shells covered their
As Chinese soldiers finally
began to overrun the position, Jim and the remaining men in the
covering force successfully managed to navigate their way unharmed
to the safety of the river crossing. For his selfless actions on that
desperate day, Corporal James Gormley was awarded the Silver
Star for gallantry.
For a Detailed Report
on the Battle at Hill 283 from the
U.S. Army Center of Military History:
"Combat Action In Korea - A Rifle Company
As A Covering Force"
Note: Lt. Harley
F. Mooney, MSgt. Joseph J. Lock, SFC Thomas R. Teti and Lt. Colonel
Fred D. Weyand,
all mentioned in the Hill 283 engagement report,
were also awarded Silver Stars for their actions.
A Forward Observer team of the
39th Artillery Battalion in 1951.
official Silver Star citation reads:
Corporal Gormley distinguished
himself by gallantry in action while serving with Battery A, 39th Field
Artillery Battalion, 3d Infantry Division, in Korea on 25 April 1951.
On that date, near Hill 283, Korea, Company A, 7th Infantry, was attacked
by an enemy force of estimated regimental strength. Corporal Gormley, a
member of the artillery forward observer team attached to Company A,
voluntarily remained in the position and continued to call for and adjust
artillery fire on the enemy after the forward observer officer of the
team had been wounded and evacuated. Despite his exposed position and the
hail of enemy fire, he continued to initiate fire missions until the
radio was put out of action by enemy fire. The gallantry and exemplary
courage displayed by Corporal Gormley reflect great credit on him and
are in keeping with the high traditions of the military
For their efforts in helping to
stem the tide of the red onslaught during those first desperate days
of the enemy offensive, the 7th Infantry Regiment was issued a
Distinguished Unit Citation "...
for outstanding performance of duty and extraordinary heroism in action
against an armed enemy (Chinese Communist Army) near Choksong, Korea
during the period 23 April to 25 April 1951.”
During the following month of
heavy fighting, the weight of the Chinese Spring Offensive continued
to gradually push back the United Nations front lines. By the middle
of May, the 7th Infantry Regiment had moved to positions seventy-five
miles to the east, defending hilltop strongholds near the village of
May 24, 1951 marked the start
of the United Nations Summer/Fall Counteroffensive. While units in other
sectors of the front were beginning their move against enemy positions,
the 7th Regiment near Habae Jae was still in a defensive posture and
under determined pressure from a combined force of Chinese and North
Members of the 7th Infantry Regiment
on a hilltop position on May 24, 1951.
On this day, under circumstances
similar to those a month earlier near Choksong, James once again
volunteered to remain behind and call in artillery fire to cover his
company's withdrawal. His heroic actions helped blunt the enemy assault,
and aided in another successful evacuation.
When it came time to abandon
his position, Gormley began to work his way back towards the American
lines. On the way, Corporal James W. Gormley was struck by mortar fire
Jim's remains were temporarily
interred in a military cemetery in South Korea. His casket arrived in
the United States in October 1951. Jim's remains were buried in his
final resting place by his family at Pittsburgh's Calvary Catholic
Cemetery on October 31, 1951. This sad occasion would have been the
date of his 20th birthday.
In addition to his Silver Star
and the Distinguished Unit Citation, James Gormley was awarded the
following ribbons and medals for his service during the Korean War:
Purple Heart, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Medal, United
Nations Service Medal, Korean Service Medal and Korean Presidential
After Jim's death, the Third
Division went on to support combat missions of the Eighth Army until
1953 when it was withdrawn. Most notably, the Division distinguished
itself at the Chorwon-Kumwha area, Jackson Heights and Arrowhead outposts,
and blocked a determined Chinese push in the Kumsong Area in July
Known as the "Fire Brigade" for
its rapid response to crisis, the Third Infantry Division received a
total of ten Battle Stars during the Korean Campaign. Casualties during
the war included 2,160 killed in action and 7,939 wounded.
Korea - 1992
After the war, the circumstances
of James' death remained somewhat of a mystery to the Gormley family.
Years later, with the help of his brother-in-law, Lieutenant Colonel R.
Michael Shuler, James Gormley's younger brother John, who now makes his
home in Castle Rock, Colorado, learned the specifics of his older
brother's heroic actions.
In November 1992, John visited
South Korea on a business mission with the Colorado International Trade
Office. While in country, John took a couple of days off to travel from
Seoul on the northwest coast to the little village of Habae Jae on the
northeast coast. The trip was arranged by the South Korean trade
Along the way, John visited a
number of memorials to the men and women of the U.S. and U.N. militaries
who defended the South Koreans during the war. He was accompanied
by, and an honored guest of, local and provincial government officials on
these visits. As an American, John was treated with the utmost respect
by the South Koreans.
When he reached Habae Jae, John
was introduced to an elderly gentleman who, as a young man during the war,
had the assignment of going into the forested mountains surrounding the
village to recover the dead after a battle. He guided John to the top
of a high hill, where there were remnants of a U.S. Army artillery
emplacement. From there, John Gormley was able to gaze upon the forested
mountains to the north where James fell in battle.
Looking towards the hills north of
an old U.S. Army artillery emplacement near Habae Jae, South Korea.
It was near this ridge line that Corporal James Gormley lost his life
on May 24, 1951.
In his notes,
John also mentioned the McKennas, a Brookline family who lived on Bellaire
Place, just a stone's throw away from the Gormley residence. John went
to Resurrection Elementary School with Mickey McKenna, the younger sister
of James E. McKenna.
As a member of the 2nd Combat
Engineer Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division, James McKenna fell while
fighting the enemy near Kunu-Ri, North Korea, on November 30, 1950.
The two neighboring families shared in the grief of their sorrowful
Brothers Joe, John and James
Gormley in 1949.
* Thanks to John Gormley, younger
brother of James, for contributing this information. *
Written by Clint Burton - September 10, 2014
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
The Lockheed P2
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
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.
A Lockheed OP2E "Neptune" of
Navy Observation Squadron VO-67.
Navy Observation Squadron
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
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.
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,
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
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.
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
<Naval Observation Squadron VO-67
<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
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
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 - April 24, 1994
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.
"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
"He was finally home."
"My mother kept the medal until she
passed away and now my sister is holding it."
Ensign Wonn Honored At
In 1994, Ensign James Charles Wonn was
inducted into the Seton-LaSalle High School Hall of
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 -
* 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
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
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.
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
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
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.
Sgt. Richard Joseph Lacey -
In 2002, Sgt. Richard Joseph
Lacey was inducted into the Seton-LaSalle High School Hall of
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
* Information obtained from the P.O.W. Network. *
Written by Clint Burton - March 15, 2011
American Legion Post
World War II Honor Roll
Click on image for a clearer view of
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. The weapons remained in the U.S. arsenal for many years as training
guns. These howitzers also saw action in World War II, used by France, Finland,
Poland, Germany, Italy, Spain and Yugoslavia.
The 155mm Schneider howitzer was one of
the most common field guns used by the Americans in World War 1.
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.
Left - 155mm Schneiders after WWI
in 1919; Right - U.S. artillery training in 1940.
Monument - The Cannon
Brookline's 155mm Schneider
howitzer watches over the Commercial District from Veteran's
The Brookline Cannon stands
silhouetted against a colorful sky in the Spring of 2013.
Memorial Park - April 2014