Sunday, May 24, 2009
Memorial Day Memories
My parent’s and their friends were always together - inseparable. They are my family. Either we were at their homes or them at ours. At the dinner table I would listen to one war story after another. Mostly, the stories were funny. Here is one I remember - my dad was training in Hinesville Georgia, where there were all kinds of critters i.e. leeches and snakes. One particular evening, before dad went to sleep, his friends hid a rope in his bed. When dad tucked himself under the covers, they slowly began to pull on the rope, as if it was a real snake. My father jumped out of his bed! He didn’t think it was funny. Here’s another – while stationed in Seattle Washington, there was a certain sergeant who was mean and nasty. One evening at a party, dad and his friends decided to get this sergeant very drunk. When the deal was done, the sergeant was placed in a wheelbarrow, wheeled to a cliff, and gently dumped down the hill. Luckily the result was only KP – it could have been worse. They spoke of all the interesting characters - one of these was a soldier named Opperman, who walked around talking to himself, saying “time is timeless”, over and over again. The story doesn’t seem very funny, but if you saw the facial expressions of my godfather telling it, you would be laughing too. My father rarely shared stories of combat. But, I do remember; my godfather was wearing shorts – and I noticed bumpy red dots all over his legs. After I questioned him, my father told me the dots were shrapnel, still lodged in my godfather’s legs. My godfather was wounded by a grenade.
TOP L-R: Frank Bruno, Patrick DeClemente, Frank Acinapura, Frank Gugliotta
BOTTOM L-R: Robert E. Kennedy, John Gosdigian, William Dueltgen, Ed Schueler, John Murphy
Dad and his friends were all raised in Union City, New Jersey. Union City was a well known city years ago. There were bars, billiard halls – and boxing. The Hudson Theatre was there, famous for big acts, Abbot and Costello, Burns and Allen.
When dad was seventeen, he found some work through the CCC program fighting forest fires in Idaho. When he was came home, he and his friends joined the New Jersey National Guard. When WWII broke out, the Guard became Army. Luckily, the guys stayed together most of the time, traveling throughout the country, and training in different camps. Camp Chaffee, Ark., Ft. Benning, Ga., Camp Shelby, Miss. Dad was in the first training class of Camp Stewart, Ga. 1941. Finally, training with “D” Battery 212th Artillery in Seattle Washington. When my dad was stationed in Seattle, my mother traveled there to be with him. She found a job with Boeing Aircraft. Mom and dad decided to marry in Seattle. The wedding took place on Wednesday, January 20, 1943, in the midst of the worse snowstorm Seattle had experienced in twenty years.
The “38thStreet” boys soon shipped out to Europe. They traveled by vessel to Southampton England, then on to France and Germany. While in Europe, dad served with General George Patton’s Third Army. He experienced a “Patton” speech. He also participated in the Battle for the city of Metz.
At the end of the war, my father searched for his closest friend, not hearing from or about him in a long while. He soon discovered that Robert “Midge” Kennedy was killed during the planning of the Ruhr River crossing. Dad was devastated. “Midge” Kennedy now lies buried in the Netherlands American Cemetery in Margraten, Netherlands. You can see a picture of Midge Kennedy, top photo, second from the left.
When my father returned home, he and his friends decided to establish their own veterans club, which would be named in honor of Robert E. Kennedy. It would be named the Robert E. Kennedy Veterans Club.
The Kennedy Club, always known as “The Club on 38th Street” in Union City New Jersey, lived on for many years, until the members died, or were too old to keep it going. My brother and I grew up in that club. Memorial Day was always special – The club members all marched in the parade – then back at the club, free hot dogs and hamburgers – for everyone! The stories, the characters, the Robert E. Kennedy Club - all are memories now, but these memories will forever be part of me.
God bless our veterans and our troops.
MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS JOHN PAUL II ON THE FIFTIETH ANNIVERSARY OF THE END OF THE SECOND WORL WAR IN EUROPE - Link
National World War II Memorial Website - here you can enter information and pictures of your loved ones who served in World War II.