World War II Project: Pizza – Zeltmann

Click for the other World War II biographies: Intro/Part 1 (Aceto-Conti) Part 2 (Costa-Krafft), and Part 3 (LaBarbera-Phipard)

Click here to share the story of someone you know who took part in World War II.

PLACIDO, STEVE (or STEFANO) (1926-2014). Seaman first class, United States Navy. Placido was born in New York to Stefano Placido, an Italian immigrant, and Rosalie Placido, an American of Italian descent. At the time of the 1930 census, his father Stefano, a cabinet maker, was 29 years old, his mother Rosalie 23, Steve (then known as Stefano) was 3 years and 9 months, and his younger brother Gastavo was just over 1 year old. The family lived in Brooklyn at 328 12th Street. As per the 1940 census, the family continued to live on 328 12th Street. Stefano Placido was then 39 and a cabinetmaker and his wife Rosalie was 33 and a dressmaker. They had three children: Stefano was 13, Gastavo 11, and a younger daughter named Mary was 9. Placido attended St. Saviour Elementary School and Manual Training High School (now John Jay Educational Campus) in Park Slope.

In 1943, Placido registered for the United States Navy at the age of 19. The registration card lists his first name as Steve, his employer’s name as Veteran and his father is listed as the person who will always know his address. That document indicates that he had a home telephone. His daughter, Susan Placido Lauser, reports that from 1944 to 1945, Placido served on board the USS Monterey (CVL-26), a small aircraft carrier, which made voyages to the Philippines including Leyte Gulf, Japan including Honshu and Okinawa. He is listed among the sailors aboard the USS Monterey on May 29, 1944, with his service having begun on May 14, and is also listed on the ship’s muster roll for March 31, 1945. There were many air strikes in Okinawa, Saeki, Kure, Tokuma, Misawa, Atsugi and Tokyo but the aircraft carrier was never captured. It was however, struck by Typhoon Cobra while in the Pacific and the ship almost sunk. Gerald R. Ford, the future 38th President of the United States, was also serving on the Monterey at this time. For his service, Placido was given the Philippine Liberation Ribbon, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, American Campaign Medal, and the Victory Medal. Placido is listed on the muster roll for the USS Monterrey on April 1, 1946. In 1949, Placido married Helen L. Miscione and the couple had two children: Susan (born in 1954), and Steven (born in 1956). As per his daughter, he was the owner of West Potato, Inc. According to the United States Public Records, he lived in Brooklyn from 1984-1996 and again from 1998 to 2005, then in Parksville, New York, from 1996 to 1998, and in New York City from 2005 until his death. Section 39/40, lot 38325, grave 821

Steve Placido

POLESINELLI, FRANK JOSEPH (1919-2002). Corporal, Merrill’s Marauders, United States Army. Frank was born in Brooklyn to parents Barnard and Josephine Polesinelli. He attended Our Lady of Peace Grammar School through the eighth grade. The earliest record of the family is the 1940 census which describes Barnard Polesinelli as fifty-three and his wife Josephine Polesinelli as fifty. Frank was recorded as white, single and twenty-one years old and one of the eldest children, his sister Mildred also being twenty-one. He had four younger sisters: Rose who was nineteen, Mary who was eighteen, Antoinette who was eleven, and Lorion who was five. Frank had completed his school education till the 8th grade and worked as a peddler. The same 1940 census records indicate that he had worked thirty hours in the week prior, worked for himself and had an income of $182.

In 1942, Polesinelli enlisted in the army at Fort Jay on Governors Island in New York Harbor. His enlistment record describes him as 5′ 8″ tall, 158 pounds and lists that he worked as a huckster and peddler. His registration card indicates he lived at 571 Union Street in Brooklyn, his mother was his emergency contact and his employer was Frank Cassillo at 63 Garfield Place in Brooklyn.

Polesinelli trained in Trinidad, Louisiana, and Georgia. As reported by his son, he volunteered for the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional), also known as Merrill’s Marauders and named after Frank Merrill, the United States Army general who commanded the unit in the World War II’s Burma Campaign. When he volunteered, he did not know what his mission would be; volunteers were told that they would receive a special and dangerous assignment. Merrill’s Marauders was a special operations force active between 1943 and 1944 which fought in the China-Burma-India Theater. The Marauders advanced 750 miles in just over five months, carrying their equipment on their backs or on mules, in some of the harshest jungle terrain in the world. This was farther than any other United States Army advanced in World War II, despite hunger and disease. These men were considered expendable; they were not expected to survive. Polesinelli fought battles near Walawbum (February 24 through March 7, 1944) and Shaduzup (March 12 through April 25, 1944) as reported by his son. The special force also fought in Inkangahtawng, Nhpum Ga, and Myitkyina. During the siege of Nhpum Ga beginning on April 9, 1944, the 3rd Battalion broke through the enemy line. Polesnelli’s son reports that at Nhpum Ga, Burma (now Myanmar), his father was ill with amebic dysentery and was evacuated by small plane. The Marauders battled the Japanese Army on thirty-two separate occasions, including two battles for which the unit was not equipped or intended to take part.

For their service in Burma, the Marauders each received the Combat Infantry Badge, the Bronze Star, and they were awarded the Presidential Unit Citation (originally called the Distinguished Unit Citation). In 2020, the Merrill’s Marauders Congressional Gold Medal Act became law. It awarded the highest token of gratitude for the service, and sacrifice, of the men of that unit. In 1945, Polesinelli was discharged and he retired as corporal. He was married to Mary Jean; the couple had a son and a daughter. He was self-employed in the fruit and vegetable business.  His death was attributed to natural causes. Section 5, lot 39944, grave 1.

Merrill’s Marauders badge.
Mary Jean and Frank Polesinelli.

PONZI, EMIDIO LAWRENCE (1925-2018). Corporal, 1st Division, 6th Regiment, United States Marines. Born in Brooklyn and raised in Park Slope, Emidio was the second child of Vincent and Isabel Ponzi. Vincent Ponzi was an Italian immigrant and a street railway worker; his wife, Isabel, was born in New York. As per the 1940 census, the family lived at 187 8th Street in Brooklyn. At the time, Emidio had an older sister named Helen who was eighteen and he himself was fifteen years old and had completed his third year of high school.

In 1943, at the age of eighteen, Ponzi graduated from what was then Manual Training High School (now known as John Jay Educational Campus) in Brooklyn and enlisted in the Marines. His registration card listed his mother as his next of kin and his employer as N.W Gossard at 315 4th Avenue in New York City. He received training at the 4th Recruit Battalion at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island in South Carolina, and began his service as private, fighting in the Pacific Theatre at the Battle of Okinawa with the 6th Marine Division. By 1946, after three years of service, Ponzi had become a corporal.

In 1951, Ponzi joined the New York City Police Department where he served for thirty-six years and retired as detective sergeant in the Brooklyn South Homicide Squad. He was one of the detectives on the Brooklyn South Task Force investigating the sniper shootings in southern Bensonhurst in 1981. In a May 26 Daily News report on the shooting investigation, he was quoted as saying that it appeared it was “random shootings by an unknown sniper firing from an altitude.”

Ponzi and his wife, Edith, had three children: Vincent, Isabel, and Joseph. After his retirement in 1987, the couple moved to Palm Harbor in Florida where they lived for many years. He is said to have made a lot of friends and was described as “a voracious reader.”

In 2015, Ponzi’s wife Edith passed away and Ponzi died three years later at the age of ninety-three. He was survived by his three children; his grandchildren Janine, Christine, Philip, Laura, and Jennifer and eight great grandchildren. One of his dearest childhood friends described him as a great man and friend, respected by all, especially his peers on the job and in life. Ponzi’s funeral mass was held at Our Lady of Pity Roman Catholic Church in Staten Island. Section 177, lot 40415, grave 1.

Ponzi in uniform, stateside.
Ponzi’s badges.
Ponzi and his granddaughter.

REINERTSEN, ARNOLD CARL (1921-1991). Corporal (T-5), 116th Antiaircraft Artillery Gun Battalion, United States Army. Reinertsen was born in Brooklyn. Records from the 1925 New York State census report that he resided at 4619 5th Avenue with his parents, Nils Gabriel and Anna Marie, an older brother, Reinert, his uncle and cousin, Jack Brown and Jus Abrams, a lodger, Harry Simon, and a roomer, Hilmer Rykipnes. Both parents were born in Norway. Reinertsen’s first name and middle initial are recorded as Carl A. The 1930 federal census states that his family resided at 738 59th Street and his father was a yacht steward. There were no census listings for his uncle, cousin, the lodger, and the roomer. As in the 1925 census, his first name is recorded as Carl. However, he printed and signed his World War II draft card as Arnold Carl Reinertsen. His residence was 449 61st Street, and his mother, residing at that address, was listed as the contact person.  He worked as a clerk for The New York Times, located at 1475 Broadway in Manhattan. The registrar’s report, dated February 15, 1942, notes that he was 6′ tall, weighed 188 pounds, had hazel eyes and blonde hair, a light complexion, with a scar behind his right ear.

Reinertsen’s World War II Army enlistment record states that he was single, had completed three years of high school, and was skilled in general woodworking. His enlistment date was March 6, 1943. The transcription erroneously describes him as 7 ‘3″ tall with a weight of 111 pounds. As per his daughter, he served with the 116th Antiaircraft Artillery (AAA), was stationed in France, Germany and Belgium, and engaged in battles in the Ardennes (Battle of the Bulge), Central Europe, Normandy, Northern France, and the Rhineland. According to the Battle of the Bulge Association, the 116th AAA Gun Battalion engaged in various heroic activities from June 6, 1944, to December 31, 1944. Since Reinertsen served in this battalion, he may have engaged in the following assignments that it received: June 6, 1944 – defend beach installations on Utah Beach, as a part of the Normandy invasion on D-Day; July 12 to August 4, 1944 – ordered to abandon its antiaircraft mission and assume a tank destroyer role in the Chaumont area; August 6, 1944 – deployed to Mayenne to set up an antiaircraft defense, accomplished its goal, received an emergency request from the 16th Infantry Division to engage in a field artillery mission against the enemy, and saved the 16th Infantry from annihilation; August 25, 1944 – ordered to leave the Mayenne area, arrived in the Paris area two days later, and set up AAA defenses in Paris and at the bridges over the Seine River; September 8, 1944 –moved to Sedan, France, set up AAA defense on the bridges over the Meuse River, but did not engage in any action; September 29 to October 12, 1944 –called upon to protect the locks of the Albert Canal and bridges over the Maas River in Maastrict, Holland; October 12, 1944 –ordered to protect the VII Corps Artillery in Aachen, Germany, and was the first gun battalion to fire on German soil; and December 16, 1944 –continued to support the VII Corps Artillery between Stolberg, Germany and the front lines near the Roer (or Rur) River. Throughout its deployment, the 116th is credited with destroying 32 enemy aircraft.

Reinertsen’s daughter relates that although he was engaged in combat, his letters “…somehow always focused on the more uplifting and positive stories—of staying with a poor family in France and helping their daughter get a piano, etc. In his letters he tried to only convey positive stories to his mother, for example…telling her about the British family in the United Kingdom that took them in for Thanksgiving even though they didn’t have much.” In a letter to his mother, dated December 22, 1943, Reinertsen wrote:

Dear Mom,

Just another letter to let you know I’m still safe and sound, and to ease any worries you might have. The weather is a little snappy, but you know Mom that’s the way we like it around Christmas. Speaking of Christmas, it’s only a few days off. We expect to have some sort of a party, you know Mom, to sort of cheer the boys up and bring them closer to home. Quite a few of my buddies have been invited to some of the homes about here for dinner and such. The people are really trying to be nice to us.

I received a letter from you and Marion yesterday. It sure was swell to hear from home. It sure was swell to hear that Rolf is still working hard and feeling so well. I was surprised to find that Ray is still home. He must know what he’s going to do by now. Maybe after Christmas he’ll do what’s right. Well Mom the lights are going out soon, and there’s no more room so—good night – till tomorrow.

Your Loving Son

Carl

As per his enlisted records and report of separation, Reinertsen was honorably discharged on October 29, 1945. Reinersten’s daughter noted that her father achieved the rank of corporal (T-5), and that he was awarded the European-African-Middle Eastern Service Medal with a Bronze Arrowhead and the Good Conduct Medal. She also shared that although he left Alexander Hamilton High School after the eleventh grade, he earned his high school equivalency after the war. Her father’s primary place of employment after the war was Addressograph Multigraph Corporation in New York, where he worked for 25 to 30 years. Reinertsen married Ida Cecilia Agoglia in 1953 and the couple had two sons and two daughters. According to his daughter, “He was a good and loving father and son.” According to the California death index, he was residing in San Dimas, a suburb of Los Angeles County, at the time of his death. Section 41, lot 36080, grave B.

Reinertsen in field.
Reinertsen at front.
Reinertsen with daughter JoAnn.

RICCIARDI, ANTHONY (1915-1974). Corporal, 158th Infantry Regiment, United States Army. According to the New York City birth index, Ricciardi was born in Brooklyn. Records from the 1920 federal census report that he resided at 418 Lake Street with his parents, Joseph and Concetta. His father immigrated from Italy in 1897, and his mother, also from Italy, immigrated in 1900. His father worked as a shoemaker in a factory. His parents had eight children: Amadeo, Frank, Angelo, Gerard, Carmine, Rocco, Anthony, and Philomena. The 1930 census notes that the family still resided at the Lake Street address. Ricciardi’s father had passed away and his mother was head of household with five children still living with her. His oldest brother, Amadeo, married with a daughter, is documented as the head of a separate household at the same address. Ricciardi’s first name is recorded as Antonio. The 1940 census notes that the twenty-four-year-old Ricciardi was a shoemaker, and still resided on Lake Street with his sister, Philomena, and two brothers. His mother had passed away. The census documents his two brothers, Amadeo and Frank, as separate heads of household.

Ricciardi’s World War II draft card records his residence on Lake Street, his age as twenty-four, and his brother, Frank, as the contact person. He worked at Lippert Brothers Company at 1 Main Street, Brooklyn. The registrar’s report, dated October 16, 1940, notes that he was 5′ 2″ tall, weighed 125 pounds, had gray eyes and brown hair, and a light complexion. The Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS (Beneficiary Identification and Records Locator Subsystem) Death File documents his enlistment date as September 5, 1941. As per his son, he served in the 158th Infantry Regiment, engaged in action in the Philippines on the Bicol Peninsula in southern Luzon and Lingayen Gulf, and “was very proud to have been a Bushmaster.” Those serving in the 158th were known as “Bushmasters.” The 158th Infantry Regiment has a long history. It was formed as the First Arizona Volunteer Infantry and engaged in the Indian Wars and the Mexican Expedition.  On August 5, 1917, the 158th was drafted into federal service.  It was deployed during World War I, World War II, and the war in Afghanistan.

On December 7, 1941, three months after Ricciardi’s enlistment, Pearl Harbor was attacked. The 158th Regiment soon was deployed to Panama to secure the canal and train in jungle warfare. According to the article, “Bushmasters Always Stand Tall,” on the Department of Emergency and Military Affairs website, by Specialist Wesley Parrell, “Arriving in Panama on January 2, 1942, the soldiers of the 158th began an intense training program in the jungles, which were better suited for insects and reptiles than they were for men. For weeks on end, the day’s long rains soaked the soldiers as they hacked through the thick vegetation with machetes, callusing their hands. Frequent dealings with the deadly snakes of the jungle, led to the unit adopting the name “Bushmasters” after the venomous pit vipers found in Central America.” The bushmaster snake became the distinguishing insignia on the shoulder patch of the 158th Regiment. The fighting skills of the “Bushmasters” were so renowned that General Douglas MacArthur personally selected and requested they be sent to his command in the Southwest Pacific Theatre. MacArthur lauded the Bushmasters: “No greater fighting combat team has ever deployed for battle.”

According to the Fort Tuthill Military Museum, the 158th Regiment engaged in major campaigns from December 1944 through May 1945. Since Ricciardi served in this regiment from September 1941 to October 1945, he likely engaged in the following assignments: December 1944 – Arawe, New Britain Island; May 1944 – Wakde Island-Sarmi New Guineas; July 1944 – amphibious assault Noemfoor Island, New Guinea; January 1945 – amphibious assault Lingayan in the Philippine Islands; March 1945 – Batangas Province, Southern Luzon, Philippine Islands; April 1945 – amphibious assaults at Legaspi Southern Luzon, Philippine Islands and Bacon, Sorsogen Province Philippine Islands; May 1945 – Mt. Isarog Bicol Peninsula, Philippine Islands.

The 158th Infantry Regiment engaged in combat zones longer than any National Guard unit in all wars, was the first army unit trained in jungle warfare, was the regiment that traveled furthest in their 5 ½ years of active duty, more than any Army unit in any war, and was the first army unit to be sent overseas after Pearl Harbor.

In 1987, Bushmasters: America’s Jungle of World War II, by Anthony Arthur was published. This book not only details the history of the 158th Infantry Regiment, but also focuses on the personalities of some of the officers and enlisted men. Ricciardi is memorialized in this book in the recounting of an event involving the twenty-seven-year-old Ricciardi who took responsibility for safeguarding a seventeen-year-old fellow soldier, Jimmy Boyer, on the beach at Arawe.

As per the Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, Ricciardi was discharged on October 1, 1945. Little is known of his life after the war. His last residence was in Brooklyn. According to the obituary in the New York Daily News, dated April 9, 1974, he was survived by his wife, Louise, and his two children, Anita Murphy and Anthony Jr. Section 137, lot 39369, grave 2.

Insignia of Bushmasters.
Diane and Anthony Ricciardi in 1966.
Ricciardi in 1970s.

 

SABATINO (or SABATINE), DOMINICK (1919-2011). Private first class, Infantry, United States Army.  According to the 1920 census, Dominick’s father, Alfred, was born in Italy, immigrated to the United States in 1911, and was a private chauffeur. His mother, Mary, was born in Manhattan. The couple’s two children, Mary and Dominick, were born in New York City. The 1930 census records that the family resided on West 7th Street in Brooklyn and his father was taxicab chauffeur. The family had grown to five children with the births of his brother, Frank, and sisters, Anna and Rose. As per the 1940 census, the family’s residence was 187 Avenue U in Brooklyn. The census records that this residence was a two-family home where the eldest daughter and her husband lived in one section and the rest of the Sabatino family, consisting of the parents and younger children, lived in another section.  His father was the owner of an undertaker business and the twenty-one-year-old Sabatino worked as a bookbinder.

Sabatino’s New York National Guard Service Card records that he enlisted on April 12, 1937, served in the 244th Coast Artillery, and was honorably discharged on April 11, 1940. His last name is documented, incorrectly, as “Sabatine,” and his date of birth is mistakenly recorded as June 23, 1918; the United States Social Security Death Index lists his birth date as June 28, 1919. According to his enlistment record for World War II, he enlisted on September 16, 1940, was 5′ 6″ and weighed 138 pounds. The record also documents that he completed two years of high school and his civil occupations were in laundering, cleaning, dyeing, and pressing apparel. The branch he was assigned was transcribed as Coast Artillery Corps or Army Mine Planter Service. His date of birth is recorded as 1918 and his last name as “Sabatine.” According to his daughter-in-law, Sabatino met his future wife, Cottie “Evelyn” Hodges, in Virginia Beach while he was stationed at Camp Pendleton in Virginia. As per their certificate of marriage, they married on July 3, 1941. This document also records his last name as “Sabatine.” His draft card indicates that his address was 323 Avenue U, Brooklyn, he was 26 years old, and his mother was his contact person. His birthdate is recorded as June 23, 1919, and his last name is spelled “Sabatine.” The registrar’s report, dated August 18, 1945, documents him as 5′ 7″ tall, 155 pounds, with blue eyes, brown hair, and sallow complexion.

Little is known about his military service other than he served in the infantry and was stationed at Fort Pendleton. According to his obituary in the Daily News, dated August 2, 2011, he served as lieutenant governor of the Kiwanis and as exalted ruler of the Order of Elks. His wife predeceased him, and the couple had one son, Donald. As per his family, he was known as “Danny,” resided at 323 Avenue U in Brooklyn for over seventy years, and owned the Sabatino Funeral Home, located at the same address, for over 45 years.  Section 33, lot 45115, grave 2.

Dominick Sabatino with wife and family.
Sabatino, left, at Kiwanis Club.
Sabatino Funeral Home on Avenue U in Brooklyn.

SALAZAR, JOSEPH (or GIUSEPPE) (1920-1994). Corporal, 115th Antiaircraft Artillery, D Battery, United States Army. According to the New York City birth index, Salazar was born in Manhattan and his first name is recorded as “Giuseppe.” The 1930 census documents that his family resided on 86th Street in Brooklyn. His father, Casamero, was born in Italy and was a laborer in the furniture business. His mother, Mary, was also born in Italy. Salazar had one younger brother, Dominick, and two younger sisters, Rose and Madeline, all born in Manhattan. The 1940 census records that the family was residing on Bay 26th Street in Brooklyn. His father’s occupation was watchman with a salary of $1,300. Both Salazar and his brother are listed as electricians, each with a salary of $250.   The Brooklyn marriage license record notes that Salazar married Sophie Rosalie Schwartz on April 3, 1941. The couple had two daughters, Marie and Linda.

Salazar’s World War II draft card states that he was 21 years old and that his father was his contact person. He was employed as a bit gauger for R. Hoe Company located at 138th Street and Cypress Avenue in the Bronx. His World War II Army enlistment record, dated March 26, 1943, states that he was married, had completed three years of high school, and was a chauffeur and “driver of bus, taxi, truck and tractor.”  This record erroneously reports his height as 22 and weight as 093. As per his daughter, he served with the 115th Antiaircraft Artillery (AAA), D Battery, under the 3rd army (General George Patton’s command). He enlisted as a private and rose to the rank of corporal during his service. He took part in the D-Day Invasion on June 6, 1944 and fought in France at the Battle of the Bulge from December 16, 1944 through January 1, 1945. Salazar’s daughter, Linda, recalls, “He drove a truck and jeep named Sophie after my mother. He was in the Battle of the Bulge. He was ordered by his commanding officer to advance down a road that had not yet been cleared. He advanced, but he drove backwards, and a mine exploded. He was wounded in his leg. He was so eager to leave the service, he left the hospital immediately after returning to the United States, not even waiting for his wounds to heal. There was no report done for his Purple Heart. He introduced both my uncles – one from the same regiment and a friend from the Navy – to his sisters and they were married.” After the war, Salazar owned and drove a taxi for over forty years. Section 24, lot 4586.

Salazar with wife, Sophie.
Salazar, later in life.
Joseph and Sophie Salazar.

SARUNICH, GEORGE (1921-2015). Motor machinist’s mate first class, Torpedo Boat Squadron 4, United States Navy. Sarunich was born in Brooklyn as recorded in that borough’s birth index. As per the 1930 census, Sarunich lived with his parents, Marijam and Mary, and his older siblings, Nicholas and Helen, at 214 32nd Street in Brooklyn. That census indicates that his father was born in Dalmatia, Austria, and his mother was born in Poland; other documents give different birthplaces for his parents. His father worked as a longshoreman. The New York City death certificate index reports that on July 27, 1933, his brother Nicholas passed away at the age of thirteen due to a head injury. That index states that his mother was born in Austria. The 1940 census notes that the nineteen-year-old Sarunich and his family resided on 3rd Avenue, and that Sarunich had completed four years of high school. His father’s birthplace is listed as Yugoslavia.

Sarunich’s World War II registration card records that he was twenty-one years old, resided at 5013 3rd Avenue and his mother was named as next of kin. He worked at the Bush Terminal Buildings, Numbers 7 and 8, on 34th Street and 3rd Avenue. According to the muster roll of the crew for the USS Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron 26, Sarunich enlisted in the Navy on March 11, 1942. His rank was motor machinist’s mate 2nd class and some of his responsibilities may have been operating and maintaining ship propulsion machinery, auxiliary equipment and outside machinery. He served with this squadron from March 1943 to April 1945 and also served with another torpedo boat squadron. The National Parks Service describes PT boats as “small, fast, and expendable vessels for short range oceanic scouting, armed with torpedoes and machine guns for cutting enemy supply lines and harassing enemy forces. Forty-three PT squadrons, each with 12 boats were formed during World War II by the U. S. Navy.” Torpedo Boat Squadron 26 was assigned to the Hawaiian Sea Frontier and did not see any action. From May 1945 to November 1945, Sarunich was assigned to Torpedo Boat Squadron 4. According to the Report of Changes, dated May 31, 1945, he had been promoted to motor machinist’s mate 1st class. This squadron trained others in Rhode Island. There is no record of Sarunich’s discharge date. After the war, he married Louise (Luisa) Pastore on March 29, 1945, and the couple had two children. He died in Brooklyn. Section 8, lot 44609, grave 259.

SAWAYA, GEORGE A. (1910-1972) Petty officer 3rd class, United States Navy. George Sawaya was born in the United States to Albert and Mary, immigrants from Turkey. According to the 1915 New York State census, the family (including older brother, Nicholas and younger brother, James) was living in Olean, New York, in Cattaraugus County. Albert Sawaya was employed by the Stillman Oil Refinery.

By the 1920 federal census, however, the three brothers were listed as “inmates” at the Home for the Friendless, in the Bronx. The listing notes that their parents’ original language was Albanian. It’s not clear what happened to his father or how the brothers came to live at the Home, but in 1923 their mother married again, to George Jebaily, the proprietor of a kimono manufacturing company, who may have come to the United States from Syria. By the time of the 1930 federal census, George and his brothers, having long since left the Home, were living with their mother and stepfather in Brooklyn, along with two young half-sisters. George and his older brother were working for their stepfather as cost clerks.

According to the 1940 census, 29-year-old George Sawaya was living on 79th Street in Brooklyn with his wife, Esther (née Dahir), and working as a pattern-maker in the needlework industry (his stepfather’s business). Although the census reported that his education ended after the eighth grade, his family adds that George had earned his high school diploma around 1930 by attending night classes at Bay Ridge High School.

In October 1940, just a week short of his 30th birthday, Sawaya registered for the draft. (According to the Selective Training and Service Act of September, 1940, all men between the ages of 21 and 35 were required to register.) However, he wasn’t inducted into the Navy until October 1943. According to his family, he was at sea from June 1944 until the end of the war, in August 1945.

Sawaya served on the USS Bataan, an aircraft carrier stationed in the Pacific, during the “island-hopping” campaign that wrested control of Japanese air bases from the enemy and brought United States forces within bombing range of Japan. In the spring of 1945, Bataan, with Sawaya aboard, participated in the Battle of Okinawa, a nearly three-month-long action, perhaps the costliest operation of the entire war in terms of lives lost. The war ended some weeks later, after atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, leading to the Japanese surrender.

Sawaya mustered out of the Navy on November 1, 1945, and resumed civilian life with his wife and two children, working in garment-making. He died of leukemia at age 61, according to his granddaughter, who added that his wartime exposure to toxic chemicals may have played a role in his death.  Section 128, lot 364, grave 1.

Esther and George Sawaya with their niece.
Sawaya is at right.
Sawaya in 1936.
Sawaya in late 1960s.

SAYEGH, GEORGE (1918-1982). Sergeant, 592nd Army Air Force Base, Army Air Corps, United States Army. According to the 1925 New York State census, Sayegh lived with his parents, Bashir and Ela, his older brother, Elia, and his younger siblings, Albert and Frances, at 197 Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. The census indicates that his parents were born in Syria, his older brother in Argentina, and he and his other siblings in the United States. His father, whose first name was erroneously spelled as “Beashir,” worked as a silk weaver. Also residing at the address was the Shuda family, namely, Habbib and Regina with their two sons and two daughters. The 1940 federal census notes that the twenty-one-year-old Sayegh resided at 200 Prospect Park West with his father, mother, and three younger siblings – Albert, Agnes, and Edward. His brother, Elia, and sister, Frances, are not included in that report. In the transcription, his father’s first name is spelled “Baker,” and his mother is referred to as “Helen.”

By 1939, Sayegh had completed the seventh grade, was a truck driver, and earned $360 for 36 weeks of work. The 1940 census indicates that Sayegh was born in Rhode Island. However, Sayegh’s World War II draft card documents that he lived at 1218 8th Avenue in Brooklyn, his place of birth was Summit, New Jersey, and his next of kin was his mother. He may have been self-employed or owned his own business as he listed himself as his employer with the business located at 2 West 28th Street in Manhattan. His registrar’s report, dated October 16, 1940, describes him as 5′ 2″ tall, 190 pounds, with brown eyes, black hair and a light complexion.

The World War II Army enlistment records indicate that Sayegh enlisted on March 23, 1943, with the rank of private.  His civil occupation is recorded as “semi-skilled chauffeur and driver, bus taxi, truck, and tractor.” His height and weight are inaccurately transcribed at 45” tall and 74 pounds. According to the World War II hospital admission card files, he was admitted to an army hospital during January 1944 for “pilonidal cyst or sinus.” There is no specific discharge date other than the recorded year of “1944.”

As per his daughter, Mary Ann, he was promoted to the rank of sergeant, served in the 592nd Army Air Force Base Unit, and was stationed in England and Morocco, North Africa. His daughter shared that he was awarded the Good Conduct Medal, the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Ribbon, and the American Theater Ribbon. The United States Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS (Beneficiary Identification and Records Locator Subsystem) Death File documents his discharge date as November 28, 1945.

The New York City marriage license index records that Sayegh and his future wife, Margaret Adele Sabbagh, applied for a marriage license on January 31, 1948.  According to his daughter, they were married on January 31, 1948, and had five children. In his civilian life, Sayegh owned a trucking company for over thirty-five years. Section N, lot 43163, grave 1.

George and Margaret Sayegh

SCHWER, HOWARD JULIUS (1913-1991). Corporal, United States Army. Schwer was born in Brooklyn and is the older brother of Roy (see). The 1920 census reports that he lived with his parents and brother on 10th Street in Brooklyn; his father, a German immigrant, became a naturalized citizen in 1898, five years after his arrival in the United States and worked as a plumbing contractor. The 1930 census reports that the family lived on 82nd Street in Brooklyn. On June 27, 1930, Schwer’s graduation from Manual Training (now John Jay) High School was featured in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle; he was awarded the medal for perfect attendance and punctuality. The 1940 census shows that the family lived at 475 82nd Street in Brooklyn, had a lodger and that Howard was a law clerk.

As per his draft registration card, he lived at 475 82nd Street, listed his mother as next of kin and worked for a law firm on 17th Street in Brooklyn. His registrar’s report indicates that he was 5′ 10½” tall and weighed 165 pounds, with blue eyes, blonde hair and a light complexion. His World War II enlistment record shows that he enlisted as a private at New York City on February 12, 1943. He was a salesperson who had completed four years of college, was white and single. Howard Schwer’s military service is confirmed by an article in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle on March 9, 1944. That article notes that Corporal Howard Schwer of 575 82nd Street was at Camp Lee, Virginia, after a furlough and was a recipient of the Good Conduct Medal; the address noted is incorrect in that the family lived at 475 82nd Street. That same article notes that Roy Schwer, a private first class, was stationed in England, also held the Good Conduct Medal and was the recipient of the European Campaign Ribbon.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported on April 19, 1948, that Englebert Schwer, Roy’s father, died and would be interred at Green-Wood; that same paper reported on March 5, 1950, that Julia, Roy’s mother, died suddenly; she is interred with her husband. According his brother’s marriage announcement in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle on May 13, 1951, which incorrectly identified the groom as Roy Howard Schwer, Howard Schwer was the best man. As per his death certificate, he was married to Marci (Marcia), worked as a manager at Tiffany & Company, was a college graduate, and lived at 476 Lane B Comanche in Stratford, Connecticut. He is buried with his parents, wife, brother and sister-in-law. Section 178, lot 37989, grave 1.

SCHWER, ROY IRVING (1918-2006). Private first class, United States Army. A Brooklynite by birth, Roy Schwer was the younger brother of Howard (see). At the time of the 1920 census, Roy lived with his parents and brother on 10th Street in Brooklyn; his father, a German immigrant, became a naturalized citizen in 1898, five years after his arrival in the United States and worked as a plumbing contractor. The 1930 census reports that the family lived on 82nd Street in Brooklyn and that their neighbors were the Larsens, the family of Roy’s future wife, Florence.

On January 30, 1937, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle featured an article on Roy’s graduation from Manual Training (now John Jay) High School. That article focused on the speech given to the graduates by William Slater, the headmaster of Adelphi Academy, who had just returned from Europe where he had broadcast the Olympic games in Berlin and where he had visited many schools. Slater noted that enrollment in German universities had declined 50 percent and that American students should take a more active interest in politics. Slater told the graduates, “It is not how much you get out of the country that counts, it’s how much you give it.” The family lived at 475 82nd Street when the 1940 census was taken and a lodger lived with the Schwers.

At the time he filed his draft registration card, Roy lived at 475 82nd Street in Brooklyn, had a home telephone, listed his mother, Julia, with whom he lived, as his next of kin and worked for the Brooklyn Trust Company at 7428 Fifth Avenue in Brooklyn. His registrar’s report states that he was white, stood 6′ tall, weighed 165 pounds and had blue eyes, brown hair and a light complexion.

He enlisted as a private at Camp Upton in Yaphank, New York, on February 6, 1942. As per his World War II enlistment record, he was single, a U. S. citizen, had completed four years of high school, worked as a clerk in a financial institution, was 5′ 10″ tall and weighed 155 pounds, and was assigned to the Army. His enlistment was for the duration of the war plus another six months subject to the discretion of the President. An article in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle on March 9, 1944, notes that his brother, Corporal Howard Schwer of 575 82nd Street, was at Camp Lee, Virginia, after a furlough and was a recipient of the Good Conduct Medal; the address noted is incorrect in that the family lived at 475 82nd Street. That same article notes that Roy Schwer, a private first class, was stationed in England, and held the Good Conduct Medal and the European Campaign Ribbon. As per Roy’s engagement and marriage announcements in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, he served overseas for three years with the United States Army Corps of Engineers. He was discharged on October 20, 1945.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported on April 19, 1948, that Englebert Schwer, Roy’s father, died and would be interred at Green-Wood; that same paper reported on March 5, 1950, that Julia, Roy’s mother, died suddenly; she is interred with her husband. On May 21, 1950, Roy became engaged to Florence Larsen; their engagement was announced in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Ms. Larsen, a graduate of Fort Hamilton High School, attended Pratt Institute and was active in Girl Scouts. The engagement announcement confirms Roy Schwer’s World War II service and his three years with the Army Corps of Engineers. Schwer and Ms. Larsen obtained a marriage license in Brooklyn on April 14, 1951; they married on May 12 at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Brooklyn. According to their marriage announcement in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle on May 13, 1951, which incorrectly identified the groom as Roy Howard Schwer, the reception was held at the Larsen home and Howard Schwer was the best man. That article, which confirms Roy’s World War II service in Europe, reports that the bride was a graduate of the Pratt Institute of Home Economics and the groom was a graduate of Cooper Union.

In 1981, he lived at 475 82nd Street, his childhood home. Phone records from 1993-2002 show that he still lived at that address. He last lived in Brooklyn, presumably at that same residence. Section 178, lot 37989, grave 3.

SELLERS, JAMES (1921-1979). Machinist’s mate, first class petty officer, United States Navy. According to the 1925 New York State census, James lived with his parents, Henry and Emma, and three older siblings, Thomas, Donald, and Genevieve, at 4712 New Utrecht Avenue in Brooklyn. His father worked as an auto mechanic.  The 1930 census records the family’s address as 861 48th Street, Brooklyn. His father was superintendent of an apartment building. As per his son, Sellers graduated from Brooklyn Technical High School. The 1940 census notes that Sellers lived at 725 53rd Street with his parents and older brother, Donald. James was nineteen years old and attended New York University. According to the New York Marriage License Bureau, he and his future wife, Catherine (Kay) Schmielan, applied for a license on January 14, 1943, and were married on January 17, 1943. His World War II draft card indicates that he was twenty-four years old and lived with his wife at 828 71st Street. His wife is listed as next of kin and no employer is identified. The registrar’s report, dated November 5, 1945, describes him as 5′ 10″ tall, 140 pounds, with brown eyes, blond hair, and a ruddy complexion.

During his wartime service, Sellers was assigned to three ships: the USS Omaha, the USS New Jersey, and the USS Naifeh. His United States Navy muster roll states that he began his tour of duty on the USS Omaha on March 20, 1941. According to the Naval History and Heritage Command website, this light cruiser was docked in the Brooklyn Navy Yard for repairs from May 17, 1941, through June 25, 1941. The Omaha departed June 30, 1941, to conduct neutrality patrols between the Brazilian ports of Recife and Ascension Island. The main duty of her crewmembers was to “intercept, board, and inspect vessels to enforce a blockade against German trade in the region.” On November 6, 1941, the Omaha and the destroyer Somers captured the 5,098-ton German blockade runner, Odenwald, off the Brazilian coast. On May 23, 1943, Sellers was transferred to the newly commissioned battleship, USS New Jersey. The crew received its training in the Western Atlantic and Caribbean Seas. On January 7, 1944, the USS New Jersey passed through the Panama Canal on its way to Funafuti, Ellice Islands. Crewmembers took part in battles at the Marshall Islands, Majuro, New Guinea (supporting General Douglas MacArthur’s landings), the Marianas, and the Battle of the Philippine Seas (June 1944). Sellers was reassigned to the USS Naifeh, a destroyer escort, on July 4, 1944. He may have been onboard when the Naifeh escorted convoys to Europe and North Africa. He remained on this ship until his discharge on October 31, 1945.

Sellers received three promotions throughout his wartime enlistment. According to his Report of Changes, Sellers earned three promotions. Starting as a fire controlman, petty officer 3rd class, he was promoted to fire controlman, petty officer 2nd class on May 1, 1942. Fire controlmen operate, repair and trouble-shoot weapon systems on ships. On November 1, 1942, he was promoted to machinist’s mate, petty officer 2nd class, and then earned his final promotion to machinist’s mate, petty officer 1st class on September 1, 1943.

As per the Department of Veterans Affairs Death Files, Sellers re-enlisted in the Navy on October 4, 1947. He sustained an injury on the USS Enterprise in 1952. He wrote the following story of the injury he sustained and his recuperation:

On March 28, 1952, I was a sailor stationed in Bayonne, New Jersey and sent to report to the Naval ship, Enterprise, an aircraft carrier which was one of the best during World War II. The ship had been in “moth balls” for a number of years and rotting in the harbor. Upon my arrival, my superior officer gave me orders to open up the covers that seal the gas tanks. I had insisted that my men not go down to the bottom of the tanks because of the possibility of escaping gases. When all the hatches were open, I told them just to look down to see if they detected any gas. Neither of us could and it appeared as if everything was alright. I, as senior man, stayed back to make sure everything was okay and with my men already up the ladder and away from the hole, I glanced down and noticed two men at the bottom of the tank. It seemed as if they were trying to clean the rust down there. I shouted to them but they could not hear me. I felt something was wrong and immediately sounded the alarm and went down to them. They were unconscious when I reached them but I tried to carry one on my shoulder. His weight shifted knocking me off the ladder and pinning me down with the other two men in the hole. The navy yard workers responded quickly, and the Naval Chief Petty Officer went down to try and revive us. I had only a few seconds of life left. A rope was tied around me and I was hauled up and taken by ambulance to St. Albans Naval Hospital. I regained consciousness the following day, wondering what had happened. I was told at this time, I should have received last rites, as I was that close to death.

During this time, my wife received a telegram stating that I had been injured. However, when she received the telegram, I had no idea she was having her share of misery. She almost died due to a kidney ailment requiring her immediate entry into the hospital as her system was filling with fluid, slowly reaching her heart. It took quite a bit of medical care to make her well. That put the two of us in the same hospital at the same time…

The actual impact of my accident did not take effect until about 9 or 10 days later. One day when I was visiting the chaplain, I became dizzy and nauseous and finally collapsed. When I regained consciousness, I found myself in a ward of a hospital. I thought I had just fainted until someone said I was in Philadelphia Mental Hospital. I remember being taken into a room where there was a group of doctors and hearing one doctor, dressed in civilian clothes, saying that it might be a year of two before I would even speak again. I could hear what he was saying but his words sounded ridiculous.

When my father came to visit me I did not know who he was. The only thing I recognized was a watch I had given him years ago.

I was put into a closed ward in a “quiet” room because I was not able to eat. Everything seemed so hazy and far away. My loss of appetite caused me to dwindle down to 95 pounds. Only after some time of drinking milk and other liquids did I regain my strength and most of my weight. It seemed as if I had been in that room for months when in fact it was only a week or so. My coordination was extremely poor; I never felt so helpless and frustrated. The time spent in that room was a nightmare. It was very dark and dreary and always felt musty and cold. There was no bed, just a mattress which always made you seem so alone. When a nurse and corpsman came to feed me, I was so hungry and thirsty, I would slop it all over myself and the corpsman. I could not talk but my gestures were saying I was sorry for messing his uniform. They would nod and leave. After a while, I would feel the need to relieve myself and would knock at the door for attention but being in a place where there were some severe cases and a shortage of help, was ignored and as a result would end up going on the mattress.

A few days later, I was taken out of this room and placed in a ward with other patients… However, there were nights when some of the other patients were quite sick and it was frightful to see and hear what was going on. I remember one night the patient alongside of me woke up screaming and fighting. Then the nurse and the corpsman would drag and pull him out of bed and take him away. It seemed as if they were tormenting the poor fellow and I wondered if I would be next. I was afraid many times during battles of World War II and Korea but seeing and listening to the sick men in the ward was worse than anything I had ever seen or been in…

After about 6 weeks in the closed ward, my family was allowed to visit me which improved my condition enormously…I discovered though that as a result of my injury, I was not able to function or formulate ideas as well as before…It was only through rigid self-discipline and hard work that I was able to regain my speech and began to feel like a human being again…

During the following month (July 1952) I was permitted to go home for a month of convalescence. When I returned to the hospital, my doctor suggested that it would be a good idea if I were assigned to do some clerical work in the hospital…

Shortly thereafter, I was called in to the Physical Evaluation Board. Here it would be decided if I would be returned to active duty or not… The Board which consisted of ten Naval officers both medical and line, reviewed my entire case. Their findings were that I was unfit to perform my duties due to post-traumatic personality stemming from brain damage due to anoxia or lack of oxygen…

Although I had to leave the service, and years have gone by and I am still married to “KAY” and have four children, I am able to support my family and I know I owe this all to God. So long as there is life, there is always hope for one no matter how dark things seem.

His daughter recapped his life and the importance of having the story above shared. She writes:

He died on May 24, 1979, at the age of 58 after losing his battle to lung cancer. He stayed married to his childhood sweetheart, “KAY” for more than thirty years, raised four children and two grandchildren. He worked for the New York City Department of Sanitation for 19 years. He was a relatively quiet man, who although not making a tremendous effect on the human race was a church-going man, devoted to his family. He loved telling stories of his childhood and what it meant growing up poor and living in a cold water flat. One of the stories he loved to tell was how he met a platinum blonde little girl when he was about 7 years of age in the park and grew up looking for this blonde. Years later he found out this blonde was “KAY,” the love of his life…He wasn’t a big man in stature, but he had a heart of gold…He was no scientist or genius but was just basically a good man who is finally without pain and I know he is looking down from heaven and smiling that his story is finally being published.

Section 24, lot 43800, grave 25.

James Sellers

SPINELLI, FRANK (1925-1993). Rank unknown, United States Marines. The index record for Frank Spinelli in the Veterans Affairs Death File shows that he enlisted on August 23, 1943, served in the Marine Corps during World War II and was discharged on May 4, 1946. As per his obituary in the New York Daily News, he was survived by his wife, Terry née Scotto, a brother and sister and many nieces and nephews. A Mass of Christian Burial was held in his memory at St. Mary Star of the Sea Roman Catholic Church on Court Street in Brooklyn. Section 79, lot 44607, grave 165.

TACOPINO, ARTHUR J. (1926-1997). Private, 376th Infantry Regiment, Company L; 94th Infantry Division, United States Army. Records from the 1930 census report that he resided at 207 18th Street with his parents, Anthony and Anna, and his two older brothers, Cosimo and John. His father immigrated from Italy in 1905 and worked as a plasterer. His mother was born in New York. According to the 1940 census, his family resided at 591 Fourth Avenue and his father was an independent plasterer. According to his son, Tacopino attended Brooklyn public schools through the twelfth grade.

Tacopino’s World War II draft registration card states that he was eighteen years old, resided at 591 Fourth Avenue, and lists his mother as next of kin. He worked at Nessa Corporation as a longshoreman at Pier 2, Erie Basin, Brooklyn. A discharge date, June 3, 1946, is handwritten on the draft card. His registrar’s report indicates that he was 5′ 11″ tall, weighed 176 pounds, had brown eyes and hair, and a ruddy complexion. The date of the report, April 17, 1944, was Tacopino’s 18th birthday. His army enlistment record states that he was single and worked as a shipping and receiving clerk. His enlistment date is recorded as August 9, 1944, and his rank was private.

As per his son, he served in the 94th Infantry Division. According to the Sons of Liberty Museum, the 94th Infantry Division entered combat on September 17, 1944, at Normandy. The division engaged in combat for 209 days and experienced 6,533 casualties. Since Tacopino served from August 9, 1944, to June 3, 1946, he may have engaged in the following campaigns as cited by www.armydivs.com/94th-infantry-divsion: Northern France (July 1944 to September 1944), the Rhineland (September 1944 to March 1945), Ardennes-Alsace (December 1944 to January 1945), and Central Europe (March 1945 to May 1945). Two major accomplishments of the division are highlighted in the Sons of Liberty Museum’s website: on January 1, 1945, assisting the Third Army, the division destroyed the Siegfried Switch Line (a series of strong buffer defenses on the Moselle and east of the Saar River) helping to capture the key city of Trier in Germany; and, on March 16, 1945, the division was a key player in the taking of the industrial city of Ludwigshafen and capturing more than 17,000 prisoners.

As per Tacopino’s son, he was a guard during the Nuremberg Trials. Tacopino stood watch during the trial of Hans Michael Frank (see photograph below). Hans Michael Frank was Hitler’s personal legal advisor and was assigned to Poland, where he deported millions of its citizens to Germany as slave laborers. He was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity and was executed. Tacopino’s son relates that his father also escorted Hermann Goring from his cell to court during Goring’s trial. Goring was convicted of conspiracy, crimes against peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity at his trial at Nuremberg. Sentenced to be hung, Goring committed suicide with poison.

After the war, as per his son, Tacopino worked as an international longshoreman. According to the New York City marriage license indexes, he and Dorothy Ann Slattery applied for a marriage license on August 21, 1948. The couple married and had four children. In 1990, Tacopino’s address was 79 28th Avenue in Brooklyn. His last known address was 20 Brandis Avenue, Staten Island. Section 135, lot 40273.

Tacopino is guard at right.

Nuremberg Trial- Frank is seated, Tacopino at right.
Dorothy and Arthur Tacopino
Arthur Tacopino later in life.

TALISSE, EDWARD (1923-2015). Corporal, 387th Field Battalion Battery A, United States Army.  According to the New York City birth index, Talisse was born in Brooklyn. The 1925 New York State census indicates that he lived with his parents, Abdullah and Effie, at 189 Amity Street in Brooklyn. His parents were born in Syria, were naturalized citizens by 1925, and his father crocheted scarves. Talisse was the third of four children. As per the 1930 census, the family still lived on Amity Street and his father was a negligee manufacturer. His older brother was a shipping clerk, his older sister worked as an assistant supervisor in a garment company, and the fifteen-year-old Talisse and his younger brother attended school. Also listed in the census was his seventy-five-year-old grandmother, Avdokia Talisse.

According to his daughter, Talisse attended St. Paul’s Elementary School and George Westinghouse Technical High School. His World War II draft card notes that he was 18 years old, resided at 189 Amity Street, and his father was named as next of kin. His employer was Communication Measurements Laboratory at 131 Liberty Street, New York City. His registrar’s report, dated June 30, 1942, describes him as 5′ 6″ tall, 135 pounds, with brown hair, black eyes, and sallow complexion. The report also indicates that he had a birthmark on the left side of his face.

As per his daughter, Talisse was assigned to the 387th Field Artillery Battalion and was promoted to corporal. Talisse was stationed in Europe from December 14, 1943 to July 3, 1945, and took part in battles in Normandy, Northern France, the Rhineland, and Central Europe. His military specialty was radio operator. As per the United States Army Center of Military History, the 387th Field Battalion was a component of the 104th Infantry Division. The division trained in Camp Adair, Oregon, from 1942 to 1943. Its insignia, representing the northwest, is a gray timber wolf’s head on a balsam green disc, and the division’s motto was “Nothing in hell can stop the Timberwolves.” The 104th Infantry Division was the first division to train specifically to fight in nighttime conditions. His daughter shared that Talisse’s service tenure began on March 1, 1943, and ended on October 29, 1945 with an honorable discharge. The men of the 104th landed in France on September 7, 1944. The 104th then fought its way across northwestern Europe, fighting in mud, rain, and cold for 200 days through France, Holland, Belgium, and western Germany. It encountered mines, booby traps, and roadblocks, and withstood two counteroffensives by German troops. By May 7, 1945 (VE Day), the 104th was halted opposite Soviet troops advancing from the east. Talisse was awarded the American Service Medal, the European-African-Middle Eastern Service Medal, and the Good Conduct Medal.

After the war, he married Edna Fahy on January 18, 1958, and the couple had two children, Peggy and Edward. By 1957, he had risen to be the production manager of Communication Measurements Laboratory. He also worked for R & J Components for over thirty-five years. He was survived by his daughter, son, and daughter-in-law. Section 18, lot 41281, grave 3.

Edna and Edward Talisse

TATE, ROBERT SAUTER (1923-1994). Rank unknown, unit unknown, United States Army.  According to his World War II registration card, Tate was born in East Orange, New Jersey. The 1930 census notes that he lived with his parents, Robert A. and Beatrice, and his younger sister, in Essex County, New Jersey. His parents were born in New York and his father was an advertising salesman. As per the 1940 census, the family lived in North Caldwell, New Jersey. Three siblings are recorded – Robert S., seventeen years old, Lois, thirteen years old, and Thomas, eight years old. Internet searches indicate that he attended Grover Cleveland High School in Caldwell. He was a member of its basketball team and a photograph of him and his teammates is in the 1939 edition of the Grover Cleveland High School Yearbook. He completed his high school education at Boonton High School. According to an article in The News (Patterson, New Jersey), dated June 18, 1941, he received a general course diploma during a ceremony celebrating the largest graduating class in the history of Boonton High School.

Tate’s daughter shared that he enlisted on January 29, 1943. His World War II registration card notes that he was nineteen years old, resided on Mountain Heights Avenue, Lincoln Park, Morris County, New Jersey, and his mother was named as next of kin. He was employed at Wright Aeronautical Corporation on Market Street in East Paterson, New Jersey. According to the Paterson, New Jersey, government website, Wright Aeronautical can trace its corporate roots back to the company formed by Orville and Wilbur Wright. In 1926, the company manufactured the Whirlwind J-5 engine for both military and domestic planes. By 1932, it employed over 2,400 workers. During World War II, Wright engines powered all of the B-17 Flying Fortresses, the B-52 bombers that took part on raids on Tokyo, and the B-29 Superfortress that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. An article in a Boonton newspaper, The Morning Call, reports that Tate was called to active service on February 4, 1943. Although little is known about his deployment, his daughter relates that he served in Exeter, England, and France. As per the Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS (Beneficiary Identification and Records Locator Subsystem) Death File, he was discharged on December 1, 1945.

After the war, Tate married Salma (Sally) Baram on May 15, 1954, and the couple had three daughters, Elaine, Carol, and Laura. He was a machinist for Curtiss-Wright in Woodbridge, New Jersey, for twenty-four years. Subsequently, he was an electrician with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 102 in Peterson, New Jersey, for fifteen years before retiring in 1978. According to his daughter, “He was proud of his war service and belonged to several veterans’ associations, including the American Legion Post 174 in Wayne, New Jersey, the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 18, and the Albion Place Memorial Post 7165 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Tate is buried in the same lot at Green-Wood as his father who passed away in 1949.  He was survived by his daughters Elaine Bednarek, Carol Thomas Fabrizio and Laura Gardiner and grandchildren Jesse Barlow Thomas, Nicolas Baram Bednarek, Robert Tate Bednarek, Devon Salma Gardiner and Piper Jean Gardiner. Section 143, lot 22384, grave 1.

Sally and Robert Tate

TEPEDINO, JOSEPH (1926-2018). Sergeant, unit unknown, United States Army.  According to the Richmond (Staten Island) birth records, Tepedino was born there. His son states that he was a native of Rosebank, a small neighborhood in that borough where his parents married in 1924. The 1930 census notes that he lived with his parents, Anthony and Mary (née Marino), and his younger brother, Salvatore. The family resided then at 755 50th Street in Brooklyn in a home owned by his parents. His father was born in Italy and his mother was born in New York.

According to the 1940 federal census, the family lived at 820 50th Street, another family-owned property. At the time of the census, Tepedino had a six-year-old brother, Michael. His father’s brother, Michael, was also residing at the house; both his uncle and father were carpenters. That census records that Joseph’s father had completed grade eight and his mother had completed one year of high school. Tepedino’s father has a World War II registration card which states that his place of birth was Padula, Italy, and that he was self-employed.

As per Tepedino’s son, Tepedino was part of the first graduating class of the new Fort Hamilton High School, located in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. The June 25, 1943 issue of the Brooklyn Eagle reports that “Army, navy and marine uniforms lent a war note to the annual graduation exercises held in Brooklyn last night.” The newspaper was referring to participants in the Fort Hamilton High School ceremony, along with five other high school graduation ceremonies.

Tepedino’s World War II registration card notes that he registered on July 26, 1944, was eighteen years old, born in Brooklyn, and his aunt, Madeline De Vivo, was named as the contact person. His place of employment is listed as the Brooklyn Army Terminal at 58th Street and First Avenue in Brooklyn. Little is known regarding his military service. His son shares that he “enlisted at the age of seventeen in 1943 and served in both the European and Pacific Theaters where he was wounded in combat. He served his final months in the military as a member of the occupational forces in Japan.” After the war, Tepedino was a carpenter and worked until he was eighty years old. He was married for sixty-seven years to Mary (née Kravitz) and the couple had two children. The family first lived in Borough Park, Brooklyn, before moving to Eltingville, Staten Island, and then to Pennsylvania. He passed away at the age of ninety-one in Limerick, Pennsylvania. He was survived by his wife, children, three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Section 191, lot 39723.

TIERNAN, GERARD EDMUND (1925-2007). Seaman first class, United States Navy. According to the New York birth index, Tiernan was born in Brooklyn. The 1925 New York State census indicates that the two-month-old Tiernan lived with his mother, father, and older brother on 61st Street in Brooklyn. His mother, Jennie, was born in Scotland and his father, Joseph, was born in the United States. As per the1930 census, the family resided at 441 39th Street, Brooklyn, and his father was a railroad switchman. The census records that his parents had four children. At the time of the 1940 census, Tiernan lived on 44th Street with his parents and three younger sisters. His mother was an interior decorator and, although his father was listed as head of house, no occupation was recorded. The census taker had written his father’s last name as “Giernan” and his mother’s first name as “Janet.”

Tiernan’s World War II draft card, dated April 8, 1943, notes that he was eighteen years old, resided at 343 44th Street, and listed his father as next of kin. He was employed by Willows Manufacturing Corporation located on 39th Street between 3rd and 4th Avenues in Brooklyn. His registrar’s report describes him as 6′ 1″ and 140 pounds with blue eyes, brown hair, and light complexion. The World War II Navy Muster Rolls records that his enlistment date was April 5, 1943 and that he boarded the USS Braine on August 9, 1943 as a seaman second class. As per the Braine’s Report of Changes, dated March 1, 1944, Tiernan was promoted to seaman first class. His niece relates that the Braine “sustained Kamikaze attacks while my uncle ‘Jerry’ was aboard.” According to the National Archives blog, “The Kamikaze Attack on the USS Braine, May 27, 1945,” the Braine was a Fletcher class destroyer. As per the blog, “Following her participation in General Douglas MacArthur’s campaign to retake the Philippines, the ship was ordered to serve as a radar picket and support ship as part of task Force 51 for the invasion of Okinawa.” Tiernan most likely was aboard the Braine when the attack took place. The blog states:

The picket ships were under constant attack by the Japanese. On May 27, 1945, the Braine and the USS Anthony sailed into their assigned position at picket station number five, relieving the USS Bennion. At 7:44 AM general quarters sounded throughout the ship and the crew raced to their assigned stations, four Japanese “Val” dive bombers dove out of the overcast sky, ‘making a coordinated suicide attack from low hanging clouds on the starboard beam’ according to the Braine’s after-action report. As the planes began their dive to target the American ships, the destroyers let loose a blanket of anti-aircraft fire into the sky. Two of the Japanese planes were immediately shot down. The first plane was hit by the combined fire of the two ships and the second plane was struck by fire from the Anthony and crashed close to her starboard. The third plane was also struck by anti-aircraft from the Anthony but as the plane began to burn, it pulled up, narrowly missing the Anthony, and dove into the Braine…The Braine’s Captain, William W. Fitts, ordered right full rudder and flank speed in an attempt to avoid the aircraft but it was too late. The kamikaze smashed into the Braine directly above the bow of the ship, just above the main deck. The ship was rocked from side to side by the impact and explosion of the plane…As the crew scrambled to put out fires and save the injured crew mates, a second kamikaze dove in from the low cloud cover and hit the Braine midship. The effects of the second hit were devastating: the number 2 stack exploded into the sea, fire raged, communications and control were lost, and men were blown into the water by the blast.

As a result of this attack, eight officers and fifty-nine enlisted men were killed and one hundred-two wounded. The blog relates that “For her service in World War II, the Braine earned nine battle stars and her crew was awarded a Navy Cross, five Silver Stars, a Navy and Marine Corps Medal, ten Bronze Stars, fourteen commendation ribbons and one hundred-eighty-seven Purple Hearts.”

A Report of Change from the USS Braine shows that Tiernan was transferred to RS Boston FFT PSC, Lido Beach, for discharge on March 1, 1946. A Brooklyn marriage license was issued to Tiernan and Helen Counihan on December 18, 1951, and the couple had five children. He passed away in Staten Island. The epitaph on his tombstone reads: “May Our Souls in Comfort Be.” Section 76, lot 40793.

Gerard and Helen Tiernan

TROCCIOLA, EDWARD JOSEPH (1923-2017). Technical sergeant, 58th Fighter Squadron, United States Army Air Force. Edward was born in Brooklyn, according to the borough’s record of births, to Italian-born parents Pasquale, a “shoe laborer,” and Josephine. In the 1925 New York State census, two-year-old Edward is living on 72nd Street in a triplex owned by his father, with five older sisters. The other two units in the building were occupied by Edward’s uncle John and aunt Frances Trocciola, with their five sons and one daughter; his uncle Amadeo and aunt Christina Trocciola, with their three sons and one daughter; and his uncle Mario Trocciola. All the Trocciola brothers were shoe laborers. In that year, the Trocciola cousin count was nine boys and seven girls. By the time of the 1930 federal census, the count had risen to eight girls.

Edward Trocciola attended P.S. 259 in Brooklyn, according to his daughter Carol Kirrane. By the time of the 1940  census, 16-year-old Edward was reported still in school beyond the 8th grade. In 1942, a few weeks before his 19th birthday, Edward registered for the draft, listing his employer as Polarizing Instrument Company and signing his name as Eddie. He was described as 5′ 3½” tall, 123½ pounds, with black hair and a dark complexion.

Trocciola enlisted on January 23, 1943, according to his daughter. He served in the 58th Fighter Squadron of the Army Air Force. During World War II, the 58th participated in several operations in the Mediterranean Theater and in the China-Burma-India Campaign until the end of the war in August 1945, flying P-40 Warhawks, P-47 Thunderbolts, and P-38 Lightnings.

For his service, Trocciola received the Asiatic Pacific Service Medal, the Good Conduct Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal. He was discharged from service on December 13, 1945.

After his military service, his daughter reports, he worked for Caltro Trucking. Edward and Marie Masino received a marriage license in New York City on August 21, 1948. They are interred together. Section 69, lot 45400. 

Edward Trocciola

TROTTO, PHILIP B. (1917-2001). Second lieutenant, 101st Airborne Division, United States Army Air Force. Born in Manhattan to Italian-born parents Angelo and Anna Trotto, Philip was the third of seven children. According to the 1920 census, the family lived on Conover Street in Brooklyn and Philip’s father was a dock worker. By the time of the 1930 census, the family had a new address—68 Walcott Street, a house owned by Philip’s parents. His father, now a naturalized citizen, worked in the shipyards.

Trotto graduated from Brooklyn Industrial High School’s cabinetmaking program in January 1934. According to the 1940 census, he lived at home, along with all his siblings, and worked for a coffee company—probably his eventual employer, the Maxwell House division of General Foods in Hoboken, New Jersey, where he rose to the position of assistant foreman in the Shipping & Receiving Department.

Trotto registered for the draft in October 1940, at age 22. The name on his draft card is “Philip Bob Trotto,” and he is described as 5′ 10″ tall, 165 pounds, with blue eyes and brown hair. He was drafted into the Army in January 1941, and assigned to the 60th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division, for basic training.

In February 1942, as a sergeant, he was part of a cadre that reactivated the 82nd Infantry Division. He was instrumental in the rapid development of the men in his platoon and was promoted to first sergeant in July 1942. In August 1942, the 101st Airborne Division was created from a part of the 82nd Infantry Division and his rifle company became Battery B of the 81st AA/AT Battalion, a glider antitank battery. As per his son, he participated in the D-Day invasion of Normandy, landing in a glider behind Utah Beach at 4:00 a.m. on June 6, 1944. His battery had a scattered landing and he rapidly rounded up small groups of its personnel and their antitank weapons under heavy enemy small-arms and mortar fire, safely leading them in the darkness over strange terrain to their assembly area in Heisville, France. His battery lacked both executive and reconnaissance officers; he assisted the battery commander in these duties throughout the Normandy Campaign. He participated in the successful attack on Carentan, France. He also rode a glider into Holland (the Netherlands) during Operation Market Garden and was part of the defense of the town of Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge.

Trotto participated in the airborne invasion of Holland in September 1944, landing in a glider in the vicinity of Zon, Holland. Again, as a result of scattered glider landings, he assembled small groups of men and equipment into one fighting unit and immediately committed them to the defense of the Zon Bridge under heavy enemy shelling and small-arms fire. He participated in vital engagements with the enemy at St. Oedenrode, Veghel and Dodewaard, Holland. During the defense of Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge, due to the absence of an officer, he was put in charge of an antitank platoon. His platoon, attached to a parachute infantry regiment at Bisory, Belgium, and in the vicinity of Nouvelle, Belgium, was instrumental in preventing enemy armor and infantry attacks headed for Bastogne. He remained in command of the antitank platoon until the end of the war in Europe. On June 6, 1945, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant. He received the Bronze Star for his actions during World War II.

After separation from the Army in September 1945, he returned to his position at Maxwell House and later went on to become a foreman at Greene Wolf Plumbing Supply and later Davidson Pipe Supply, until his retirement in1984. His career would be interrupted for a few years in the early fifties, when he suffered from PTSD (then called “battle fatigue”).

In April 1946, he married Marie Castelluccio and they had two sons: Angelo, born in October 1947; and Philip, born in May 1950. He had two grandchildren: Mark, son of Philip and Eileen; and Cassandra (“Cassie”), daughter of Angelo and Marie. Section 12, lot 40396.

Trotto at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina.
Trotto in 1945 when he was commissioned second lieutenant.
Philip and his wife Marie.
Philip, at right, and Marie Trotto, left, in 1946.
The Trottos in 1964.

UNZ, RITA S. (1918-2014). Corporal, Women’s Army Corps, United States Army. Born Rita Strittmatter in East Carroll Township, Pennsylvania, she was raised on a farm, which her family still operates, now as a truck farm. The family included her father, F. J., mother Matilda, and seven siblings. She first appeared in the 1920 census and was recorded as 11 years old by the 1930 census. The 1940 census recorded that Rita was living in Queens, New York, with her younger brother and married older sister, and that she and her brother were working at a retail drug store, she as a clerk typist. On March 13, 1943, at the age of 23, Unz (then Strittmatter) enlisted with a rank of aviation cadet as part of the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC), Inactive Reserve.

In July 1943, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a bill declaring the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) officially part of the United States Army. This meant that WACs could serve overseas and they or their families would be given benefits if wounded or killed in service. WACs would also receive rank and pay equal to that of men in the regular Army. Rita served in England and perhaps other parts of Europe. She was in England on D-Day and was awarded six battle stars for her service during the war.

After World War II, WAC personnel quickly demobilized. According to passenger lists from the Queen Mary, in October 1945 Rita and her unit arrived at an Army separation center at Fort Dix, New Jersey, by way of Le Havre, France, and Southampton, England. She is listed as a corporal WAC.

Five years later, she was the first WAC reservist to apply for active duty at the outbreak of the Korean War. Returning to civilian life after the Korean War, she worked as a legal secretary and was an active member of the Bay Ridge Historical Society. She married her first husband, Wiliam Godet, sometime after 1950. He died in 1981. Known by then as Rita Godet, at the age of 63 she married Ernest Unz.

Rita Unz died in Bay Ridge in 2014, at the age of 95. Her obituary in the Johnstown, Pennsylvania Tribune-Democrat notes that she lived independently until the end of her life, and was survived by her younger brother. It also confirms her service as a WAC during World War II and her re-enlistment during the Korean War. Section 13, lot 44217.

Ritz Unz

VALENTI, THOMAS (or GAETANO) A. (1916-1985). Rank unknown, unit unknown, United States Army. The 1920 census reports that four-year-old Thomas Valenti, born in New York City, lived with his parents, Giovanni and Theresa, both born in Italy, his brothers Salvatore and Frances, and sister Sebastina at 121 Elizabeth Street in Manhattan. An uncle also lived at that residence with his wife and three children. Thomas’s name was recorded as Gaetano, his Italian name. His father worked as a longshoreman. According to the 1930 census, Valenti’s father, now known as John, was employed as a subway worker. By 1940 Thomas’s father, again listed as the head of the family, was employed as a dock worker.  The 1940 census states that Valenti, now 23 years old, was also employed as a dock worker.

Valenti’s World War II draft card, signed in October 1940, states that he had his own business, located on Forsyth Street on the Lower East Side. It lists his father as the “Name of Person Who Will Always Know Your Address.”

On November 3, 1941,Valenti and his wife-to-be, Fortunata (Fay) DeBella, registered for a marriage license before Valenti’s service in the United States Army began. He enlisted on April 22, 1942 and was discharged on October 25, 1944. There is no information regarding his rank, unit, or where he was stationed during the war.

Valenti and his wife had three children, John, Thomas, and Theresa. According to his United States Department of Veteran Affairs death file, he passed away in Brooklyn. His last residence, as recorded by the Public Records index, was a three-story home at 125 28th Street in Greenwood Heights, a neighborhood adjacent to the western edge of Green-Wood Cemetery. Yard, lot 39000, grave 1080.

VERSACE, ROCCO (1919-2010). Staff sergeant, 636th Quartermaster Laundry Company, United States Army. Versace was born to Rosario Versace and Antonia Fedele in Bagnara, Italy. He had a grammar school education. At the age of 16, in October of 1935, he arrived in New York on the SS Rex from Naples, Italy. On the passenger and crew list from the ship, it states that his intent was to reside in the United States permanently and become a citizen. A former farmhand, he set off to 58 Sackett Street in Brooklyn where his father resided.

Five years after he arrived in the United States, his draft registration card reported him working for Moore-McCormack, a shipping line, at Pier 15, resting at the base of Montague Street in Brooklyn. He was living at 66 President Street during this time. This document also records him at 5′ 5″ and 150 pounds with brown hair, brown eyes, and a light complexion.

Versace enlisted in the United States Army on October 20, 1942. The enlistment record states that he was working as a longshoreman, presumably still for Moore-McCormack. The unit that Versace belonged to, the 636th Quartermaster Laundry Company, had served a vital role in World War I by providing laundry services and salvage work. Surprisingly, the military did not previously provide laundry services; this was a significant health hazard as lice were rampant and infectious. During World War II, the Quartermaster Laundry Company’s duties expanded to include more field services such as clothing repair and delousing.

Versace served in nine countries with his unit, including France (Normandy), Germany (Ehrang), the Philippines (Taal Luzon Island), and Japan (Yokohama). Fighting and performing services in different theaters resulted in distinct challenges, and the Pacific Theater was particularly challenging. Versace is seen photographed at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, Japan. A decorated staff sergeant, Versace received five commendations: the American Service Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Service Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Service Medal, Good Conduct Medal, and the Philippines Liberation Ribbon.

During his service, Versace petitioned for naturalization. With his fellow United States Army soldiers as witnesses, he signed the affidavit on December 6, 1944. He was 25 years old. When he returned to the United States from Genoa, Italy, in 1946, following his service, he was a United States citizen. At that time, the 27-year-old returned to his address at 66 President St. in Brooklyn.

In the days following his homecoming, Versace married his fiancée Nancy Iaria. Nancy was born to Italian parents as well and lived in Brooklyn. Versace lived in Brooklyn for the rest of his life. John Morreale, his grandson, relates that Versace worked as a longshoreman for 40 years. Living to the age of 90, he was predeceased by his wife, Nancy in 2005, who is interred with him. Morreale notes that his grandfather’s burial at Green-Wood included military honors. Section 149, lot 44608, grave 435.

Versace at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, Japan.
Nancy and Rocco Versace at their 1946 wedding at Sacred Heart-St. Stephen’s Church on Summit Street in Brooklyn.
Rocco Versace at his 90th birthday party in 2009.

WALDRON, JAMES RICHARD (1916-1999). Corporal, United States Army.  James Waldron was born in Brooklyn to Henry Charles Waldron and Mary Kennedy Waldron. James had four full siblings and two half-sisters from his father’s earlier marriage. James’s father’s occupation, according to the 1900 federal census, was glass engraver. By 1920, he was a laborer in an oil yard; by 1930, an office clerk. He died in 1933, having worked for Standard Oil for 15 years, according to his death notice. James was 16 years old at that time.

By the time of the 1940 federal census, 23-year-old James Waldron was living at home on Ainslie Street in Williamsburg with his widowed mother, his siblings, and his mother’s brother. He was working as a bookkeeper at J.B. Slattery & Brothers, a gas stove manufacturer. In that year, James registered for the draft. He was described as 5′ 10″ tall and 210 pounds, with brown hair and eyes, and a light complexion.

Waldron was inducted into the United States Army on September 26, 1942, at the age of 25. According to his son, Richard, he served in New Guinea. He was discharged from the service at the end of December 1945.

After the war, Waldron went to college, graduating St. John’s University School of Commerce in 1951 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. Waldron continued to work at J.B. Slattery for a total of 22 years; at Welbilt Stoves for 10 years; and at Long Island Stove for five years.

In 1950, he married Anne Marie Shapiro in New York. His wife was from a Belarus-born, Yiddish-speaking, Jewish family. Her two older brothers were born in Russia. Anne and her twin, Harry, were born in New York in 1917.  James and Anne had two sons, Brian and Richard, and four grandchildren. Anne died in 1993 and is buried with her husband in Green-Wood. James Waldron died at the age of 82. Section 149, lot 44608, grave 241.

Waldron’s Commencement brochure from St. John’s University.

WITZEL, CHARLES E. (1917-2004). Private, United States Army, 39th Infantry and 9th Infantry Divisions. Witzel was born in Amsterdam, Montgomery County, New York. As reported by the 1920 federal census, he lived with his father, John H., a garage mechanic, 42 years of age, and his mother, Ethel M., 33, a homemaker. In addition to Charles, the family had other two sons, John Martin, born in 1916, and Frank B., born in 1917. Both of Witzel’s parents were born in New York State, as were his grandmother and grandfather on his paternal side. According to the 1925 New York State and 1930 federal censuses, John Witzel worked as a rug designer and Ethel Witzel continued to work in the home. All three sons still resided with the family in Amsterdam.

By 1940, Charles Witzel had moved to Brooklyn, as evidenced by his draft registration card, which was signed on October 16, 1940. He was 23 years old, resided at 2206 Beverly Road, and worked at the W. T. Grant Company, a chain department store on Flatbush Avenue. His key contact was his father John, who continued to live in Amsterdam, New York. Charles was 6′ 2″ tall, weighed 155 pounds, and had blue eyes, blond hair, and a light complexion.

In 1941, as reported by the Amsterdam, New York Directory, his parents still resided in Amsterdam while their sons appear to have all left home. John worked as a teacher in Ithaca, New York; Frank was working in Washington, D.C., and Charles was a member of the United States Army.

Charles Witzel and his fiancée Mary R. Lee obtained a marriage license in Brooklyn on February 13, 1942. According to a wedding announcement published in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, they were married the next day, Valentine’s Day 1942, in Holy Cross Church in Brooklyn. Charles was stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, at the time.

By October 17, 1942, as a member of the 39th Infantry Regiment out of Fort Bragg, Witzel landed at Inveraray in Scotland. The 39th Regiment was the first combat unit of American troops to set foot on foreign soil in Europe in World War II. The regiment joined the 47th Infantry Regiment in capturing Roetgen, the first German town to fall in the war, in September, 1944. The 39th also fought through the Battle of the Bulge and moved across Germany as the Allied Forces pressed on towards the end of the war in 1945.

From his family, we know that Witzel was the personal driver for Colonel Harry A. “Paddy” Flint up until they were both wounded by a German sniper on July 24, 1944 in Normandy. Though Colonel Flint died the next day from his wounds, Charles Witzel was flown to a hospital and survived.

Witzel took part in three invasions and six campaigns in the European Theater of Operations. In addition to his combat and infantry medals, he also received the Purple Heart with bronze oak leaf cluster, the Bronze Star with bronze oak leaf cluster, the Silver Star, and the Good Conduct Medal. He was discharged from the United States Army on June 25, 1945.

By 1947, according to a publication by the College of the Holy Cross, Ninth Infantry Division Association, Charles and Mary had a child. At that time, Witzel worked at a shoe store on West 47th Street in Manhattan.

According to the federal death indices and cemetery records, Charles Edward Witzel passed away in 2004, predeceased by his wife, Mary, in 1970. His last residence was in Brooklyn. Section 15-16, lot # 17263, grave 1999.

Charles Witzel in uniform.

WOLBER, FRED (or FREDERICK) JOHN (1920-1987). Private first class, 350th Infantry Regiment, 88th Infantry Division, United States Army. Wolber was born in Brooklyn, the firstborn child of Frederick and Mary Wolber. His grandparents on both his maternal and paternal sides were born in Germany. Wolber’s father was working as a checker at an oil refining company at the time of his birth. At the time of the 1920 census, the family lived at 71 Union Avenue in Staten Island.

By 1925, according to the New York State census, the Wolbers had moved to Brooklyn and resided at 330 58th Street. Wolber’s father worked as a chauffeur. The family included his mother, Mary, a home-maker. An uncle named George and a cousin, Jack Kennedy, also resided there. By the time of the 1930 census, the Wolbers lived at 535 51st Street in Brooklyn. Wolber’s father, Frederick, still worked as a chauffeur. The rest of Fred’s family included his mother Mary, and siblings George and Dorothy.

According to the 1940 federal census, the family had moved again in Brooklyn, this time to 5011 Third Avenue. Wolber’s father worked as a chauffeur for a trucking company and Wolber, now 20 years of age, worked as a metal worker in a tin factory.  His mother Mary, brother George, and sisters Dorothy and Mary, also lived at home.

As per his draft registration records, Frederick John Wolber registered for the draft on February 15, 1942. He listed his fiancé, Helen Questel, as the “Name and address of person who will always know your address.” Both of their addresses were listed as 5013 Third Ave, Brooklyn. At the time, Wolber worked for William Westfall at 4601 First Ave in Brooklyn.

According to the Marriage License Index of New York, on September 9, 1942 Frederick and his fiancé, Josephine Helen Questel, obtained a marriage license. According to the family, the couple married on October 4, 1942.

World War II Army enlistment records show that Wolber enlisted on December 7, 1942, the first anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. At the time, he was working as a kitchen worker. His place of entry into service was Fort Dix, New Jersey. From his family, we know that Wolber was a light machine gunner who fought in the European Theater of Operations with the 350th Infantry Regiment of the 88th Infantry Division. Other documentation lists his specialty as a cannoneer 610.

Frederick Wolber fought in battles and campaigns in the Po Valley, Rome-Arno, and the North Apennines. He was wounded in Italy on September 29, 1944. Wolber was awarded a Good Conduct Medal, Purple Heart, EAME Theater Ribbon with three Bronze Stars; American Theater Ribbon, and the World War II Victory Medal. The Purple Heart was from being hit by shrapnel from a hand grenade. Accompanying his Bronze Star was a letter from Major General of the United States Army Paul W. Kendall:

For heroic achievement in action on 28 April 1945, near San Pietro in Gu, Italy.  On this day, the Second Battalion was proceeding north in a column of troops carriers when it was suddenly fired on by enemy rifle and machine guns from the flanks, inflicting several casualties. Private Wolber, of the Anti-Tank platoon, leaped from his truck and seized a rifle from a fallen comrade. Then, taking up a position under the truck, he delivered such a deadly hail of fire at the enemy machine gun, concealed in a railroad car, that it was immediately silenced. This splendid display of bravery and initiative encouraged the other troops to also take up firing positions and the result was the complete routing of the enemy machine gunners….. Private Wolber’s quick actions in firing on the enemy, inspired others to also take up positions and permitted the battalion to continue forward after having knocked out the strong points of resistance. Private Wolber’s magnificent courage and superb initiative won him the sincere respect and admiration of all who witnessed these deeds.

Wolber was discharged from Camp Breckinridge, Kentucky, on November 1, 1945.

Wolber and his wife, Helen, had three children, Marilyn, Randy, and Cathy. At the time of his death, at age 66, he had eight grandchildren. According to his family, Wolber died of lymphoma. Section 6, lot 39340.

In Italy in 1943.
Wolber, front row, second from left.
Two of Wolber’s medals.
Wolber in uniform.

XANTHOS (or XANTHAKOS), LEON (or LEONIDES) G. (1919-2010). Sergeant, 97th Infantry Division, United States Army. Leon Xanthos was born in Sparta, Greece, to George and Garifalia Xanthakos, according to Ancestry.com. Leon was their fourth child; three daughters had preceded him. His father immigrated to the United States in 1920, when Leon was a year old, and eventually shortened the family name to Xanthos. By the 1930 federal census, his father was living with his daughter, Stella, and son-in-law, Louis Paulos, working at Louis’s newsstand.

Leon, known at the time as Leonides Xanthakos, immigrated to the United States from Greece in late 1937, arriving in New York on the ship Vulcania, according to passenger lists. He had just turned 18 years old.  His daughter, Maria, said of her father’s reasons for immigrating:

Greece was about to enter WWII. His father knew that if [Leon] stayed in Greece, he was obligated to serve in the Greek Army and [George] decided to send him to America. When the U.S. entered WWII, my father decided to enlist in the U.S. Army. [He]wanted to fight for America because Italy invaded Greece and [he] wanted to help the cause. When [Leon’s] father found out that he enlisted, he went to the Army office and told them that he was not an American citizen and was not allowed to fight for the American Army, but later the laws changed and my father was drafted into the American Army.

After his arrival, Leon worked at his brother-in-law’s newsstand and went to school. He spent time at the Park Slope Library, learning to speak and write English, according to his daughter, who related: “He went to night school at Brooklyn Technical High School to become an engineer and to learn how to repair televisions, but was expelled because he was not an American citizen.” His daughter reports that her father went on to attend Diesel Mephils Diesel School, in Long Island City, New York, and graduated in 1942.

By the time of the 1940 federal census, 20-year-old Xanthos was a lodger at a residence on 10th Street in Brooklyn, had completed the first year of high school, and was working as a counter man in a restaurant.

He first registered for the draft on July 1, 1941, at the age of 21, as Leon George Xanthos. His draft registration card describes him as 5′ 11½” tall, 155 pounds, with brown eyes, black hair, and a dark complexion. Leon listed his sister Fay’s husband as his emergency contact. He was still working for his sister Stella’s husband, Louis, at the newsstand.

Xanthos was inducted into the United States Army as a private in September, 1942. He was “not yet a citizen,” according to enlistment records. According to his daughter, Maria, he served in the 97th Infantry Division, and was eventually promoted to the rank of sergeant. After basic training in the United States, he trained as a rifleman, rising to tech4-clerk, general (the equivalent of a sergeant).

Maria said that during the time her father served in Louisiana:

He was on maneuvers doing a 25-mile march with a heavy backpack and [was] not given any food. As they were marching, one of his friends from Kentucky noticed there was a sweet potato crop. So at nightfall they went to the farm and started eating them because they were hungry. After that experience, [when he] became a civilian, my father never ate another sweet potato.

The 97th Infantry Division arrived in Europe in February 1945, to bolster divisions committed in the Battle of the Bulge. Xanthos performed a variety of clerical and file-handling duties at the 2016th Prisoner of War Overhead Detachment, in Belgium. Maria stated, “He handled and kept accurate alphabetical files of new prisoners by preparing admission cards and fingerprinting them.” He served in the European Theater of operations for 24 months.

Regarding her father’s experience in combat, Maria stated that when he was in London, he was in a cab with his friend, going to Victoria Station to return to camp:

A block away, a V2 bomb exploded and the cab overturned. His friend was hurt and received the Purple [Heart]; my father received the Battle [or Service] Star, because England was considered a war zone. My father received his second Battle [or Service] Star at Bastogne, Belgium: He was given a rifle to fight the Germans. This was the only experience that he had in combat.

In January 1944, Xanthos became an American citizen when he was stationed in England. According to his daughter, “He saw an advertisement that he can become a citizen at the American Embassy in London, and that’s where he became an American citizen.”  At the same time, he formally changed his name from Leonides Xanthakos; his naturalization papers, dated December, 1944, record his name as Leon G. Xanthos.

After two years in Europe, Xanthos was honorably discharged from Fort Dix, New Jersey, on May 1, 1946. He had received the American Campaign Medal, the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal.

Back in New York, Leon and Sterliani “Stella” Mentonis were married on November 30, 1948. The couple had four children. Xanthos owned his own business, a stationery store on the corner of 9th Street and 5th Avenue in Brooklyn, for 45 years.

Xanthos was residing in Daytona Beach, Florida, at the time of his death in May 2010. His wife, Stella, died several weeks later, and is buried next to him in Green-Wood. Section 25, lot 45145, grave 1.

Leon Xanthos

ZAFFIRO, FRANK A. (1921-2019). Technician fifth grade, 720th Amphibian Tractor Battalion, United States Army. Frank Zaffiro was born in Brooklyn. Both the 1930 and 1940 federal censuses indicate that he lived on Union Street with his parents, Alfredo and Maria Zaffiro, who were Italian immigrants. In 1930, Maria’s parents were living with them, but by 1940, Alfredo, Maria and Frank were the only tenants. It appears that Frank remained an only child, as no records list other children in the home. Alfredo is described as a carpenter at a box factory. Frank is listed as having completed his fourth year of high school, and according to information provided by his son, also Frank, he attended Manual Training High School (now the John Jay Educational Campus) on Seventh Avenue and Fourth Street in Brooklyn. Zaffiro was still living with his parents on Union Street in 1942 when he filled out his draft registration card.  It describes him as having a light complexion, gray eyes and brown hair, measuring five’ 7″ tall, and weighing 145 pounds. His mother is listed as the person who would always know his whereabouts. His employer is shown as William Kelly, on East 25th Street in Manhattan.

Zaffiro enlisted in New York, in 1942; his civilian occupation was listed as semiskilled occupations in manufacture of paper and pulp. He served as a technician in the 720th Amphibian Tractor Battalion, which conducted many missions in the Pacific Theater. The invention of the amphibious tractor enabled Allied forces to reach islands surrounded by perilous reefs and lagoons that had previously prevented traditional watercraft from landing on their beaches. Some amphibious tractors were fitted with guns and acted as artillery support, while some were fitted for carrying personnel and supplies, both playing a vital role throughout the Pacific. In 1944, Zaffiro was hospitalized for a non-combat-related illness but recovered and returned to active duty. A war diary entry from 1945 indicates that the 720th participated in training exercises at Pearl Harbor. Zaffiro was recognized for his outstanding service on multiple occasions. According to his son, Zaffiro was awarded the Pacific Service Medal, Good Conduct Medal, American Service Medal Asiatic, and World War II Victory Medal. He was honorably discharged in 1946.

Zaffiro returned home to Brooklyn and soon decided to settle down. When he and Irene Mauro were issued a marriage license in 1948, The Brooklyn Eagle shows Zaffiro residing at the same Union Street address where he grew up. His obituary mentions that he worked for the United States Postal Service for the remainder of his career, retiring in 1980. Zaffiro and his wife had two sons, Alfred and Frank. In retirement, the couple moved to Bay Ridge. Zaffiro’s family expanded to include two grandsons, then four great-grandchildren. Irene died in 2006 and was laid to rest in Green-Wood Cemetery. Zaffiro passed away in 2019 and was buried at her side. Section 93/105, lot 44806.

Manual Training High School (renamed John Jay Educational Campus).
Frank Zaffiro, later in life.