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World War II

Lt. Gen. William K. Harrison Jr. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

By D. Bruce Lockerbie

Last week’s diplomatic incident in Korea’s Demilitarized Zone, when a young U.S. soldier crossed into North Korea “willfully and without authorization” according to the Pentagon, reminds us that “the Forgotten War” is not yet ended, even though July 27 marks the 70th anniversary of a truce signed on the Korean peninsula.

On that date, in 1953, at Panmunjom on the 38th parallel, delegates from warring nations met to declare a pause in combat. Representing the United Nations was an American named Lt. Gen. William K. Harrison Jr. Because of his unashamed religious faith and testimony, he became known worldwide as “the Bible-quoting general,” not always intended as a compliment by his political and pacifist critics.

Three years earlier, the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea invaded the Western-backed Republic of Korea (South Korea), which the United Nations voted to defend. Led by the United States and commanded by Gen. Douglas MacArthur, 6.8 million Americans served; fewer than 1 million remain alive today.

But MacArthur advocated action opposed by President Harry S. Truman and was stripped of his command. A military stalemate ensued, futile negotiations stalled and presidential candidate Dwight D. Eisenhower promised to go to Korea to resolve the conflict.

But who was Billy Harrison, two years behind Ike at West Point? As a cadet, then an officer — whether in peacetime or combat — Harrison was notable for his quiet but earnest Christian faith, disciplined by early morning Bible reading and prayer, yet his brothers-in-arms knew better than to mistake religious devotion for weakness.

World War II

Harrison and Eisenhower had been members of the War Plans Division, charged with reorganizing the Army’s high command immediately after the Pearl Harbor attack. Harrison produced the model eventually approved by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

As assistant commander of the 30th Infantry Division, Harrison was fearless in battle, leading from his jeep through hedgerows and villages of Europe. Following D-Day, Harrison devised the plan to free Allied troops trapped on the Normandy peninsula. Later in the battle at Mortain, after an attack by “friendly fire,” he gathered his scattered forces to achieve victory, for which he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross — the second highest decoration for military valor.

Harrison was more than a war hero, he was also a humanitarian. In April 1945, he and his task force came upon a train whose boxcars held 2,500 Jews abandoned by their concentration camp guards, eager to hide their guilt. According to the “Holocaust Encyclopedia,” “the 30th Infantry Division then initiated efforts to find shelter for the former prisoners so that they could be moved away from the filthy, jammed, evil-smelling railroad cars.”

Japan 

After Japan’s defeat, MacArthur chose Harrison as chief of reparations, the nasty job of “getting even” for Japanese atrocities. Harrison had no desire for sheer revenge and appealed to MacArthur with an alternative — namely, distributing copies of the Bible or selected texts.

He also invited former prisoners of war, such as Louis Zamperini, Olympic runner and raft survivor, to return to Japan as evangelists. Among their converts was Capt. Mitsuo Fuchida, the pilot who had led the attack on Pearl Harbor. 

Korean War

When the Korean War began, Harrison commanded the base at Fort Dix, New Jersey, preparing raw recruits for combat in Korea. Yearning for a battlefield role, he contented himself with making soldiers out of civilians and ending racial segregation in housing and training at Fort Dix — effectively throughout the U.S. Army. 

His eventual assignment in Korea was disappointing. Sent to be a member of the United Nations truce team, he was frustrated because every session consisted of the enemy’s harangue and propaganda. But in May 1952, when Harrison became senior delegate, the pattern changed. Even The New York Times, hostile to his efforts, noted: “From the start of his tenure as a negotiator in Korea, General Harrison had a style of talking bluntly or not at all. He appeared in open-collar khaki shirts, refusing to wear a dress uniform to face opponents he regarded with contempt as ‘common criminals.’ He walked out of the truce tent in June 1952, leaving General Nam Il of North Korea flabbergasted.”

Refusing to change tactics, an even greater surprise awaited the Communists when Harrison led a second exit for three days, then for 10 days; on Oct. 8, 1952, Harrison and his team left for more than six months.

Worldwide media excoriated Harrison, whose purpose was to deprive North Korean and Chinese propagandists of an audience for their lies about who had instigated the violation of the 38th parallel.

By April 26, 1953, the North Korean/Chinese delegation chose serious bargaining, accelerated by Eisenhower’s election and his military record.

The signing ceremony three months later could not have been less dramatic, lasting only 12 minutes. Harrison jumped off a helicopter, saluted his UN guard, seated himself at the table — Nam Il at an adjoining table — and signed copies in English, Korean and Chinese. Then, he rose and left Panmunjom for the last time.

Newspapers around the world headlined the story. Lt. Gen. William K. Harrison Jr. treated his role with self-effacing modesty: He had merely done his duty to the best of his ability.

Retirement

After retirement in 1957, Harrison spent the next three decades as executive or trustee for religious organizations, including president of Officers’ Christian Fellowship and board member at The Stony Brook School, where his younger son, the late Terry Harrison, was both an alumnus and faculty member.

During World War II, Gen. Harrison expressed professional respect for the common German soldier — distinct from SS or other Nazi-politicized officers. Citing his contempt for Chinese and North Korean officials, one can only suppose what might have been his attitude toward policies of subsequent American presidents — Nixon through Biden — in dealing with Kim Il Sung and his successors, including Kim Jong Un. 

No doubt, Billy Harrison would not have worn a tie for any of them either. He reported to a higher power. 

D. Bruce Lockerbie, a longtime resident of the Three Villages, is the author of more than 40 books, including “A Man Under Orders: Lieutenant General William K. Harrison, Jr.” (Harper & Row, 1979).

French patriots line Avenue des Champs-Élysées as Free French forces reenter Paris in August 1944. Photo from the Library of Congress

By Rich Acritelli

“Make peace, you fools!” — Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt

These were the words of one of Hitler’s most capable field marshals once he determined the Allies would win World War II. 

The summer of 1944 was an extremely difficult phase of the war for Nazi Germany, marking the beginning of the end of the Third Reich. On June 6, 1944, D-Day, over 156,000 Allied soldiers stormed the beaches of Normandy, beginning their eastward assault through the European continent. 

Some 78 years ago, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower was on the cusp of major victories against the once-vaunted German army. The German generals who in 1940 had conquered France watched their armies retreat from the Allied forces. Their only chance for victory required pushing the massive and growing Allied invasion force back into the English Channel, but overwhelming reinforcements continued to land ashore, and the Wehrmacht armed forces began their eastward retreat.

Despite the German army reeling from the establishment of an Allied bridgehead at Normandy, the loss of Carentan and the taking of the port of Cherbourg, the Nazis were still determined to fight. To slow down the Allied advance, the Germans used the brutal hedgerow terrain to limit the Allied movement and this strategy increased Allied casualties. Whereas the Germans halted Allied gains at this stage of the fighting in France, Eisenhower was determined that his forces’ gains should be swifter against the enemy.

Eisenhower decided that he must achieve a quick, dramatic conquest over Nazi-occupied territories. While toppling German strongholds was essential to the war effort, the Allies required a symbolic victory on French soil. For these military and political reasons, Eisenhower set his sights on the “City of Light.” By July of ‘44, American, British, Canadian and Free French forces were determined to liberate Paris.

En route to Paris

There was immense pressure on Eisenhower to take firm control of the ground war. Because of this, he opted to deploy the powerful but controversial Gen. George S. Patton and his Third Army. Patton was expected to push his army through the opening of the German lines, softening these defenses and exploiting any weaknesses. Beginning July 25, 1944, and over the course of two days, American bombers blew a massive hole within the lines of the German military. 

As the resistance weakened, German forces were gradually pushed back toward Paris. Then Patton, who waited several months to gain another command after the “slapping incidents” in Sicily, fought the enemy with an immense fury. Patton never seemed to be concerned about his own flanks, and it appeared that he constantly ordered his officers to stay on the offensive. The Third Army’s unstoppable forward movement helped to rapidly destroy any remaining German presence in Western France. 

By the first week of August, the Allies had emerged as the dominant force in Western Europe, which would hold true until the end of the war. As Patton pushed onward, the German high command realized that Paris would be the next target of the Allied invasion. Paris had always been the heart of France — culturally, politically and militarily. Four years earlier, French citizens openly wept at the sight of the German occupation of their beloved capital. Now they wept tears of joy at the sight of its liberation. 

On Aug. 25, the historic city of Paris was liberated from Nazi occupation. The freeing of the Parisians marked a sense of relief and optimism, pointing to a favorable outcome of the war. For once, the world began to see Nazi tyranny for what it was: temporary.

Hitler ordered the commander of his forces, Gen. Dietrich von Choltitz, to destroy this city and its historic landmarks. However, the German officer refused the orders and surrendered the city on Aug. 26. 

In one of the most moving scenes throughout the war, Gen. Charles de Gaulle led his French troops through the streets of Paris and down Avenue des Champs-Élysées. As American soldiers looked east, they were greeted with kisses from young ladies and grateful handshakes from Parisians who hoped for the day when German forces would be decisively driven from their city. 

The fall of Paris marked the start of a progression of major military setbacks that expedited the end of Hitler’s rule. In eight months’ time, he would be destroyed for good. This summer, we can reflect upon the sacrifices of American soldiers. During this time period in 1944, they freed the French people from Hitler’s tyrannical rule. 

Rich Acritelli is a history teacher at Rocky Point High School and adjunct professor at Suffolk County Community College.

This week marks the 78th anniversary of the D-Day invasion. Pixabay photo

By Rich Acritelli

By early July 1940, after Germany quickly defeated France, Hitler and his military leaders were photographed gazing across the English Channel. 

Many feared Hitler would order an invasion against the last remaining nation in Western Europe: Britain. While his senior military leaders planned for Operation Sealion, Hitler had always feared the might of the British navy, and a full-scale assault was never carried out. 

Instead, Europe suffered through four years of brutal German occupation, which included the Nazi air blitz on London and a genocide across the continent which sought the annihilation of Jews in Europe. The liberator of Nazi tyranny came in the form of a farm boy from Abilene, Kansas. 

Dwight D. Eisenhower was an affable character among his fellow officers. He was a talented football and baseball player, a writer and later an aide to Gen. Douglas MacArthur. By 1941 it was now his turn to lead the effort to dismantle the German war machine and to bring the war to a successful conclusion.  

Gen. Eisenhower ran his headquarters with a team-first mentality. He considered the British, French, Canadians, Norwegians, Polish and even Soviets as comrades rather than foreigners. These nations that had suffered through Hitler’s subjugation would be key elements to achieve total victory.  

By the spring of 1944, the war plans were laid to invade Nazi-occupied Europe from England.  Major weaponry and reinforcements of soldiers, primarily from the United States, were sent to England to reinforce Eisenhower’s Operation Overlord. To cope with the stress of planning the invasion, Eisenhower smoked over five packets of cigarettes a day. 

Once living in poverty, the military commander had emerged as one of the most powerful men in the world, entrusted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill to change the tides of war in their favor. 

By 1941, Eisenhower had grown into a dependable officer who embodied the necessary skills to work well with the Allies. A talented strategist, he was the right man for the task. Although he was not as battle hardened as Gens. MacArthur or George S. Patton, Eisenhower possessed unique attributes that aided his planning. 

A graduate of U.S. Army Command and General Staff School, he was highly regarded for his writing skills and his clear understanding of fighting campaigns. Eisenhower was not only preparing an immense invasion, but a road map for the continued invasion after getting ashore. Having traveled extensively through France as a younger officer, his past experiences again proved invaluable. 

Always a likable figure, Eisenhower had the unique ability to resolve conflicts amongst his own senior command. His good friend Patton understood the value of this trait for he was a gifted commander but with an uncontrollable temper.

Perhaps Eisenhower’s greatest challenge was seen through his relations with Gen. Charles de Gaulle. This renowned French leader refused to endorse the earliest speeches that called for his people to revolt against the Germans in the name of the Allies. De Gaulle was supported by the Americans and British, but he believed he deserved greater authority over the major fighting in France. Dealing with this French leader was an obstacle only Eisenhower could surmount.

In the days leading up to the D-Day invasion, terrible weather conditions threatened to further delay Eisenhower’s plans. The delays could prove to be catastrophic as the Germans were bound to learn of the true intention of this invasion, where they originally viewed Calais as the key spot that would be assaulted by this cross-channel attack. 

With the weight of the invasion and outcome of the war upon his shoulders, Eisenhower ordered 1,213 naval combat ships to move across the channel. 132,000 soldiers, stocked with supplies and equipment of every kind, headed off the Normandy beaches into the interior. By the end of the day, on June 6, 1944, the final chapter of Hitler’s rule was being written as American, British and Canadian soldiers executed Eisenhower’s plans. 

Today, fighting rages on in Ukraine. But the resolve of the United States should never be doubted. On the 78th anniversary of D-Day, America remains a beacon for the world, always there in the darkest hour to oppose tyranny abroad and to prevent its expansion. We must remember the example of Eisenhower, who gave us the road map for a future of peace. 

Rich Acritelli is a history teacher at Rocky Point High School and adjunct professor at Suffolk County Community College. Written in conjunction with members of the high school’s History Honor Society.

Photograph of an American tank during the Battle of the Bulge, above. File photo from Getty Images

“The same day I saw my first horror camp. It was near the town of Gotha [in Germany]. I have never felt able to describe my emotional reactions when I first came face to face with indisputable evidence of Nazi brutality and ruthless disregard of every shred of decency. Up to that time I had known about it only generally or through secondary sources. I am certain, however, that I have never at any other time experienced an equal sense of shock.” — Supreme Allied Cmdr. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower

At that moment almost 78 years ago, Hitler’s Third Reich was rapidly crumbling away.

This was in large part due to the massive strength of Eisenhower’s armies, which were determined to finish the war in Europe. With the end in sight, Allied soldiers entered German soil with the hope of receiving a speedy surrender. During this advance, American soldiers quickly noticed that the enemy had some notable similarities to their own countrymen. 

The German population was similar in size to the American middle class, and lived in heated homes surrounded by picturesque natural beauty from the German and Austrian landscapes. As Allied forces continued their eastward push, however, any feelings of closeness with the enemy quickly evaporated, as they had come to learn of Hitler’s “final solution.” American soldiers, many from neighborhoods along Long Island’s North Shore, had discovered and liberated the German death camps. 

For the men who witnessed this shocking brutality, these experiences would never be forgotten. Although hardened by the Battle of the Bulge and other combats against a fanatical resistance unwilling to surrender its losing cause, Americans were utterly unprepared for the scenes at these camps. Some had heard of the cruel treatment inflicted by the Nazis, but they were horrified after entering these camps. At once, the medics distributed food, water and medical treatment to save as many lives as they could. 

After visiting the Ohrdruf concentration camp on April 12, 1945, a sickened Eisenhower said, “We are told the American soldier does not know what he is fighting for. Now, at least, we know what he is fighting against.” Renowned journalist and radio broadcaster Edward R. Murrow accompanied the American 6th Armored Division into the Buchenwald concentration camp. Laying witness to the atrocities, he reported, “I pray you to believe what I have said about Buchenwald. I have reported what I saw, but only part of it. For most of it I have no words. … If I’ve offended you by this rather mild account of Buchenwald, I’m not in the least sorry. I was there.”  

“The inmates liberated by our forces were skeletons. … It was enough to make strong men weep — and some American officers did so unabashedly.”

— Robert Murphy

Diplomat Robert Murphy was also present to see the conditions of these camps. He recalled: “The inmates liberated by our forces were skeletons. … It was enough to make strong men weep — and some American officers did so unabashedly.” Many American soldiers were ordered to see these camps for themselves, as Eisenhower wished to prevent any future deniers of the Holocaust.

Two local heroes

Among these soldiers was the late John D’Aquila, resident of Belle Terre. A member of the 11th Armored Division, he served under Gen. George S. Patton’s famed Third Army. D’Aquila was a native of Middletown, Connecticut, who landed in France during the Battle of the Bulge. As a medic, he was ordered toward the strategic Belgian town of Bastogne which was surrounded by German forces. During one of the worst winters in recorded history, D’Aquila treated wounded soldiers as they turned back this German offensive. For his valiance and unceasing treatment of wounded servicemen, D’Aquila received a Purple Heart after being wounded during this battle.

Like many other soldiers at the end of this war, D’Aquila wondered if he would survive. On May 5, 1945, the 11th Armored Division entered the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria. By the end of the war, those camps in Central Europe had considerably higher death rates as they were the last to be captured by Allied forces. D’Aquila remembered the inability of the local Austrian citizens to accept responsibility for the savagery committed there, despite the stench of death that hung in the air, the piles of bodies stacked up “like cordwood.”  

After the war, D’Aquila attended college and later earned a degree in law, where he defended the interests of insurance companies. Locally in Port Jefferson, he was on the board of directors of Theatre Three, and a play was later created by Jeffrey Sanzel, “From the Fires: Voices of the Holocaust.” Until his death, D’Aquila openly addressed his wartime experiences because he wanted to ensure that citizens, especially the youth, did not forget the severity of the Holocaust.

In 2008, D’Aquila described his experience of liberating Mauthausen during a Veterans Day program at Rocky Point High School. As though it had just occurred, D’Aquila spoke of his duty to medically care for the survivors of the concentration camp as they were finally being liberated. At another program at the high school, D’Aquila joined Werner Reich, who had survived Theresienstadt, Auschwitz and Mauthausen, and was liberated by the 11th Armored Division.  

Reich was a 17-year-old young man who weighed only 64 pounds at the time of his liberation. In this condition, he was not expected to survive. At RPHS, he looked at the audience and vividly stated that if it had not been for Americans like D’Aquila, then he would have surely perished from starvation. Although from different backgrounds, both men were inextricably tied to one another through their shared experience of “man’s inhumanity to man.” For years, Reich has spoken to high schools across the North Shore to ensure that good people do not stand by when innocent people suffer from such atrocities. 

Even though World War II ended long ago, the world now watches history repeat itself through the images of fighting in the Ukraine. Americans are again learning of the massive losses of Ukrainian civilians suspected of being killed by Russian forces. People such as D’Aquila and Reich made it their mission in life to alert people that history will repeat itself if good people do nothing. We must learn from the examples of the past, we must always act, protect and preserve the rights and freedoms of people everywhere.  

Rich Acritelli is a history teacher at Rocky Point High School and adjunct professor at Suffolk County Community College.

From left: Frank, Dominick and Nick LoSquadro in Germany, 1945. Photo from LoSquadro family

By Rich Acritelli

A longtime resident of Rocky Point and distinguished World War II veteran, Dominick T. LoSquadro died Aug. 2. He was 97. 

Through hardship and trial, this World War II veteran was the epitome of what is often considered the Greatest Generation. He was an active member of the VFW Post 6249 Rocky Point, and the veterans organization lost a dynamic and key member of its organization this month, one that always wanted to help other military service members and community residents.

From left to right: Nick, Frank and Dominick LoSquadro in Wiesbaden, Germany, toward the end of the war in 1945. Photo from LoSquadro family

LoSquadro’s story began as a poor Brooklyn kid — born July 28, 1922. He was the youngest of seven children with four brothers and two sisters. Growing up his family had no comforts at home. They survived due to the hard work of their father, who delivered blocks of ice, and their mother who managed a grocery store. Their home had no heat or hot water and when the would-be Rocky Point resident was a child, his brothers paid him a nickel to warm the toilet seat for their use. It was a common practice for this family to stay near the kitchen, where they felt some warmth from the cooking stove. Dominick did not take a hot shower until he was drafted into the Army as a young man during World War II.

The boys grew up with Italian-speaking parents, but together they only spoke a few words of the language, and their mom spoke little English. There were only a couple of Italian words that were utilized in order to communicate with each other. Years later, when LoSquadro was stationed in Germany, he understood and spoke German more than he could Italian. 

As a kid who grew up in the streets of Brooklyn, LoSquadro collected rags and sticks which he sold to a local junk vendor. He used the pennies and nickels he earned for movie tickets. He also worked with his father to deliver ice to various parts of the city. As a child his poor eyesight led to equally poor grades, and his teachers did not realize that he had a difficult time reading the board and they continually moved him to the back of the classroom. They believed that he was a challenged student that was unable to keep up with their instructions and, for many years, LoSquadro never fully realized his educational potential.

During his teenage years, family and friends remembered he always had a brilliant smile and a full head of hair, making him a favorite of local ladies. He was a talented ballroom dancer who immensely enjoyed listening to popular big band music in New York City. Before the war, LoSquadro enrolled into an automotive school where he earned a degree so he could be a mechanic. He flourished in this environment, and he would take his expertise in fixing, driving and directing heavy machinery in his military and civilian occupations.

For the late Rocky Point resident’s generation, it was a trying time to be a young adult after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941. The United States quickly entered the war effort to fight the Japanese in the Pacific and the Germans in North Africa and Europe. Right away, the five “LoSquadro brothers” entered the military to do their part. Like that of his three older brothers, Dominick was drafted into the Army Dec. 29, 1942, where he applied his civilian trade as a mechanic in the service. His earliest military time began at Camp Upton Army base in Yaphank, where he entered his basic training with a serious fever that quickly became an ear infection. LoSquadro was stationed at several military bases in Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma and South Carolina, but as these units were shipped overseas, he was not sent with them due to his medical condition. The Army warned that if he was attacked with chemical or biological weapons that it could prove to be terribly fatal due to his ailments.

Despite being held back, it was his goal to be ordered overseas to be near his family members and friends that were already fighting against the Germans and Japanese. The Army eventually looked past his medical record and shipped him to Liverpool, England, where he was quickly sent to France. LoSquadro was vital in keeping the trucks, jeeps and tanks moving against the strength of the Germans, as they were pushed back to their own border. He also conducted backbreaking labor, as he helped reconfigure air strips after they were bombed and damaged by the German Luftwaffe.  

Like that of other American families, the LoSquadro boys were all in harm’s way trying to fight against the fascist regime. His brother, Frank, was with the second wave of the June 6, 1944, Normandy landings at Omaha Beach. That December, Frank was a medic that survived the Battle of the Bulge, where just about his entire unit was killed by the Germans. At one point, he acted as if he was dead for three days to avoid being shot or captured by the enemy. Later, the army wanted Frank to re-enlist, but he had witnessed terrible accounts during the war and he wanted to go home. LoSquadro’s brother rarely spoke about his traumatic experiences.

During the height of the war, the brothers were determined to meet up with each other. Dominick worked on the military trucks that operated at the air fields, where they loaded and delivered war supplies to the soldiers in the field. He was in closer contact with his brother Frank who was stationed near the railroad lines at the front. They both decided to search for their brother Nicholas, who served with the Office of Strategic Services (later renamed the Central Intelligence Agency during the Cold War). He helped collect and analyze intelligence from enemy double agents, the resistance, captured prisoners of war and more.

Both Dominick and Frank hitchhiked on the French roads as they were looking for Nicholas. They were pleasantly surprised, as it was Nicholas who discovered them as he drove down a road in his jeep. These two brothers, both grunts, saw a much different face of the military from Nicholas who was an officer, as he was not often in the field and he lived in homes that had servants to clean his clothing and cook meals. They were overjoyed to be briefly together during the course of the war, where they were alive, united and fighting for their nation.  

Dominick LoSquadro during his army days. Photo from LoSquadro family

At the very end of World War II, as the U.S. dealt with the growing power of the Soviet Union in Europe and the end of the fighting against the Japanese in Asia, the LoSquadros were formerly recognized for their service. About a week before the Japanese surrendered on Sept. 2, 1945, their mother received a letter from Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson. It genuinely stated, “For my part, I should like to assure you of the deep appreciation of the nation which has accepted their service with gratitude and a strong sense of responsibility.” Stimson was one of the most powerful leaders in the nation to oppose Germany and Japan, and he evidently respected the role that the entire LoSquadro family played to help defeat the Axis powers.

As a seasoned veteran that spent over three years in the military, LoSquadro finally returned home to New York City where he was employed as a diaper and furniture delivery man. In the late 1940s, he brought these items to famous musicians like that of Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey and to the actress Kitty Carlisle. Later in life, LoSquadro had poor knees and it was attributed to running up the stairs of high-rise buildings where he made these deliveries. It was not until the mid-1950s that LoSquadro was motivated to earn a city job. Once he was examined for his eyes, it turned out that he was an able test taker and he performed well on exams, and he was later employed as a bus driver.

After the war, LoSquadro again flourished as a dancer, and he always received interest from the ladies that had liked his ballroom skills and looks. He spent many nights at the Roseland Dance Club in Manhattan, near the Ed Sullivan Theater. He was friends with all of the bouncers, perfected his craft of dancing and met his wife at this establishment. Once he was married, LoSquadro raised a family of five children, including one son and four daughters at homes in Corona and Elmhurst. While he worked long hours, he was known for his creativity as a handyman who could repair practically anything. He drove many hours of overtime to support his large family on one salary. The World War II vet was known for spending many hours studying for the Metropolitan Transit Authority exams which enabled him to be promoted as a foreman and later a general superintendent. As when in the Army, LoSquadro also faced resentment for being an Italian American as he began to get promoted within higher city positions at the MTA.

He would eventually become responsible for operating large bus garages in Queens Village and in Flushing near the present home of the New York Mets at Citi Field. For many years, he handled numerous responsibilities with the drivers, investigated bus accidents within his district, petitioned for additional funds and made sure that his garages followed MTA regulations. He was always known for utilizing common sense and fairness with a staff of over 500 workers. He would grow to be respected for helping to provide transportation services utilized by millions of people within the city.

During his spare time, local family and friends counted on LoSquadro to repair umbrellas, bicycles, doors, windows and anything that needed some TLC. His children widely believed that if it was broke, that “daddy could fix it.” As a young kid that endured poverty, LoSquadro utilized his ingenuity to recycle products and save money. Later in life, he always enjoyed having nice clothing and cars, but he never forgot the lessons that poverty teaches. It is said in his prime that he had an unbelievable amount of stamina, allowing him to work all day and tinker in his basement for hours where he became a self-taught carpenter.

In the early 1980s, Dominick began living with a longtime companion, where they renovated a bungalow in Rocky Point. For many years, he was a devoted member to Post 6249 Rocky Point Veterans of Foreign Wars, helping to provide aid to vital military and civilian causes. Armed with a big smile and can-do attitude, he was one of the founding members of the post’s annual Wounded Warrior Golf Outing, which raised over $200,000 to help local veterans severely hurt from the War on Terror. LoSquadro knew all of the players, he handed out T-shirts to the golfers, counted raffle ticket money and spoke to all of the wounded armed forces members who were recognized by the organization. Even in his 90s, LoSquadro led an energetic life where he was overjoyed to participate in the many successful activities of Post 6249.

Several years ago, this decorated member of the Greatest Generation finally received his diploma from Rocky Point High School, with students, parents and staff giving him a rousing round of applause. At his wake, Post 6249 Commander Joe Cognitore and post members lined up at the funeral home to pay the ultimate respect to this noted veteran. With tears in his eyes, Cognitore expressed the final goodbyes to one of his best friends. Both of these men were inseparable, as they lobbied government leaders for local and national veteran’s affairs, attended the local summer concert series, marched and presented the colors at local schools during Veterans Day ceremonies and they often went to local restaurants and diners for lunch. 

As a member of this post that had worked closely with LoSquadro, it is my firmest belief that if you were friends with Dominick T. LoSquadro, his acquaintance surely made you into a finer person. Thank you to the unyielding efforts of this veteran to ensure the defense of the United States and his many wonderful contributions as a citizen, all who felt his presence during his time on Earth.

Rich Acritelli is a social studies teacher at Rocky Point High School and an adjunct professor of American history at Suffolk County Community College.

Allied troops in WWII fought through thick casualties the week of July 4, 1944

British Gen. Bernard Montgomery, right, with American generals George Patton and Omar Bradley July 7, 1944. Photo from Institute for Historical Review

By Rich Acritelli

As Americans enjoyed a beautiful Independence Day with the opportunity to watch ball games, barbecue, go swimming and enjoy fireworks, at this time of year and in the many years prior, our nation has always preserved freedom during times of peace and war. Today, American military forces are in every corner of the world serving in Afghanistan against the Taliban, at the Korean Demilitarized Zone and through an expanded naval and air power in the Persian Gulf to guard against potential Iranian aggression. But around this time, many decades ago, American soldiers spent their July 4 weeks overseas in active conflict.

These military actions were seen during the weeks that followed the D-Day landings at Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944. While the casualty estimates were far less than what was expected by Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, he did not expect the terrible warfare that was waged against his forces as the Allies moved inland from the beaches. The Germans masterfully utilized the French terrain of the “hedgerows” to slow down the mostly American, British and Canadian forces. For a time, Hitler still expected the main assault to be led by the controversial, but powerful presence of Gen. George S. Patton’s tanks at Calais. At this moment, Hitler’s senior generals widely protested against his belief that Normandy was only a secondary assault. Hitler wasted precious time and committed serious military blunders by not adhering to their advice to wage a counterattack against the invading forces who were pushing out from Normandy. The German Wehrmacht had 19 divisions and 800 tanks that were waiting for an assault that never took place at Calais. This powerful force played no major role in attacking the earliest actions of Eisenhower during the opening stages of liberating France.

As the Allies pushed forward from the beaches, Hitler ordered the use of the V-1 and V-2 rockets that established a new “blitz” against London. Unlike the German bombers and fighters that reigned havoc on the city earlier in the war, there was little defense that could be conducted against these “buzz bombs” that terrorized the British civilians toward the end of the war. Again, Hitler’s senior generals stated that if these weapons were to be used, they should be deployed against the Allied ports in England that shipped over a tremendous amount of resources to aid their soldiers in France. However, Hitler believed that it was entirely possible for these “wonder weapons” to achieve a victory for Germany, even though the Allies were militarily established in France.

The German dictator refused to adhere to any military information from his generals who continued to tell Hitler that the situation was bleak. As Eisenhower had to deal with setbacks from the hedgerows, he knew that it was only a matter of time before his forces could break out against the Germans who were barely holding their own ground. Hitler refused to realize how desperate the situation in the west was. He decreed that every inch of this ground should be contested, that his soldiers should fight to the bitter end to cause horrific casualties against Eisenhower, which he hoped would move the Allies to withdraw back to England. Hitler’s once favorite leader, Field Marshall Erwin Rommel, observed that it was not possible for Germany to defeat the superior resources that Eisenhower had at his disposal. Rommel pleaded with Hitler to end the war on the Western Front to prevent utter defeat and destruction. Rommel understood that while the Allies were marred by the terrain, it was only a matter of time before Patton pushed eastward toward Paris. Hitler scolded Rommel, saw him as a defeatist, and refused to adhere to any talk of ending the war and making peace. 

Like Rommel, a disgruntled Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt understood that the hedgerow fighting would be overcome by the Allies and there was no chance of victory. After he was relieved by Hitler, he told his military peers, “Make peace you idiots,” before all is quickly lost. About two weeks after July 4, 1944, a small group of German military and civilian leaders carried out an assassination attempt of Hitler at his headquarters in East Prussia. Rommel was tied to this failed plan and he was given a choice by Hitler to stand trial or commit suicide. To protect his family, he took his own life under the fake deception that Rommel died from wounds that he received from an Allied aerial attack against his car.

Even as Eisenhower had the upper hand against Hitler, his forces endured terrible losses against the German defenses. It hurt the Americans and British that the poor weather, which had stymied Eisenhower’s D-Day decision about when to land at Normandy, carried over during this campaign. The Allies had a difficult time coordinating air support against enemy positions through heavy rain and clouds. During the early days of July, the American military had 27,000 casualties among its 413,000 soldiers. Resembling the warfare that Gen. Ulysses S. Grant saw against Robert E. Lee in the 1864 fighting in Virginia, the Germans used the thick natural growth of trees, bushes and terrain to their bloody advantage. In order to support these operations, Eisenhower needed to have a large harbor to collect the vital supplies that were used on a daily basis by his men. By July 1, 1944, the French port of Cherbourg was taken, which allowed Eisenhower to bring in an additional 1,566,000 soldiers, 333,000 vehicles and 1.6 million tons of food, equipment and ammunition.  

General Omar N. Bradley commanded all of the American ground forces and he was shocked at the extreme losses that his army sustained. “The G.I.’s General,” as Bradley was known by his men, believed that Allied movements progressed at a “snail’s pace” against the enemy. Both Bradley and Eisenhower relied on the aggressiveness of Patton’s efforts to push his armor inland to create weaknesses and chaos within the German lines. The brief hedgerow warfare frustrated the American desire to hit the enemy hard and use their advantages to coordinate air and land warfare. As Patton was disciplined by Eisenhower during the “slapping incident,” in Sicily, they desperately sought his armor tactics to end this stalemate and push the enemy back on their heels.

It was almost 75 years ago this week that American military forces moved slowly against the determined resolve of the German army to push forward beyond the Normandy landings. While the war would be over within a year and Hitler’s Third Reich would be completely destroyed, American soldiers endured high casualties within the first stages in liberating Western Europe of Nazi control. At a time when the German military had slowed down Allied advances, even their key military figures understood that they could not match the strength of Eisenhower and the war machine that was created to defeat them during July of 1944.  

Rich Acritelli is a social studies teacher at Rocky Point High School and an adjunct professor of American history at Suffolk County Community College.

Family members of the late WWII veteran Michael Colamonico and elected officials stand together at the corner of McKay Road and Beau Lane in Huntington Station. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Town of Huntington officials and veterans organizations gathered to give thanks for the lifelong work of a late Huntington Station World War II veteran for his commitment to the community.

McKay Road in Huntington Station was officially dedicated as “SSGT USAF Michael J. Colamonico Way” at its intersection with Beau Lane behind Huntington High School in a Nov. 24 ceremony. The signpost stands on the corner near where Colamonico lived with his wife, Lorraine, through his death in December 2013.

McKay Road was dedicated as USAF SSGT Michael J. Colamonico Way Nov. 24. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

“Mr. Colamonico dedicated his life to his family and veterans affair issues for active military and veterans,” Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) said.

Colamonico was drafted to serve in the U.S. Air Force during World War II where he was assigned a position as a turret gunner on a B-17 bomber. On Dec. 31, 1943, Colamonico was on his first mission — a 13-hour bombing run — when his plane was shot down by a German fighter plane over southern France, according to his son, Michael Jr. He was held as a prisoner of war at the infamous Stalag 17 in Austria for 17 months before being liberated in 1945.

While a prisoner, he wrote poetry and drew illustrations in a bound book he titled, “A Wartime Log,” which his son said is now cherished as a family heirloom.

Upon returning to the U.S., Colamonico settled in Huntington and became a charter member of the town’s Veterans Advisory Board. Its current board members made the request that his home street be dedicated in his name, which was approved by a unanimous vote of the Town Board at its July 17 meeting.

He was always there for the people in the community, no one really realized the impact until he had passed,” his grandson Francis Fanzilli said. “We get so caught up in thinking of ourselves and the world, we forget the impact we can have on the people around us.”

Veterans gathered at the Nov. 24 dedication ceremony salute the flag during the national anthem. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Colamonico volunteered at the Northport VA Medical Center helping and attending to injured veterans. He also was an active member of St. Patrick’s R.C. Church in Huntington, according to Father Michael Bissex.

“Michael loved the community he helped build, literally and figuratively,” Bissex said prior to blessing the sign.

Colamonico also served as a mentor to Huntington’s youth, in particular helping U.S. Army Capt. Michelle Mudge navigate her way through joining the armed services to become a pilot.

“He was a true mentor, he was one of the ones who believed in me from the time I was 15 years old,” she said. “ He pushed me through some dark times.”

Midge said she keeps a picture of Colamonico and his plane’s crew — that he once gave to her — on the mantle of her fireplace as a reminder. The captain believed her mentor would have been thrilled by the turnout at the dedication ceremony, and his wife agreed.

“I’m very honored and I know he would be, too,” she said. “I’m very happy to see him honored in this way.”

His wife spoke with family and friends with her arm stayed looped around the signpost long after the ceremony was over, as if holding onto a piece of her husband.

Kings Park veteran Ernie Lanzer, on right, with his daughter, Claire, wrapped in his Quilt of Valor. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Nearly 70 years later, a Kings Park resident has been recognized for his service in World War II for the first time.

At roughly 12:05 p.m. Oct. 19, former Setauket residents Linda and Larry Heinz presented U.S. Navy vet
Ernie Lanzer with a Quilt of Valor to honor his service to his country. Now 91 years old, Lanzer recounted his time in the service as he was wrapped in the 80-inch by 60-inch handmade blanket in the colors of red, white and blue.

Ernie Lanzer dressed in his U.S. Navy uniform circa World War II. Photo from Claire Lanzer

“That was a lifetime ago, it’s ancient history,” he said humbly. “I was only a kid when I went in, 17, maybe 18.”

Lanzer said he registered under the draft and been called to serve near the end of World War II. He recalled fondly his assignment to the U.S.S. Antietam, an Essex-class aircraft carrier, as first-class seaman with the title of aviation machinist mate. His ship was stationed in waters off China and Japan during the period of occupation following the war.

“It really got my life started with aircraft; I went from fixing propellers to working on F-105, a real modern-day jet bomber,” Lanzer said.

Upon leaving the U.S. Navy, he worked on various planes for Farmingdale-based Republic Aviation. In 1961, he would continue to build a legacy of service by joining Engine Company #2 of the Kings Park Fire Department. Lanzer rose up the ranks of the firehouse, serving as fire commissioner from 2000 to 2006.

While recognized by the Kings Park Fire Department for more than 50 years of service in 2010, Lanzer said he doesn’t remember ever being thanked for serving his country before.

“We consider it a privilege to honor you,” his certificate from the Quilts of Valor Foundation reads. “Though we may never know the extent of your sacrifice and services to protect and defend the United States of America, as an expression of gratitude we award you this Quilt of Valor.”

Ernie Lanzer’s Quilt of Valor as boxed up and shipped from former Setauket resident Linda Heinz. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Heinz said she requested a quilt be made to recognize Lanzer for his legacy both of service to his country and community after she joined with the Quilts of Valor Foundation, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to “cover” all service members and veterans who are physically or psychologically wounded. It started in November 2003 when a quilt was presented to a young soldier from Minnesota who had lost his leg serving in Iraq, according to its website.

“It’s to give them comfort,” she said. “A handmade quilt will always give you comfort no matter who you are.”

Heinz is a member of a volunteer group that calls itself The Myrtle Beach Shore Birds, a group of quilters that has taken up the mission of the Quilts of Valor Foundation. Together, they presented 33 quilts to veterans at the Myrtle Beach Air Force Base July 3 and have made more than 1,400 such gifts since 2010.

There is no charge for a quilt and the organization openly accepts requests at www.qovf.org. The website also provides information for those willing to volunteer their time to make the quilts by supplying patterns and guidance.

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William K. Vanderbilt’s superyacht, the Alva, before World War II. File photo

William K. Vanderbilt II (1878–1944) spent years dreaming of and designing his 264-foot yacht Alva. The luxurious ship, named after his mother, Alva Vanderbilt Belmont, was custom built at the Krupp-Germaniawerft shipyard in Kiel, Germany, on a design by Cox & Stephens. It was powered by two diesel engines with an auxiliary electric motor. Top speed was 16 knots. 

 On Aug. 5, the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum marked the 75th anniversary of the yacht’s wartime service and recalled its tragic sinking on Aug. 5, 1943.

Aboard the Alva, steaming out of Kiel on March 5, 1931, William and Rosamond Vanderbilt began the ship’s inaugural voyage from Europe to Miami and then New York. The trip was preparation for their epic seven-month circumnavigation of the globe that began in July of that year. During the voyage, Vanderbilt collected marine life, invertebrates and cultural artifacts for his Centerport museum.

Ten years, later, just before the United States entered World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked yacht owners to donate their boats to the U.S. Navy. Vanderbilt answered the call.

The Alva after being converted to a Navy ship.
Photo from Vanderbilt Museum

On Nov. 4, 1941, a month before the attack on Pearl Harbor, he gave the Alva to the Navy, which converted it to a patrol gunboat. The ship was renamed the USS Plymouth (PG 57).

The Vanderbilt family had served in every major conflict since the War of 1812. In 1917, William Vanderbilt was commissioned as a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Naval Reserve. From May 9 to Oct. 1, 1917, he patrolled U.S. coastal waters in his ship Tarantula II.

The following details of the Alva’s life as the USS Plymouth are from the Vanderbilt Museum archives and from Uboat.net, a history website based in Iceland with contributing writers from Germany, the United States, Canada and Europe:

On April 20, 1942, the Plymouth was commissioned and based in Norfolk, Virginia. Assigned to the Inshore Patrol Squadron in the 5th Naval District, she made several convoy escort voyages between New York, Key West and Guantanamo, Cuba, during 1942-43.

On the evening of Aug. 5, 1943, the Plymouth was escorting a ship convoy 120 miles southeast of Cape Henry, Virginia. The ship’s sonar gear alerted the captain and crew of underwater movement in the vicinity. Moments later, the Plymouth was spotted in the periscope of U-566, a German submarine. The sub launched a torpedo at 9:37 p.m.

“The gunboat had made an underwater sound contact while escorting a coastal convoy,” the Uboat.net entry reported. “Just as the ship swung left to bear on the target, she was struck just abaft the bridge. The ship rolled first to starboard, then took a heavy list to port with the entire port side forward of amidships in flames and sank within two minutes.”

 Of the Plymouth’s 179 officers and men, only 84 survived. They were picked up in heavy seas by the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Calypso and arrived in Norfolk on Aug. 6.

 The commander, Lt. Ormsby M. Mitchel Jr., was thrown violently against a bulkhead by the explosion. He sustained serious injuries, which later required amputation of his left leg. Despite his own condition, he directed abandon-ship operations and remained at his post until the ship went down. Mitchel was awarded the Navy Cross for extraordinary heroism.

Learn more about the Alva and William K. Vanderbilt’s other yachts by visiting the mansion’s Ship Model Room at the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum, 180 Little Neck Road in Centerport. Fall hours through Nov. 4 are Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday from noon to 5 p.m. For more information, call 631-854-5579.

Randall, Merwin and Marten Woodard will be laid to rest in Port Jefferson July 14. Photo from the Woodard family

By Alex Petroski

Three Port Jefferson natives and U.S. Navy veterans from World War II will be laid to rest in Port Jeff next week, and their families have extended an invitation to the community to share memories.

The Woodard boys — Randall, Merwin and Marten — will be buried at the Randall family plot at Cedar Hill Cemetery in Port Jefferson July 14 at 11:30am.

They were raised in Port Jefferson by loving parents, Madeline and Grover Woodard, and they will be honored by all three families.

Arrangements were entrusted to the Bryant Funeral Home of Setauket.