Rotonda, Fla. man fought in five major Pacific campaigns in WWII

Vincent Carvalho, second soldier from the left, is wearing a Smoky Bear hat. The picture was taken in New Caledonia when the Americal Division first arrived in the Pacific in January 1942. Photo provided

Vincent Carvalho, second soldier from the left, is wearing a Smoky the Bear hat. The picture was taken in New Caledonia when the Americal Division first arrived in the Pacific in January 1942. Photo provided

A year before the war started, in 1940, Cpl. Vincent Carvalho and the rest of the Massachusetts National Guard went to war, but they didn’t know it at the time.

President Franklin Roosevelt federalized the guard. Members of the guard were told they would serve a year and that would fulfill their military obligation.

“We were within a few days of serving out our year when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor,” Cavalho recalled 66 years later. “The next day President Roosevelt declared war on the Japanese and we were in for the duration.”

A month after the bombing Carvalho and the other members of Company H, 182nd Regiment were pulled out of the Yankee Division and sent to New Caledonia. His unit became part of the newly formed Americal Division that saw extensive action in the Pacific during the Second World War.

Carvalho, who was a member of an 81-millimeter mortar platoon, first saw frontline action during the battle for Guadalcanal. They were sent to the island as replacement soldiers to take over for the Marines who had landed earlier and gained a foothold on the Japanese-held island.

What Carvalho remembers most about Guadalcanal was not the Japanese, but the mosquitoes.

“When we were eating we’d be batting away the bugs with one hand and eating with the other,” the 88-year-old Rotonda, Fla. resident said. “I got malaria on Guadalcanal and ended up in a New Zealand hospital for almost a month before being sent back to my unit.”

He caught up with his outfit on the Fiji Islands, a staging area, just in time for the invasion of Bougainvillea Island in early January 1944. Carvalho was in the thick of the fighting during this campaign.

“I was the forward observer for our 81-millimeter mortar platoon when the Japanese counterattacked. I managed to call in some effective fire on the enemy,” he said.

For his actions Carvalho received a Bronze Star medal with a “V” for valor.

After spending almost a year on Bougainvillea fighting the enemy, the Americal Division and the 182nd Regiment was sent to Leyte in the Philippines.

“I remember sitting on the beach at night on Leyte and watching the American and Japanese navies fighting each other offshore. It was like a giant fireworks display. It was beautiful,” Carvalho said.

From there his unit took part in the landing at Cebu Island in February 1945. This was about the time Gen. Douglas MacArthur walked off a landing craft and told the people of the Philippines, “I have returned.”

Six weeks later Carvalho got the break he was looking for, after 42 months of battle he and 24 other members of his original company of 200 soldiers were allowed to go home.

“After the Germans surrendered in May 1945 we got word that all the original members of our unit who arrived in the Pacific in 1942 would rotate home,” he said. “By this time I was a 1st sergeant.”

Asked how he went from corporal to first sergeant during his three-plus years in the war zone, Carvalho smiled and said, “Survival of the fittest.”

He sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco Bay in July 1945. From there he took a train across the country back to Massachusetts. It was a long, slow journey home.

“During the train ride home after the war, we stopped in almost every small town across the country,” he said. “The local people would come to the station and give us food as we passed through.”

Carvalho mustered out of the service at Fort Devens, Mass., and immediately signed up for the G.I. Bill. He maintains that bill was one of the best pieces of legislation ever approved by the United States Congress.

“I sat right down and wrote a letter to Yale University trying to get in thanks to the G.I. Bill,” he said. “I went to Yale and took a six-hour entrance exam. They told me I should go to prep school.

“I told them I was getting too old for that. I applied to Clark University in Worcester, Mass., that immediately accepted me. I graduated with a B.A. in English 28 months later. Eventually I got a master’s degree in education and did advanced work in psychology and economics.”

For 30 years Carvalho taught high school on Long Island, N.Y. After he and his wife, Cecelia, retired and moved to Rotonda in 1983.

Vincent Carvalho of Rotonda looks at a shadowbox full of medals he received while serving in the Americal Division in the Pacific during World War II.

Vincent Carvalho of Rotonda looks at a shadowbox full of medals he received while serving in the Americal Division in the Pacific during World War II.  Sun photo by Don Moore

His commendations

Besides a campaign ribbon with five battle stars signifying he took part in five major battles, Vincent Carvalho also received the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Bronze Star Medal with “V” for valor, Presidential Unit Citation, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, Philippine Liberation Medal, Good Conduct Medal, National Guard Medal, 1st Sergeant stripes, Marksmanship Medal in pistol, rifle and 81 millimeter mortar.

This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on Sunday, April 22, 2007 and is republished with permission.

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Vincent G. Carvalho
Jan. 4, 1919 – Dec. 12, 2010

Vincent G. Carvalho, 91, of Rotonda West died Dec. 12, 2010.

There are no services at this time.

Vincent graduated from Westford Academy in Westford, Mass. He received a Bachelors Degree and a Masters Degree from Clark University in Worcester, Mass. with additional post graduate work at Western Michigan University, Adelphi and the University of Connecticut.

He served with the 182nd regiment from Concord, Mass. from 1940-1945 with three and-a-half-years in the South Pacific where he was a recipient of two Presidential Citations, and numerous medals including the Bronze Star. He was honorably discharged in July of 1945 with the rank of 1st Sergeant.

Vincent spent 30 years in education as an instructor of history, economics and psychology. He served as president of the Long Island Council for Secondary Teachers. In 1974 he was selected as one of the “Outstanding Secondary Educators in America”. Vincent retired as an administrative assistant in the Elwood school system in Huntington, N.Y.

Vincent moved to Rotonda in 1983. He was a member of the American Legion, served as president of the Rotonda West Neighborhood Watch, vice president and president of the Property Owners Association and director and vice president of the Rotonda West Association. He also served as a delegate from Rotonda to the West Charlotte Civic Association for five years.

He is survived by his wife of 30 years, Cecelia; a daughter, Lisa Carvalho Beard of New Jersey; a son, Keith Ames of Sunderland, Mass.; a step son, John Ames of West Hempstead, N.Y. and three grandsons, Michael, Niko and Robert.

Donations in lieu of flowers may be made in his name to TideWell Hospice, 12050 North Access Road, Port Charlotte, Fl. 33981.

Sarasota Herald Tribune, Sarasota, Fla. December 2010

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