Dick Samuelson of Tangerine Woods in Englewood, Fla. admits “I was no big war hero.”
He joined the Army Air Corps during the last 18 months of World War II after graduating from high school in Brockton, Mass. Following basic training he went to radar technician and long range navigation school. Then he was sent to Europe.
He took a troop ship across the Atlantic to Italy.
“The first day out of Newport News, Va. was fine, but after that it was stormy weather all the way to Naples,” the 88-year-old former Air Force sergeant said. “We had a bunch of seasick troops aboard who were continuously throwing up.
“Once a day they let us up on deck for a breath of fresh air. The ship would drop into a hollow and the waves would be above us,” he said.
Samuelson stayed in Naples a short while until he was trucked to Pantanella, Italy to join the 464th Bomb Group, part of the 15th Air Force. His unit was a B-24 “Liberator,” four-engine strategic bomber squadron. They spent most of their time bombing Germany by the time he arrived.
“I was involved in keeping the radar and navigational equipment operational.I didn’t make the bombing runs with the crews I stayed on the ground,” he explained. “By the time I arrived the war in Europe was winding down. The Germans were about to quit.
“I remember watching a B-24 takeoff from our base. It started to climb over some nearby mountains.When it reached the top it exploded in mid-air. Apparently one of the bombs aboard the bomber accidentally went off.
“I said to myself, ‘Wow, the war is really here!'”
It wasn’t long after that incident that Samuelson was ordered, along with hundreds of other ground pounders, to prepare to return to the U.S.
“When we went aboard the ship, VE-Day (Victory in Europe) had come and gone. We were told that a bunch of us were going to be shipped to the war in the Pacific,” he recalled. “There wasn’t a lot of joy among our troops on VE-Day because we were headed for the Pacific fight. We knew we might end up in a shooting war this time.”
All that changed on the trip back to America when they got word aboard ship the U.S. had dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. When they arrived back in Newport News, Va. World War II was over.
“I flew from Newport News to Boca Raton, Fla. and became a file clerk for the final few months of the war. On May 19, 1946 I was discharged from the Air Corps at Vero Beach and went home to Brockton. I was 21,” Samuelson recalled almost seven decades later.
He got married to his high school sweetheart, Pollyann, and worked for a while as a carpenter. Then he got a job as a building inspector with the Brockton Municipal Building Department. By the time he took another job a decade later he was building superintendent for the city.
In the 1950s Samuelson went to work at the Brockton Post Office. It wasn’t long before he was the post master. The town was 70 to 80,000 in those days.
“Then I became District Postal Manager. My district ran from Cape Cod to Nantucket and included 91 post offices,” he said. “For a short time I was transferred to the Boston Post Office.Where I ran that post office it had 14,000 employees.
“All together I worked for the post office for 30 years. I retired in 1973. In 1995, after the death of my first wife, my second wife, Audrey, and I moved to Englewood.
Samuelson and his first wife have eight grown children: Brett, Colin, Lana, Lori, Mark, Richard, Shane and Stephen.
Name: Richard S. Samuelson
D.O.B: 10 June 1925
Hometown: Brockton, Mass.
Currently: Englewood, Fla.
Entered Service: 14 Feb. 1944
Discharged: 19 May 1946
Unit: 464th Bomb Group, 15th Air Force (Italy)
Commendations: European African Middle Eastern Theater Campaign Ribbon, American Theater Campaign Ribbon, Good Conduct Medal, World War II Victory Medal
Battles/Campaigns: Rhineland, Po Valley
This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on Monday, May 19, 2014 and is republished with permission.
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