Bill Cunningham of Viscaya Lakes Mobile Home Park in El Jobean, Fla. was in his early 20s when he signed up for the Naval Aviation Cadet Program in July 1942. He was sent to Siena College in Loudernville, N.Y. were he received 40 hours of civilian flight training.
A week after the Japanese bombed the Pacific Fleet based at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941, dragging the United States into World War II, Frank Garcia joined the U.S. Marine Corps.
“We were flying over Rabaul at 15,000 feet and went into a dive in our (Douglas Dauntless) SBD dive bombers. Suddenly, I saw this Japanese Zero coming toward me. The pilot looked right at me as I started firing,” former Sgt. Mel Clark recalled six decades later.
More than 60 years ago, former Sgt. Robert Martin of Englewood, Fla. was a back seat gunner in a Douglas Dauntless SBD single-engine dive bomber flying against Japanese fortifications on Bougainville in the New Georgia Islands in the Pacific during World War II. He was a member of Marine Dive Bomber Squadron 234.
U.S. Marine Pfc. Bob Crossley of Venice, Fla. hit the beach on Iwo Jima in a Higgins boat in the third wave on Feb. 19, 1945. He was a member of the 5th Marine Division, 26th Regiment, 2nd Battalion D-Company.
John Vicalvi’s discharge notes he received two Bronze Service Arrowheads and two Bronze Battle Stars on his Asiatic-Pacific Theater Campaign Ribbon for two landings and two major battles: Bougainville and the Philippines.
Electronics Technician 2nd Class Richard Berry of Venice served aboard the USS Hudson (DD-470), on picket duty off Iwo Jima and Okinawa during the closing months of World War II.