Fred Paulsen heard the 20 mm guns on the carrier USS Saratoga firing at will as she cruised off Iwo Jima on Feb. 21, 1945. That’s when he knew they were in trouble.
Frank Arcidiacono was the radio operation aboard a U.S. Navy seaplane assigned to find Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto’s armada. The huge Japanese fleet was steaming toward Midway Island in the North Pacific on its way to attack what was left of the much smaller American battle group during the pivotal days of June 1942.
A couple of weeks after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor launching the United States into World War II, Francis Cynkar of Maple Leaf Estates, Port Charlotte, Fla. joined the Navy. He was 15.
By the time World War II ended, Oscar Hettema of Port Charlotte, Fla. had seen a lot of this world as a chief warrant officer in the Navy Seabees.
Seventy-two years ago today MSgt. Gasper Buffa, a resident of Lexington Manor Assisted Living facility in Port Charlotte, Fla. served with the 1st Marine Division on Midway Island in the Pacific. He survived an attack by the Imperial Japanese Navy’s planes commanded by Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto.
Long before his squad slogged through the black volcanic beach on Iwo Jima in February 1945, Sgt. Paul Vnencak, who winters in Port Charlotte, had seen considerable action as a member of the 3rd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division.
Guadalcanal was where the Japanese were stopped in their westward advance by American air, land and sea power. Former Marine Pfc. John O’Donnell, 84, of Holiday Park in Englewood, Fla. was a tiny part of that historic Pacific invasion. The battle began on Aug. 6, 1942, and continued for seven months during the early part…
About the time Corpsman Eddie Hrycaj landed on Guadalcanal in 1943 with the 101st Medical Regiment that took charge of the 52nd Field Hospital attached to the Army’s Americal Division the tide of war was starting to turn against the emperor’s troops.
It was pitch dark 64 years ago this past week, when Seaman 1st Class James Friel of south Punta Gorda, Fla. jumped from the fantail of the USS Walke (DD-416) into Iron Bottom Sound at Guadalcanal after his destroyer was hit by a Japanese torpedo.
Ken Budd has an obsession. For 25 years he’s been trying to locate the remains of his older brother who was killed on Guadalcanal during World War II.
Lt. j.g. Vernon Martens United States Marine Corps was in the first wave of “Leathernecks” on the beach at Guadalcanal on Aug. 7, 1942. A doctor in the 3rd Battalion, 7th Regiment, 1st Marine Division, he came ashore with his 1906 Springfield rifle in one hand and his medical supplies in the other.
Pfc. Hugo Filizetti was an “expert marksman” in World War II. That was his undoing.
Col. Al R. Clark of Port Charlotte, Fla. joined the Oregon National Guard in 1935 at the age of 15. Before his 33-year regular Army career was over, he saw action on the front lines in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
Cpl. Walter Mitchell of Englewood, Fla. turned part of Guadalcanal, a major South Pacific battlefield in World War II, into a 5,000-acre truck farm once Japanese troops had been defeated.
Homer Beach was a “Buffalo,” amphibious vehicle driver, in the 3rd Marine Division. The 20-year-old corporal drove assault troops ashore on Guam, Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima during World World II.
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.
Pvt. Ray Kari was the youngest, least-trained medic in Company B, 169th Infantry, 43rd Division when he waded ashore in the middle of the night on a small attol just off New Georgia Island in the southwest Pacific a lifetime ago.
“At Guadalcanal, I was almost a war hero to the Japanese,” Allard Guy “Slim” Russell of Sarasota, Fla. said with a smile. “I dropped my first 500-pound bomb on the 75-mile long, 25-mile-wide enemy-held South Pacific island.
Ralph Weir graduated from Kings Point, the Merchant Marine Academy, on Long Island, N.Y., during the middle of World War II. He went to sea as a cadet-midshipman aboard a liberty ship full of war supplies, the John Carroll, sailing out of San Francisco, Calif., for Australia on June 3, 1943.
A VFW chaplain said a few words, two soldiers in dress uniforms folded an American flag into a precise triangle and handed it gently to the widow, a rifle squad fired three volleys and Taps was played as 50 mourners bowed their heads.
His story could have been a page out of “South Pacific,” Rodgers and Hammerstein’s hit musical set in the Solomon Islands during World War II.
“We were anchored at Pearl about 1,000 feet from Battleship Row when the Japs attacked,” the 85-year-old former sailor recalled. “We got underway in 17 minutes, but our path to the open sea was blocked by the battleship West Virginia that had been torpedoed and run up on a shoal to keep from sinking.”
Long before the Kamikaze attack during the Battle of Leyte Gulf, off Luzon in the Philippine Islands during World War II, the USS Claxton with George Bothum aboard saw considerable action in the Solomon Islands off Guadalcanal, Bougainville and Tillage earlier in the war.
Harold Clark served as a 3rd Mate in the Merchant Marines during World War II. He sailed the Atlantic and Pacific in slow-moving Liberty and Victory ships filled with life-saving cargo for the war front and the home front.
John Seelie of Englewood, Fla. was supposed to box the day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941. He was a champion welterweight who just joined the 25th Infantry Division stationed at Schofield Barracks outside of Honolulu, Hawaii.
Hal Ross of Port Charlotte, Fla. was trained as a member of the 10th Mountain Division in World War II, but ended up fighting the Japanese in the jungle islands of the South Pacific.
Lt. Charles Bailey, Sr. was the last of the line. He was the last of Punta Gorda, Fla.’s “Fighting Bailey Brothers.” The last of a family of seven sons and two daughters who distinguished themselves in war and in life during World War II, Korea and much of the 20th Century.