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Men and Women of War: Cape Ann’s WWII Veterans

Men and Women of War: Cape Ann’s WWII Veterans

 

“It is my earnest hope — indeed the hope of all mankind — that from this solemn occasion a better world shall emerge out of the blood and carnage of the past, a world founded upon faith and understanding, a world dedicated to the dignity of man and the fulfillment of his most cherished wish for freedom, tolerance, and justice.”  — Douglas MacArthur

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At 9:08 a.m. on September 2, 1945, on the deck of the battleship USS Missouri, which was anchored in Tokyo Bay, US General Douglas MacArthur accepted Japan’s surrender from a delegation representing Emperor Hirohito.

With that, World War II was over. It was the most widespread war in history, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. Over 70 million combined military and civilian lives were lost.

Along with 16 million of their fellow Americans, thousands of men and women from Cape Ann served our country during the Second World War. More than 5,600 of the roughly 25,000 residents from Gloucester alone joined the conflict, serving in every branch of the military.

Of those, 119 never made it home.

As we once again pause to recognize the selfless service of so many, we have to acknowledge that fewer and fewer of our “Greatest Generation” remain among us. Their actions, their history, and their stories are an integral part of who we are as a nation.

Though we continue to see hostilities around the world, with men and women stepping up to serve our nation, it is unlikely that we will ever see such an epic, world-wide conflict again.

My goal has been to photograph our local veterans to honor and recognize their service to our country — and preserve their place in our history.

These are ordinary men and women who were called upon, at times, to do extraordinary things.


Jason Grow, a Gloucester-based commercial photographer, began his Cape Ann World War II Veterans Portrait Project in 2014. It was originally exhibited at Gloucester City Hall on Veterans Day 2015. See the entire portfolio here.

 

Sam Aiello
91, Gloucester  |  US Navy, Seaman 1st Class

Aiello was born and raised in Gloucester. He was drafted into the Navy in 1944 and assigned to the USS Wasatch, a 7th Fleet flagship based in the Pacific.

From that hub of military command, Aiello and his shipmates were witness to several important battles, including the Battle of Leyte Gulf in the Philippines.

Aiello returned home in 1946 to marry Martha Garrisi, and they had six children. He returned to the sea as a fisherman until he retired in 1979.

Charlotte Michon
91, Gloucester  |  US Navy WAVES, Telegrapher 3rd Class

Charlotte, one of four daughters of William and Hilda Bradley, graduated from Gloucester High School in 1942. Three years later, she joined the Navy WAVES and was sent to Washington, DC for radio/telegraph training. She served most of her military career in New Orleans and attended the first revival of Mardi Gras following the conclusion of the war.

She married her first husband, Frank Lima, in 1947, and later she gave birth to her daughter, Judy. After five years the couple divorced, and several years later, Charlotte eloped with Wilbur Michon, who was a bartender in Ipswich.

Together they had a son, Kenny, who died at 20. Michon spent her career primarily as a legal secretary for Cahill, Weiner & Bernstein. She retired in 2003

 

Leroy “Roy” Spittle
89, Gloucester  |  US Air Force, Corporal

“I was the most popular guy on the island,” Spittle says of his stint on the Japanese island of Okinawa in late 1945, because of his expertise in refrigeration — a skill he learned after starting work as an electrician (at the age of 14!) at Park Brothers in Gloucester.

Spittle nearly missed the war, despite enlisting at 16 and attempting multiple times to get past the physical exam. Blindness in one eye kept getting him stamped 4-F. He finally managed to get in on limited service, but was told he’d never leave the states. But once his refrigeration skills were discovered, he was whisked off to the Pacific.

He returned home at 19 and resumed his career as an electrician. In 1950 he married Irene Genereux, with whom he had two children and 36 years. Three years after her death, he remarried and was with Norma for 22 years. He has two grandchildren and one step-great-grandchild.

Spittle founded Roy Spittle Associates in 1962. He retired in 1995.

Robert McKechnie
90, Gloucester  |  US Army Air Corps, Sergeant/Tail Gunner

McKechnie joined up just as he graduated from GHS. He was stationed in Biloxi, Miss., for training in the Air Corp, where he found himself placed in the tail gunner’s seat on B-24 Liberator bombers.

He and his crew were flown from Boise, Idaho, to Sacramento, to Pearl Harbor, Canton Island (in the Phoenix Islands), and then to New Guinea, where an acute bout of appendicitis sidelined him for a few weeks. He eventually caught up with his unit at Ie Shima, off Okinawa.

By the time he and his unit were established, the atomic bombs had been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which ended US combat missions.

He returned to Gloucester to work for North East Telephone as a lineman, married Catherine Friend, and had three boys. The couple was married 64 years before Catherine died in 2013.

 

Frank Mondello
91, Gloucester  |  US Army, Private 1st Class

The son of a cobbler, Mondello was one of 14 children born and raised in the house in Mondello Square, where he and his siblings slept three-to-a-bed. Of the eight boys in the family, five served in World War II, including his brother, Joseph (right).

In 1944 he was assigned to General George Patton’s Third Army, which arrived in France for the Normandy invasion. He spent 8 1/2 months on the front lines in a state of near-constant combat. On a scouting mission, he was hit with shrapnel from a nearby shell explosion.

While fighting in Erfurt, Germany, Mondello and five other soldiers were captured by German SS troops, but they were freed the next day by American forces, and he returned to action.

He retuned to Gloucester following his discharge in 1945, and married his wife of 60 1/2 years. Together they had four children. He opened Mondello’s Texaco in 1959.

Joe Mondello
89, Gloucester  |  US Navy, Petty Officer 3rd Class

Along with his brother Frank (left) was born on Gloucester's Mondello Square, where continues to live.

He joined the Navy at 18 and shipped out with 6,000 other sailors to Guadalcanal and, later, Subic Bay in the Philippines. He was assigned to the cruiser USS Denver.

Mondello served as a fire control on the ship’s 40mm long-range guns. “We pounded the hell out of the (then-Japanese occupied) Philippines.” In addition to supporting invasion forces, the Denver accompanied mine sweepers.

In 1948 he opened his own shoe repair shop on Pleasant Street that continues to operate today. That same year he married Virginia “Ginnie” Murray, and together they had five children. They have 11 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren. Ginnie passed away last year.

 

Adele Ervin
93, Machester  |  Canadian Red Cross, Lieutenant

The daughter of a pioneering aviator who served in World War I, Ervin’s family was posted at the US embassy in Ottawa, Canada, where her father, Lt. Col. Robert Gilpin Ervin, served as an American air attaché.

At 18, she joined the CRC, where she served as a mechanic and ambulance driver, ferrying wounded soldiers returning from Europe. One brother, Henry, was a pilot aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise. He was shot down and lost in the Pacific.

Near the end of the war, Ervin transferred to Germany, where she ran a soldiers’ club outside of Munich. She noticed that black American soldiers were still required to enter the club at the back door. She put an end to it.

Upon here return to the US in 1947, Ervin attended secretarial school, worked for the Westover School in Connecticut, and the National Association of Independent Schools. She moved to Manchester in 1950.

Dexter Murray
91, Gloucester  |  US Navy Seabees, Boatswain's Mate 2nd Class

Born in his family’s Maplewood Avenue kitchen, Murray had three brothers and a sister. All four boys served in the war.

At 17, and eager to enlist in the Marines, color blindness sent him instead to the 13th Special Battalion of the Seabees where he handled munitions and resupplied combat troops in the Pacific. He earned a Bronze Star for his actions during the invasion of Guam.

After the war at 20, Murray met his future wife, Marion Hubbard, on a train ride to Boston. They married six years later, and have been together for 65 years. They have seven children.

Murray spent 15 years as a Gloucester police officer, as well as working as a quarryman, and for the United Engineers.

 

Michael Linquata
91, Gloucester  |  US Army, Private/Medic

After an early graduation from GHS in 1944, Linquata was drafted and sent to Europe to serve in the Army's 134th Combat Infantry in France and Germany, where he earned four Bronze Stars, the French National Legion of Honor, and a Presidential Unit Citation.

In 1945, while tending to 20 wounded men after his unit evacuated, Linquata chose to surrender to German forces rather than risk losing his wounded comrades to mortar attacks. He remained a POW for three months in two different German stalags. When he was finally liberated, he had lost a third of his body weight, but his actions saved many of the men in his care.

After the war, Linquata returned to Gloucester and studied business at Suffolk University. He worked at his father's Progressive Fish Company, and opened the Gloucester House restaurant in 1958.

He married Lillian Ciulla and had four children. He was a driving force behind the creation of the Gloucester World War II Memorial on Kent Circle.

Dr. Hamer Lacy
91, Gloucester  |  US Navy, Gunner's Mate

Lacy enlisted in the Navy in 1942 at the age of 17. He was assigned to the destroyer USS Thorn and deployed, first to the Atlantic, and later to the Far East.

He returned home in 1946 to attend Boston University, first as an undergraduate, then as a medical student, carrying on the family tradition. His father, grandfather, and uncle were all doctors.

After completing his residency at Boston Children’s Hospital, his colleagues who had summer homes on Cape Ann encouraged him to set up his own practice as a pediatrician. He eventually served as chief of staff at Addison Gilbert Hospital, before retiring in 1993.

Lacy and his first wife, Marjorie, were married for over 50 years before she passed away. They had five children.

His war experience compelled him in later years to become a vocal peace activist, which is how he met his current wife of 12 years, Charlotte Sawyer Fish.

 

June Sullivan
96, Rockport  |  US Army, 1st Lieutenant/Nurse

Sullivan's mother died when she was only six years old. And after living with her grandmother for four years, she moved from her Minneapolis home to live with her father in Brockton, Mass. She graduated from nursing school and worked at Cambridge City Hospital before joining the Army in 1943.

She shipped off to Europe on the Queen Mary, where spent several years setting up hospitals and treating war wounded in England, France, and Germany.

Sullivan returned home in 1946 to work at CCH while attending Boston University to study surgical nursing. She met Francis “Franny” Sullivan, the brother of a friend and former Electrician's Mate aboard the USS Edwards, while riding a bus in Cambridge. They married that year and have seven children. Their youngest, Brian, is a Navy commander.

On a visit to Rockport in 1949, the couple “fell in love” with the town and moved there in 1960. She worked at Addison Gilbert for 30 years before retiring in 1992 at the age of 74.

Bruno Kozel
95, Gloucester  |  US Navy, Fireman 1st Class

A Midwestern boy who grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan, Kozel joined the Navy in 1944 and spent his days on the North Atlantic as one of the Armed Guard — Navy men on merchant ships — riding shotgun on convoy duty.

He was assigned to the SS James T. Field and the USS Holland. After serving in the Atlantic, he was reassigned to the Pacific and found his way to Hiroshima.

Following his discharge in 1946, Kozel returned to the Midwest and built his own machinist company, He and his wife Barbara married in Boston in 1962 and raised three children. They moved to Gloucester in 2007 in part to be closer to their daughter, Lisa LeVasseur, and grandson Fisher.

 

Richard Poore
95, Rockport  |  US Navy, Lieutenant, Senior Grade/Aviator

Poore met his wife, Marjorie Whilton, at Plum Cove Beach when they were both summer residents in 1925. He was four, she was two. They would marry 20 years later.

Born in Medford and raised in Malden, Poore attended Northeastern University. He joined the Navy in 1942 and served in the Atlantic, South America, and Africa. He flew missions to search for and chase submarines, and was also a flight instructor.

He left the service and, in 1945, married Marjorie, with whom he had kept in constant contact during the war. They had four children together in 69 years of marriage, until Marjorie died in 2013.

Poore moved to Cape Ann permanently in 1970 after a career as a sales manager in Allendale, NJ. He ran the Whittier Motel in Ipswich for 40 years and moved to Rockport 26 years ago.

Wallace Burbine
90, Manchester  |  US Navy, Seaman 1st Class

Burbine left school at 12 and joined the Navy at 17, in 1943. Six months later he was aboard an LCT-A10 landing craft as it surged towards Utah Beach on D-Day, the first day of the Normandy Invasion. His job? Land on the beach and unload supplies. He would spend the next nine months crisscrossing the English Channel resupplying troops.

He returned to Boston and was discharged in 1946, but he reenlisted in 1950 and served aboard the USS Great Sitkin during the Korean War. In 1954, he shifted services and joined the US Air Force, where he remained for 15 years, serving in Vietnam from 1967-68.

In 1947, his parents and siblings moved to Gloucester. His father, Edmund, a fisherman, was lost at sea in 1959. In 1960, he met and married Dorothy Jerome, an elder care nurse. After a number of years on military rotation, the couple settled in Manchester in 1969, where they have lived ever since.

Since his retirement, Burbine has enjoyed drawing and painting. He is holding his rendition of the Invasion of Normandy.

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