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Saved My Life
It was a Friday afternoon in November 2008 just after Thanksgiving. I stopped in the Worcester, (MA) Detachment Marine Corps League for a beer or two in the Leatherneck Lounge. The only one there was the bar manager Marine Joe Ricci. Within five minutes one of our few remaining WW II vets, Marine Carlo Mastrototaro came in and sat beside me at the bar. Within two minutes the door opens and the second WW II vet Marine Walter Maloney enters and sits next to me on the other side.
We immediately started talking about how Carlo and Walter Had met in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in 1941. The four of us (including Joe) had served at Guantanamo Bay at one time or another, so we called it a Gitmo Bay reunion. After a few minutes I realized that I was sitting between History. Both Carlo and Walter Joined the Marine Corps in 1939, both are 88 years old , soon to be 89 in 2009, both served at Gitmo in 1941 and 1942, both were from Worcester, MA, both served in the Pacific against the Japanese on three different islands each.
So I took the opportunity to ask the two of them about their exploits in the Pacific. At first they both didn’t want to talk about it but after some prodding on my part and specific questions to Carlo ;”tell us how you earned the silver star?” and “tell us where you were and how you were wounded?”. Carlo looked at me for a moment, then said “you really want to hear about it?” I said there are over 260 Marines in our Detachment and I’ll bet not one of them know how you were awarded the Silver Star and Purple Heart, we all want to hear about it, it’s time Carlo. “I have never talked about this before” he said “so I may not get all the facts right”.
He started by telling us about being stationed in Iceland, Cuba, then Camp Pendleton (stories for another day) and finally Saipan, Marianas Islands. “It was about mid June 1944” he said “I was the BAR man for my squad of “B” Company, 1st Battalion, 25th Marines, 4th Marine Division. We were on the third wave on a Higgins Boat just about to hit the beach on Saipan when the landing craft next to us hit a mine and blew about twenty feet out of the water and split in half, Marine bodies were flying everywhere. The next thing I remember is being on the beach about forty or fifty yards from the water’s edge, laying on the ground behind a small ridge with the rest of my outfit.
The next two weeks the fighting was fierce and heavy and we had many casualties but I made it without a scratch. It was a couple of days after my birthday July 3rd, I had the watch at night while most of the platoon slept in their fox holes. I heard a noise behind me and when I turned to look I saw a couple of shadows hit the deck. I challenged the shadows real loud to alert my platoon, and after the second challenge with no reply or pass word, I jumped out of my fox hole and moved toward them to get a better angle to fire from because they were still lying down. I emptied my BAR and got all of them, about 8 or 9 of the enemy without being hit by their fire. My Battalion Commander put me up for a silver star for saving my platoon from an enemy sneak attack from the rear.”
“A few weeks later we landed on Tinian. The first night I gave my spot in a four man fox hole to a wounded Marine Ralph Hamit. A couple of hours later a mortar round hit next to the fox hole and all five of us were badly wounded. The next day we were evacuated to a hospital ship. After about 6 months in hospitals, I was given a medical discharge. A few weeks later the 4th Division made the landing at Iwo Jima and most of my outfit was wiped out on the island. That mortar round probably saved my life.”
Carlo died October 5th 2009 at the age of 89 surrounded by his family.
Chris Manos 1845911 USMC 1958-1962