Manuel Witt “Manny”

U.S. Navy 1942–1945

When he was only sixteen, “Mannie” Witt convinced his parents to let him enlist in the Navy. He was assigned as a signalman to the USS Arkansas which, as part of a convoy of ships, participated in the Normandy Invasion at Omaha Beach and saw action at Iwo Jima, the ship’s target being Mt. Suribachi. Mannie witnessed from the mast the battles, the Kamikaze pilots and all the close calls. After the war, he was assigned to the USS Tennessee under Vice Admiral Jesse Oldendorf, who was in charge of the occupation of Southern Japan. He witnessed the devastation of Hiroshima and finished his tour of duty on the USS Appalachian where he was discharged as a Signalman First Class.

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Joseph Todisco

U.S. Army 1942–1945

At the age of 22, Joseph A. Todisco was called up to join the Army. After learning to fire artillery weaponry and helping to write ground to air defense manuals, Joe was soon sent to New Guinea and the Philippines, with expectations of defending against the Japanese. In the Philippines he was a sentry at the home of General Douglas MacArthur and saw firsthand the results of war. He speaks fondly of the General and his leadership.

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Kenneth Smith

U.S. Navy 1943–1945

Kenneth Smith, a native New Yorker now living in Ashland, Mass., was one of a dozen classmates enlisting in the Navy directly after graduation from high school in 1943. He relates his training as auxiliary crew on a submarine in Perth, Australia and Honolulu, Hawaii, where, as a nineteen-year-old Fireman First Class he enjoyed Australian hospitality, did a brief stint in the stockade in Hawaii, and patrolled the Pacific in the USS Bergall. On his first patrol the Bergall fired on two Japanese cruisers and was hit by a shell. The Bergall couldn’t dive as a result and the captain was ordered to scuttle the submarine. He went against orders and saved the sub and the crew. Smith also talks about other matters: the recovery to two burn victims from a B25, hitting a mine, the camaraderie of the crew and the kindness of the officers, and the role his years of service and the GI Bill played in his life.

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