WWII stories — killed in action
The Enterprise — my inspiration since 1942, when the ink first leaked into my veins — is still the only daily newspaper published in the Adirondacks.
The Enterprise in the 1940s was not just about the brave men and women in service but also stories such as “the Food Sale of the Saranac Lake Women’s Motor Corps,” “Bond, Torch Tour Rally Sparks 5th War Loan Drive,” “7th Bond Sales in Saranac Lake Mount to $180,000” or “The Annual June Festival of the Rouge and Robe Club of the Saranac Lake High School will be held Friday evening, June 10 on the grounds of the school.”
When the war ended in Germany in 1945, I was not yet 15. I did not have close family in the war, so the death of Aldo Sorcinelli hit me hard.
He was the working at the Enterprise in the composing room and the circulation department, age 18, and was so friendly and goofing around with us newsboys that we just loved him.
Back then most 18-year-olds didn’t pay much attention to 13- and 14-year-olds, so and when Aldo was killed in his first battle in Iwo Jima it stunned and saddened a bunch of us newsboys [there were 26 of us] and brought us to a new reality.
I gave a Memorial Day address in Riverside Park in the 1960s when I was mayor and told Aldo’s story.
“Pvt. Aldo Sorcinelli Dies of Wounds”
(The Enterprise Tuesday, April 8, 1945)
“Pvt. Aldo Sorcinelli of this village has died of wounds received in action in the Battle of Iwo Jima, his parents, Mr. and Mrs. John Sorcinelli of 17 James Street, were notified this morning.
“Pvt. Sorcinelli, who was fighting with the Marines, was the first Saranac Lake service man killed in the Iwo Jima operations. The War Department telegram merely stated that he had died of wounds received in action and that a letter would follow with details.
“Pvt. Sorcinelli left Saranac Lake on May 29, 1944 for service with the Marines. He trained at Parris Island, S.C., and Camp Lejeune, New River, N.C.
“On completion of his training, he was ordered to join combat troops overseas and last November left this country for the Pacific Theater of War. The battle of Iwo Jima was the first action in which this Marine had engaged.
“He is the third member of the newspaper staff to lose his life in World War II.
“Pvt. Alfred Vaughn, Jr., was killed in action in Italy, and Seaman Carl Blumenthal died of a virus infection while at his base in Philadelphia, PA.”
“PFC. Elbert S. Hale Dies of Wounds”
(The Enterprise Thursday, Nov. 9, 1944)
“PFC. Elbert S. Hale, 23, died in Italy of wounds received in action on Oct. 16, his mother, Mrs. Florence Hale of 4 Dorsey Street, was notified Tuesday evening by the War Department.
“The telegram contained the following information:
“‘The Secretary of War asks that I assure you of his deep sympathy in the loss of your son, PFC. Elbert S. Hale. Report received that he died Oct. 20 in Italy as result of wounds received in action. Letter follows.’
“This was the first word Mrs. Hale has received since the previous telegram in which she had been informed he had been seriously wounded in action for the second time.
“At the time that Mrs. Hale was informed that her son had been wounded in action again, she did not know that he had returned to combat duty but believed him in a hospital in France recovering from other wounds received in July. He died four days after being wounded in the front line fighting.
“PFC. Hale had arrived overseas last April. He was first stationed in North Africa and in May was ordered to combat duty in Italy.
“He served with the Infantry and on July 13 was badly wounded by German gunfire. He was evacuated to a hospital in France for treatment and remained there several months.
“He joined the service on Nov. 14, 1942. Besides his mother he is survived by two sisters, PFC. Barbara Hale of the WAC stationed at Fletcher General Hospital in Camp Bridge, O., and Mrs. Dada Mae Shaw of Saranac Lake.”
“Dupree Hangs Over Cliff; Nips Die In Caves”
“AT AN ADVANCED ARMY BASE IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC — Movie stunt men have nothing on PFC. Raymond J. Dupree, 20, son of Mr. and Mrs. Syriac Dupree, 4 Merrill St., Saranac Lake, N.Y.
“He descended by rope suspended over a cliff to fire into a Jap-occupied cave, covering his patrol leader’s advance to the cave’s mouth.
“It happened on a combat patrol on the island outpost where the 147th Infantry is conducting mopping up operations against the enemy.
“Grenades had come from two caves dug into the side of a steep cliff, so the patrol knew enemy soldiers were in there. The caves were accessible only by a narrow ledge. When the patrol leader, Second Lt. Donald M. Badziong of Chicago, and his platoon sergeant moved up the ledge, they were driven back by enemy grenades.
“Dupree and his buddy volunteered to cover a second attempt by Lt. Badziong to reach the caves.
“From the top of the cliff a rope was dropped. Dupree descended to a point where he could fire into the first cave being approached by the patrol leader. Meanwhile Dupree’s buddy covered him from above. Dupree fired 20 rounds into the cave.
“When Dupree couldn’t hang on and fire any longer, he descended to the base of the cliff and his buddy came down, repeating the operation. By this time the patrol leader had approached the cave and had neutralized it with grenades and bazooka shells. Four dead Japs were found inside.”
I used to deliver some of those telegrams by bicycle after school, as did my pal Manny Bernstein. However, thank God, I never had to deliver one where the parents had not already been notified by telephone.
There was then a full-time Western Union Telegraph Company (adjacent today to the Blue Line Sports Shop) office at 90 Main St., operated by Thomas Leahy.