August 29, 2010
Vincent R. Calarco, U.S. Army
He attended the Westfield schools and graduated from the Westfield Academy after completing his 12 years of schooling. Excelling in sports, Westfield High School records showed Calarco earned 15 out of the 16 total letters that any student could earn. Vincent excelled in basketball, football and track.
Vincent's life wasn't all school and sports. Since he was the son of two hard-working restaurant owners he had to help in the family business. His restaurant duties were tending bar along with cleaning and shining spittoons. He acknowledged that beers were 5 cents for a 12-ounce glass and one bottled beer was 15 cents. For just a quarter, customers could buy two bottles. Whiskey went for 15 cents and for a dime more he would pour a double for customers who came to eat. Spaghetti dinners were 35 cents and a t-bone went for 75 cents. This job was seven days a week.
In January 1943, the letter from Uncle Sam came. At the age of 19 he knew he had to do his duty for his country. He got to boot camp by walking down the street to the Westfield station and taking the train to Buffalo.
At Buffalo, there was a special train just for soldiers heading to Camp Edwards in Massachusetts. Vincent spent nine months at Camp Edwards training in all areas of artillery. The boot camp training was so long because his battalion was waiting for Operation Overload which was the invasion and landing in Normandy.
Being attached to a unit under the command of General George S. Patton, for whom Vincent had the utmost respect, was a huge opportunity. He recalls Patton stating that you cannot win war unless lives are lost. Vincent knew now that the tone was set and that was life. He was assigned to a battery as a loader. The unit provided support for any infantry units working in the area of the guns' effective firing range. His battery duties also included firing on any enemy aircraft that entered the battalion's operational area.
Many of the battery fire missions were called in by forward observers or aerial observers. Vincent recalls his days in combat as being normal everyday events that continued all the time and had no end in sight for the war to stop. He recalls receiving packages from his mother which included home-baked goodies.
He recalls the love he had for his mother who always feared she would never get to see her son again. Those were the parts of war that always kept the morale down. He recalls seeing a young French girl. Knowing a little French, he could understand the girl had not eaten in days, so he gathered as much food as he could and took it to her family. He still thinks of that little girl now and then.
There are some days that still haunt this 87-year-old veteran. Those days bring back the memories of walking through the liberation camp at Ordorf, Germany. The memories explain the reason why we go to war.
He recalls the local people being forced to view the camp to see the outcome of what real war does. The war showed that the United States was gaining control of Germany and he recalled his unit got as close as seven miles from Berlin. He knew he would be in Berlin within a day and was shocked when told that his unit would wait and train for an invasion of Japan. His unit was told that the Russian army was going to capture Berlin. War was getting complicated.
He recalls receiving a large salami from home and keeping it wrapped with plans to save it for a special event. Lucky for him he ran into two friends from Westfield – Gerry Provicano and Puch Keith while on a convoy to Meths, France.
He recalls slicing the salami with his bayonet and sharing some champagne the others had found. He reunited with the two vets years after the war and when they met up again they enjoyed champagne and salami.
When Vincent agreed to share his military life it was an honor because he was a cannon gunner, and he knew a lot about artillery. Being on a gun in an artillery battery supporting a combat infantry unit took a special kind of man. It was a 24-hour, 365-day job. No breaks and no days off. Every time when the forward observer radioman or aerial observer called in that fire mission, the gun battery better have that round on its way within a minute or two at most. The round better be right and it better be effective.
Fire missions could go from minutes to hours, sometimes throughout the entire evening. Along with that, the battery becomes an easy enemy target when firing missions at night, with each gun glowing with a large flash when the projectiles leave the barrel. Gun crews got no slack and were always expected to perform in an excellent manner.
He married Charlotte (Duchaine) Calarco on September 2, 1950 at St. James Catholic Church in Westfield.
They had three children: Timothy; Steven and Virginia Lou (Gollnitz). They have six grandchildren: Michael Vincent; Beverly, Cathy; Robert; Steven and Holly Christine.
Mr. Calarco has a tremendous amount of love for his unit and his country. He is a proud American and proud of his service to our country. He loves his wife, parents and family very dearly. This 87-year-old veteran has worked in the family business since he was 13. At his restaurant he has his military photos displayed. Along with the photos he proudly displays the 550 THBN AAA Battalion flag. The beautiful silk flag proudly displays the history of Vincent's unit's combat history. Viewing this flag makes people feel proud to be an American.
Thank you Vincent Calarco for supporting the infantry soldiers, loading rounds to fire and destroying those enemy positions. Thank you for coming home and being a great person. For you are our local hero.