ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – At the New York State Capitol, six WWII veterans who survived the battle of Iwo Jima were honored on the Senate floor.
All six veterans are members of the U.S. Marine Corps and are all Purple Heart recipients, some of them multiple times.
Here are their bios:
Francis “Dick” Varone, Troy, NY – Marchione
Dick Varone served with Pride and Honor in the United States Marine Corps in the battle of Iwo Jima during World War II Mr. Francis “Dick” Varone served with the 12th 155mm Gun Battalion, Fleet Marine Force Pacific and was attached to the 5th Marine Division on Iwo Jima. He was a field radio Operator and served as a Forward Observer on Iwo Jima. Mr. Varone landed on Green Beach One at the foot of Mt. Suribachi. Dick fought on the Island the entire 36 days and saw both flag raisings. He was wounded by bomb shrapnel during an Airfield Bombardment but patched himself up, as “there were a lot of guys worse off than me” and continued to fight. He never put in for the Purple Heart. Mr. Varone has received the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Ribbon one star and the New York State Medal for Merit. After the war, Mr. Varone married had three children and worked at General Electric for 35 years before retiring. He was discharged with the rank of Corporal and now lives in Troy and meets with his Iwo Jima comrades frequently for Lunch and other functions.
Carlo Valenti, Troy, NY – Marchione
Company B, 28th Marine Regiment, 5th Marine Division. Carlo was an accomplished boxer in the Marine Corps, earning the nickname “Duke”. He landed on Iwo Jima on February 19, 1945, D-Day, at 11 a.m. Advancing up the terraces from the beach, Carlo passed the body of Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, John Basilone, who had rejoined his Marine brothers by choice, after having been sent home to promote war bonds. Carlo was also an acquaintance of Ira Hayes. In the final days of the Iwo Jima campaign, Carlo was severely wounded by Japanese machine gun fire, which resulted in a month’s long period of convalescence and physical therapy. Six decades later, Carlo’s wounds required surgery, which, unfortunately, led to neurological complications.
George Ross, Clifton Park, NY – Tedisco
K Company, 9th Regiment, 3rd Marine Division. George enlisted in the Marine Corps on his 17th birthday, September 21, 1943, following in the footsteps of his brother Edward Ross, Jr, who enlisted right after Pearl Harbor and served with the 1st Marine Division. Even George’s father served in WWII. Edward Ross, Sr, then 42 years old, was drafted and spent a year as a welder for the Army Air Corps. George was on Guam at 17 years old, and Iwo Jima at 18. His 3rd Division, which was being held in reserve, was called upon on February 23rd, once it was determined how fierce the Japanese opposition was on the island. It was on that day, while taking cover in a bomb crater with a fellow Marine, that George witnessed the second flag raising on top of Mt Suribachi. George was equipped with a Browning Automatic Rifle and was tasked with laying down cover fire for American flamethrower operators as they advanced on Japanese pillboxes. After the war, George returned to Albany and took a job as a policeman with the 1st Precinct in the South End. After a couple years, he took a job with Central Dairy in Albany. In April of this year, George, along with three other area Iwo survivors, met with one of those 3rd Marine Division flamethrower operators that George protected 72 years ago… Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Hershel “Woody” Williams.
Dr. Tom Smith and Sal Famularo – Glenville, NY – Tedisco
Dr. Tom Smith and Sal Famularo served in the United States Marine Corps with honor and valor during World War II in the battle of Iwo Jima. Dr. Tom Smith saw combat in Saipan, Tinian, Marshall Islands and Iwo Jima with the 4th Marine Division from 1943-1945. He was wounded four times and received a Purple Heart. Dr. Smith fought in the Battle of Iwo Jima for 26 days, which is stunning considering the crushing number of Marine fatalities during that battle. He was a part of a short-lived, specially trained elite Marine unit called the Raiders, which operated behind enemy lines. Dr. Smith was present on Iwo Jima for both flag raisings of the American Flag on the island; the photograph of that event became an iconic image from World War II. Dr. Smith saw some of the most grueling combat of the War in the Pacific, as his company started with 229 men and ended up with 29 men by the time they came home. After the War, Dr. Smith married and went to college, eventually earning his doctoral degree and serving 42 years as an educator.
Mr. Famularo also served in the 4th Marine Division from 1943 to 1946 and fought in Iwo Jima, Saipan and Tinian. While fighting on Iwo Jima, Mr. Famularo, a rifleman, was wounded by a machine gun’s spray after fighting to hold an airstrip where an American B-29 bomber made an emergency landing. He nearly lost his life, if not for the heroic actions of a tank commander who told him to lie down on the ground so the tank could drive over the Marine and pull him through a hatch at the bottom of the tank. He received a Purple Heart for the bravery he displayed that day. After the war, Mr. Famularo married had two sons and worked as a bartender at several restaurants and taverns in Schenectady County. Both Dr. Tom Smith and Sal Famularo were discharged with the rank of Corporal and both men live in the town of Glenville, where they are friends to this very day.
Thomas Lemme, Albany, NY – Breslin
Company G, 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division. Tom was part of a demolition and explosives team. One of Tom’s operations required him to advance 30 yards ahead and destroy a cave/tunnel, from which Japanese forces had been firing on them. At the entrance to the cave lay a mortally wounded Marine Sergeant, Henry Brockel. Tom approached the cave opening, ignited the fuse on his satchel charge and flung it into the cave… nothing happened. Assuming a Japanese soldier had disabled the device, Tom then lobbed a grenade, followed by another satchel charge. Both went off, destroying this enemy position. A short time later, on March 4th, Tom and three others were wounded when a Japanese hand grenade landed in their foxhole. Tom was sprayed with shrapnel, which is still in his chest. One Marine, Peter Mangini, died from his wounds. Evacuated to a hospital ship, Tom again encountered the dying Sgt Brockel. Years later, Tom met with the Mangini family, offering some comfort with his memories of their son and brother. In more recent months, Tom has made contact with the family of Sgt Brockel, including a surviving brother. Tom was able to share things they had never known. While in the hospital recovering from his wounds, Tom met the recently engaged, 17-year-old Shirley Temple, which led to Tom’s nickname, “Hollywood Tom.”