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Local World War II vets share stories for history project

February 5, 2014

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Enrico Trotta, 89, of Center Line, was drafted into the U.S. Navy in 1943 and served as a 20mm anti-aircraft gunner on the heavy cruiser USS Louisville. The Louisville was struck twice by kamikaze attack and lost 52 crewmembers during its operations in the Pacific. Trotta shared his story in a recent interview for the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress. The recorded interview will also air on TV Warren.
Hubert Leech, 87, of Warren, joined the U.S. Coast Guard in 1944 and eventually traveled 90,000 miles in 15 months to warzones around the world. He shared the story of his adventures — including his induction into the “Society of the Golden Dragon” — during a recent interview for the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress. The recorded interview will also air on TV Warren.
Ed Curylo, 90, of Warren, fought against the Japanese with the 4th Marines on Saipan, Tinian and Iwo Jima, where he witnessed the famous flag raising in February 1945 from a medical evacuation stretcher basket. He shared his incredible story of combat in the Pacific during an interview in December for the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress. The recorded interview will also air on TV Warren.

WARREN — Ed Curylo was a 21-year-old marine when he witnessed the flag raising on Iwo Jima from a stretcher basket in February 1945, as he was being evacuated with wounds sustained in bitter fighting with entrenched Japanese soldiers.

Hubert Leech was 17 when he joined the U.S. Coast Guard and left home on Thanksgiving in 1944. After training, he traveled 90,000 miles by sea in 15 months, circumnavigating the globe twice and cutting back across the Pacific a third time ferrying troops, equipment and supplies on a transport ship. 

At 19, Cpl. James Green bailed out of a B-29 during a devastating incendiary bombing raid designed to bring Japan to its knees. He landed in the Japanese countryside on May 25, 1945, eluded capture for days, and spent the last months of the war as a prisoner of the brutal Kempeitai.

These men and four others from Warren and Center Line have come forward since November to share their stories for the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress. The interviews, recorded and aired by TV Warren, are being sent to the office of U.S. Rep. Sandy Levin, D-Roseville, for inclusion in the project.

“This was an initiative from a conversation that went on between Congressman Levin and Mayor (Jim) Fouts, and if we would be interested in taking part in a project that’s going on nationwide,” Warren Communications Director Lark Samouelian said. “We were delighted.”

In November, Levin said his office had worked with various groups, also including the Southfield Veterans Commission and RSVP of Macomb, to help preserve the “powerful histories” of local vets. Levin joined Fouts to announce an effort to record the stories of veterans in the Warren area at that time.

Six World War II veterans from Warren and one from Center Line had been interviewed for the project as of Jan. 30. In addition to Curylo, Leech and Green, the growing collection also includes:

• Sam Papandrea, 87, a fireman first class in the U.S. Navy, served on a landing ship and traveled throughout the Pacific Theatre in 1944 and 1945.

• Enrico Trotta, 89, a 20mm anti-aircraft gunner aboard the USS Louisville, saw action in the waters around the Marshall Islands, Saipan, Tinian, the Philippines and Okinawa.

• Louis Vickovic, 91, a U.S. Army corporal who drove heavy trucks loaded with gasoline to fuel the American advance across Europe in 1944 and 1945.

• Sam Fittante, 89, served in Europe with the U.S. Army’s 63rd Infantry Division and fought in battles across France and Germany, where he was wounded.

Their stories will join the collection of more than 85,000 individual histories already archived in the American Folklore Center of the Library of Congress.

The project is open to all veterans of any U.S. war willing to offer a first-hand account of their experiences. The personal accounts of those who supported the war effort through work in the defense industry, the USO, flight instruction or medical volunteerism are also accepted. Veterans from Warren and Center Line willing to share their stories can schedule an interview by calling the Warren Communications Department at (586) 258-2000.

About the author

Staff Writer Brian Louwers covers the cities of Warren and Center Line. He has worked for C & G Newspapers since 1998 and is a graduate of the University of Michigan-Dearborn. In his free time, he participates in the Michigan State University Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Program and conducts interviews with military veterans for the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress.

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