Steven Slosberg: Valuable artifacts in Westerly veteran’s trove

Steven Slosberg: Valuable artifacts in Westerly veteran’s trove



Three friends from the Westerly High School Class of 1950 were drafted into the Army on the same day, in October 1952, during the Korean War. They were Louis Gaccione, Anthony Giordano and Edward Liguori.

They were among nine young men from Westerly who reported together for military induction at Fort Devens, Mass., but these three were not only fellow draftees but close buddies.

“At Fort Devens, we had chicken pie for our first Army meal,” recalled Liguori, now 85 and a lifetime resident of Westerly. “We all enjoyed it. The next day all three of us were picked for KP duty for the evening meal. We had to wash the huge pots and pans, got soaked, and we laughed doing the detail.

“A couple of days later Louis and Tony left for basic at Fort Dix. That would be the last day I would see Louie … I was home on a weekend pass from Fort Monmouth in New Jersey when the family got the sad news.”

Pfc. Louis R. Gaccione, 21, was killed in action on July 18, 1953, in Korea, just weeks before the war ended. When he last wrote to his family — a letter received on July 14 in Westerly — he said he was fighting on Heartbreak Ridge.

Ed Liguori, who lives on Ann Street, is well-known in town for his dedication to veterans’ affairs and to the fundraising for and restoration of the flags at the Westerly War Memorial at Wilcox Park. He is the only one of the three friends still alive.

 Anthony Giordano died in June 2016 at age 84. He was a corporal in Korea when he was awarded the Silver Star for bravery after assuming command of his platoon when its commanding officers were wounded and holding off the enemy for more than eight hours. He was also awarded the Bronze Star for Valor, Purple Heart (twice), and the Combat Infantry Man’s Badge. When he was awarded the Silver Star, the commanding officer said: “Indeed, this is a 9 foot man in a 5 foot body, and I could award him any decoration the government has to offer except the Good Conduct Medal.”

Giordano, as one published report put it, had a rather “free-spirited attitude as to military decorum.” Liguori said his friend never talked about what happened in Korea. Reportedly, all he had to say about his war experience after receiving the Silver Star was: “I thought that was what we were here for.”

Liguori’s good fortune was to be stationed in France with the Army Signal Corps during Korea. These stories are part of Liguori’s remarkable collection of news clippings, photographs and memorabilia. The collection contains state-side ration booklets for food and fuel oil during World War II, family naturalization papers from the early 1900s, a high school yearbook from 1932, mortgage documents, marriage licenses (one from  1908), a motor vehicle violation citation from 1946, Selective Service letters, Hurricane of ’38 news reports and, for good measure, sports pieces about the New York Yankees (he later switched allegiance to the Boston Red Sox), all from generations ago.

A goodly portion of this array of posterity was clipped and collected by Liguori as a boy and young man, but much of the collection was assembled and cherished by his beloved wife, Virginia, known as “Pinkie,” who died last February at age 79. She was a Haggerty by birth and, on her mother’s side, a Savy.

From 1983 through 1997, Ed and Pinkie operated the High Street News & Variety in downtown Westerly, a little-of-everything store where customers came for news and domestic essentials, and also to buy lottery tickets, pay gas and cable bills and, of course, socialize. Liguori earned a degree in business administration from Bryant College (on the GI Bill), and  worked for Retail Credit (now Equifax), for W.T. Grant and later Woolworth as appliances manager, and at Electric Boat. The downtown store was something of a culmination for him.

Married for nearly 60 years, he finds himself at home with this singular trove of tactile and poignant memories. He doesn’t feel that his family — three children and their spouses, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren — is especially keen on taking on the boxes of such a legacy. He is pragmatic, too, about how much interest those outside the family might have in this collection. But he shouldn’t underestimate its value, especially in a community rich in generations of immigrant families, and one that is notably cognizant of the contributions of its veterans.

Steven Slosberg lives in Stonington and was a longtime reporter and columnist for The Day in New London. He may be reached at: maayan72@aol.com


 
 
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