As a patriotic 19 year old, William Aronowicz enlisted in the Marine Air Corps. On December 19, 1941, only 12 days after the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, he opted to choose service and not be randomly drafted as was the fate of many of his friends. Born in Jamaica, Queens, to a hard-working middle-class family with a dedicated work ethic, he instinctively knew he wanted to make a contribution.
During boot camp at Paris Island, Aronowicz’s was assigned to an observation squadron that was the eyes of the commanders making the decisions as troops invade the Japanese-held Marshall Islands.
The squadron would follow the invasion of the island and establish the necessary support to keep the observation planes in the air to prepare for the next island invasion. On February 7, 1944, Staff Sergeant Aronowicz was transported to Majuro Atoll after it fell to American troops.
He arrives on the atoll of Kwajalein as the Japanese government surrenders and WWII ends. Many of his fellow marines want to reenlist, including Aronowicz, but Uncle Sam is downsizing.
Back in Queens, he returns to woodworking for much of his professional life. At a Mew Year's Eve dance a dear but distant acquaintance, Mary Dudek, sweeps him off his dancing feet and has him marching down the wedding aisle.
They marry on October 19, 1946, and are together for 48 years. They were constant partners when they danced at Polish National Hall, and while Aronowicz has been a widower for many years, he continues to dance and won a contest recently at The Kowalinski Post doing The Lindy to “In The Mood” by Glenn Miller.
“I have more friends here in good old Maspeth than anywhere I ever live,” says Aronowicz
James Desio got his first exposure to Maspeth at the age of six when his parents enrolled him in St. Stanislaus grammar school. Desio was born on Graham Avenue in Greenpoint, but his parents eventually bought a house on Flushing Avenue for them and their nine children.
Desio has many pleasant memories of his eight years at St. Stan’s and remembers most of his teaching nuns at school and the priests for whom he served as an altar boy.
He vividly recalls one incident where the principal gave him the task of recalling all of the kids on lunch break in the school yard to return back to the classroom. He completely misunderstood the good sister and released the student body and sent them home for the day.
Somehow, Desio survives and graduates in 1941. A two-year stint at Queens Vocational High School is the extent of his formal education before he signs on as helper in his father’s trucking company.
Soon after, Desio is drafted into the United States Army and basic training begins at Ft. Gordon in Georgia and then it’s on to Naples, Italy, aboard The Wakefield.
Desio is in the 88th Infantry attached to the 337th Field Artillery as his unit moves rapidly toward a highly contentious objective: Monte Cassino. The cathedral is located high on a hill, is heavily fortified and serves as an enemy observation post. A decision is made to destroy the edifice with bombs and artillery.
The 88th Infantry is dug in close to the objective and receives a good deal of friendly artillery and bombs. Desio loses 100 percent of the hearing in his left ear and his unit takes many casualties in the bombardment. The next day his regiment takes the high ground consisting of the leveled abbey and captures many Germans.
The 88th Infantry and other units succeed in capturing the abbey on May 17, 1944, thus ending one of the longest and bloodiest engagements of the Italian Campaign.
Desio was near the town of Brenner on May 8, 1945, when Germany formally surrenders. He remembers being at lunch on the “chow” line when word spreads that the war is over. The men in the outfit were more interested in lunch then in celebrating.
It was at this time he received notice that he was going stateside because of the Sullivan Provision. Congress passed a law to send siblings out of harm’s way if a member of his family was killed in action. His brother John Desio, his brother was killed during a bombardment on his tank in France earlier that year.
The Desio family welcomes James home with open arms. He quickly returns to work at Corrugated Box Co. in Maspeth and remains for 42 years. At his cousins wedding, he is introduced to the love of his life, Anita.
They soon marry at her parish, St. Francis DePaola in Brooklyn. Life in Maspeth appeals to the young couple and they have two children, Roseann and Joseph, and are blessed with four grandchildren. Unfortunately, Anita passed away after she and James had 63 wonderful years together.
Desio is involved with Don Bosco Knights of Columbus, Frank Kowalinski Post, Maspeth 5 Towns Club and Village Seniors
“Maspeth is a beautiful place,” says Desio. “I’m not leaving, it only got better.”
The Maspeth Memorial Day Parade begins at 1 p.m. at Grand and 57th avenues. A ceremony follows at Maspeth Memorial Square, 69th Street & Grand Avenue.