When I was a kid, my father (born in 1912) told me that when he was a kid, he got to know a few veterans from our Civil War, and would see Civil War vets marching in our local parades. I grew up in the 1960’s and 1970’s, the Civil War seemed as far removed as the dinosaurs; but it got a lot closer when I heard my father explain it that way. It was a direct connection to history.
It made me think of some of the older people I knew, what they’d seen, where they’d been. I realized that people like my Mother’s brother Mike, a wounded World War I veteran, were disappearing quickly. When Uncle Mike spoke, I listened a little more carefully. It’s up to each generation to tell their children and grandchildren about their families, friends and neighbors, our history and especially to remember the people that have put themselves into harm’s way to stop something evil. Now, the World War II Generation is going; the youngest survivors would be about 90 years old now. If you know any, talk to them, or more importantly, listen to them.
I listened to my father and my uncles; my parents' brothers were all World War II vets. My Dad served in the Army, moving from one Pacific island to the next. I also listened to the guy that serviced the cigarette machine at my father’s bar. He was a paratrooper in the 101st Airborne and jumped on D-Day and into Holland; his unit was later surrounded by the Germans in Belgium, but hung on. A dapper, wealthy old bar patron was a Marine during World War II and was badly wounded at Iwo Jima, another was a Navy Hellcat pilot.
A nervous old guy, a Glen Cove resident and friend of my father’s was in a tank that hit a mine in France. Out of the five crewmen in the tank, he was the only survivor, but was badly injured. He was thought dead, and added to a pile of corpses, and he stayed there until a medic saw him twitch. He was pulled from the pile and treated, but the poor guy never really stopped twitching. They’re probably all gone now, but we should never forget them.
One Glen Cove vet that really stands out in my mind is Anthony Marangiello. “Tony” Marangiello joined the Army in 1940 and was trained at the Army’s Signal School at Ft. Monmouth, New Jersey. After training, he was sent to the Philippine Islands for his first duty assignment. The timing and the assignment couldn’t have been much worse.
First there was the attack on Pearl Harbor, and almost immediately, the Japanese started their Pacific expansion. The Japanese war machine was gobbling up islands and vast expanses of the Pacific faster than new lines could be drawn on maps. Marangiello and his American and Filipino comrades were on the Philippine island of Luzon, right in the path of the Japanese army. The enemy soon had overwhelming force on Luzon; they were smashing through the defenses and trapped 78,000 American and Filipino soldiers on the Bataan Peninsula. Gen. Douglas MacArthur commanded the Philippine outpost, until the day came when Radio Operator Anthony Marangiello received the message; General MacArthur and his family were to be evacuated. The dirty work would be left to Gen. Wainwright and his men. In Washington, it was decided that the war in Europe was to be our priority. MacArthur was to be spared, but Anthony Marangiello from Glen Cove and 78,000 others would be abandoned. There would be no cavalry to the rescue, there would be no evacuation, there would be no re-supply; our boys on Bataan were just written off.
They held out as long as they could on that peninsula, but as their food, water, ammunition and medicine ran out, so did their options. After about three months of siege, in April 1943, 78,000 half-starved American and Filipino soldiers surrendered to the Japanese. It was the largest surrender of US troops in our history.
The Japanese atrocities started almost immediately. The American and Filipino prisoners were already malnourished, many had dysentery and malaria, and now the Japanese decided to march them more than 60 miles from Bataan to Camp O’Donnell, where they’d be kept as prisoners. Sixty miles in three days for hungry, sick men in South Pacific heat. They were given no food during the three-day march and almost no water (they were only allowed to drink from the water buffalo wallows, and that was rare). To put that into perspective, 60 miles is from the center of Glen Cove south on Glen Cove Road to the Long Island Expressway, then east all the way past Riverhead to Hampton Bays. These were sick, starving men in the hot sun, with no food and almost no water. The men were harassed the entire way; if they fell out, they were bayoneted; kindhearted Filipino civilians bringing food and water to the prisoners were brutally beaten. It’s impossible to say how many men died during the march because no records were kept. We really don’t know how many died during the battle, or how many died after the march, but estimates range from 10,000 to 20,000 men perished along the road during the “Bataan Death March”.
When Tony and his fellow prisoners got to Camp O’Donnell, their troubles were far from over. The abuse, starvation and harassment were just getting started. They had almost four more years of it to endure. The prisoners were used as slave labor for the Japanese military, and their value as laborers might have been the only thing that kept some of them alive. Tony’s friends and family got no word from him for a year and a half; most thought they’d never see him again. Finally, they got word from the Department of the Army that Tony was a POW.
As the war progressed and the American military began taking islands back, the Japanese started to move prisoners from the Philippines to Japan. Tony was packed into the “Hell Ship” named “Noto Maru” with about a thousand other prisoners and headed for Japan. The prisoners were shoved into the ship’s hold like sardines, they had no place to sit or lie down; they stood or squatted there in their own waste for the entire journey. It was a very dangerous trip, because by this time our Air Force and Navy had control of the skies, and any Japanese ship was a target. Thousands of American prisoners went down on Japan-bound enemy cargo ships bombed by our own airplanes, or torpedoed by our own submarines.
When Marangiello got to Japan, it got worse for him. The Filipino civilians were always friendly; the Japanese civilians were hostile to the prisoners. The POWs would try to look to the skies, because by this time American B-29 bombers were getting to be a common sight, and the prisoner’s only clue that the Japan was losing the war. If a prisoner was caught looking up for those airplanes, he was severely beaten. While in Japan, Tony worked as a slave in a Japanese copper mine, so he didn’t have much of a chance to see the sky.
In August of 1945, a Japanese guard announced that there would be no work that day, and that the Americans and Japanese were now friends. Some of the more cruel guards slithered off; the prisoners didn’t know exactly what was happening, but the two atomic bombs had been dropped and Japan had surrendered. U.S. military aircraft began flying over the camps, parachute dropping supplies, food, medicine and newspapers. The men had been starved; most had lost about half their body weight while in captivity, so the air dropped food was more than appreciated. The prisoners were also cut off from any news for the duration of the war, so newspapers were dropped and passed around.
By the end of the war, 33% of American prisoners, more than one in three held by the Japanese, died in their camps. To put that into perspective, 0.15% of enemy prisoners died in American POW camps. That’s about one in 650.
Marangiello spent months in a hospital getting healthy again, then came back home to Glen Cove and raised a family. He had a lot to be proud of, he survived one of the most brutal marches in recent history, survived years in more terrible conditions than any of us can imagine and survived a voyage on an infamous “hell ship”. He was invited to West Point to speak to the Corps of Cadets and was asked by the Department of the Army to officially record his experiences as Gen. Wainwright’s radio operator on Bataan. Marangiello also raised a family and coached Little League, which is actually how he wanted to be remembered. After all he’d been through, Tony only wanted to be remembered as a dad and as a coach.
Tony and most of his generation are gone now, so it’s up to us to remember.
I’d like to thank Rose Marie, Tony’s daughter for helping me get some of this information, and I’d like to thank Angelo Capobianco, for keeping the history alive.