A shift is needed…

#1 Gun Squad November 1944 in Peleliu - Back row: Moose, Raven, Plebanki, & Nelson. Front row: Zito, Ronzino & Murray

My grandfather, Carmine Ronzino, died in 1981, four years before I was born.  Because of this, I never knew him, however I know a few things about him thanks to my parents and grandmother.  I knew he was a Marine during World War II, and after the war he worked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard building ships, but from what my parents tell me, Grandpa never spoke about the war unless it was silly stories of their off-duty escapades.

In, 2008, my grandmother, Maria, passed away.  I was asked by my family to say something at her funeral.  I had spent hours of thinking of what to say, but finally I wrote about her memories.  After the funeral, I put it up on this blog under the title of Good Memories.  In that post, I only mentioned Grandpa in passing.  I wrote:

“If the conversation took the direction of war, she would tell how her father fought in the war [WWI], then talk about how Grandpa fought in the war [WWII].”

This was all I really knew about my grandfather,  that he was a Marine in WWII.  My parents remember him talking about one of his Marine buddies called “The Swede”.

A few days ago, I checked my blog’s comments, and I saw a new one on the Good Memories post.  It was from a woman named Taci.  She was helping her friend, Becky, look for information about some of Becky’s father’s old war buddies because she was making a book of her father’s WWII wartime journals for their friends and family.  One of the buddies was named Carmine Ronzino.  Taci told me that all she could find about Carmine was that he was married to a “Maria”.  This took her to my blog where I briefly wrote about my grandfather being in the war.  She asked if I was related to Carmine, or knew anything about him to contact Becky.  So I did.

Becky and I have been in contact over the past few days.  She told me that her father served in the Marines with my grandfather, and they were buddies in the war.  Her father’s name is Duane “Swede” Nelson, and it’s the same man my grandfather mentioned when he spoke about his time in the war.  Becky told me she found her father’s old war journals during his time in boot camp, Peleliu, Okinawa, and China.  She emailed me a copy of the book, and it was, in turn, sent on to other members of the Ronzino family.   For the last few days I’ve been reading through Swede’s journals, and I found myself in awe of what he wrote.

Here, on my computer screen was a direct account written by a soldier during the Battle of Peleliu, known as Operation Stalemate II.  It was different than watching a movie or a documentary of WWII, this was a personal journal of events that took place during the battles as it happened.  My grandfather, who’s nickname was “Roz” in the journals, was mentioned many times.  As it turns out, he and Swede were in the heat of the fight against the Japanese together, and they watched as some of their buddies fell in battle.  Becky told me in an email that her father said:

“Ronzino was a great guy and a good amo man. They worked together on the big gun alot.”  My dad had the job of calculating where the gun would shoot and set the gun’s platform level for firing. Carmine was his amo person that loaded the gun with amo, hollered “fire” and then everyone ducked.  He told me that Carmine was really Italian and had black hair. He said Carmine talked alot about his family.

When I read about Grandpa being “really Italian and had black hair”, I laughed.  It’s funny because most of the pictures of Grandpa I’ve seen were of him later in life, when he had pure white hair.  Hearing one of his war buddies tell me what he thought of Carmine brought a smile to my face.

Reading Swede’s journals gave me a new perspective on World War II, as well as on my grandfather.  I now know why he never spoke about the war, I understand why he wanted to forget.  In the war journals, Swede names many people that he knew, other war buddies, who died in battle.  These were Carmine’s war buddies as well.

I’ve been really grateful to read Swede’s first-hand account of the war and of my grandfather.  It gives me a new perspective on the Grandpa I never knew.  And it’s all in thanks to his friend Swede, who beat him at bridge, and shot the gun Carmine loaded in the heat of battle.  They were a part of the band of Marine brothers who fought for our freedom.  Together they lived, together they fought, together they survived.

Grandpa's Marine Buddies From WWII - Top: Stewart, Swede, & Molle. Bottom: Ronzino & Zito

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Comments on: "My Grandfather in World War II" (9)

  1. Awesome! Thank you, Andrew!

  2. I love these old war pictures; you can really see the promise of life there. Always makes me wonder what they were saying to each other right before the picture was taken.

    • The pictures (which Becky was kind enough to allow me to use from the journal), are awesome. Some of them were of combat, and those were both amazing and horrifying at the same time. I don’t know what they’re doing in the first picture here on my blog, but the second one was of their first night out to eat in China after the end of the war. Which, if you know anything about Ronzinos (all of us), we like to eat…a LOT. So seeing a picture of my grandpa about to eat is kind of funny in a Ronzino sort of way.

  3. Well written, and fascinating. It makes me smile to hear all of them survived. War is so senseless I hope humanity one day matures enough to where we’ll look back at all of this war and kick ourselves in the pants for being so dumb.

    • Yes, it is sad. However, reading this journal has put WWII into a new light for me, it’s more real rather than just something I learned about in history class.

  4. i see so much of you and mike in that second picture of grandpa. love how all these pieces have come together… just amazing…

    • Do you really?! Haha, I don’t see it. I’m so glad that our family has had this amazing chance to read the journal of our grandfather’s war buddy, especially the one that he spoke about.

      Reading it makes me feel more connected to the Ronzino line somehow. In parts, it’s a tragic thing to read, but in others it’s wonderful. To see journal entries with “Ronzino” or “Roz” written there is exciting.

      Love you, Beece!

  5. […] of grandpa Ronzine’s buddies was working on making a book of his wartime journals and…. found Andrew. Now, both the daughter and the grandson know a little more about their Marines. Leave a Comment […]

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