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Grandpa's Selective Memories of World War II

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Grandpa's Selective Memories of World War II: From Artilleryuman to Medical Corps (North Africa and Italy)
  • by Anthony Catalino
    • A Merriam Press World War II Memoir
    • Fourth Edition 2021
    • 100 6×9-inch pages
    • 36 photos

Memoir by an Army artilleryman from training in the U.S. to service in Africa where after an accident is transferred to the Medical Corps completing his wartime service in Italy.

From the Author's Prologue:

"Grandpa,” asked my 11-year-old granddaughter one day, “were you ever in the war?”

I didn’t know exactly which war she had reference to, but my brief response failed to satisfy either one of us. So as the weeks went by I reviewed in my mind some of the TV shows and movies I had seen, and a host of stories I had read about the subject. With some exceptions most seemed to highlight gory scenes of combat and their catastrophic consequences. But there are other aspects of war I thought were more benign — and in some respects — more interesting. This was the message I wanted to convey to my granddaughter, and to my other grandchildren. Also since in all of my four and a half years of army service, I had never participated in direct fighting, I felt I was unqualified to expound on that specific element of the war. Rather, I am more comfortable discussing less dramatic events that confronted me during that momentous journey.

In any case despite any personal reservations I might have, I think it is important that World War II veterans pass on to the coming generations (whether verbally or in writing) the varied experiences they encountered during that incomparable era. I believe also, they should elaborate, from time to time, upon the potential dangers that another global conflict might bring to us all. For as the philosopher, George Santayana, once said: “Those who forget the past, are condemned to repeat it.” (Or words to that effect.)

Thus, these are selected recollections that a deteriorating memory has permitted me to recall. It must be said, as well, that despite the many years that have transpired since World War II ended, my deep respect and admiration for those with whom I was privileged to serve has never for a single moment wavered or diminished. For the most part, my compatriots reflected a composite of ordinary U.S. citizens who carried out (in his or her own way) the many tasks their country asked them to perform. In some cases, this resulted in the ultimate sacrifice — the loss of their life. How can I ever forget them?

  • Prologue
  • Chapter 1: “Be All That You Can Be!”
  • Chapter 2: Camp Blanding, Florida
  • Chapter 3: Over There — Fun and Wargames (Oran, Africa)
  • Chapter 4: Pisa, Italy
  • Chapter 5: Homeward Bound
  • Chapter 6: Postscript
  • About the Author

Review by Mark S. Jordan, Mount Vernon News, Wednesday, March 11, 2009: "War memoir focused on people, not fighting"One day Anthony Catalino's 11-year-old granddaughter asked him if he had ever been in the war. After briefly confirming to her that he indeed had, he realized that a brief answer didn't really say much of anything. He decided that there were stories about his four-and-a-half years in World War II that needed to be told. Not combat stories, for he never saw direct combat, but instead, all of the oblique, behind-the-scenes events which still made the war a momentous, life-changing journey. The Mount Vernon resident has collected his thoughts and some photos in the book, Grandpa's Selective Memories of World War II: An Artilleryman in Italy," published by Merriam Press. Catalino, a retired social service worker and administrator, has a sure touch for shaping his anecdotes to reveal the important truths contained in them. For instance, when he describes the training of his artillery battery, he tells stories, with no rough language censored, about how confrontational things could get in a group of soldiers from the deep south, New York City, and upstate New York, such as Rochester, from where Catalino himself came. "It was the Civil War again, without the shooting, or loss of life," Catalino writes, efficiently capturing the tension the young soldiers felt. But at the same time, Catalino leavens his shrewd psychological insights with humor, such as in the amusing farce of how he got arrested on the eve of his departure for the Army, or in his blunders as a new recruit, such as gawking at the general's Jeep without knowing he was supposed to salute. Catalino's military career took an abrupt turn out of the artillery sphere, though, with an impromptu football game. The game was played the second day of bivouac in the Algerian port of Oran in northern Africa. A sharp turn made to evade a tackle led to his foot sliding across the loose stones, twisting his right knee and tearing the ligaments. This led to him being placed on limited service for the rest of the war. Ending up a medical technician with time on his hands, Catalino made the most of his time when he was stationed in first Casablanca and later Italy, exploring the cities and getting to know locals. Italy, his family's home land, found Catalino going to the opera, visiting historical buildings and seeing famous works of art. He confesses he didn't know much about any of those things at the time, but it gave him much food for thought and conversation in the coming years. It also provided relief from the endless streams of wounded, mangled soldiers coming into the provisional hospital in Florence, where Catalino was stationed for a long stretch before moving farther west and north as the war went into its closing phases. After the war, Catalino received a master's degree from the Buffalo School of Social Work. Later, he pursued postmasters study at the University of California, Berkeley. He has worked over the years as a psychiatric social worker, a juvenile patrol agent, director of social services, director of cottage life, superintendent of three separate juvenile institutions in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida. In Pennsylvania, he became Bureau Chief of Children's Institutions. As superintendent of two segregated girls training schools in Florida, Catalino succeeded in making them both racially integrated and subsequently co-educational as well. For a time, Catalino also served as an adjunct professor for Rollins College in the state of Florida and has written a number of articles that have appeared in several trade journals. He now lives in Mount Vernon.

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