By CAITLYN THOMSON
WOODSTOCK, Ga. — World War II veteran Antonio Joseph Corrao was born on Sep. 16, 1926, in Brooklyn, New York, only years before the Great Depression. This event was only the first of many that he was raised, and thrived, through.
Corrao sat down in the comfort of his living room as he began telling his personal tale of World War II. He started by talking about how his parents emigrated from Italy to the United States and how they instilled a work ethic in him that many today are unaccustomed to.
Corrao is fluent in Italian and said he didn’t know any English until he grew older and began to learn at school and through his peers. His father owned a grocery store, which he poured his heart and soul into, until the Great Depression caused him to have to close it down.
Beginning work as a young teenager, Corrao said he, along with his other siblings, helped to make ends meet.
When speaking of his time in the military, Corrao spoke about all the trials and tribulations he faced along the way. Being a young man having just graduated high school in June 1944, Corrao said that by Dec. 7, 1944, he joined the Army. He said he received a letter in the mail telling him to sign up, so when he went to register, he chose the U.S. Army Infantry.
Corrao began his journey with the military by heading to Fort Dix, New Jersey where he turned in his civilian clothes and was issued a uniform.
Hopping aboard a train, he came to Camp Wheeler in Georgia, a camp now closed, only having been opened for the war. Corrao said his training at Camp Wheeler lasted eight weeks before he was taken to Fort Meade in Maryland where he spent the next three weeks.
During his time at Fort Meade, Corrao said they were preparing to go to Europe for the Battle of the Bulge, but they were able to get the situation under control before he had to leave.
Corrao posing with a picture of himself from the past (Photo Credit: Caitlyn Thomas)
Continuing on, he said the soldiers then turned in their winter clothes and boarded another train to head toward Camp Stoneman in California. Ten days were spent at Camp Stoneman before the men were put on an Attack Transport APA ship.
Corrao said he remembers the night they left on the ship, recalling having to go underneath the Golden Gate Bridge as he stood upon the ship he would spend the next 18 months on. Within two days, he said they picked up nine more APA ships and sailed toward the Philippines.
Corrao explained the ships’ strategies to avoid below water submarines, saying that the ten ships would line up in a straight line and attempt to zigzag across the water, making it difficult for submarines to line up and aim at their ships.
“It takes a submarine 10 to 15 minutes to line up on a ship, so we would move back and forth to avoid being targeted,” Corrao said.
Corrao posing in his military garb, late 1940’s-early 1950’s. (Submitted Photo)
During this time, Corrao recalls a point when his ship was at the back of the line and ships called Destroyer Escorts, or DE’s, dropped depth charges on the submarines below. When these charges, much like garbage cans carrying explosives Corrao explains, hit their targets, he would feel the entire ship shake.
While on the subject of bombs, the interview took a turn as Corrao began speaking about one of the most infamous days in American history.
Pearl Harbor was bombed while Corrao was still in high school, too young to join the military at the time. When asked how he felt about the ordeal, he responded by saying, “Truman saved my life.”
Corrao said he believes that if it wasn’t for Truman dropping the bombs on the Japanese, then he may not be alive today.
As the interview progressed, Corrao began to speak about his social life overseas and how he kept in contact with his friends and family back home.
Corrao lived during a time when Victory Mail, or V-mail, was popular for soldiers, so they could send letters across the world to whomever they pleased. He described the paper as being thin with a border of red, white and blue.
For Corrao, there was only one person he cared to write to, a girl in his neighborhood by the name of Brigida LoCasio. Corrao said she was the one who stole his attention and his heart from the moment they met.
When he returned home from war, Corrao said he had to win the approval of her Italian father, who was very strict and wouldn’t let her date just anyone, but Corrao said he was determined to change that. Taking on the challenge, he impressed her father by speaking Italian to him when they met, and from that moment forward, her father accepted him into the family.
After dating for a while, Corrao said he proposed to her, then they married a year later, spending the next 67 years together.
This June will be two years since Brigida passed away. The couple raised four sons together while Corrao worked many years for a telephone company. Their sons grew up to have wives and children of their own, continuing the growth of the Corrao name.
Corrao said he and his wife moved to Florida for 15 years until his two grandchildren, Lauren and Leslie Corrao, were born in Georgia. His face lights up as he remembers how they packed up their things and moved to Georgia so they could watch their grandchildren grow up. Corrao said that Brigida said she didn’t want them to be the kind of grandparents who lived far away, unconnected to their grandchildren.
“My grandfather always has wanted the best for me, and he has supported me through all my endeavors,” Lauren Corrao said. “I don’t know where I would be without this man, and him being a World War II veteran just adds to his charisma.”
Corrao’s interview gives us a look into the life of a war veteran, making one realize how important the little things in life can be. Those closest to him said they see him as an amazing hero for our country, a man who has come to earn the respect of those who know and love him.
When asked if he had any regrets throughout his 91 years of living, he responded with a simple “no,” without needing, even a second, to think about. Corrao said he knew that everything he experienced and went through has made him who he is today.