Saturday, December 8, 2018

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Remembering Pearl Harbor in Putnam

Two of the greatest generation, Ray Matthews (left) and Jim Dipelesi

CARMEL – Young and old gathered at the Carmel Veterans Hall Friday evening to remember a day 77 years ago that changed the world forever.

Earlier Friday, Pearl Harbor Day was celebrated with prayer, reflection and tales from the ocean bottom at a ceremony at the VFW Hall in Mahopac where World War II veterans Ray Matthews and James Dipelesi were recognized.

Matthews, 91, served in the U.S. Navy from 1943 through 1946 in the South Pacific. His brother David survived Pearl Harbor aboard the USS Roosevelt but according to the Mahopac veteran “sadly died years later as a result of acute alcoholism from memories encountered during the war.”

Dipelesi, 92, enlisted in the Merchant Marines at the age of 15 after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. “I changed my Baptismal certificate at the time to age 17 in order to enlist.” Following several tours overseas, he re-enlisted in the U.S. Navy where he participated in Arctic convoys during World War II. 

Dipelesi traveled from the United Kingdom during the war to the northern ports of Arkhangelsk and Murmansk.   Seventy-eight convoys made the perilous trip between August 1941 and May 1945 with 1,400 merchant ships delivering vital supplies to the Soviet Union under the Lend-Lease program. 

The U.S. Navy, Royal Navy, and the Royal Canadian Navy escorted the ships, yet despite the military presence, 85 merchant vessels and 16 Royal Navy warships were lost, along with a Nazi battle cruiser, three German destroyers, and 30 U-boats. 

DiPelesi and Matthews received applause from the 50 people in attendance at the ceremony for their service.

On Friday evening, Master of Ceremonies James Hoffman recalled Pearl Harbor survivor and former Carmel VFW Post member Tom Blessington, who passed away a decade ago.

Hoffman noted Blessington was serving on the USS Helena when it was torpedoed on December 7, 1941. “Tom was thrown from the ship and suffered serious burns but he survived. Tom was unable to return to active duty. His ship was patched up and returned to battle only to be torpedoed a second time in 1943 in the Battle of Kula Gulf. Tom Blessington dodged two bullets in WWII.”

Karl Rohde, a Vietnam veteran, Silver Star recipient, past state VFW commander and current Putnam Director of Veterans Affairs, said “Pearl Harbor Day brings us back to our roots. Our greatest generation saved us. They pulled us from near destruction and we must man up and do the same thing for the current generation.”

The evening ceremony was highlighted by Cub and Boy Scouts from Carmel. Nine-year-old Tom Volpe read the address prepared by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1941 while his older brother Mike, played taps at the conclusion of the anniversary gathering.

Rohde had a message for the young people: “Next time you see a World War II veteran, greet him; talk to him. We are losing our greatest generation at an alarming rate and in the not-too-distant future, they will all be gone.”

 


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