Search This Blog

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Story of Thanks this Thanksgiving Day

Happy Thanksgiving- A Granddaughter’s Story- Robin Garofalo

That is my grandfather, James Garofalo, on the left with his best friend, “Mac” in North African 1943 fighting WWII. My grandfather was a top turret gunner for the B-25 Desert Warrior serving with the British Army in N. Africa. My grandfather rarely spoke of his time at war and when he passed 3 years ago left me all his memorabilia to include a diary which documents six months of the war from April 1943 to Sept 1943. He speaks of the end of the N. African War, the invasion of Sicily, being shot down twice, losing his best friend Mac over Sicily, and flying General Patton. He logged 193 hours and 73 missions receiving the Purple Heart and the Distinguished Flying Cross.

My grandfather lost Mac over Sicily July 10, 1943 and was left to battle alone without his comrade in the hot Sicilian sun. The diary entry for July 10, 1943 reads:
"This is one day I’ll never be able to forget. It beats ‘em all- we went out to bomb the air drome at Trapani- god what A/A & lights. We started our bomb run and ran right into 24 search light- they had us-but good he put the ship over on its nose and down we went. We hit over 400mph. The guns went off. Everything went flying. Talk about being scared- man alive- what an experience- took 10 years off my life. We got out at last full of holes but okay. Lucky guys. We lost Mack though. Lt. Fredd never came back. Guess they got him. Poor Mack. I gave him my cigarette ration just before we took off. Sure does get you."

I have been gathering my grandfather’s pictures, albums and diary to put into a memoir for the last two years but my mind cannot stop thinking about “Mac” and who he was or where his family is today. I started my search to find out what happened to Mac on July 10, 1943 and any hope of finding his family. I researched everything I could find about Mac or Macarson as my grandfather indicates in his picture album that was missing in action July 10, 1943.

I find a picture of an older woman receiving the Purple Heart for her son Alvin Macarson who was killed in WWII and listed as a staff sergeant on the B-25 Mitchell bomber- same as my grandfather! I search more to find a November 25, 2000 posting on by Alvin’s niece, Sarah Moore, about her uncle and any information or pictures anyone might have regarding her uncle’s death. I quickly write Sarah back hoping that perhaps she might still be on this site after nine years. I hear back instantly and Sarah is now 82 and amazed that after all these years information on her uncle, Alvin Macarson, is found. She writes “It is unbelievable that we can learn something new about Alvin after all these years. His younger brother is now 89 and recently went to live at a care facility. I was a high school student at the time he was reported MIA. I am 82, have mobility problems, but still alert.”

After all these years to find out and see a piece of their brother and uncle they never knew existed and for that matter I never knew existed is amazing. Sarah writes “I have often heard of stories of people finding people and secretly hoped that I would be that lucky some day. Now I can say that I have experienced the thrill of finding someone important! Your grandfather is a jewel for keeping all of these treasures. And you are the lucky one to be the recipient of his careful keepsakes. I hope you do write a book about his treasures!”

Sarah called me the next day to talk more about her uncle Alvin and how my grandfather held memories her family never knew existed. She told me how Alvin was a fun-loving, sensitive uncle who fought for freedom in both the Navy and Army during WWII. As tears came to my eyes, Sarah asked me "now tell me about your grandfather and his life." I was numb and quickly felt selfish. My grandfather was one of the lucky ones and he was able to create a life for his family and me. I feel like I owed it to Mac and Sarah to do more everyday, say thank you to people, smile more, tell my friends and family I love them and above all give back to others. This book is a way of giving back to one family and hopefully millions more.

I wish you and your family a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Robin Garofalo

Facebook fan page: My Grandfather’s Love

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

My Grandfather's Diary: An Article for The Distinguished Flying Cross Society

Below is an article I was asked to write for The Distinguished Flying Cross Society Newsletter. I hope you enjoy and please pass it around!!!

I asked my grandfather as he lay in his white hospice bed, “Grandpa, what are you most proud of in your life.” He turned his head softly to look at me with his piercing blue eyes and said “I am most proud of the Distinguished Flying Cross medal I was awarded in WWII.” I was stunned, baffled and curious all at the same time. I leaned down with a complete blank look on my face and took my grandfather’s hand to let him know I was there with him. I wanted to learn more about this award. As I look again into the blue eyes of my grandfather, I see a different man laying in hospice waiting to die. I see a young solider fighting Rommel in the N. African War documenting his war battles in a black, Italian diary. I wanted to learn more and perhaps now since death is near my grandfather might talk about his WWII time. I squeezed his hand one more time, leaned down and said “Grandpa, tell me more about this medal, The Distinguished Flying Cross.” His breathing was shallow and you could see that every ounce of energy was taken from him through his two year battle with kidney disease. He looked at me and said “I have a diary with pictures, read them and learn about my time but only when I have passed, for those are the beginning days of my life that I will remember always and make me proud to be an American.”

My grandfather passed two weeks later. He was a simple, humble man who sold Fuller Brush door to door to provide for his family with no mentions of the battles he witness in the desert of N. Africa. I need to find my grandfather’s diary buried in storage boxes among his other belongings.

I grabbed the box nearest me and began to open it. I heard what sounded like metal meeting with glass. Reaching in with both hands, I carefully pulled out a glass shadow box framed with bronze around the edges. Inside were the medals my grandfather was awarded in World War II. Neatly arranged to stay in their places, there were seven in total, but the Purple Heart was the only one I recognized. I placed my fingers on the glass barrier trying to touch them and in some way touch my grandfather. How did he earn these heroic medals during his time in the war? Did he get shot down while on a mission? How bad was his injury to have received the Purple Heart? I felt tears running down my cheek. Why didn’t I ask him while he was living? My grandfather’s time in the war went unnoticed by his family throughout much of his life. He was a war hero to the world but to our family he was Grandpa. He never even spoke of his time in the US Army fighting in Northern Africa until the last months of his life. That’s when I learned that my grandfather was a top turret gunner on the B-25, Desert Warrior that flew bombing missions over Northern Africa while fighting against the enemy troops. He flew a total of 199 hours logging 73 missions over Tripoli, Tunis and Sicily.

The final box revealed the smell of musty old papers. A dusty grit covered most of the contents inside the box, but there was a white plastic bag that seemed to be completely undisturbed. I blew off the dust and unzipped the plastic bag that had preserved it all these years. There is was—the little black diary. The front cover was a simple impression of a camel looking up to what resembled a palm tree with words on either side of it. Onestinghel Tripoli. The title of the front of the diary was in English: Agenda 1943-XXI. The months were written in Italian. I found it!

I flipped through the pages randomly eager to read each and every page. I turned to July 10, 1943:

"This is one day I’ll never be able to forget. It beats ‘em all- we went out to bomb the air drome at Trapani- god what A/A & lights. We started our bomb run and ran right into 24 search light- they had us-but good he put the ship over on its nose and down we went. We hit over 400mph. The guns went off. Everything went flying. Talk about being scared- man alive- what an experience- took 10 years off my life. We got out at last full of holes but okay. Lucky guys. We lost Mack though. Lt. Fredd never came back. Guess they got him. Poor Mack. I gave him my cigarette ration just before we took off. Sure does get you."

I closed the diary and placed it back in the plastic bag. I hung my head low and cried. How could I not know what my grandfather did in WWII? How could his whole life go unnoticed without ever mentioning this time in his life?

My grandfather, James Garofalo, was award The Distinguished Flying Cross on August 28, 1943 for “distinguished and meritorious achievement while participating in serial flight against the enemy in the Middle East Theater. As gunner on medium bombardment aircraft, Sergeant Garofalo has repeatedly distinguished himself by his gunnery skill, courage under fire, and unflinching devotion to duty. His alertness as an observer has been invaluable, both in spotting aircraft during missions and in passing the information to the pilot, and in making reports to the Intelligence Officer after completion of operations. His record stands as a goal for the entire combat personnel of his organization.”

Grandpa, I am proud to be your granddaughter.

For more information on the memoir, A Granddaughter’s Story, please email Follow us on facebook at: My Grandfather’s Love or

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Granddaughter's Story

I have been working on the book and trying to find the right voice as well as title to show the beauty of the relationship between a granddaughter and a grandfather. I decided to open the diary again and re-read a passage in hopes that my writers block might end. This time I focus on the contents of the diary- what exactly was my grandfather saying? who was he with? what battle is he referring to? and how is he feeling? I flip to July 10, 1943 where my grandfather writes about his plane being shot down by enemy fire and crashing. I go to Wikipedia and google the N. African war in 1943 and this is the day of the Allied invasion of Sicily. As I read through the historical account of the invasion on Wikipedia it makes the war seem so black and white. I flip back to my grandfather's diary to see the real fear of war, fear of dying and being hit. I also read about the fear of loss- my grandfather lost his best friend that day over Sicily July 10, 1943 when their airplane was shot down. I could feel his pain and sorrow through the letters and words on the page. He was heartbroken.

I think about the loss we feel today when a love one, friend or parent passes. Last summer I felt an unbearable loss. My first boyfriend and one of my closest friends, Benny, past away on a motorcycle accident. I was numb and really did not believe it could be true. How could this happen? Why did this happen? And again I turn to the diary for strength. Strength in my grandfathers words that helped him get through the war without his best friend. He was alone and left to battle the hot Sicilian sun without his comrade. I feel the same way.

Ever since Benny's death, I have been attending church every Sunday to pray to a higher power and God. I know that Benny and Grandpa are together watching over me and I am blessed to love them both and have them in my life.

The book, A Granddaughter's Story, will be published in the spring of 2010

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Summer Times

This summer has been a whirlwind of travel, work, and above all establishing deeper connections to my friends and making some new ones a bit different than me. I travel to Europe last month with a friend from MBA school who is Hungarian but a Romanian citizen and currently resides in Romania. We enjoyed the days on the beach with our new Dutch friends and nights drinking Sangria by the sea. It was a different experience for me because for 4 days I was the only American, and I loved it. I loved the cultural differences, the language barrier and above all the warmth of meeting new people who embrace you the second they meet you.

I started to think about my Grandfather and his diary on the beach during the day. I thought about the story he would tell me on how he got to the desert fighting Rommel. He was stationed in N. Carolina (I believe) and the Captain of his command asked for volunteers to go fight with the British Army in Egypt. My grandfather told me he was the first to raise his hand not because it offered more money but because it would be an experience of a lifetime. An adventure that he never thought in a million years he would be able to achieve. I have pictures of the Egyptian Pyramids that he took from his fighter plane along with stories he wrote regarding making friends with the locals. It made me think that perhaps I am walking in his shoes by meeting new people, trying different things and above all loving others for the beauty they bring because of our difference.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Today was Easter Sunday.....

And I made the 9 o'clock mass in Triploi. April 25, 1943, is the first entry into the diary my grandfather kept during his time at war in N. Africa. He still made it to mass, walked around the town and decided to buy a little black book for 7 shilings to write down his accounts of the war. I don't think my grandfather would know on that day in 1943 that almost 65 years later I would have it out this Easter Sunday morning with tears down my face thinking about how impact he was in my life and still is. I turn to the first page in this dusty diary and it reads:

"Today was Easter Sunday and I made the 9 o'clock mass in Tripoli. Beautiful church. I decided to stay in town and get a good look at everything. Bought this little black book for 7 shilings. Also tasted some good old Italian cakes. Stood in line well over an hour to see a show which proved to be another of those day limie jobs. Couldn't understand half of what they were saying but laughed at the jokes anyway. Very hungry and arrived back in camp just in time to miss chow. LT. T.W.V. got a package so I eat candy. I almost forgot the "swell" free for all between the blacks and limies. Boy! what a show. I am very tired from walking all day. No mail today. "

65 years later and I awake this Easter morning to a cup of coffee and making the 12:30pm mass. I think I will walk around Central Park today and find peace in my grandfathers words so may years ago. For me, a Urban NYC women, the diary has been the look back a generation I needed in order to move forward in my life. It is a source of courage, faith and healing I get every time I open the page. I share with you the diary's first entry and it begins a 6 month journey into war and personal times. It symbolizes a bond between a grandfather and granddaughter 65 years later that can not be broken.

I wish you all a Happy Easter!

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Lessons of Hope

As I think about life and especially life after Grandpa’s death, I feel hopeful. I have changed from the person I once was who did not believe that life was grand or even had an ounce of hope. I took my grandfather for granted much of my life and it was only at the end did I realize the real meaning of life. His words from a 1943 war diary represent to me a symbol of hope and courage. He writes about the American dream in his future with patience and hope that his life will be fulfilled.

On his last dying days, my grandfather turned to me and said “you are missing out on the real meaning of life. Life is about loving unconditionally those around you, without rules or limits, and making sure you tell them you love them because sometimes people don’t always know. Real love is not about having a husband and children. It is about loving yourself first and building on the power of all the relationships you cultivate. It’s about being hopeful, patient, humble and above all forgiving."

These words ring true to me every day that I try and focus on being a better friend, co-worker, daughter, and sister. I might not have the traditional family or the love of a spouse but I have learned to love myself first and be hopeful by the words on a dusty, page from a war hero in 1943. My grandfather’s voice lingers in my head with an overwhelming feeling of hope that breaths though me on this day and every day. For that, I say thank you and I am so proud of you Grandpa!

For more information on my book, The Only Father I’ve Ever Known: How My Grandfather's Love Taught Me Life, a memoir about the bond between a granddaughter and a grandfather, email me at