Search This Blog

Friday, December 10, 2010

On Patrol Article- USO

In case you have not seen this, I submitted my story to the USO magazine and was featured in their Web magazine, On Patrol. I am attaching the article. Please pass it around and post to you Facebook so everyone can read it :)

Happy holidays


November 30, 2010
A Granddaughter's Story

by Robin Garofalo

My grandfather, James Garofalo, was a top turret gunner in a B-25 Mitchell aircraft, also known as the “Desert Warrior,” while serving in North Africa during World War II. He rarely spoke of his time at war but when he passed away three years ago he left me all his memorabilia including a diary, which chronicles six months of the war -- April to September, 1943.

James Garofalo poses next to the tail of a B-25. Courtesy photo.
He was fighting with the British army to push back Erwin Rommel, the Desert Fox. He logged 193 hours and 73 missions, and throughout all this time he kept his diary, in which he describes fear, loss, pain, hope, and death. It has become a catalyst and a source of values for me in my life.

In the diary, he writes about the end of the North African War, the invasion of Sicily, being shot down twice, and flying General Patton. But perhaps none of his entries seemed more distressing then the loss of his best friend “Mack.”

Mack was lost over Sicily on July 10, 1943, leaving my grandfather 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 [aerodrome] at Trapani – God what [Anti-Aircraft Gunfire] and lights! We started our bomb run and ran right into 24 search lights – they had us – but good [thing] 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 [and] Lieutenant 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."

My grandfather was so sad. His only friend was gone and there was nothing he could do but pray and hope he returned safely. He wrote in his diary for days that he hoped Mack jumped out of the plane in time and was walking back to base with his parachute in hand. But day after day would go by with no word. My grandfather’s pain for Mack’s loss was enormous and came right through the pages, but he continued fighting the war – mission after mission.

There are pictures of him and Mack together right before that fatal mission, and after reading through his memoirs, I began to catalogue all of his pictures, albums and diary entries, but I could not stop thinking about this “Mack.” Who was he, and where is his family today?

To begin my search, I had to find out exactly what happened to Mack on July 10, 1943, if there was any hope of finding his family. I researched everything I could find about “Mack” or “Macarson” as my grandfather indicated in his picture album was Mack’s full last name.

James Garofalo (left) and Alvin "Mack" Macarson (right) pose for a photograph the day Mack was shot down. Courtesy photo.

Eventually I stumbled across a picture of an older woman receiving the Purple Heart for her son Alvin Macarson who was killed in World War II and listed as a staff sergeant on a B-25 Mitchell bomber – same as my grandfather!

I searched more and found a November 25, 2000, posting on by Alvin’s niece, Sarah Moore. She was searching for information or pictures anyone might have regarding her uncle’s death. I quickly wrote Sarah back, hoping perhaps she might still be on this site after nine years. She was. She is now 82, but she responded instantly – amazed that after all these years that she now had new information on her uncle, Alvin Macarson.

She wrote to me, “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 be presented with a new photographs and memories – new pieces of their brother and uncle they never knew existed – is just amazing.

“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 added.

Alvin "Mack" Macarson poses for a photograph in the crease of a bunker. Courtesy photo.
She 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 World War II.

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.

I feel like I ow it to Mack 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.

That is why I’m writing a book inspired by my grandfather’s World War II diary titled, “A Granddaughter’s Story.” It’s about how a grandfather’s words from 64 years ago can change the course of his granddaughter’s life. It is a way of giving back to one family and hopefully millions more.

Robin Garofalo is a keynote speaker in overcoming adversity and transformation through a memoir she is writing based upon her grandfather’s diary from WWII. She holds a B.A. in Human Relations from St. Joseph’s College and her M.B.A. from the Carey Business School at Johns Hopkins University.

No comments: