Oyler: Santo Magliocca epitomizes all that is brave and noble about service
Although the primary purpose of the military exhibit at the Bridgeville Area History Center is to pay honor to the men and women who have served our country, it is also hoped that it will serve as a motivation for veterans to share their experiences with us.
In the process of preparing the exhibit, my brother, Joe, became acquainted with Santo Magliocca and gained enough information from him to produce a poster recognizing his service in World War II.
Magliocca grew up in Carnegie and later moved to Bridgeville. At one point, he was elected president of borough council.
Seventy years ago, Magliocca was a ball turret gunner on a Consolidated B-24 “Liberator,” part of the 451st Bomber Squadron, based in Castellucio, Italy. The poster includes a photograph of him in front of a plane bearing the name “Sloppy but Safe.” His service, which included 21 combat missions, earned him the Air Medal with two clusters and the European Service Medal with four battle stars. He is credited with shooting down one German aircraft.
On one mission, one of Magliocca's plane's four engines was shot out, forcing them to lag behind the formation, an easy target for German interceptors. Fortunately a wing of “Red Tails” showed up and escorted them safely back to their base.
The Red Tails were Tuskegee Airmen, a unit of African Americans flying P-51 Mustangs, whose mission was to provide support for the heavy bombers. Their trademark was the brightly painted red tail on their aircraft. Magliocca has been a big supporter of the Tuskegee Airmen ever since.
He also related another harrowing experience, when an armed bomb got stuck in the bomb bay, making it impossible for their plane to land. Armed with a screw driver, Magliocca and the pilot were able to dislodge the bomb and watch it explode on the seashore.
Magliocca is justly proud of his service in World War II and that of his brothers, Frank, in Europe, and John, in the Pacific Theater. These members of “the Greatest Generation” deserve our heartfelt gratitude.
Magliocca's poster joined one previously prepared honoring Edmund Danziger, who flew 15 combat missions on a B-24 as a radioman and gunner in the 44th Bomber Group, Eighth Air Force. His group, nicknamed “The Flying Eightballs,” was based at Shipdham, Norfolk, England. The 44th flew 344 missions and lost 153 aircraft, the most of any B-24 unit.
The poster shows Tech Sgt. Danziger's medals – the European African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with four battle stars, the American Campaign Medal, the WW2 Victory Medal, and the Good Conduct Medal. He was 19 years old at the time; in the photograph of him with his crew, his youth is obvious. Danziger's boyhood friend, Robert Bogdewiecz, a radioman and gunner on a B-25 bomber, lost his life when the aircraft crashed on a training mission.
More than 18,000 B-24s were built, at Consolidated's plant in San Diego and at the Ford Motor Company at Willow Run in Michigan, making it the most-produced American military aircraft. At one point Willow Run was turning out a Liberator every hour. Although the B-24 was never as glamorous as the B-17 “Flying Fortress,” it boasted a larger payload and greater range. The design of the B-24's high wing reduced drag by 15 percent compared to the B-17, but made it difficult to ditch or belly land because of damage to the fuselage.
The Liberators were powered by four Pratt & Whitney 14-cylinder, 1,200-horsepower engines and could carry a payload of 5,000 pounds of bombs 2,300 miles at an altitude of 32,000 feet and a top speed of 303 mph.
My brother's book “Almost Forgotten” records the names of five Bridgeville area residents who lost their lives as crew members on B-24s. They include David Constant (400th Bomb Squadron), Joseph Kasprzak (714th), Lawrence McCool (716th), John Moutz (397th) and Lester Ward (566th).
In addition, we know that cousins George Shady and George Abood were both incarcerated in the same prisoner-of war camp in Germany, and that each had been a crewman on B-24s that were shot down. It would be interesting to hear from other veterans who served on these aircraft.
The military exhibit can be visited between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays. There will be a special open house at the History Center from noon till 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 24.
It is an excellent opportunity to honor all the men and women who have served our country, and particularly those of “the Greatest Generation.” There also will be a display of several authentic World War II military vehicles, courtesy of the Military Vehicle Preservation Association.
John Oyler is a columnist for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-343- 1652 or firstname.lastname@example.org.