Nickname served Luckasevic well in World War II
The Christmas card read: “Greetings from Italy. Best Wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”
It was signed “Love Lucky.”
John Luckasevic sent two such cards home in 1944, during the last holiday of World War II.
True to his nickname, Luckasevic acknowledged he was “lucky” to survive the war.
The lifelong Charleroi resident attended school through the 11th grade before joined America's workforce.
He became the youngest manager in the chain for Altman's Feed store. He worked at the Charleroi store until he was drafted into the U.S. Army at age 25 in June 1942.
He married his wife Mary Ann on May 31, 1941, just 13 months before being drafted. She worked in a beauty shop in town and was staying with her sister in Charleroi when they met.
“She always walked up the street, so I made sure I was on the top step of the store looking for her,” Luckasevic said.
Luckasevic underwent boot camp training at Fort Bragg, N.C., and was assigned to Fort Dupont, Del., before being shipped overseas for the duration of the war.
He served in Africa and Italy with the 5th Division, ultimately attaining the rank of first sergeant. A military police officer, he served in Africa until the invasion of Italy.
Luckasevic landed with the 5th Division in southern Italy, near Sorrento.
“I was there the first day of the invasion,” Luckasevic said. “That's how you get an arrowhead.
“It was a little bit scary, the damn planes coming over bombing. Our lieutenant got killed right away. We had a bunch of prisoners waiting to be put on a ship when a plane came overhead machine-gunning everyone and then dropped a bomb on the ship.”
Serving the bulk of the war in Italy, Luckasevic earned four battle stars.
Never wounded, Luckasevic had plenty of “close calls.”
“One guy stepped on a mine where I was supposed to be with him, but another guy had gone with him,” Luckasevic said.
He also recalled the time a German artillery shell blew up the jeep in which he was riding, narrowly missing him.
“I was lucky to get out of there,” he said.
Luckasevic spent Christmas 1944 in Bologna, Italy. It was a quiet day. Dinner consisted of normal Army rations, he said.
Luckasevic sent Christmas cards to both his wife and his mother.
Three Luckasevic brothers survived the war.
John and Alex Luckasevic had a photo taken together at home before they went overseas Alex Luckasevic was in Germany on Christmas 1944. William Luckasevic was in a convalescent hospital in France at the time.
The three brothers did not reunite until they got home in late November 1945. Alex and John Luckasevic opened the A&J Fruit Market at 619 Fallowfield Ave. a week before Christmas 1945.
When William Luckasevic returned home from the war, he joined the family business.
“Christmas Day 1945, we were working at the store,” Luckasevic said. “We had the store open. That was a busy time.”
At 95, John Luckasevic is the only surviving brother.
“They've called me Lucky all my life, since I was a small kid,” Luckasevic said. “It was especially a good nickname during the war.”
Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or firstname.lastname@example.org.