World War II veteran from Flatwoods Guariglia: 'We never celebrated Christmas'
“We never celebrated Christmas,” said Pat Guariglia, 92, of Flatwoods of his Army service during World War II. “We never had a chance. It was just another day.”
Guariglia entered the U.S. Army on Aug. 25, 1942, two years after he graduated from Dunbar High School in 1940.
He had been drafted.
He spent his war time in the Pacific, assigned to the 114th Engineer Combat Battalion, attached to the 32nd Infantry Division.
He spent three Christmases away from home.
On Christmas Day 1942, he was aboard a troop transport out of Charleston, S.C. and Newport News, Va. The ship was headed for the Panama Canal and then to Australia.
“I stayed on the upper deck,” he said. “If the ship ever got sunk, I wanted to be able to get off.”
His battalion spent about five months in Australia before moving on to New Guinea. There, he was assigned to the battalion's headquarters unit.
Christmas 1943 found Guariglia on Goodenough Island, off the southeast coast of Papua New Guinea in the Solomon Sea. The tropical weather, the monsoon season in New Guinea, was hot and wet.
There was no “white Christmas,” but he did see two Bob Hope shows, one on Goodenough Island and one on Papua New Guinea.
By Christmas 1944, Guariglia and his unit were on Leyte in the Philippines. The weather there was not like a normal December back home.
“It was so wet,” he said. “I hit the monsoon season. My feet were wet and had turned white almost all the time,”
Guariglia is a Purple Heart recipient.
During his time fighting the Japanese, his unit was the target of a Japanese bomber coming in low over the sea while at Saidor, New Guinea. Some of the members of his unit had turned on a small light. A bomb was dropped, striking about 20 yards from Guariglia. He was wounded and 19 members of his unit were killed. He was awarded a Purple Heart. He said he was saved from a more serious injury because he was in a location surrounded by trees. The trees stopped a lot of the bomb fragments.
After Leyte, his unit moved on to Luzon, the main island of the Philippines.
Guariglia praised his battalion commanding officer, Col. Julian Solohub, who took command of his unit on Luzon. A West Point graduate, Solohub once led a group of his men against the Japanese. A small group of the enemy had broken through the lines and he set out to track them down.
“He took about 10 of us, then went on to go take out the Japs himself,” said Guariglia.
One problem of serving in the tropics were the mosquitoes and the diseases they carried, He contracted malaria, with which he suffered for several years after he came home.
He said what scared him more was the typhoon his ship went through on the way back to the United States.
“That was the worst thing we ever had,” he said. “I thought the ship was going to break in two.”
His ship made it back to the United States and docked in California. He was then sent to Attabury, Ind., where he was discharged on Nov. 10, 1945. He arrived back home on Nov. 11, 1945.
Back in civilian life, he served 30 years with the Postal Service as a rural mail carrier before retiring.
Karl Polacek is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 724-626-3538.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Assault suspect allowed to play H.S. basketball
- Connellsville High announces leads for March musical
- Uniontown man charged with raping 2 girls
- Uniontown programs get $900K
- Fallen Perryopolis police officer chased his dream
- Chief: Perryopolis police officer’s death highlights dangers of job
- Normalville church performs Christmas play
- Stanley Cup coming to Ice Mine in Dunbar Township
- Restoration returns life to Aaron’s Building in Connellsville
- Perryopolis police officer dies in Route 51 crash
- No tax increase for Everson next year