As children, three Italian-born brothers (Walter, Renzo, and Angelino Caimi) emigrated to the United States. The Caimi brothers grew up American and were very proud of their adopted country, so it was natural that these patriotic young men would choose to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces.
In the 1930s, the eldest son, Walter, enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps, serving for several years. In 1936, Walter was assigned to the naval operations base in South Charleston, West Virginia. While in Charleston, he met and fell in love with a lovely strawberry-blond who cooked sumptuous Italian food. They married within months of meeting. Together, they had three sons of their own; one was my husband’s father. Just prior to World War II, Walter received an honorable discharge from the Marines.
In December 1939, his brother, Renzo, also enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. After basic training, Renzo was stationed in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. He was still stationed at Pearl Harbor the day the Japanese bombed the port—7 December 1941. After the attack, Renzo sat on the grass, put his rifle down, removed his helmet, and started brushing the debris from his hair. He then heard someone yell, “Hey Marine!” and turned in time to see a photographer snap this picture:
At family gatherings, Renzo often recounted the sights and sounds of that day. Even though decades had passed since the attack, he described the day with such clarity, one would have thought he had just experienced the tragedy.
Renzo also spoke of fighting at Guadalcanal and other battles. Three times during the war, he came very close to dying. When he was stationed in Okinawa, Renzo wrote home to his parents to let them know he was safe.
After receiving Renzo’s letter, his mother wrote to her youngest son, Angelino, who, at the onset of war, enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces and was also serving in the Pacific Campaign. It just so happened that Angelino was stationed at Okinawa (along with thousands of other troops), the same time as his brother.
Upon learning that Renzo was somewhere nearby, Angelino went in search of his brother (even though he did not have the faintest idea where his sibling might be.) Renzo, by mere coincidence, was on the main road about the same time that Angelino was driving by. Renzo was flabbergasted to see Angelino, as he was unaware that his youngest brother also was stationed at Okinawa. The two brothers then had a chance to catch up after several years apart.