Martin C. Evans

Posts Tagged ‘WWII’

A Last Pearl Harbor Survivor, 93, Dies

In Uncategorized on December 10, 2011 at 8:28 am

Bill Halloran survived Pearl Harbor

Until his last hours, Bill Halleran, a craggy-faced survivor of the devastating Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor, worked to keep alive the memory of one of history’s most pivotal moments.

But not long before he was to participate in a ceremony commemorating the 70th anniversary of the attack, Halleran, 93, suffered a massive stroke early this week and never recovered, according to Rev. Ann Morgan, pastor of the Merrick United Methodist Church. He died just before noon Friday at Nassau University Medical Center, Morgan said.

Halleran, who was aboard the USS Phoenix on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, had a clear view of the battleship Arizona as it’s sinking swallowed 1,177 crew members. In total, the surprise attack – Japan had not declared war on the United States – killed more than 2,400 Americans, and galvanized American resolve to become the world’s leading power.

“I was with the executive officer when I heard the first explosion,” recalled Halleran, of North Merrick. “I said, ‘Hell, this is the real thing. We’re at war.'”

“All you could see were flames and smoke,” Halleran told Newsday last week.

Halleran said he became so involved in trying to prepare the Phoenix for battle – including manually hauling heavy belts of ammunition from several decks below after the ship lost electrical power – that he had no time to locate his brother, Charlie, a fellow crew member who was stationed near the bow. His brother survived the attack – the two shared a hasty soup lunch later that day – and lived until three years ago.

Halleran became determined that America should never forget the surprise attack, and helped organize a Long Island chapter of a Pearl Harbor survivors organization. He said last week he was one of only three members left.

He had planned to attend a 70th anniversary commemoration at the Airpower Museum in Farmingdale on Wednesday.

But when the ceremony began, his chair was empty.

Halleran, who remained vigorous until his last days, was involved in local Veterans of Foreign War and American Legion activities, and had been a member of the North Merrick Fire Department.

A wake will be held today, from 7-9 p.m. and tomorrow, 2-4 and 7-9, at Walker Funeral Home, in Merrick. His funeral is scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday at Merrick United Methodist Church, in Merrick, N.Y., said Morgan, who said he will be buried at Calverton National Cemetery, in Calverton, N.Y.

LI Vet helped halt Nazi advance at Bulge

In Uncategorized on December 14, 2009 at 4:26 pm

A German tank crew, captured during Germany's attempted advance through Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge.

Joseph R. DeCola, 85, of Lake Grove, was with an anti-aircraft unit in World War II that may have helped turn the Battle of the Bulge.

After he read my article in Sunday’s Newsday marking the 65th anniversary of that pivotal battle, DeCola wrote to say he was a sergeant with the 555th Signal Aircraft Warning Battalion when the battle began on December 16, 1944.

The unit had only recently begun making use of a newfound ability to use pairs of mobile radar stations to plot the position of flying aircraft on a map of the ground below them.

That skill produced a tactical advantage when extreme fog prevented American planes from spotting German formations rumbling west toward the Allied line in Belgium.

DeCola’s battalion realized it could steer American pilots to roads being used by advancing German troops and tanks.

“A pilot, from the Bronx, volunteered to fly providing we would control him. We brought him down over the main road in the middle of the Bulge and he reported over eight miles of German Tanks and vehicles,” wrote DeCola, who moved to Huntington after the war, and started an electrical contracting business in Farmingdale.

“We brought in Squadrons of planes and bombed the front and back of the convoy so they were locked in.

“We bombed them all day long. This broke the back of the Bulge and the war was soon over.”