Focus on History: He did more than survive the night


Joseph A. Bucci fought heroically with the U.S. Marines in World War II.

Joseph was born in 1913 — the son of Charles, a veteran of the First World War, and Mary Bucci. They lived at 12 Lark Street in the East End. His brother Anthony also served in World War II, himself in the Army Air Corps.

Joseph graduated from St. Mary’s Institute, then went on to Notre Dame — earning a degree in journalism in 1933. He worked for John Hancock insurance and later was in sales for the Curtiss Candy Company.

Just over a month after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Joseph enlisted as a private in the Marines.

By October 1942, he was fighting the Japanese on Guadalcanal Island — principal among the Solomon Islands, northeast of Australia in the Pacific. He found himself and six others pinned down by Japanese artillery fire in the Battle of Matanikau River. The small band had missed orders to move from their foxholes to another position.

Through one long night and the next day, the seven endured an artillery barrage and attack. The septet was credited with killing 175 to 200 Japanese soldiers. However, the group then came under American artillery fire in a Marine counter attack. Ultimately, they were reunited with their unit.

Intense fighting on Guadalcanal lasted six months, from August 1942 to February 1943.

In November 1942, Joseph was wounded by three pieces of shrapnel. He contracted malaria and was shipped to a military hospital in San Diego, California.

It was there that he learned he was to receive the Purple Heart and Silver Star for his actions on Guadalcanal. He was promoted to sergeant as well.

He was home on leave in July 1943 when the Recorder printed an account of his actions on Guadalcanal, written by Marine private Eddie Lyon, who had interviewed Joseph at the San Diego hospital. Joseph and his parents went to the Recorder offices to get their first look at the news story and to have their picture taken.

In December 1943, the young sergeant was still at home. He was assigned to the Scotia Naval Depot on Route 5, today an industrial park, and had applied for Officer Candidate School.

That month Knights of Columbus Council 209 in Amsterdam honored him at a dinner at the then-Amsterdam Hotel on East Main Street, and presented him with a special ring.

“When I was in the South Pacific, I dreamed of getting home,” he told the Knights of Columbus. “Just at the present, I wish I were down there again.”

He also said, “It is my fond wish and hope that this international mess will soon be over and that all of us can come back to the good old American way of life. However, I expect to be shoving off again soon and in whatever part of the world I am I will have this ring with me, a reminder of your thoughtfulness and I will be thoughtful for you.”

Joseph went to Officer Candidates School and became a second lieutenant. He was promoted to captain in the Marine Corps reserve.

He attended Albany Law School after the war, and in 1948 became head of the new Montgomery County Probation Department.

In 1953, He and Louanne Wilkes of Albany married and moved to California — where he worked in the Ventura County Probation Department. In their later years, the couple moved to Virginia to be near one of their two sons.

Joseph died in 2010 at age 96 at Lovingston Health Care Center in Arrington, Virginia. Inurnment was at Arlington National Cemetery.

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