A former newspaperman who as a GI visited the devastated Hiroshima soon after the Japanese city was flattened by an atomic bomb was honored June 18 as Saratoga County's Deceased Veteran of the Month.
Local, state and federal officials presented proclamations in Robert Fusco Sr.'s honor, and his family was presented with a U.S. flag flown over the U.S. Capitol. The flag is currently flying outside the Saratoga County complex in Ballston Spa.
Fusco was an Army engineering supply specialist during World War II, sent to Europe after D-Day. He was on board a ship in the Pacific, part of preparations for the invasion of Japan when word came of the U.S. attack on Hiroshima.
It rang a bell with him.
Fusco had joined the army in 1942, and at one point was selected for an advanced specialist program, and while in it took a physics course at City College of New York. When he heard about the bomb, an instructor's brief mention of the enormous potential energy inside the mass of a classroom eraser came back to him, said his son, Robert A. Fusco Jr. of Rexford.
After the Japanese surrender, Fusco was stationed in occupied Japan, and while there he was able to arrange a pass to visit Hiroshima, which at the time was still off-limits to most troops.
"The first look will remain with me forever," Fusco wrote in a book he prepared for his family in 2000. "Acres and acres of flattened landscape broken only occasionally by a blackened chimney, standing incongruously and rather like a tombstone."
Fusco had risen to the rank of staff sergeant by the time he was discharged in January 1946. His son said he served in both Europe and Japan, and spent much of his time working with prisoners of war.
Covered sports, politics
After the war, Fusco was a journalist at the Troy Record from 1948 to 1971, covering sports and politics, and becoming sports editor. He later worked for the state Legislature, managing the Legislative Correspondents Association press room, and was a weekend Albany correspondent for the New York Times, Robert Fusco Jr. said.
"Even though he was a reporter, he always wrote from a good sense of history," the younger Fusco said.
Fusco was a native of Saratoga Springs, where he did his first writing for the Saratogian's sports department at age 16. After he started working at the Troy Record, he and his wife settled in Waterford, where they raised six children.
Waterford Town Supervisor John E. Lawler knew Fusco, who died in 2005. Lawler said his military service is especially commendable, given his kindly nature.
"He was very, very soft-spoken and always eager to say good things about other people and about life," Lawler said.
Saratoga County each month honors a different deceased veteran. It has honored more than 300 veterans since 1999, according to county Veterans Services Director Felipe Moon.