Veteran Spotlight: Seaman John Bonacquisti
At 95 years of age, he is remarkably fit, outgoing and possesses the wonderful quality of The Greatest Generation humility and old-school class.
Bonacquisti served his country in Navy from 1944 to 1946 as a seaman, then as an electrician his last six months. He grew up in Pittsfield and left school at 18 to enlist.
"About 25 of us left high school before graduation and went in. Many years later, they had quite a ceremony for us and gave us all our diplomas. That was special," he remembered.
Seaman Bonacquisti was sent to the former Sampson Naval Training Station in Romulus, N.Y. Between 4,000 to 5,000 Navy personnel operated and maintained the station at Seneca Lake and, in its four years of operation, more than 400,000 troops were trained there before serving in World War II.
Bonacquisti's ship, the USS Fond Du Lac APA 166, would go on to numerous destinations in the South Pacific including Pearl Harbor, Guam, Saipan, Guadalcanal, Sasebo in Japan, Eniwetok Atoll and was directly involved in the invasions of Leyte Gulf and Okinawa, two of the Pacific's fiercest battles.
"Our ship saw major actions from 1944-1945 … brought a lot of troops into Okinawa," he recalled.
When asked what the holidays were like for a young seaman he responded, "I didn't know what they
were ... I know is I never went home."
He also spoke of the closeness of his shipmates: "Everyone I came in contact with, I got along with. There was one guy from Rhode Island I chummed around with ... did everything together. We didn't have entertainment on the ship, we did everything when our ship pulled into port and we had liberty."
"We were not to drink on the ship. Never. When we came into port, they brought all the booze ashore," he laughed.
I asked Bonacquisti his feelings on the war ending and he offered this: "The [Japanese military] were arming civilians and telling them to kill as many Americans as possible. The atomic bomb ended that. I was glad it was all over ... just wanted to get home."
After his discharge, Bonacquisti returned home to Pittsfield and worked for the former General Electric for 42 years.
"When I started there were over 13,000 employees —13,000 employees. I tested the big power transformers," he recalled.
His thoughts on service?
"I was proud to serve my country. It meant and means a lot," he said.
A proud member of the Italian American Club and Unico of Pittsfield, he has been married to his lovely wife Fannie (the former Philomena Foffo) for an amazing 70 years. Seaman John Bonacquisti, thank you for your service to our great country.
Veteran Spotlight is a column by Wayne Soares that runs twice a month. Soares is a motivational speaker and comedian who has frequently entertained the troops overseas with the USO. To recommend a veteran for Soares' column, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Soares will be entertaining the troops overseas in August. He is in the midst of his newest project, a documentary on Vietnam veterans titled "Every Time The Wind Blew."
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