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Veteran Spotlight: Navy Radioman Robert Mercurio

By Wayne SoaresSpecial to iBerkshires
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EAST FALMOUTH, Mass. — I had another wonderful opportunity to interview a member of The Greatest Generation. 
Robert Mercurio served his country in the Navy as a radioman, first class, from 1942 to 1946. He would also serve four years in the Reserves, being discharged in 1950. 
At 99 years of age, he possesses a fantastic memory of events and a super personality.
Growing up in Everett, he played on the high school football team. "Everett always had good football teams ... I was only 126 pounds and played with some pretty big guys," he said with a chuckle. 
Mercurio would do his basic training at Great Lakes, Ill. 
"I hadn't even finished high school ... it was winter ... very cold ... we'd go to bed at night and we had some of the windows open just a bit ... I'd wake up with snow on my blanket," he remembered. His first assignment was aboard the USS Laramie (AO-16), a Kaweah-class replenishment oiler. "Our ship got underway at 7 p.m. that night ... two hours later we were getting torpedoes shot at us by a German submarine ... it was constant."
He continued, "they assigned me to a 20mm gun ... I had never seen a 20mm gun nor did I know how to fire it ... sought out my commanding officer and told him and they took me off the gun and gave me another assignment."
How were the holidays being away at such a young age? "Being away from home during the holidays was really unhappy times" was all he would say. Was he ever afraid? "No, not really ... you just did your job.” 
Mercurio would be sent to Radioman School in Bedford, Pa., then assigned to the USS Athene (AKA-22) an Artemis-class attack cargo ship that would earn two Battle Stars. 
"We picked up Marines on Christmas day, then did four-five days of maneuvers, then headed for Iwo Jima," he said. "We were anchored off of Mount Suribachi. I had my long glass and was looking at the island ... saw the Marines put that flag up on Suribachi. "t was really something, I'll never forget that." 
He also shared a very powerful memory. 
"Remember it like it was yesterday — we were part of the Surrender Fleet in Tokyo Bay. We had United States ships, British ships, Australian ships, French ships — everyone that fought with us was lined up — even had a row of battleships. It was the most impressive thing I ever saw," he recalled. 
I asked him where he was when he found out the war was over and he responded, "I was in the Philippines. Every ship was firing their guns into the sky. It was such a great feeling," he proudly recalled.
Mercurio shared another priceless story. 
"When the war was over, we made two-three trips bringing soldiers back. We had nine nurses onboard and one of them was
pregnant and due any day," he said. "We received coded messages 24 hours a day. I had 20 weeks of training as a radioman and the only message I ever sent was when we were coming into San Francisco."
"I radioed that we had a pregnant nurse onboard and she was due to have a baby any hour and we were going to be coming into the harbor quite fast," he laughingly recalled. 
Thoughts on service? "Every friend I had in high school went into the service. Your country was at war and you wanted to do your part," he said.
Bob Mercurio, thank you for your service to our great country.
Wayne Soares is the host of the popular new veterans cooking show, "The Mess Hall" that airs Saturdays on NBC's NECN at 9:30 a.m. He also entertains our troops around the globe and is the host and producer of the Vietnam veterans documentary "Silent Dignity – The Chapter That Never Ends." He can be reached at


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