The boy who drew the war

By Special to the Times
Published August 28, 2005

As preteen kids on Staten Island, playing the usual stick ball games, Johnny-ride-the-pony, flipping baseball cards and kick the can, the news reports of the fighting in Europe and Asia seemed so far away. But one particular day an event happened that would spook us kids to no end. We could hear the chatter of kids voices hawking their newspapers down the next block. These were kids we had never seen before, with flat caps and suspenders. They were heralding the message, "Extreee, Extreee, War Clouds on the Horizon." We stopped all our games and looked up at the sky, not realizing it was a foreshadowing of things to come.

It wasn't long before the older neighborhood guys would be enlisting and the draft would begin. I watched both of my brothers, Emil and Ed, leave for Europe and the Pacific. I watched my baseball field being converted into an anti-aircraft site to protect the shipyards close by and I gave up my first edition Superman comics for the paper drive.

This is when I would sit and listen to the radio, read all the newspapers and Life magazines. I tried to follow my brother Emil's journey across the continent of Europe. He was with the 6th Corps, which had a great combo of divisions, mostly the 3rd, 36th and 45th Infantries. I would tell my Mom and Pop when things were reported and imagine the events by drawing his amphibious beachhead landings, at Salerno, Anzio and southern France.

At the end of the war, both my brothers came home with the help of my Mom's nightly rosary. On V-J day, a jubilant festival took place. A local bar and grill pulled the piano out into the street and banged out Perry Como's hit tune, Till the End of Time. It would have been great if it meant that the peace we received would last until the end of time, but five short years later it was our generation's turn to step to the plate.

-- VICTOR COSSETTA, Naples, Fla.