Tony Pastore, now 96, served his country from 1943 to 1946 as a corporal in the US Air Force.
Born in Pittsfield, he enlisted on March 23, 1943, and was sent to Fort Devens in Massachusetts. From there it was on to basic training in Miami Beach, Florida. Corporal Pastore remembered, “We marched all day in the goddamn heat…our platoon was an honor platoon.”
He was assigned to the New England Aircraft School in Boston then was sent to Fort Banks in Winthrop, where he came down with double pneumonia. “The colonel there liked me so he sent me home for 30 days to recuperate…when I started to feel better, I’d put my uniform on and walk down Main Street…all I got were jeers from the SOBs that stayed home…when I got back to Fort Banks, I told my colonel that if he sent me home again, I was going to blow the hell out of those SOBs back home…I enlisted to fight, not stay home,” he recalled.
On Christmas Eve in 1943 Corporal Pastore boarded a ship along with hundreds of other soldiers and “zig-zagged all the way to Casablanca…fed us this horrible goddamn mutton stew…guys were throwing up over the sides it was so bad,” he remembered.
His ship went straight to Salerno, Italy, and to Rome after that. “Pope Pius was the pope at the time…the Vatican was a safe haven for Jews…they hid them and dressed some of them up as priests so the Germans wouldn’t find them…I was honored to have an audience with Pope Pius…me and a bunch of other soldiers…geez, I’ll never forget that,” he recalled.
Corporal Pastore and his fellow soldiers then went to Florence, Italy, where the 524th Fighter Squadron and 87th Fighter Wing headquarters were located. “In Corsica, they had a boxing club I joined…we got to box the Australians…my first three fights I spent more time on my (unprintable) than I did standing…Joe Louis was on a USO Tour and would come by the gym…he took me aside and told me to give up boxing and find another line of work,” he recalled.
Corporal Pastore entered a small town in France (“I can’t remember the damn name”) and thought the Special Police officer who was directing traffic looked familiar. “I says, that guy looks familiar…I kept looking…oh my God, it was a guy I went to school with...couldn’t believe it…talked with him for about 10 minutes…felt like I was on the street corner back home,” he said.
Asked about how he felt when the war ended he responded, “I was no goddamn hero…I went to fight the Germans…my two older brothers were heroes…not me.”
He continued, “I loved my country, and still do…we’ve lost a lot…so much hate…I pray to God every day that we can come out of this…this wasn’t the country I was brought up in…we need to get back to being Americans,” he said.
Corporal Pastore still sings around New England on Veterans Day, Memorial Day, the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor and at special events. This year, due to the pandemic, was the first Christmas Eve he missed singing at his church in more than 50 years.
Corporal Tony Pastore, thank you for your service to our great country.
Contact Wayne Soares at email@example.com