96-year-old Rocco Deluca joined the Army in 1942.
He was first a medic stationed at Fort Devens but then became an infantryman trained in Trinidad for a jungle warfare unit known as Merrill’s Marauders. Named after commander Frank Merrill.
“We travel at nighttime. Never travel during the day,” said Deluca who said it was dangerous. “Absolutely.”
The conditions were less than ideal as he frankly explained.
“Like hell,” he said.
Merrill’s Marauders are recognized as the predecessors of today’s U.S. Army Rangers. They traveled with Indian code talkers and Chinese guides.
“With their tin cans. They made a lot of noise,” remembered Deluca.
They were surrounded and out numbered by the Japanese.
“I carried a machine gun and I carried a back pack,” said Deluca.
He also carried hand grenades which helped his unit capture the Myitkyina airbase behind enemy lines.
“Made them all run away,” he said.
Deluca’s daughter Joyce Horey who keeps his collection of memorabilia says that was considered a turning point in the war.
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He was thousands of miles away from where U.S. Troops had stormed the beaches of Normandy 75 years ago on Thursday. Deluca said the ceremonies remembering D-Day and honoring WWII veterans mean a lot but also remind him of a lot.
“Hard to watch,” said Deluca.
Deluca’s daughter said he is just one of 13 Merrill’s Marauders still living. Two others will be coming to have lunch with him on Saturday.
He already knows what they will talk about.
“The old times we had,” said Deluca. “What we went through.”
Times to which only they can truly relate.