PRIME TIME: Joe Caminiti -- 'I was no hero, I was just doing my job'

Published on Sunday, 8 July 2018 21:43
Written by BOB MONTGOMERY

Correspondent

There was a need for an American base near the Japanese coast during WWII, and with this Bristol’s Joseph Caminiti, a U.S. Marine, was among those who were part of the American amphibious invasion on Iwo Jima to accomplish this task.

I asked Caminiti, the oldest active member of the Bristol Boys & Girls Club, to stop by the Bristol Press office a week or so ago for an interview about his military service and in doing so he told me, “I’m not a hero.” Well, this writer definitely thinks he is and I’m sure readers will agree.

Caminiti was born in Jobeth, West Virginia, on Oct. 13, 1924. His family moved to Bristol around 1928 and he has remained here since. Caminiti was a member of the class of ’42 at Bristol High, enlisted in the Marine Corps at age 17 and went into service when he reached his 18th birthday. He went in with longtime friend Leo Castolene and later received his high school diploma following the war.

“I went to Parris Island (for basic training) and to Camp Lejeune,” Caminiti said. “I wanted to be an aircraft mechanic, but they were filled so I became at motor transport mechanic. Then in December 1943, I went overseas. That was 17 days on a ship to New Caledonia where we were put in a replacement group, an amphibious tractor outfit, and I became a mechanic and driver. We were with the first amphibious to land on Guam and this was after 60 days on a ship.

“After Guam, we went to Iwo Jima and made the landing. This was an amphibious landing, the second landing, and a few days later we saw our Marines put up the flag on Iwo Jima. This was when we were working on the airstrip below.”

It was his outfit’s job to bring ammo to the soldiers and bring back the wounded to the hospital or hospital ship to get there. Those who died were piled on a tractor and brought to the cemetery. There was blood on the bodies and some of the deceased had their eyes open, memories that would stay with Caminiti and others the rest of their lives.

He and his comrades were stationed at the base of the mountain on Iwo Jima and they stood guard duty at night. The group was originally to stay at that location for three days before moving on to Okinawa. However, the stay went 30 days because nothing but tractors could move on the volcanic ash in the area, and that included trucks and other vehicles. In time, steel mesh was laid out to allow the troops to move on without their equipment.

“From there, we went to Guam to pick up our rear echelon and then we went to Maui,” Caminiti said. “We drew all new tractors and equipment to invade the Japanese, but the war ended and we got back on a battleship in December 1945.”

Caminiti was called back into military service in 1950 when the Korean War broke out and was stationed at Camp Lejeune for 13 months of amphibious training before being told he wouldn’t be needed and that was it.

Caminiti once again reiterated that he wasn’t a hero. However, before his interview ended, he was asked about some of the things he witnessed and was close to during his military service overseas.

“I saw one of our planes go down,” Caminiti said. “We were kids, just 18 and 19 years old. It didn’t bother us.”

Then there was the time he was making an amphibious landing on Guam. The amphibious ship directly in front of him was unloading men when the last three getting off were blown up and killed by a mine. Caminiti was close behind and saw it all. Caminiti was a lucky Marine. He added that he saw a lot of men killed and was fired upon constantly, adding that every time there was a bomb, “someone or some soldiers were killed.”

“I was no hero, just doing my job” Caminiti said, “Don’t put me down as a hero.”

He performed his duties, was in the area of fighting and could have easily made the supreme sacrifice. Now if that’s not being a hero, who else does a man have to do?

Contact Bob Montgomery at bmontgomery@bristolpress.com or by calling 860-973-1808.



Posted in The Bristol Press, Bristol on Sunday, 8 July 2018 21:43. Updated: Sunday, 8 July 2018 21:46.