Local World War II veteran, 97, honored at Legacy Foundation event

Published on Wednesday, 21 September 2022 09:32


BRISTOL – Local World War II veteran Joe Caminiti was honored at the “1st Annual Commemoration of the End of World War II” event by the World War II Legacy Foundation.

The World War II Legacy Foundation was established by Gary Roy and Marianne Mihalyo. The Commemoration event was held on Sept. 17 for the purposes of honoring World War II veterans.

The event saw Caminiti, 97, presented with a Quilt of Valor and a Pearl Harbor coin. He also spoke with an artist who paints portraits of World War II veterans and is working on creating a painting of Caminiti.

Caminiti was honored for his service and efforts to support the Gold Star Family Memorial Monument.

During World War II, Caminiti served with the U.S. Marines from 1942 to 1945. He operated one of 482 amphibious tractors which helped the troops to make a landing on Iwo Jima. Following the battle, Caminiti witnessed the famous flag-raising on Iwo Jima from the nearby airstrip.

"It was hard to describe unless you were there," said Caminiti.

Caminiti also later served in the Korean War.

Gary Roy and Marianne Mihalyo, the founders of the World War II Legacy Foundation, also chaired the Gold Star Family Memorial Monument that was built in Berlin. The project was headed by the Woody Williams Foundation. Woody Williams, who died June 29, was the last Medal of Honor recipient from World War II.

"For his work, and being a World War II Iwo Jima Survivor who was from the same division and on Iwo Jima at the same time as Woody Williams, the Foundation arranged a meeting between Caminiti and Woody Williams," said Supranovich. "He was to come to Connecticut to unveil the monument that his Foundation helped build. The week before the meeting Woody fell and was unable to travel. Williams sent his grandson, Chad Graham, a day ahead of the dedication to meet with Joe."

Graham presented Caminiti, along with another World War II Veteran who helped the Foundation, with a Woody Williams Medal of Honor coin at the Iwo Jima Park in Newington.

The next day, on Saturday, April 23, they attended the dedication of the Gold Star Family Memorial Monument as a special guest of the committee.

"They both were seated in the VIP section," said Neal Supranovich, historian with American Legion Post 2. "They were escorted to the Gold Star Monument by members of the Woody Williams Foundation and the chairpersons for the Ct Gold Star Family Memorial Monument Committee. They stood between Woody’s Grandson and the chairpersons, standing tall as the Monument was unveiled."

Supranovich said that a guest speaker at the Sept. 17 event was James R. Belcher, Jr.

"He is the only Japanese-born son of a USS Indianapolis Survivor," said Supranovich.

The USS Indianapolis was the ship that secretly delivered the components for the atomic bombs. The ship was sunk by a Japanese submarine on July 30, shortly after making the drop-off. Of the 1,200 men aboard, about 900 initially survived. But, due to the secrecy of their mission, they were stranded in shark infested waters until they were accidently found on Aug. 2. By then, there were only 316 survivors.

Supranovich said that the event also included one of the last Navajo Code Talkers, who served at Iwo Jima when Caminiti was there.

"He sang the Marine Corps anthem in Navajo," said Supranovich.

Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or bjohnson@bristolpress.com.

Posted in The Bristol Press, Bristol on Wednesday, 21 September 2022 09:32. Updated: Wednesday, 21 September 2022 09:35.