WWII Navy vet remembers
BY PAT FARNELLI
Samuel Gatto, 92, manned the radio booth on D Day as his ship took part in the invasion of France at Omaha Beach in Cherbourg, France. He served in England, the Azores, and Portugal, as well as at Headquarters and Communications as a Radioman, Third Class.
On board LCI 492, he saw the Allied invasion as it happened, and many years later, watching “Saving Private Ryan” in daughter Pamela Staats’ living room, he was troubled and said, “That is just how it was.”
He volunteers that he was at Omaha Beach on D Day, but finds it difficult to talk about a war long over.
Gatto’s wartime home was LCI-492 (landing craft infantry), the Navy’s smallest oceangoing vessel, which could put troops directly on the beach. This vessel landed as part of the invasion of Normandy on D-Day, which changed the course of the war.
Gatto was chosen as a World War II honoree for the online memorial wwiimemorial.com. The information on the website was compiled by his daughters, Pamela and Sharon, based on a book he had assembled of his service records and memorabilia.
Born Salvatore Michael Gatto, he took on the name Samuel in his youth. His parents, Gaetano “Thomas” and Maria Molinaro Gato, both emigrated from Italy while young: he from Sicily, she from Calabria.
He had six brothers and six sisters, some of whom died in early childhood.
He now lives in Montrose with his daughter Pamela, but was raised in Carbondale, which was his hometown for many years. He was a newspaper boy for the Scranton Times, and eventually expanded his route so successfully he was able to sub-contract to his younger siblings.
After paper route, found a factory job in Patterson, N.Y., and enlisted from there.
“After boot camp, I was sent to a radio operator school at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio,” he said. He completed radio and booth training, and a survival course before he went overseas.
He married Mary Jane Cerra, and had two daughters. His wife passed away in 1990.
“After the war, Dad had a series of jobs in factories and plants,” Staats said. “He retired from Hendricks Manufacturing in Carbondale.”
He likes to read to pass the time.
His memory book includes his birth and baptism certificates, his Navy enlistment and involuntary extension of service, and his honorable discharge documents dated Dec. 23, 1945, which allowed him to make it home for Christmas Eve.
“I was able to surprise my mother,” Gatto said with a smile.
Also in his binder are several postcards sent to family members from “somewhere in France, 1944″ which is all he was allowed to write.