ELKINS - On Memorial Day, the nation pauses to remember those who have given their lives so freedom can endure. One local man, who served his country through five voyages in the U.S. Navy and Merchant Marines, paused Wednesday to remember his part in keeping American free.
Henry William "Bill" Russetti, who now makes his home in Elkins, did what most red-blooded American men did following the bombing of Pearl Harbor - he joined the military to serve the cause of the United States - the country he loved.
"I immediately joined up as a Navy Cadet," Russetti said. "When I joined, the only physical we had was when they blew the wax out of my ears."
The Inter-Mountain photo by Beth Christian Broschart
Veteran Henry William “Bill” Russetti recalls his service to his country during World War II during his voyages as a U.S. Merchant Marine. Russetti, now 92 years old, is a resident at Colonial Place in Elkins.
Russetti went to the U.S. Maritime Service Training Station at Sheepshead Bay, N.Y. He had additional trainings at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y.
"It was the equivalent to Annapolis," Russetti said. "The war came along with Germany and we were back and forth with troops. While (Gen. George S.) Patton was going up through Italy and France, we circled around and we were in Antwerp, Germany surrendered."
Russetti said they sent his ship back.
"This was the turning point where Germany surrendered," said Russetti, who was born in Massachusetts in 1921.
"Do you know how old that makes me?" Russetti asked. "I tell everyone I was born in the year of our Lord knows when."
Russetti said he was born 20 miles outside Boston, where he was the youngest of seven children.
"We lived modestly," Russetti recalled. "I was in the power plant business. We built nuclear power plants."
Today, a large map of the world hangs in Russetti's room at Colonial Place in Elkins. Colored push pins dot countries all across the world, representing places he traveled during his missions.
"My daughter made that map for me," he said. "She connected string from one place to another as a reminder of all of our missions."
Russetti earned four service bars - the Atlantic War Zone Bar, the Pacific War Zone Bar, the Mediterranean Middle East War Zone Bar and the Merchant Marine Combat Bar.
His first voyage was aboard the S.S. William Phips from Boston to Halifax/Loch Ewe, then to Scotland, Methil, back to Scotland and back to Boston. Russetti served on this voyage as a junior engineer, from Dec. 20, 1943, to March 3, 1944.
Russetti's second voyage was on the S.S. Thomas Kearns and was from April 21 to Aug. 12, 1944. This took him from Boston to Halifax, Liverpool, Normandy, Falmouth, back to Liverpool and finally, New York. Russetti served as a 3rd engineer. This voyage also included the Invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944.
The third voyage for Russetti was aboard the S.S. Thomas Kearns and was from Aug. 13 to Dec. 14, 1944. This took Russetti from New York to Liverpool, then into the North Sea. He again served as a 3rd engineer.
From Jan. 24 to April 25, 1945, Russetti was sailing again, this time on the S.S. John S. Mosby. This voyage took him from New York to Liverpool, to Dublin and Le Harve, France, Antwerp and Belgium. This time, Russetti sailed as a 2nd engineer.
Russetti's final voyage was again aboard the S.S. John S. Mosby from April 25, 1945, to Jan. 31, 1946. He left New York and went to Martinique, Philadelphia, Marseilles, Balboa, Homonhon, Lingayen, Okinawa, Cristobal and to Newport News, Va. During this voyage, atomic bombs were dropped on Japan. Russetti sailed as a 2nd engineer during his final tour.
"We were in Okinawa ready to attack, but President Truman dropped the bomb on Japan," Russetti said. "No need to do anything after that."