From: Ron Lunn
To: Mr Merna JE USMC
Sent: Friday, March 11, 2005
Subject: Re: Photo from ROL
Here is the photo that I took of Capt Smith, your brother and you at the Retired Officers Luncheon on the 9th. I didn't make a note about how you wanted this sent so I'm sending it via e-mail. Please let me know that you received it and that it open properly. We hope you enjoyed the event and hope to see you at others.
From: Gerald F. Merna
Thank you so very much both for taking the picture and for being so kind to send it and so promptly. (One would think you worked for a deadline organization like MCA or something)! I will copy my brother Jim AND Chuck Smith on this so they can print it out also. As we told you, Chuck and I were with E-2-5 in Korea, while I spent some of my time with Jim in 1-5, who served his full 13 months with 1-5. Chuck was at that E-2-5 Parris Island reunion last September that is in my story in the current issue of Leatherneck.
It was a pleasure meeting both you and Leatherneck Editor Col. Ford at that great luncheon of Marines at the Alexandria Hilton. We certainly enjoyed the update on Iraq and Fallujah provided by Marine Lt.Gen. James T. Conway, now DirOps J-3 on the Joint Staff. Having commanded I MEF during two combat tours in Iraq he certainly brought credibility and up-to-dateness<> to that topic. Almost all in attendance particularly enjoyed his response to my brother's question about the OpsTempo in Iraq as regards the impact on so many of our Marines going over on third tours! The General's frank response that those Marines going over for their first tour "couldn't wait to get there," while a second tour brought an "Oh well, that's what we get paid for" type response, but when they learned they would be going over for a THIRD time it was more like "Damn!" albeit in a good natured way. While that evoked a lot of laughs, everyone also knew it was a serious concern, for as the General also pointed out, it's pretty hard to maintain any kind of a family life when you’re going over for a third time in such a short time frame. I'm certain that's a problem that's keeping the Commandant up late at night!
Capt Smith, Jerry and Jim Merna Brothers
From: Gerald F. Merna
To: John Gunn
Sent: Monday, February 21, 2005 5:30 PM
Subject: Email address change
Would you be so kind to change my email address to receive the Lejeune
Globe/ Hawaii Marine/ Quantico Sentry/ New River Newsletter?
Thanks a lot.
I really enjoy your Newsletters and appreciate all the work you put into them. My only claim to any Marine sports fame was when I was on the 22nd Marines boxing team (then at Quantico) and then the Quantico Wrestling team, in the 1949 - 1950 time frame. Was much better at wrestling than boxing. One of our teammate wrestlers, Phil Recchia, made All Navy. Enclosing a few old pictures I thought you might like to see.
On a subsequent Quantico tour after I married, one of our neighbors living in the apartment quarters above the football field was George Uremovich of Marine baseball fame. He habitually walked around repeatedly throwing that imaginary baseball from his right hand into the equally imaginary glove in his left hand. One helluva nice guy too, as was his wife. We also use to enjoy watching all the inter service football games of that era, especially when our Marines beat all those Army and Air Force teams.
I went through boot camp in 1947 at PI, retired in 1968 after Korea and Vietnam tours.
Semper Fi, John
Gerald F. Merna
Merna Kneeling (left), Quantico Boxing Team, July 1949
Quantico Boxing Charlesworth (left), Merna (right), July 1949
Merna (bottom), Quantico vs Lockhaven State Teachers College, July 1950
Merna (top), Quantico vs A Navy Team July 1950
From: Gerald F. Merna
To: Merna, Jim USMC
Cc: Rooney, Walter
Sent: Tuesday, December 07, 2004 12:52 AM
Subject: IN THE FIELD KOREA-1952
I don't know if you remember Gerald Davis and these sketches he made while we were with 1stBn, 5th Marines 1952. Sent the one he did of us in our hootch to Sgt. Grit and just received his magazine where he printed it. Also sending you the other sketch Davis made "Fall" Watercolor, a very nice painting. Sending it to a lot of the old W-1-5 gang also. More for the "memory files."
Sgt. Grit 75 News Mag with in the Field, Korea 1952
"Fall Watercolor" By Gerald Davis 1952-75
From: Gerald F. Merna
Sent: Saturday, July 31, 2004 2:38 AM
Subject: I AM A NEW YORKER
This stirring graphic art and poem titled "I am a New Yorker" was sent to me by a friend and fellow New Yorker. He is also a retired NYPD detective, who, together with his four brothers, grew up in the same Catholic Home for Boys my five brothers and I did in Rockland County, NY. The graphic depiction is so neat, but more importantly, portrays exactly my feelings about New York, because I am a New Yorker! But as this moving depiction says, "you don't have to BE a New Yorker to be a New Yorker." Confusing? Watch the pictorial and draw your own conclusions. Please watch this first (click on the URL), then read what I write below about my reminiscence of my early life in NY.
The pictorial representation you just saw vividly reminds me of my New York heritage and now, in my 70's, finds me able to unabashedly recall that legacy.
I was one of 10 children (seven survived) born and raised in the Bronx, NY in the Harlem neighborhood during the "great depression." My life in New York City from birth spanned approximately 11 years before the seven of us (one sister included) were sent to two Homes about 25 miles from New York City. We were supposed to remain there until graduating from high school, and most did, though my oldest brother and I went AWOL before that, he to join the Navy in W.W.II [where he was killed in action] and me to join the Corps a few months after the end of W.W.II.
Growing up in the City I clearly remember many of the crazy (and dangerous) things we did as very young kids. I can't speak for all of my brothers or my sister because they are all younger than me, though one brother is only a year younger and the other two. So they may or may not have had similar experiences or memories. These "experiences" included such "stunts" as "ducking under" the then five cent subway toll booths when I had no money, which was most of the time. Hitching rides by hanging onto the back of the Trolley Cars that were prominent in those days. To me it was a common (but "free") mode of transportation. I also "hitched on" to the back of taxicabs while on roller skates to get a real "thrilling ride," lucky to only get an occasional skinned arm or leg. At the time I never considered these dumb stunts "dangerous," but of course they were.
While I'm mentioning "confessables" I also have to admit to a few "unsavory" things some of my buddies and I would do. One was to "swipe" (okay, steal) potatoes from the local grocery store stands and roast them on sticks (like folks do today with marshmallows) over fires we made in an empty lot a few blocks away. (I guess we were hungry, though today I can't imagine why we took potatoes, unless it was our Irish heritage). To earn money I sold five cent shopping bags to the ladies leaving grocery stores burdened with several paper bags of groceries. I also shined shoes in and outside of bars, and sold Colliers Magazine (a fairly large magazine that competed with the Saturday Evening Post).
We were raised Catholic and went to Sunday Mass at St. Lukes's Church in the Bronx (where I also made my first Holy Communion), and attended Public School No. 9. With the encouragement of our parents we "hung out" at the Salvation Army, who never asked or cared what our religious upbringing was. Unfortunately their "Hall" was quite distant from our neighborhood so when they had it, our folks gave me a nickel to take the subway or trolley. I believe my parents knew however that their "nickels" more often than not were spent on candy instead; besides, I liked those "trolley hitches" and "free" subway rides. I loved it at the Salvation Army hall because we sang lots of songs, had lots of fun, and got candy every time anybody had a birthday, which was just about every time we were there! But most of all, they sent us "city kids" to (Butler) New Jersey for two weeks of summer camp. The Salvation Army never forgot us either. When we were all sent to the Convent, we had frequent visits from Salvation Army officials.
I never owned a bike, so I walked everywhere, though I remember riding with my Dad when he drove a Checker Taxicab or a tow truck. He also drove a Hansom Cab (a two-wheeled covered carriage with the driver's seat above and behind, or a "horse and buggy" to the uninitiated) around Central Park. He would also pick up customers at some of the best bars in the city and and give them a memorable tour. At one time my Dad did some driving for the then Heavyweight Champion of the World, Joe Louis. I remember the day he took me to Joe Louis' Bar and Restaurant in Harlem and introduced me to him. Joe Louis was dressed in an all white suit and when he shook my hand I remember to this day it felt like shaking hands with a catchers' mitt. I was so impressed, as Joe Louis was undoubtedly the most famous person I had ever met up to that point in my life. Harlem was also a wonderful and fun place to be in those days, and everyone came there to enjoy it.
Never did I think I would become the Marine Recruiter in Times Square, Hackensack & Paterson, NJ, and eventually in my "adopted" hometown of Rockland County before I went to Korea. While on recruiting duty I married a former high school classmate from the small neighboring Village only a few miles from the "Home" I was in, with probably the only military wedding that town ever had.
I had a variety of aunts, uncles and cousins scattered all over New York City, and notably on Long Island. Our Dad, a W.W.II Air Corps veteran, though of very short duration, is buried in the National Cemetery on Long Island.
I am a New Yorker.
From: Jim Holton
To: Gerald F. Merna
Sent: Tuesday, May 10, 2005 1:26 PM
just a line to say hello i've not been active on the computer for a while. the scuttlebutt is that a marine general will be the head of the joint chiefs of staff gen peter pace the first time for the corp. frances and i are ok. hope you and dot are the same. well i'll see you later bye for now.
the old corp marine
From: Gerald F. Merna
To: Jim Holton
Sent: Thursday, May 12, 2005 2:12 AM
Subject: Re: gungho
Always good to hear from my old Asst. Section Leader. Have been wondering how you and Frances are doing.
It's more than "scuttlebutt" about Gen. Pace, the current Vice Chairman of the Joint Chief's of Staff, being nominated for this prestigious (and Marine first) job as CHAIRMAN of the Joint Chiefs. Isn't that wonderful? What's probably going to delay it for a little while anyway is the Congressional Hearings since the Senate has to confirm him. There's a lot of rumbling about the next Chief (whoever he is) not being able to "stand up" to Defense Secty. Rumsfeld, so there will undoubtedly be a little "politicking" going on; but I can't see this very distinguished Marine NOT being confirmed. He'll do a great job, and there's no doubt in my mind he'll "stand up" to anyone!
My brother Jim and I had the great pleasure of meeting Gen. Pace in 2003 at the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the end of the Korean War. In fact he gave us each one of his "Challenge Coins" and whoever thought at that time he'd be nominated for the Chairman's job? We also met the then Deputy Secretary of Defense, now the nominee to be the head of the World Bank, Paul Wolfowitz. The day before I had a good chat with dear friend Bob Taplett who was not only a very distinguished Marine Corps Hero (Navy Cross and TWO Silver Stars) but worked right alongside me in the U. S. Postal S. Postal Service Headquarters in Washington for many years after we each retired from the Corps.
I had put together a nice "pictorial" essay about that celebration, so I'm going to enclose a copy of it as an attachment. Hope you enjoy it. Click here to see pictorial essay.
Please keep in touch, and know that Dot joins in sending you both her very best.
From: GERALD F MERNA
To: Joseph R. Stanaitis ; David T. Feliciano
Sent: Saturday, May 14, 2005 3:57 AM
Subject: Camp Shanks
What a great story. Thanks for sending.
What memories of those war years, my family will never forget them, and this story brings it all to the forefront once again. My wife Dot also vividly remembers so many of those "Shanks Troopers" marching in front of her home on Ferdon Avenue enroute to the Piermont Pier to ship out to Europe. I would write to some of the GI's I met as a young kid at St. Dominic’s, and far too many letters came back as "undeliverable," meaning that Soldier did not make it.
Lately I've been obsessed in my thinking of the sacrifices we ALL made during World War II to support our fighting men and women, contrasted to what we're NOT doing today. I would guess almost 70% of our citizenry don't even know there's a war going on right now, and the 30% who do are either family members of the military members doing the fighting or serving other vital missions around the war, or are themselves or family members of veterans of other battles. Far too many of us are too engrossed in making a living, driving ever more gas-guzzling cars, buying bigger houses, demanding more services from our governments (local, state and federal) while grousing about taxes, and would rather watch a ball game on TV than hear the news from Iraq and Afghanistan!
I remember at St. Agnes when we would all gather around the lake and the blessed statue in front of the Chapel to pray for our fighting men and women in World War II. I remember the joy of visiting servicemen from St. Agnes coming back to see us kids on their way to and from the far-flung battlefields of WWII. We would press their uniforms for them, shine their shoes, and do all the little things we could to let them know we were so glad to see them, as they obviously were to see us, the Sisters, and the Coaches and Counselors.
One serviceman we never got to see was our oldest brother George, who had already joined the Navy before his four other brothers arrived at St. Agnes in successive years. He was already in the South Pacific on an LST (Landing Ship Tank, also referred to as a “Low, Slow, Target”). One day in February 1945 that I’ll never forget I was eating lunch with all the other “House’s Kids” when a Nun called me outside. Wondering what I had done to merit that, which usually meant you were in trouble, she instead told me that George was "Missing in Action" and that was about all she knew. When I returned to my table, I was crying. The other kids of course did not tolerate well a 15-year old crying, and started making fun of me. Fortunately the same Sister then interrupted the lunch to tell one and all what she had just told me. Instantly I had at least 100 new friends, many of who had also lost brothers, uncles or other family members in that "Great War."
That night we again gathered at the Lake for a special Memorial for George, who as it turned out, was shortly thereafter declared KIA (killed in action) at age 19. Many a Memorial was similarly conducted for other St. Agnes men; I believe we lost 555 men, let me repeat that, 555 men on the beaches of Normandy to the sands of Iwo Jima. If you reflect on that unbelievably large number for just a minute and reconcile it with the fact that they came from just a small Catholic Convent, made up of orphaned and abandoned kids, mostly from the streets of New York City, this huge number of deaths and that kind of a sacrifice should boggle anybody's mind! Imagine any small town losing that many of its youth in any war and what the reaction would be.
That’s why Coach Faulk always called us "gutsy kids" and addressed his letters from the Pacific to our Newsletter with the words "To The Fightingest Boys In the World Wherever You May Be." (If you were at our 50th Anniversary celebration of our Alumni Assn. you may recall I went into a lot of detail about this, including several stories of individual sacrifices made by "House's Kids.” Our own beloved St. Agnes Coach, Jim Faulk, led many young Leathernecks into battle as a Captain of Marines on too many Pacific Islands. When I review the St. Agnes Newsletters of that era, they were chockfull of news of our Alumni and their exploits all around the war. Humble stories of humble men serving as Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, Merchant Marines, all doing great things, proud of and grateful to be serving their country, while missing us, the Nuns, the Priests, and even the "miserable" life we all thought we were living at the time, but now "bragging" about how it made us whatever we feel we are or have achieved today.
Indeed, in addition to the Depression years that most of us were born in, we were shaped by the events of World War II, and many of us went on to fight in Korea, Vietnam and elsewhere. And now our sons, daughters, nieces and nephews, and indeed, our grandchildren, are making the same sacrifices today not only in the War on Terror, but in other far-flung and dangerous places including the same Korea we fought in, and other areas of the world many are not even aware of. They are of course our "new" Heroes, going about their business as we did, which is what makes and keeps American great and strong. It warms my heart when I read about so many of them saying "We're just doing our part to uphold the traditions of those that came before us," recognizing the values and sacrifices not only of the "Greatest Generation" of the World War II era, but for those who served up to and including every threat faced by Americans since that time.
The name "Camp Shanks" is really synonymous with words like "Victory," "Sacrifice," "Courage," and most of all, "Patriotism" with its broadest meaning of "love of country and willingness to sacrifice for it."
This once decaying Camp Shanks flagpole that formerly was saluted by the American GI on his way to war, now restored, should hopefully restore all these meanings as well.
From: GERALD F MERNA
To: Joe Stanaitis; David T. Feliciano
Sent: Saturday, May 14, 2005 5:41 PM
Subject: Errata: Camp Shanks story of May 14
If you will look at the "time" I sent you the subject story you will note it was three minutes before 4:00 a.m. this morning, so this is the only "excuse" I have for making the error I did in that story.
Where I wrote "I believe we lost 555 men on the beaches of Normandy to the Sands of Iwo Jima," I got my numbers crossed. While the number 555 is correct, it is not the number who died, but rather the number who served, which of course makes quite a difference! What I should have said, and this is verbatim from a copy I located of the remarks I made when I was the keynote speaker for our 50th Reunion on August 24th, 1996, was this,
"In researching some of those old (St. Agnes) World War II newsletters, an early note from one of the Sisters said, "We now have the Gold Star with the number 10 on the Service Flag which hangs from the Boys Choir in the back of the Chapel. The White Star numbers 555, although we know there must be more than that number, there are many with whom we are not in contact."
"Just think about that! As the Nuns said, they had 10 Gold Stars, signifying that 10 St. Agnes kids had paid the Supreme Sacrifice. The 555 White Stars signified that 555 St. Agnes kids were serving their country as soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. That's unprecedented and unheard of--555 kids from one small catholic school serving in the military during World War II."
So while we didn't "lose" 555 men, we still had a staggering loss as those 10 Gold Stars later increased to 40! So the 40 St. Agnes kids who were ultimately killed in action in World War II (including my brother George) is in itself still an overwhelming loss, and again I would say, “what small community would tolerate losing 40 of their finest?”
To atone for my error, I am copying below pictures of the three Plaques we dedicated the morning of our 50th Reunion of the St. Agnes Alumni Assn. in 1996. Only the “Nuns Plaque” was new, for as you may recall, the “Coaches Plaque” (devoted to Coach Faulk) was made when we dedicated our gymnasium to him, as he and those few "House's Kids" he met up with while they were all on a WWII Pacific Island conceived of the idea to building a gymnasium for us. The “Supreme Sacrifice Plaque” with the names of the deceased was at one time hanging in that old gymnasium that was torn down when St. Agnes was abolished, then later rediscovered, and rededicated.
Coach Faulk Plaque is on right side
The " Supreme Sacrifice Plaque " has 39 of the 40 or more who gave their lives.
Again, "Mea Culpa" for my error, I'll try to be more accurate in the future.
From: Gerald F. Merna
To: Louis Reyes
Sent: Saturday, December 11, 2004 12:40 AM
Subject: Re: Photos of Coach Faulk
Louis Reyes wrote:
My name is Louis Reyes ('49-'53). You don't know me directly but I met you at the House's gathering a couple of years back when we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Houses Alumni. I was the Marine who was photographing everbody with my camcorder. It was good meeting you and Jim and the many Houses "Kids" that day. Too bad that Richard was not able to attend that day. Over the years I can remember the many fond memories that I had at St. Agnes. My stay there was short but those memories I can live with a life time. Especially all the sacrifices that the sisters and Coach Jim Faulk have made for us all.
I was rereading Art & Gloria's last newsletter and you were interested if any one had photo's of Coach Faulk. I have a minor collection of photo's taken during the years 1949-1953 and I came across one of the Coach (not in uniform) & a couple of others you may recognize. I will mail these to you in the next few days and let me know what you think.
If I don't hear from you before the holidays - Have a Merry Christmas.
I want to say I don't remember you and yet somehow I do. (Heck to get old, isn't it)? I think it is the fact that you said you were a Marine that triggered something.
I regret we didn't have a chance to have a longer chat at our 50th Anniversary Celebration of the St. Agnes Alumni Assn. (St. AAA). Since I was the main speaker that night I guess I was focused more on that than anything else. It was a very special occasion and I was humbled to have been given that honor.
I don't know if you are aware that the St. AAA has their own web site
now, courtesy of David Feliciano, his brother Peter Feliciano and Joseph
One of these days I am going to send Dave and Joe a copy of the remarks I made at our 50th Anniversary St. AAA Celebration to share with the Alumni that were not there that night, and to refresh the memories of those who were. (Click to see 50th Anniversary St. AAA Celebration Remarks).With the help of my brother Jim I recalled a lot of names of alumni and Nuns from days past, as well as various events that occurred over the years. I will “cc” them (and a few others who will find this of interest) this email response to you for their possible interest. Did you attend/graduate from Tappan Zee High School? If so, let me know, and I will put you in touch with Jack Monnier who has a TZHS web site that is linked to the ST AAA web site, and vice versa.
That's very nice of you to send the photo's you mentioned, I appreciate that very much. If you need them returned let me know, as I can scan them into my computer and return them to you. Walt Rooney and I have been "swapping" pictures back and forth also, so perhaps we can share some of them with you. I would also be interested in getting a copy of the tape you made of the reunion if that's possible. (Of course I would be very happy to reimburse you for any and all costs, including postage). If that is convenient for you some day, that would be great, if not, don't worry about it.
When were you in the Corps? I would really like to hear more about you and your service, where you were, etc. Besides my brothers Jim, Rich and myself, so many "House's Kids" were Marines. Jim and I met Bob Antonacci and Hank Feldman while we were in Korea. You probably know several of the others, both Kee brothers, Joe Antonacci (he was in the same class as Dot and me, class of 48), "Sarge" Karris, Halprin, Hugh McAvinue, Malachy Murphy, Frank Boyle and others I can't recall at the moment. One of my near future articles will be "The Marines of St. Agnes," or some such title.
Again, it is a pleasant surprise hearing from you. Dot and I wish you and your family a very happy holiday.
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