Anthony (Tony) Mastradone \|
The story of my life began when my father came from the Campania region of Italy to New York City in 1900 at the age of 16. He helped to build the new subway system. He went back to Italy in 1909 and returned with his new bride, eventually settling in Hepzibah, West Virginia, working as a coal miner.
I was born in 1918, the sixth of eight children and the oldest boy to survive. I played the trumpet in the Victory High School band, graduating in 1937. Jobs were scarce and I worked for a coal company, did odd jobs and worked for a national grocery company.
My interest in safety and medicine began after seeing the need for First Aide in the coal mines.
My military draft notice came in December 1941, leading to induction on 22 January 1942 and training at Barksdale Field near Shreveport, Louisiana. I was assigned to the 44th Heavy Bombardment Group (known as the Flying 8 Ball Group), as a medical technician, traveling to England aboard the reconfigured luxury liner, The Queen Mary.
Much training and preparation was necessary before the Group was ready to go into action. September 1942 was the beginning of about three years at Shipdham, a small village near Norwich, England.
The Group had B-24 bombers (Liberators) and participated in 344 combat missions, destroying 330 enemy planes. In March of 1943, the addition of a fourth squadron made more missions possible. At first the Liberators were scarce, but eventually over 19,000 were built.
We received the distinguished unit citation for Kiel, Germany (14 May 1943) and Ploesti, Rumania (1 August 1943). After bombing over Europe and North Africa, we completed our last mission in April 1945.
As a member of the group, I was awarded four bronze stars and one silver star. I treated patients wherever they needed medical attention.
After being discharged, I settled in Takoma Park, Maryland, trained as a mechanic and worked as an equipment specialist for the District of Columbia government for over 29 years.
I married my first wife, Rosalie, in 1948. We raised our son, Paul, who works for the EPA and our daughter, Ann Marie, who works for the FDA. I lost my first wife in 1985. I am the proud grandfather of Tony Mastradone, born in 1998.
I married Catharine in 1988. She was a great help in researching the history of the Bomb Group at the National Archives. We have attended over 20 annual reunions of The 44th Bomb Group Veterans Association.
I was awarded a plaque and a Soldier's Walk Conmemorative Brick at Calrisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, where the Group history is now archived.
One of the highlights of my life was serving as a pallbearer at the funeral of the Medal of Honor recipient, General Leon W. Johnson, in 1997.