2019: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Week 21 (May 20 – 26): Military
I “first” joined Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks on its “first” year in 2014… and what a whirlwind year that was… writing, editing and researching daily for 365 days! As much as I wanted to continue the following year, I found that I didn’t have the time to continue another year with that type of research… although I did continue blogging and writing stories at my own pace, which allowed me to write on other topics as well as family stories when ideas came my way… but I’ve often missed it. The first year were no specific weekly prompts like today… but I’m taking a different spin on them. There will be some posts on a specific ancestor, but most will be memories that spring from those prompts. Head over to 2014 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks to read about my ancestors in the first years challenge.
If you’re new to genealogy, make your “first” stop to Amy’s website for genealogy ideas or even join in on this 52 Week challenge… you learn by doing… not procrastinating! There is no right or wrong… anything you do is a start!
Timing was perfect for this prompt… In looking through many of my photo and family history albums, I came across my father-in-law’s military information and all documents he saved. In visiting my mother in law one day, I found her cleaning through things that she was planning on discarding… immediately I asked if I could have them. I knew they were dad’s treasures and I wanted to save them, as I love all my treasures I’ve saved through the years… and hoping my children or grandchildren will also save them one day.
Stephen Joseph Insalaco
1921 – 2000
Dad often talked to me about his life growing up and while serving in the military… and from those afternoon talks – I’ve written these words.
Stephen Joseph Insalaco was the first American born child born to the Insalaco family in America. He was the son of Stefano and Giacinta DiRosa Insalaco – the third child born to this family by 1921. Stephen was born on April 24, 1921 in Willimantic, and like most births at that time, he was born at home. Steve was one of nine children in the Insalaco family, and one of four sons – he was the second oldest.
Dad enlisted in the Army Air-Corp on July 21, 1942 in Hartford, CT., for a term of enlistment so-written as… for the duration of the war or other emergency, plus six months… subject to the discretion of the President or otherwise according to law. He was listed at a height of 5 ft., 7 inches with a weight of 137 lbs.
I’m sure his mother was very proud of him, as she was the one who first saved this small notice in the local paper… and was probably quite annoyed that they misspelled the family name. This tiny article has survived for over seventy-seven years!
Dad was inducted into service on August 4, 1942, and left on August 21, 1942 for Devens, Massachusetts camp and then onto Fort Myers, Tampa, Florida, where he spent about six weeks; he trained with the 582th Technical Squadron Training School No. 727. In talking to my father-in-law about his life in the Army Air-Corp, I knew he enjoyed time spent in the service and his job of aircraft mechanic. (I’m assuming the newspaper put Miami by mistake as his paperwork read Tampa, Florida.)
He spoke of all the bases he was stationed at and the many planes he worked on, but now I wished I had asked even more questions! Dad never forgot his TI (Training Instructor) at boot camp and how he resembled the actor, Lee Marvin, although he didn’t remember his name. When Dad first saw Lee Marvin on stage later on, he thought that he might have even been his TI in boot camp – remembering the voice and mannerisms being the same as his TI. (Lee Marvin did not serve in the Army Air-Corp – he served in the Marines.) After boot camp, Dad was sent to the Army-Air Forces Technical School in Madison, Wisconsin…. and it was there he completed a course for radio operators.
Next stop was MacDill Field…
In March of 1943, Private Insalaco was sent to MacDill Army-Air Base – a base located eight miles south of downtown Tampa, Florida on 5,000 acres… being on the Southwestern tip of the Interbay Peninsula on the west coast of Florida. It was mainly used in World War II for training airmen on B-17 and B-26 aircraft and originally known as Southeast Air-Base; later renamed MacDill Field in honor of Colonel Leslie MacDill. After the establishment of the United States Air Force in 1947, it became known as MacDill Air Force Base. (The MacDill Base closed in 1991)
Flying operations at MacDill began in 1941, and the base’s first missions included transitional training on the B-17 Flying Fortress. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, MacDill became a major staging area for the Army-Air Corps flight crews and aircraft. In 1943 the base discontinued B-26 training and returned to B-17 training which continued through the end of World War II. During the war, as many as 15,000 troops were stationed at MacDill at any one time. Several bases in Florida, including MacDill, also served as detention centers for German prisoners-of-war (POWs) in the latter part of 1944 and 1945. Before leaving Private Stephen Insalaco was promoted to Staff Sergeant Insalaco.
Headed to Fort Myrtle Beach…
After leaving Tampa in January of 1944, Dad was stationed at Fort Myrtle Beach, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where he was an airline mechanic on the flight line. It was a very small place at that time, having only one hotel in town. The landing field on the base seemed to be carved out of the woods, and from the air it looked like a cross in the middle of a wooded area. Steve served in the 316th Airdrome Squadron and was a mechanic on the B-25 planes. Dad enjoyed talking about this base and how it seemed to have just been plunked smackdown in the middle of those woods… and while he never saw with his own eyes how it resembled a cross in looking down from high above, he remembered it from being told by all the pilots.
Leaving for Kellogg Field…
In July of 1944, Sergeant S. J. Insalaco was sent to Army Air Base, Kellogg Field, Battle Creek, Michigan. He served in Squadron “N,” 357th AAF Base Unit and remained there until 1945.
Back to Florida…
Steve soon returned back to Florida… to be stationed at the Marianna Army Air Field in Marianna, Florida with the 137th “H” Squadron AAF Base Unit. He was sent to the MAAF – Marianna Army Air Field Advanced Flying School. While Dad never talked about if he was sent there to learn how to fly a plane… in my research, that seemed to be the only reason you were sent there. If only I had questioned this!
While in the Air Corp, Steve developed a way to determine which phone was ringing at locations where numerous phones (EE-8) were lined up on a table or desk. This was always a problem because whenever a phone rang, you couldn’t tell exactly which one was ringing. He wired up a relay on each phone and when a phone rang, the relay would chatter and could be seen. The military brass were so impressed that they sent him to other bases to wire up their phones (EE-8) also. (As told to me by Steve’s brother, Pete Insalaco.) I questioned later as to why Dad never told me this story… but he wasn’t the type of man to brag on his accomplishments!
Dad had several pictures of himself and his buddies; being an airplane mechanic, most of those photos were always near the planes he worked on. He enjoyed talking about time spent as a mechanic on the B-25 planes to me – and I enjoyed listening! I never had the opportunity to hear my father talk of his time spent in the Navy, so I treasured my father in-law’s stories.
Dad by one of his planes he worked on!
While on leave…
On one leave, Dad stopped in Manhattan at his Uncle Jimmy Insalaco’s tavern, “Tivale Bar & Grill” on 8th Ave; Jimmy owned two taverns in the city. Uncle Jimmy drove his Indian motorcycle to Shelton once for a visit . (Jimmy was Vincenzo Insalaco, brother to Steve’s father.)
On January 7, 1946, Sergeant Stephen J. Insalaco was honorably discharged from the Army-Air Corp; he separated at Mitchell Field, New York on January 7, 1946. He then returned home to Connecticut and back to work at The Armstrong Rubber Co. in West Haven, Connecticut… where he soon married in 1947 and began his family in 1948 with the birth of my husband, Stephen David Insalaco.
My father in law never met anything he couldn’t repair… he saved every motor that webt bad… thinking “one day he’d get around to repairing it.” While he did repair a few motors, we found a barrel full next to his workbench in cleaning out the cellar. It’s not easy to actually rebuild a motor, but he had a lot patience. He worked in maintenance at Armstrong Rubber and was known as the man who could repair “anything.” When the plant closed and machinery was sent to the Nashville plant, they couldn’t install it to work correctly… he was sent to get them up and running. Throughout the family he was known as the man to call when anything broke… nephew Paul said at his funeral… “now we have no one to call anymore.” My husband often says, “if my father was here, he’d know how to repair this.”
Stay tuned for Week 22… At the Cemetery
Continue reading 2019: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks over HERE!
To read more Family Stories… click HERE.
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