Family Stories: The Families Who Served… now listed at the West Haven Veteran’s Museum
Giuseppe “Joe” Cambino (1896-1972), Private 1st Class… enlisted in the Army on July 20, 1917. Giuseppe had only been in the United States a few years… arriving from Italy in 1913. Jobs were scarce at that time, so many young men chose to enlist… hoping to find work after they served. Joe served in France and the German Occupation from 1917 through 1919, and saw combat with Co. L. 102nd Infantry Reg of the 26th “Yankee” Division at Chemin-des AEF Dames Sector, Aisne Front, and the Battle of Seicheprey, where he was wounded on June 10th, 1918…. later receiving the Purple Heart. He was Honorably Discharged on April 28, 1919 and returned home to open Buddy’s Barber Shop on Washington Ave. and soon married Minnie (DeTulio) Cambino. They bought their first house on York St., then later moved to a farm on Sawmill Road where he and Minnie raised a family of seven children. Sadly after many years, he was forced to sell his farm when the construction of I-95 came through… it was mapped out to run directly through the middle of his farm. His farm was situated around the area of where the new entrance to I-95 is now, after the entrance and exits were changed on Sawmill Road. Joe then relocated his family to a home on First Avenue alongside the waters of Long Island Sound. Joe and Minnie are both buried in All Saints Cemetery in North Haven, Ct. (My husband’s grandfather)
Fred Joseph Cambino (1926-1986), Seaman 1st Class, joined the U.S. Navy on Feb. 13, 1943… two years after Pearl Harbor, (son of Giuseppe “Joe” Cambino). Most American boys were eager to join at the time… wanting to serve their country. It was never told as to why he chose the Navy, as most of the family men had served in the Army; his father served in the Army in WWI… his brothers Johnny and Frank also both chose the Army, but Freddie had always had a love for the water. He shipped out of Boston on the USS Lexington on March 31, 1944… later debarking at San Francisco, California… and then embarked on the USS Hinsdale (APA-120) on Nov 30, 1944… headed to Okinawa. As the USS Hinsdale approached the beachhead during the initial assault of the Battle of Okinawa… when “tragedy” struck on that early morning of April 1st, 1945… a suicide plane crashed into her portside, causing damage just above the waterline; it destroyed the engine room, killing all except for one man. It had been a low-gray dawn that morning, which caused the plane to not be sighted early enough before it made an almost fatal assault on all aboard. As the bombs exploded, most of their machinery areas quickly flooded, leaving all machines inoperable except for emergency equipment. Their ship was immediately dead in the water! Freddie was an aviation mechanic onboard. He carried a photograph of that hole in the Hinsdale home with him… crinkled from being carried in his wallet, but he brought it home… a reminder of the night… reminding him that he almost didn’t come home! He received medals of the American Theater, Victory Medal and the Asiatic Pacific Medal with 5 stars; was Honorably Discharged on March 28, 1946. Freddie returned home to work at Armstrong Rubber, along with many other family members. He died on Feb. 3, 1986 and is buried at All Saints Cemetery, North Haven… alongside his parents. (My husband’s uncle)
Frank Cambino (1932-2016), Sergeant E-5, was drafted into the U.S. Army, and inducted on January 12th, 1953. Frank listed construction as what he wanted to do in the Army when filling out his paperwork… and eventually he was sent to school and earned a diploma from the Army Engineer Core. The Korean War was raging when Frank first went in, but before leaving for Korea, the war ended. While at boot camp, he often walked to the airport on base to watch the older bubble-top helicopters takeoff and land – really wanting to fly them. Finally his name was called to ship out, soon heading to Korea. His platoon leader there gave him the nickname of Gabby because he talked all the time, telling many stories; Frank loved having a nickname finally given him, as many in his family had nicknames but him. Later, he became the assistant company carpenter on base… and while there, built a water tower and even a table and chair set for the base commander. After the company head carpenter left, he was promoted to that position. Frank was proud of his jacket full of medals he earned… as he was a perfect marksman, and had wanted to also become a sniper while in the Army. He returned home to continue in the carpentry field. He was honorably discharged on Nov. 30, 1954 with a final full Honorable Discharge from the reserves on Dec. 31, 1960. While serving during the Korean War, he received medals of the Korean Service Medal, Merit Unit Commendation, Presidential Unit Citation, UN SVC Medal, and the National Defense SVC Medal. Frank died on May 26, 2016. (My husband’s uncle)
James “Jim” Lewis Donahue (1924-2005), Private 1st Class, was inducted on March 24, 1943 in Bangor, Maine… into the Headquarters & Service Company, 879th Engineer Aviation Battalion in the U. S. Army. His qualifications earned him the military occupational specialty of heavy machine gunner, and received the Marksman-Rifle Glider Badge. James fought in battles of India, Burma and Central Burma… receiving medals of Good Conduct Medal, the Asiatic Pacific Theater Campaign Ribbon, and the Victory Medal; received an honorable discharge on January 7th, 1946 at Fort Devens, Massachusetts. After returning from the war he moved to Hamden and lived with his brother Teddy and his wife, while working as a window washer where he met his wife Catherine Cambino, who worked at Armstrong Rubber. He moved to West Haven when he married in 1950 and soon learned the roofing trade. James later worked as a railroad conductor for NY NH & Hartford RR, then Conrail and later Amtrak until his retirement in 1986; he returned to roofing and siding jobs after retirement from Amtrak. James died on August 25, 2005 and is buried alongside his wife, Catherine, in Oak Grove Cemetery in West Haven. (My husband’s uncle)
Stephen Joseph Insalaco Sr. (1921-2000), Staff Sergeant, was born on April 24, 1921 in Willimantic, later moving with his family, as a young boy, to Shelton, CT. Steve joined the United States Army Air-Corp and was inducted on Aug. 4, 1942. He was then working at Armstrong Rubber… a job he left in heading for boot camp on Aug. 21st. at Fort Meyers, Tampa, Fla… and soon trained with the 582th Technical Squadron Training School No. 727. After boot camp, Steve was sent to the Army-Air Forces Technical School in Madison, Wisconsin where he completed a course for radio operators; later sent to Fort Myrtle Beach, S.C. with the 316th Air Drome Squadron… working as an airline mechanic on the flight line on the B-25 planes. On January 7, 1946, Staff Sergeant Stephen J. Insalaco was honorably discharged from the Army -Air Corp. His separation for Honorable Discharge was at Mitchell Field, New York on January 7, 1946. Steve then returned home to Connecticut, and back to work at The Armstrong Rubber Co. in West Haven, where he soon met wife, CeCelia Cambino, (daughter of Giuseppe Cambino) who also worked there. They married in 1947, had two sons, and Steve soon began building their home on Sawmill Road, and like his father in law… I-95 cut through their property also, and the state moved his house to property purchased on Edward Street. After many years of working in the union at Armstrong, Steve was promoted to maintenance foreman, and remained in that position until his retirement in 1981; Stephen Insalaco Sr. died Nov. 3, 2000 and is buried alongside his wife, Cecelia, in Oak Grove Cem., West Haven. (My husband’s father)
Stephen David Insalaco Jr. (1948-) Sergeant: I joined the Air Force in 1967, just before graduation from West Haven High School; at that time, the Vietnam War was in full force. I joined in late 1967 at the recruitment offices, along with my best friend; the offices were then located on Grove St. in New Haven near the Arena. On January 25nd, 1968 at 5 a.m., I reported to the Air Force leaving station on the corner of Chapel and Olive St. in New Haven; first stop was Lackland Air Force Base – San Antonio, Texas for boot camp. Directly afterward, I was sent to Chanute AFB in Chicago, Illinois and assigned to the Air Force Technical Training Center for schooling as an aircraft maintenance specialist. It was there where I learned to work on the Air Force “big birds”, the B-52’s. I soon received orders for Robins AFB in Warner Robins, Ga., where I was assigned to the 465th OMS, (Organized Maintenance Squadron) 465th Bomb Wing of SAC (Strategic Air Command), working on the flight line maintaining the B-52 G models. The SAC unit, the WRAFB 19th Bombardment Wing, was only there to support the B-52 bomber… the rest of the base was Logistics. While stationed there, I met my future wife, Jeanne Bryan… marrying her in 1971, but not before I was transferred for a short time to Loring AFB in Limestone, Maine; after my marriage on May 3,1971, I was transferred to U-Tapao Royal Thai Navy Air-base located on the southern coast of Thailand. It was a short stay in Thailand and I returned home to Honorably Discharge at Westover AFB in Massachusetts on Sept. 23, 1971. My wife and I first called West Haven home. and like my father, and like many other family members, I also first went to work at Armstrong Rubber.
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