USS Republic - originally commissioned the USS President Grant ID3014, this ship was put into action as a troop carrier for World War I. She sailed 16 round trips between France and New York City. Her log showed 40,104 men were transported in her voyages east and 37,025 men were transported in her voyages west.
Renamed the USS Republic in World War II, she made seven voyages from San Francisco, making port at the Hawaiian Islands and ending in Sydney, Australia. In her second war, the Republic transported over 33,000 servicemen.
After World War II, the Republic was decommissioned, rebuilt as an army hospital ship and renamed the USAHS Republic.
Charles G. Mancuso, U.S. Navy
Guam - A territory of the U.S. that was occupied by Japanese forces for a 31-month period during World War II. While the Japanese occupied Guam there were an undisclosed amount of murders, rapes and destruction. The U.S. regained complete control of its territory in 1944.
Sea Bees - Organized in December 1941 by Rear Admiral. Ben Moreell, who was in charge of all navy shipyards and docks. The Sea Bees' job before the war had to be done by paid civilians. Admiral Moreell built a base at Davisville, R.I., and had it constructed by its new construction battalion with the initials CB battalion. The admiral wanted to put a spark in the battalion's name and came up with the name Sea Bees.
During World War II, the Navy had enlisted 325,000 men into the Sea Bees. This new unit became official in 1947 and consisted of three Sea Bee units: Construction BN, CB; Amphibious BN, ACB; Naval Mobile, NMCB.
Sea Bee 25th Naval Construction Battalion
Married - April 14, 1948, to Gertrude (Legrano) Mancuso at St. Anthony's Catholic Parish in Fredonia. Charles lost Gertrude March 8, 1999.
Daughter - Rochelle (Mancuso) Hennessey.
Grandchildren - Charles Hennessey and Shawn Hennessey.
Great-grandchildren - Victoria Hennessey and Alexis Hennessey.
Charles G. Mancuso was born on April 13, 1926, to Jack and Rose (Lombardo) Mancuso. As a child Charles grew up on the family's big farm on Waite Road in Sheridan.
Working on a farm that produced grapes, tomatoes, beans and raspberries kept Charles and his brother Gillis and sisters Jenny, Carmella (Gens), Rose Ann (Crancio) and Mary (Zappo) busy working in the fields and doing everyday farm work.
At age 5, Charles started school at the Sheridan School House District 3, a one-room schoolhouse with a teacher who had 20 students in different grades from kindergarten to the eighth grade.
The family moved to a new farm located on Route 20. Because of this Charles then attended Sheridan's District School House in Sheridan District 6. He finished his elementary education at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic School in Silver Creek.
Charles recalled farm life being a hard life. When time came for fun, you could see Mancuso with friends Dominic Rossotto, Joe Damiano or Tony Laspada out riding horses, playing softball with local boys and on those hot, summer days swimming. In the early 1940s the family moved to Lincoln Avenue in Dunkirk. Charles then landed one of his first jobs at the Boston store in Dunkirk. Dreaming to see the world, Mancuso got his ticket by enlisting in the United States Navy.
It was three days before his 17th birthday on April 10, 1943, and Charles Mancuso was standing at the naval recruiting facility in Buffalo. After being sworn in, he was given orders to head to the Buffalo train station and travel to Sampson Naval Training Station.
In June 1943, he and several hundred sailors graduated. New orders came and cashing in on his dream to see the world Mancuso headed west for his very first time to California, at Camp Shoemaker. After reporting in, Charles received new orders. This farmer's son from Sheridan would not only see the Pacific Ocean for the first time but also would be living and working on a large U.S. Naval vessel for the first time.
The ship USS Republic was designed to be a troop carrier that, if necessary, could hold up to 5,000 troops. When the ship left California, Mancuso was still was living his dream, getting to see more of the world.
This time the USS Republic set sail for the Hawaiian Islands with its next destination being Sydney, Australia. The shipping lane, later known as torpedo alley, brought many trips back and forth. Ships built like the USS Republic did sail well, having great speed and being constructed for sailing in these well-armed convoys.
While en route to Australia, the Republic encountered enemy submarines which were either sunk or scared away by destroyers protecting our convoys. The trips took 23 days at sea each way. As the war progressed the Navy department, feeling the enemy was losing their sea power superiority, decided convoys to Australia would not require escorts anymore. The new convoys from San Francisco to Sydney sailed unescorted.
When going to Sydney the ship always carried new replacements to various units in the Pacific, Mancuso recalled. The return trips were different because the ship brought back personnel who had served and completed military missions. Most were returning to stateside for reassignment and were retrained for new missions. One return group Mancuso recalled was a P.T. (patrol torpedo) squadron who had served in the New Guinea area. The crew was young, tired and suffering from combat fatigue. Years later after the war a movie titled "PT-109" was released and it brought back to Mancuso the heartbreaking experience that the young crew had gone through. (Note: PT-109 was commanded by John F. Kennedy, who later became U.S. President.)
In early 1944, Mancuso was given a 15-day leave while in San Francisco. He headed back home to be with his family. Little did he know that it would be the last time he would see his family and home until his discharge in April 1946.
When he returned to California he received orders that for a few months had him sleeping in Naval bunks all over the states. Finally he got new orders in his hand to head back to Pearl Harbor in the Hawaiian Islands. Enjoying the islands was short lived and it wasn't long before the Navy needed Mancuso in Guam.
As he was checking his new orders, he noticed that he was also assigned a new job and new title. With minimal retraining due to the war and wearing the uniform of a Navy Seabee he was now headed to Guam. With the war advancing in our favor, the Navy felt it was time to build up our military bases with new buildings, roads, bridges and even entertainment facilities. He was assigned to the 25th Naval construction battalion. The first of many jobs was to build the North West Field, which was the airfield that our B-29 bombers used to drop bombs on Japan's mainland for the first time.
Mancuso still remembers to this day driving a Navy military dump truck and having a B-29 taking off and seeing its wing a few feet over his head. He recalled how exciting it was to get up at dusk and watch B-29 after B-29 taking off fully-loaded with missions to deliver their loads and drop them off on Japan's mainland. He felt good because his unit had a part in making that airstrip.
At night when the bombers returned many felt sad for the ones who didn't return from the mission. This field toward the end of the war took part in the missions that participated in the atomic bomb being dropped over Japan.
As the priority construction projects had been completed, new projects like building homes for the Navy's captains and admirals took place.
Various military housing, new mess halls and even movie halls were started. Mancuso's unit had the privilege to help build shelters for units of the third Marine division. These Marines were responsible for the invasion and restoring Guam back as an American possession. Mancuso felt good in helping make life on Guam little bit easier for those U.S. Marines.
The Sea Bees and Marines built solid friendships. In the early stages of World War II most sailors never believed that they someday would have a jarhead as a friend. As the war progressed, he recalled the sad days when a few of his new jarhead Marine friends were packing their duffel bags to be shipped out to this island that no one ever heard of, a funny named island called Iwo Jima. As that island fight continued Mancuso and his unit would get daily reports of the friends that were lost at Iwo Jima.
As time in Guam passed, he was given the job as a guard with a small squad of Japanese POW's (prisoners of war) who were given different work duties. Mancuso remembers treating the prisoners well and never feared any danger from them to escape or harm anyone. It seemed they were content with the hand that war dealt them.
One of his greatest projects as Sea Bees was to construct a movie theater?The natives would come with their own chairs and Hollywood celebrities performed at many USO shows.
The war now seemed to be in our favor. Days seemed to last like weeks and weeks like months, not too much excitement was in the air. One night Mancuso heard groups of men cheering and celebrating along with some small arms firing by the Marines on the perimeter guard line. He wanted to know what all the excitement was and he learned that the Japanese had agreed to a surrender. This was only if a guarantee was made to ensure the emperor would remain and not be prosecuted.
This news came later with the official declaration of peace. The military men looked forward to heading home. Many were going home, but not Mancuso. Besides lacking a few points for discharge he also had another item keeping him in Guam. A few months beforehand after a show, he and a friend of his were escorting two sisters and their aunt back to their village. As they were returning at an intersection a motorcycle had struck their car and the aunt was killed.
At the scene of the accident, the military police took their names and unit number. No more was then said of the accident. While waiting for confirmation on his discharge Mancuso had seen a jeep pulling up to his barracks with the words "Provost Marshal" stenciled on the front of the jeep. He realized this was not the paperwork he was waiting for. He was advised that the Navy wanted to have a hearing on the motorcycle accident with Mancuso as a possible witness. Mancuso was forced to stay until the trial was complete. Finally after a few weeks the Navy deemed the motorcyclist had been drinking and the trial ended.
Charles Mancuso was honorably discharged from the United States Navy. A local farmer's son turned sailor and then turned Sea Bee. He went and did whatever the navy needed him to do. His dream of traveling had been fulfilled. If someone were to talk of California, he surely could say, "I've been there."
After the military, Mancuso worked at the Bedford Products, Red Wing, Nog and the Vineyard Restaurant. Now he enjoys his retirement by traveling and watching spectator sports. He has visited Europe and spends his winters in Florida. He has served as a Boy Scout leader for many years and is a familiar face in our area. His love of people has brought him many friends.
Charles Mancuso is another hero from our area that just went and did his job. He joined the Navy and ended up with a job that gave him the opportunity to build airstrips, movie theaters and admiral quarters. He experienced times when being a sailor would put you in charge of prisoners of war. A job that even made sailors friends with Marines.
Mancuso couldn't have guessed what an impact he would have on history by joining the Navy.
I, myself, have the utmost respect for Sea Bees. I have seen with my own eyes what Sea Bees could accomplish when serving beside them. They built the McNamara line along with the DMZ (Vietnamese demilitarized zone) in Vietnam and the many bomb shelters for the local Vietnamese.
People who think of the Sea Bees as a construction workers who just build things are only partially right. They build, but while they are building along with the hammers and bulldozers, they carry rifles. It's an extremely dangerous job that very seldom gets talked about or ever given credit.
Hollywood movies show the B-29s rolling down this gigantic airstrip built on this jungle island, but never show us who builds these airstrips in the jungles. They fought in the jungle and island heat, always keeping one eye open for snipers and they very seldom got any days off until the job was complete.
As in most wars, if one was to return back to see the airstrips or movie theatres or battlefields that during one time in history were vital to us being a free nation, most all would probably be gone or forgotten. Gone maybe, but never forgotten by Charles Mancuso. Charles Mancuso, thank you for serving. Charles Mancuso is our hero of the week.
- Submitted by John Fedyszyn of Fredonia