U.S. Navy - World War II, Korea
Signalman first class
Signalman- a person who historically gives signals using flags or lights
Marcel A. DeMonte, U.S. Navy
Merchant Marine - a fleet of U.S. civilian owned merchant vessels operated by either the government or private sector that engages in commerce of transportation of goods and services in and out of navigable waters of the U.S. The Merchant Marine is responsible for transportation of cargo and passengers during peace time. During war, the Merchant Marine is an auxiliary to the U.S. Navy and can be called on to transport cargo and personnel.
Duty Stations: NTS Newport, R.I., SS Alabama, SS Stanvac, SS Oliver Evans, SS Churubosco (high octane aviation fuel), NAV Radio Station, San Diego, AGC Brooklyn, N.Y.
Medals and Ribbons - Point System, Good Conduct, Victory Medal, American Area Medal, Asiatic Pacific Medal, European African Medal
Married: Ruth (Nemrick)
Children: Marie Catherine
Brothers: Anthony and John Jr.
Marcel A. DeMonte was born on Jan. 6, 1919, at home in Jenners, Pa. His father, John worked as a coal miner near Johnstown and the Somerset area. His mother, Mary (Manica) DeMonte was a housekeeper.
When John was 3-years-old the family moved to 109 Mullet St., Dunkirk. His father, had landed a job with the Alleghany Ludlum Steel Company as a grinder. Marcel attended School 5 on Second Street in the old Dutch Hill area of Dunkirk.
When high school time came around, he attended Dunkirk High School and played intramural basketball and baseball. When he wasn't playing sports, DeMonte and his friend, William Eric, who lived on Lake Shore Drive became close friends.
When he was growing up, he played a lot of basketball on an old court near Glass Plant Field near Dan's Moving and Storage. Many times, access was gained when the guard at the Glass Plant would open the gate. Later on, the boys played a lot of pickup games which included other friends Eric and Bill Clifford and Hank Crawford.
When there were not enough boys to make up a team, they would travel to Silver Creek, or St. Joe's Home for the Boys. Growing up in Dunkirk's Dutch Hill area when DeMonte was a child, he had a 9 p.m. curfew and many times when the clock struck 9 p.m., you would see the Dutch Hill gang of Pat Mosher, John Correll, and Steve Paprocki running away as fast as they could to keep ahead of the chasing police.
Another rule in that day was that you couldn't go over to one of your friend's house and play - you and your friend always had to go find somewhere to go just to have fun. The family moved to 151 Chestnut St. in 1928. Along with the move came a new ball field at Herkercer field. This new ballfield, when taken care of was in great shape to play baseball but most of the time the boys had to cut the grass and rake the field before a good game could be played. The summer also brought swimming and fishing at Canadaway Creek, but most of the swimming was done at Point Gratiot.
Remembering when he was 17-years-old, DeMonte was fascinated watching two teachers play tennis at the newly constructed tennis courts. It wasn't long before he found a new sport to love.
After high school you would see the group playing softball at the Fourth Street and Brigham Road field.
His first job in 1939 landed him the position as a shearsman for the Alleghany Ludlum Steel Co. His starting pay was 57 cents an hour. Later, he took on a job in shipping where he worked the 4 p.m. to midnight shift.
On Dec. 7, 1941, he was ice skating at the Ruggles Street ice skating rink and overheard on the radio that the Japanese had just bombed the U.S. Naval fleet at Pearl Harbor. He also heard a grown-up in the back shout out, "Don't worry, if we go to war it will only last two weeks."
It now became the decision time either to be drafted by the U.S. Army or join the U.S. Navy. After he took the physical and passed it, he knew he had to make a decision soon. Since he worked for the steel plant he was offered deferments for certain positions. When he told the supervisor he was going to enter the Navy he was asked why he volunteered. His reply was that he had no choice. No deferments for his job were being offered and he didn't want the life of a soldier, so that's why he chose to join the U.S. Navy.
On April 27, 1942, this new sailor from New York was headed on a bus to Buffalo and the federal building to receive his second set of orders. After an extensive physical and much testing he was now headed for Providence, R.I., where he took four weeks of basic training in the U.S. Navy boot camp.
He learned the Navy felt he could best serve them by becoming a signalman and DeMonte hoped the signalsman school was in California or Hawaii. Unfortunately, it was right there in Providence.
The school was on the same base but on the other side. For the following four months he was sent to the other side of the base at Rhode Island this time as a navy signalman. At this school he learned nonstop morse code, all flags used not only in the U.S. Navy but also the Merchant Marine and other Navy's, all the number flags and pendants.
DeMonte's next assignment, before getting shipped to him, was as an armed guard at the Navy's First Avenue and 57th Station in New York City. His duty was to guard the Navy's ammunition bunker.
With the title of signalman, DeMonte knew his years in the Navy would be on a ship, and every sailor knows each ship requires authorized, trained signalman. He was assigned in the New York City area which was port for numerous U.S. Navy and merchant ships, most of which were being assigned for convoy duty transporting much needed war supplies to the European theater. Receiving his first set of official sea orders, his assignment was on the SS Standvac, a ship out of Cape Town owned by Texas Oil and sailed on the Panamanian register. Other ships included the SS Alabama and the Oliver Evans.
Most of the cargo and fuel shipping was done by the Merchant Marine private ship lines. War ships were the 28 man Naval crew attached to each of them. The ships were privately owned merchant ships that required 28 U.S. Navy personnel on them. It consisted of one gunnery officer, one signalman, one radioman and the rest consisted of the gun crews. With the war being in full gear, the U.S. Navy needed this precious cargo delivered to keep the men supplied in our planes and vehicles enough fuel to go on.
This crew of 28 U.S. Naval sailors on these merchant marine vessels had the responsibility to make sure this precious cargo not only got delivered but got delivered on time along with the dangerous cargo of fuel gas and fumes these crossing which also had the threat of enemy submarines, enemy destroyers and enemy mine fields.
One of the most dangerous aspects was sailors were at the mercy of the sea. Storms and uncertain weather, sailing in a convoy going as fast as the slowest ship made each and everyone low moving targets for enemy subs that entered into their shipping lanes.
With the war ending, DeMonte came home and registered for the local reserve where he went back to work for Alleghany Ludlum this time as a salesman. He also attended classes at the University of Buffalo.
Just when things started to get back to normal, the U.S. entered into a police action in Korea which was later called the Korean War. While in the reserves, DeMonte was promoted to Signalman First Class. He was called back and received orders for New York City where he was assigned to the USS Cambria APA-36. The USS Cambria was assigned training exercises in Norfolk, Va. When he was coming back into port after a training exercise, the captain announced that there was trouble in Crete. The Cambria APA-36 joined the 24th squadron and was led by Captain Ed Schlief and the naval squadron headed for the Mediterranean.
This duty had brought its perks, being the ship was assigned to be on display in ports like Naples, Scandinavia, Pompeii, Capri, Rome, Malta and France. Some of the highlights of being on these goodwill tours was that the ship had a chance to do something for the orphans of Naples. During Christmas they put on a party and invited 50 orphans from an orphanage in Naples to come in and eat. Each sailor from the Cambria donated money for this party. DeMonte said the ship collected nearly $1,500.
Marcel DeMonte, the young man from Dutch Hill who at one time had to cut the grass in order to play baseball as a child, ended up having a Naval experience that some could only dream of. Since he was assigned to Merchant Marine ships loaded with airline fuel, gas bombs and diesel fuel he was sent out at times alone in the Pacific - many times in unprotected waters. But yet they made their way to deliver the loads despite the risks. He recalled while on the SS Oliver Evans coming from India to New York with cases of full of monkeys, that were used for U.S. military naval experiments.
He recalled days on the Alabama with a ship loaded with bombs hitting rough seas seeing the ship rocked at 65 degrees and losing a rudder. It sailed out of Glasgow off the coast of England on U.S. Alabama and sailed into a mine field fully loaded with aviation high octane fuel and many nights while sailing into harm's way gathered with his shipmates playing pinochle, they watched for that next watch.
Now back safe in his Westfield home, he can go back and see how lucky he was that he did make it back.
All those nights when he laid in his rack knowing his ship was full to the brim with gasoline or some high octane fighter fuel, he prayed that some enemy submarine didn't pass his ship's shipping lane or that his captain didn't sail into the enemy's mine field at sea. He also worried that one of his own Navy brothers would try to sneak a quick smoke in a highly restricted area.
Marcel DeMonte is another veteran who signed the papers to help. He went where he was told to go, and just did his job. It's impossible to see what his cargo did or help destroy to help win the war. No one can tell for sure. We can tell for sure though that because of what those brave soldiers had done that it truly did help win the war.
He not only served proudly in World War II, he also served during the Korean War. Along with enjoying Little League baseball games, watching the Buffalo Bills, he is a member of the John T. Murray Post 1017. Since talking to DeMonte about his experiences, it can really open up one's mind on what actually happened in the war years. This is no Hollywood movie where the hero takes his own plane and wins the war by himself.
Marcel DeMonte's story is a day in the life of this Dutch Hill boy who had grown up at the time where all the rules of growing up were changed on that one day, Dec. 7, 1941. For his service to our country, we make Marcel DeMonte our Hero of the Week.