World War II, MAG-Marine Air Group
VMB 612 - A new type of a Marine air group. Its design was established as a new combat tactic that took 16 new B-25 (light) bombers, had them completely stripped down to only the essentials for the aircraft to take off, fly, and then land safely. The plane was then adapted to launch torpedos. The only defense for the crew was a twin 40 machine gun mounted in its tail area. Being capable of holding two torpedos, the plane had the advantage of long range and a high ceiling to pick out the enemy's ship and land it on the bottom of the sea.
Medals /awards: World War II Victory Medal, Asiatic Medal, Meritorious Unit Citatrion, Expert M-1 Rifle, Sharpshooter the 45 Cal Pistio M-1911 Model
Dominic ‘Dom’ Rossotto, U.S. Marine
Married: Summer of 1948 to Nancy (Condello) from Westfield.
Children: Frank and Delores
Grandchildren: Monica, Michele and Ryan
Great-grandchildren: Michael, Brandon, Briana, Ashley and Domonic
Dominic Rossotto was born on July 16, 1925, the son of Frank and Nelly (Ciminesi). Dominic entered this world at Brooks Memorial Hospital and at birth, picked up the nickname Dom which stuck with him even to this day. The Rossotto homestead was at 80 Ruggles Street in Dunkirk. Dom's father, Frank, was employed by the Allegheny Ludlum Steel Plant as a boss in the molding department. His mother, Nelly, was a homemaker who, along with keeping up the Rossotto home, also raised Dom and his brothers and sisters.
Life at the Rossotto home in the '30s was no different from others who raised families on Ruggles Street. Each home saw fathers each morning with their metal lunch pails filled with a sandwich or two and some fruit and, in most cases, a non-breakable thermos latched to the top. Each father would be waiting for a ride or would jump into the family's car with fingers crossed that the car would start on its first try! Mothers were still calling out to the children to hurry up or they would be late. As one looked down the street, school children of all ages were grouped up, the older ones heading toward Dunkirk High and the younger ones advancing to School 3.
In the Rossotto home each morning seven children had to get dressed and have breakfast. Dom was one of the youngest, so to his mom, he was her little angel, always having his clothes and meals ready. As for the older ones, sisters Frances and Milley and brothers Sam, Frank, Jim and Joe, they were all on their own.
Dom started at School 3. Growing up brought new friends. Tony Laspada, Joe and Frank Dominico and Sam Ciea began friendships with him that lasted for years. When young, the only places the boys were allowed to go was limited to Ruggles Street. Now and then, the group would check out new areas to play but as for most children of that era, it was best to stay close to home. Each corner had something going on, so it wasn't hard to find fun things to do.
Baseball was played on any block as long as someone had a ball and a bat. In most cases, the balls were completely wrapped with electrical tape, and it was common also to see the bats either nailed at the crack or, if someone knew a craftsman, screwed at the break.
Getting into trouble wasn't seen a lot, Dom recalled. The Ruggles Street area children knew right from wrong and knew the consequences for breaking any rules. Dom recalled that everyone on the street knew everyone; not like today where some live next to someone and go years without ever meeting or even saying hello.
As a teenager, Dom had his first real paying job. Each morning during the pea season a truck would come down Ruggles Street at about 5:45 a.m. and pick up the kids who wanted work. The trip took an hour and ended up at the pea factory in Findley Lake near the Pennsylvania border. Here Dom either helped sort the peas or, at times, ran a machine that shucked the peas. Running the machine meant more money for Dom; the machinist pay was 65 cents per hour. After a full day of work, Dom would be back home just before 7 p.m. This job lasted only during the pea season.
Finally it was time for high school. This brought a longer walk each morning and a different teacher for each subject. It also meant more time for homework. Being a high school student also brought Dom some perks. He was allowed to go past the Ruggles Street boundaries and got to hang around the older guys. Fun times meant playing high school football, along with hanging out at the pool hall on Third Street where one could watch the area pool pros show off their skills or play pool on one of the five pool tables in the hall. Pool was fun to play, and it didn't take long for Dom to realize that when one played pool for money, the game became much more interesting. It was common to wager 25 cents to step up the level of play. When one felt he couldn't lose, the stakes at times climbed to $1 per game!
In the fall, the crowd seemed to gather at the local bowling alley. For most, the alleys on Dunkirk's Main Street were the place to spend the weekend. Along with bowling, the alley had entertainment drew in larger than normal crowds on the weekends. The Main Street bowling alley was owned by Tony Vacanti who Dom became good friends with. Bowling then became Dom's number one sport, in which he carried an average of 189.
It was a cold fall Sunday afternoon that took Dom and his friends to the Barcelona bowling alley. It would be a Sunday that put a smile on Dom's face when anyone talks about bowling. A Sunday when the scoring sheet had an X placed in every frame. In the end, all those X's ended up with Dom's first and only perfect game! The final total showed a 300 perfect game score. It was a number that no one could outdo in a single game of bowling.
Everything was going great in this young man's life until that one day when the delivery man stopped in front of his home. The official telegram stated the following: While participating in a battalion march on the Philippine Islands, U.S. Army PFC James Rossotto was considered missing in action. As more information is avaliable, the family will be contacted immediately.
Dom recalled his mother started crying while holding onto the telegram. For the next few days friends and family members visited and prayed and hoped for the best. A few days later, another telegram came. They did not want to open the second telegram in fear of the worst. A little relief came when Dom's parents learned that their son and Dom's brother was now officially listed as a prisoner of war in a camp somewhere in the Philippine Islands. Later it was learned that other mothers from our area received the same order of telegraphs from the Secretary of War. The other families were the Racino family with their son Frank listed as POW, the Doino family with their son Tony listed and the Acquavia family with their son Frank listed. Later on in the war, sad news came to the Acquavia family when it was confirmed that Frank was killed in action.
As each day passed in the Rossotto family, things grew tense not knowing the status of Jim. One great Rossotto family fear was hearing the sounds of someone stepping across the front porch, always fearing the front door may be bringing another telegram. They feared the worst news like what the Acquavia family had received, but also hoped the POW camps were liberated and Jim was heading home safe and unharmed. Still only 15 years old, Dom wanted to jump into the war. Having one brother already serving and another listed as a POW, Dom felt useless staying home doing nothing.
It was a summer day. After spending the day swimming with friend Tony Laspada, the two started their walk home. When the two were passing the Boston store, Tony remembered he needed to sign up for the draft. As the two walked in, a loud voice yelled, "Come on in you two. I haven't got all day!" It seemed that one moment Dom may get his way to serve his country but that ended when the sergeant politely told Dom to leave and come back when his birth certificate was two years older!
Finally it was Dom's 17th birthday - a day that Dom headed for the recruiting station to finally get his chance to serve his country. The first door was the Army. It only took five minutes before Dom heard the words, "Come back in one year!" The next two doors also meant rejection from the Army Air Corp and even the Navy! The Navy, at first, was taking anyone. Dom had only one more door left. As he walked in, the U.S. Marine recruiter said, "Are you ready to join?" Dom's reply was, "I am 17 today." The recruiter then said, "When can you leave?"
Signing the initial papers, Dom was in his glory. Walking home, Dom realized it was easy to say, "I'm going to be a Marine." As time set in Dom realized he was heading for Parris Island, S.C., a place that never was described as a fun or neat place to be. It wasn't until evening that Dom realized he was heading for 13 weeks of living hell.
Knowing it was only right to get his mother's permission, Dom asked for her signature and was surprised when his mother signed, considering she already had one son serving and another in a POW camp.
Because most Marines were serving in the Pacific, Dom also spent time training at Camp Pendelton in California. At Pendelton the Marine Corp was asking for three volunteers. Most Marines learned fast and never volunteered for anything.
Later Dom learned these volunteers were assigned to duty in the Virgin Islands. Shaking his head about volunteering and thinking about how duty may have been in the Virgin Islands, Dom received orders for Cherry Creek, a camp near Camp Lejeune. Here Dom was assigned to a new Marine unit-a Marine Corp air squadron that was being formed to take a light bomber, strip it entirely down to only the basics needed to fly, then place a twin 40 machine gun (its only defense) and put two torpedoes in it. Its mission was to fly long ranges, if needed, find enemy ships, dive down and torpedo them. It was a great idea because many ship captains never feared seeing bombers knowing they were designed for land targets.
With training at Cherry Point completed, the men were given a 30-day leave. When they returned and reported to Camp Mari Mar, their 16 plane B-25 bombers were ready for deployment. His new unit of 800 Marines later took the name VMB-612 . The color of black was chosen for their B-25 special bombers. It wasn't long before the squadron was moved to a transport ship that not only took the marines but also loaded the 16 planes, equipment, torpedoes and anything that the unit needed to do their mission. After the ship was 10 miles out into the Pacific, they learned of its destination: the Marshall Islands. After spending around one month in the island chain, the commanding officer received new orders to move his squadron to the first part of the Saipan Island operations.
Flying mission meant that Dom manned the twin 40 machine guns. Many times while in a torpedo run it was the machine gunner's duty to keep the enemy's return fire off the bomber. When the missions were over, the squadron moved to Iwo Jima. While there, Dom's orders were to wait for the planes to report. The Seabees didn't have an airstrip ready for the B-25 light bombers. Dom got the chance to climb to the top of Mount Suribachi. Along the way he counted in bushes or deep holes, three dead Japanese soldiers. While in one cave were some remains of nine Japanese soldiers that killed themselves instead of embarrassing their families by surrendering. In Iwo Jima there was no grass, no lakes and no trees, just black sand. Later, orders took Dom to Okinawa, another island that looked the same.
After the Japanese surrendered, Dom felt he was headed for home again. He was asked if he wanted to stay and break in new crews coming in from the states. With this assignment would come with the rank of sergeant. Dom's reply was "Can I go home?" He was told yes and his next reply was "Put me on the next plane!"
On his return home, Dom's route took him to California then Washington by troop train. Receiving word that his brother Jim was no longer a POW and was in a military hospital in Albany, Dom diverted his return home to visit his bed side while he was recovering from the scars of war. His other brother Frank was already home with duty in Dunkirk as a recruiter.
Back home in Dunkirk, Dom started as a short order cook at the Harbor Inn Diner. His next job took him to the New York Central Railroad Co. where he handled passengers' luggage at the Dunkirk train station. Dom finally landed a position with Allegheny Ludlum Steel Plant. Here he worked as a furnace operator for a year and a half. Later he took a job as a grinder where he stayed for 38 and a half years, retiring as a foreman. His retirement in 1985 brought time for hunting and fishing. In 1979 Dom had the honor of entering the largest deer in a county deer contest. The deer dressed out at 180 pounds. In the fall he enjoys Buffalo Bills football and in the summer he watches every New York Yankee game he can get.
When doing stories on veterans, I get to go back in time during my two to three hour interview and relive the era.
Doing the stories of our World War II era heroes gives me the chance to go back with some as far as life in the '20s, '30s and '40s. To me it was a great time to live except for the winds of war. Everyone was basically the same. Everyone did what needed to be done to survive. Families took care of families, and no one took a free ride. There were good times and for most, hard times yet all were proud of their families, nationalities and country. Rules were rules. Everyone followed them.
Dom Rossotto, during the war years, you dedicated your life to your brother Jim. You cried with your mom during those long summer nights knowing at 15 you were helpless. You joined the first branch that took you, knowing anything you did might just help win the war even one day sooner. 60 years after the war's end your first words at this interview were your brother Jim. Thank you for your service. Your interview has taken me back, back to your home on Ruggles Street, back to the greatest generation's time. Our local hero is Dominic (Dom) Rossotto.