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Larry Fama reflects on his time served in WWII

BY: Tiffany Monde, Tonawanda Source | November 08, 2012

TONAWANDA - On a normal Wednesday afternoon at the Subway near Sheridan and Eggert you will find a group of men sharing stories of their times in “The Good War.” Larry Fama, 88-year-old Town of Tonawanda resident, is one of these men.

“I joined the navy because I didn’t like what Hitler was doing to the civilians of the countries he conquered. The civilians suffered so much, and I didn’t want that to happen in our country,” said fama.

Unfortunately he lost comrades even before being shipped out. After boot camp Fama attended school on a base in Norfolk, Virginia. One day while he and the other students were on their way to chow they were thrown to the ground due to a vehicle carrying depth charges mysteriously exploding on the base. Some of his fellow students had been on their way back to the barracks and perished in the explosion.

After a seven day leave he returned to the same naval base to be shipped out. They were sent to an untold destination, which turned out to be England.

“Our job was to help clear the path of the German submarines, the “Wolfpack,” as they were called,” said Fama. “I was just 18; we were all young soldiers, 18 and 19 years old.”

Not all those ships would make it through. He said often they would hear an explosion, which would either be a crew or supply ship being torpedoed.

Down the line in his military career he would be a part of a rescue mission.

Fama said they were often in contact with airplanes that would take off in the morning to see if there were any subs out in the area. One day they had contact that an American ship had sunk and there were survivors in life rafts.

“We were told to wait for help because the sub that had sunk them was possibly still in the area, but our Captain said, ‘We are not waiting and those survivors are wet and cold.’ So we spent that afternoon saving 67 survivors,” said Fama.

A few years after he was discharged he got a book in the mail from one of the officers of the ship that had been torpedoed. He had written about his experiences in the merchant marines and one chapter was on how they had been hit, sunk, and rescued by Fama’s ship. On the inside cover was a short letter from the author thanking Fama and other crewmembers for their rescue that day.

Now, he spends his time living with his wife of 64 years and as a member of the Disabled American Veterans Post 120. There they collect food and clothing and see that it’s distributed to homeless veterans

To veterans coming home from the war today he had this advice to give.

“You’re young and have a long life ahead, don’t feel that you would be wasting your time to get an education,” said Fama. “It’s very important to sacrifice your time to study; the main thing is to educate yourself.”

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