WALL TOWNSHIP — Matthew Yacovino, a 98-year-old World War II veteran, was welcomed with a sea of star-spangled banners proudly displayed in front of Allenwood Elementary School, where he shared his story and answered questions from the fourth- and fifth-grade classes on Tuesday.
Mr. Yacovino was born to Italian immigrant parents on Aug. 29, 1924, in the little town of Port Reading, New Jersey. At 17, he enlisted into the U.S. Navy and was assigned to serve in the Naval Air Service during World War II.
“I joined the service at 17 because they were drafting kids at 18 years old in high school. And I was in high school beginning my senior year. So I decided against my mom’s wishes to join the Navy and try to get them to the airport,” said Mr. Yacovino.
Mr. Yacovino was shipped from Virginia to Casablanca, North Africa in 1942 on a 10-day trip to serve as a combat air crewman in patrol bombing squadron VP63, flying a Catalina aircraft.
In a crew of about 10, mainly young men like himself, Mr. Yacovino served the roles of waist and nose gunner. They were not there to fight the German Luftwaffe, as the bomber was not ideal for air-to-air combat; instead, Mr. Yacovino and his comrades had the critical role of flying submarine patrol in the North Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea.
Mr. Yacovino told the Coast Star he rarely shares his war stories even after all these years. His squadron lost five airplanes with 10-man crews each. He was honorably discharged in March 1946. Afterward, he graduated from Rutgers Engineering College with money from the government, and he became a professional engineer in 1961. Today Mr. Yacovino is the oldest licensed engineer in New Jersey, only recently retiring this year at the age of 98.
“I never tell my story to anyone, but now you gotta pass it on. Most of my generation is dead. I am among the few left. I haven’t seen any World War II vets on the boardwalk of Asbury Park in 14 years,” he said.
This is an excerpt of the print article. For more on this story, read The Coast Star—on newsstands Thursday or online in our e-Edition.
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