The Grand Marshall for the 2011 Basilone Parade is|
Joe Kovac of 73 Anderson St. in Raritan
|Joe Kovac served in
The U.S. Navy during World War II
He joined in September 1941
and retired from The Navy in 1961
|Click to see full article about Joe Kovac|
|On December 12th, 1920 like many in his day, Joe was born in his home at 73 Anderson St. in Raritan|
He has lived there (shown above) his whole life.
The above photos of him were taken in 1943 and 2011 - 68 years apart.
He has 1 brother Andy (still alive today) who is 7 years younger,
and 4 sisters - one Helen is still alive today at the age of 93.
|As a youth he attended St. Joe's School
on Somerset Street in Raritan.
Later he attended Junior High at The Washington School.
He did not have the luxury of attending High School
as it was the depression and he had to go to work.
|Joe Kovac served on the U.S. Suwannee - a small aircraft carrier|
the ship held 35 planes - mostly Hellcat Fighter Planes and some dive bombers
the ship saw action at many battles including Guadalcanal, North Africa, Tarawa, and Leyte Gulf
|Aboard the ship Joe had 2 jobs,
one was the logistics of moving the aircraft
from the flight deck to the hanger deck.
The other job was repairing the aircraft
|Joe's ship came back to the U.S. for
supplies once during the war.
During this time Joe was able to get leave
and come home to Raritan.
As fate would have it, this was the week of
John Basilone's Welcome Home Parade.
Joe Kovac recalled how beautiful the
movie stars who rode in the parade were.
Shown right are movie stars Louise Albritton and Virginia O'Brien.
The man in uniform standing is Carmine Corona.
The driver is Albert Navatto
Joe Kovac also remembers going to
Duke's Estate for the rally.
There he heard the speeches and got a hotdog.
|As a member of The Suwannee
Joe was awarded The following Medals:
World War II Victory Medal
European African MiddleEast Campaign
As an individual he received:
Distinguished Service from Somerset County
Good Conduct (5 times)
In his closest brush with death luck spared him and his shipmates when
in one battle in the Pacific a Japanese Torpedo Plane was able to fly
toward the Suwannee without getting hit by antiaircraft fire.
This Japanese Plane was able to drop his torpedo in the water
several hundred yards before the Suwannee. With the Japanese plane
traveling much faster than the torpedo it just dropped in the water the
plane came upon the ship first, flying just a few feet over the flight deck.
Joe Kovac who was on the flight deck recalled that the Japanese pilot
had opened his mouth to taunt the Americans as he expected the torpedo
he had just dropped to explode against the ship in a few seconds.
However, the look on the face of the pilot must have surely changed from
one of gloating to disappointment as the torpedo was a dud and it just
bounced off the side of the ship. Today Joe says of the Japanese pilot
"The pilot was so close that I could have reached out
and shoved an apple in his mouth".
|Joe's brother Andrew also served during
World War II as this article from
a 1945 Raritan Valley News Shows
|Joe with his parents in 1943|