Unveiling of Raritan's World War II Honor Roll
by Bruce Doorly
photos by Dawn Wilde
Raritan’s World War II Honor Roll was officially unveiled on Sunday, April 3rd 2022.

This exhibit consists of 44 frames mounted on the wall of the community room in the Raritan Municipal Building.

It lists the men and women from Raritan who served in World War II.
Next to each name is their address and “branch of service” (Army, Navy, Marines, Nurse, etc.).

The 24 who were awarded the Bronze Star, the 4 who were awarded the Silver Star, the 7 who earned the Air Medal, and the one (John Basilone) who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor and the Navy Cross are recognized by an icon of that medal displayed next to their name.

The 33 who were given the Purple Heart - for being injured in battle – also have an icon displayed.

In addition, the 8 who were “Prisoners of War” are identified.

Finally, the 25 Raritan men that lost their life in the war have a gold star before their name.
Displayed across the top of the exhibit are a dozen World War II promotional posters. This adds a touch of color to the display.

In all there are 830 men and 17 women on the Honor Roll. Only five of them are known to be alive as of April 2022. Two of the five were present at the unveiling ceremony.

Seven special people were chosen to each unveil a section of the Honor Roll.
1. Peter Vitelli, who was a child during the war, first talked about how the Raritan kids did their part on the home front. They would knock on doors to collect scrap metal to take to the collection point which was the train station. He remembered the rationing of many goods that everyone accepted.

Pete talked about how when the kids were playing outside, they watched the telegram delivery boy (who was on a bicycle) to see what home he was going to - as that telegram sometimes contained tragic news. Peter can never forget the day he and his friends heard the cries of a grief-stricken mother who had just read one of those “regret to inform you” telegrams.
2. Barbara Schwarz, the daughter of Genevieve Young - a Raritan nurse who served overseas, unveiled the second section.

Last month’s article told of the nurse’s contributions to the war. Overseas they faced difficult living conditions and were often in harm’s way. They never complained as their focus was to treat the wounds of the injured and to lift their spirits.
Genevieve Young Click for story of World War II Nurses
3. Gene Moretti, one of the two survivors that were present, had the next honor.

Gene, now 105, who served with the army, participated in the first three invasions the U. S. made during the war. They were at North Africa, Sicily, and Italy. He traveled over 1000 miles encountering the enemy several times.

An expert photographer his WWII scrapbook contains over 300 precious pictures. Gene experienced the tragedies of war as his brother Joseph was killed while serving in the Navy. In 2014, Gene was the Grand Marshal of the Basilone Parade.
Click for Gene Moretti's Military story Click for Gene Moretti's Raritan story
4. John Hudak (age 95), another survivor, who saw duty in the Navy during World War II, had the next honor.

John served on a ship that delivered men and supplies to the battle front. On the seas they experienced several tense moments when enemy aircraft flew overhead.

Today, John still lives on his own in Raritan and even drives. In 2009, John was the Grand Marshal of the Basilone Parade.
Click for details on John Hudak
5. Al Capetta, stood in for his wife’s uncle James Esposito, a survivor who could not be present.

James Esposito flew many bombing missions over enemy territory. For his bravery James was awarded the Air Medal.
James Esposito would visit the display
a week after the unveiling.
6. Mayor Zack Bray was an appropriate choice for unveiling as his relative Dominic Baldini was killed in the war.
Dominic Baldini - click for info
7. Mary Ellen Devlin was the final unveiler.

She put in endless hours of historical research on Ancestry.com, Newspapers.com, FamilySearch.org, Findagrave.com, census records, and military databases to find the “branch of service” and home addresses. Also, she corrected spelling and fine-tuned the list.

Her father, John Cox, is among those listed on the Honor Roll.
Click to read letters John Cox
(and others) wrote home during WW II
Above we have named three of the five people on the Honor Roll who are alive today.

The two others are Helen Petras Gilmore and James Manara.

Helen Petras Gilmore served in the Women’s Marines at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.

Inspired by the heroics of Raritan’s John Basilone, when the Women’s Marine Corp was formed mid war, she was one of the first to join. At boot camp she saw that the women in basic training were treated just like the men. As a quite vocal drill sergeant pushed them to their physical limits. She learned to fire a gun and even learned to use a gas mask. After boot camp she stayed at Camp Lejeune - working as an administrator, a hairdresser, and in setting up and participating in entertainment for the troops.

At the camp she would meet and marry her husband - a Marine - Donald Gilmore.

Twenty years ago, Helen served as the Grand Marshal of the Basilone Parade. Today she is 99 years old and still resides in the area. She says she loved her time in service and would gladly do it again.
James Manara served with the Marines in the Pacific. Today he lives in Florida.

We were just informed of his status after the unveiling when a nephew saw the online post about the honor roll.
Many people came together to make the display happen. The Bongiovi Funeral Home was the financier of the display.

Don Caola installed the 44 frames – which was not an easy job as the wall was made of cinder blocks.

Several relatives of the veterans responded with additions when the preliminary list was first posted online.

The mayor and council gave the approval for the project (that took about 10 seconds).
The unveiling of the display generated a lot of interest.

As expected, some of that interest came in the form of “my grandfather is missing” or “my uncle received a medal that is not shown on the display”.

Corrections are being taken and will be made. The corrections may be put in an additional frame that will be placed on the side or if logistically feasible, the original frame will be taken down and updated. It will be decided at a later date. Corrections can be emailed to Bruce Doorly at brucedoorly@gmail.com. Remember, the honor roll is for those who lived in Raritan sometime “before” they went to war.
John Hudak with his son Joe
Visitors are encouraged to stop by and see the Honor Roll exhibit any time Monday through Friday from 9 AM – 4 PM at the Raritan Municipal Building. The community room where the exhibit is displayed is on the basement floor.

If it is your first time to the Municipal Building make sure to also visit the second floor to see the Wall of Heroes that honors all those from Raritan that died serving their country.