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Oswegonian To Pen Book Highlighting Local Veterans

OSWEGO, NY – John Canale believes Oswego’s veterans deserve more credit for their service to this nation. He is on a personal mission to ensure that happens.

More than 66 years ago, they fought in the greatest land battle that was ever fought. Now, they gather to keep alive the memories of those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

About a dozen members of Oswego County’s surviving veterans of the Battle of the Bulge met Saturday afternoon at Bridie Manor. The event was spearheaded by Canale, former Oswego city councilor and World War II veteran.

Members of the Battle of the Bulge survivors’ organization of Oswego salute the flag during the Pledge of Allegiance during a recent meeting. From right to left are Len Maniccia, Tom Halpin and Colin Morgan (grandson of member Bill Hogan).
Members of the Battle of the Bulge survivors’ organization of Oswego salute the flag during the Pledge of Allegiance during a recent meeting. From right to left are Len Maniccia, Tom Halpin and Colin Morgan (grandson of member Bill Hogan).

“Many of the GIs who were in the greatest land battle that was ever fought, came from right here in Oswego,” Canale said. “Everywhere I go, whenever I have an opportunity, I brag about them all of the time. I think sometime these men here are long forgotten.”

Canale latest effort is to compose a book about the battle, specifically, and the war in general. At the meeting, he solicited “reports” from the members of the group to be included in what he calls a “best-seller from Oswego, NY.”

A working title for the manuscript, Canale says, is From Birth To Death – On The Firing Line, at home and abroad (referring to his time as a city councilor and as a soldier in World War II).

“What Tom (Halpin; one of Canale’s contemporaries on the city council) and I went through at home was easy compared to what we had to go through over there in World War II and what the guys faced in Korea or Vietnam,” Canale quipped.

He said he’d like to write the book and “spread it out beyond the borders of Oswego.”

“The main parts of this book are real life stories, I’ve got one right here in my pocket,” he said holding up the envelope from group member William Leighton. “This is going to be in the book. It is going to be real life stories by you people.”

Canale will also include a story about his oldest brother, Michael, who was in the Air Force during World War II.

His plane went down over Bricy, France, and the crew taken prisoner.

“One of the German big shots leaned over to the captain, whose name was Bass, and he leaned over after he’d chewed him out and he put a little Bible in his pocket and on it, it said ‘I will see you after the war,’” Canale told the group. “It’s these kinds of personal stories that are going in this book.”

The captain and his wife did meet the German officer and his wife after the war, Canale added.

Canale said he already has about 140 pages’ worth of material.

“At the turn of the century, I started collecting a lot of this information. That is why I have so much information now about the Battle of the Bulge,” he said. “The more that I think about this book, the more that I tell stories on it, I’ve convinced myself that it should be a best seller.”

Canale jokes that he wasn’t there on Dec. 16, 1944, when the battle began to rage. “I was six days later. But it looks like they did a good job without me,” he said.

Canale formed the small group around 2001 to honor the local men who fought in the Battle of the Bulge.

Taking nothing away from the larger veterans’ organizations, Canale elucidates that “smaller is better.” He said he wanted a group just for the local Battle of the Bulge veterans – specifically to honor them.

“People always said to me, ‘why aren’t you in the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars?’ I told them I like keep it small like me. I want to keep it small so we can have some kind of closeness.”

The group has about three dozen members, including some veterans who didn’t fight in the battle. Only 8 attended the meeting.

It wasn’t a good showing – but not that bad, either, Canale said, noting the advanced age of the members.

Most of them, himself included, are octogenarians. They range in age from 80 to 89 with some in their 90s, he said.

The meeting began on a somber note as Canale called the roll of the members who’ve passed away recently.

“We must never forget those people. Those guys were very religious about coming to our meetings. We must never forget these guys who were with us roughly 10 years ago when all this started,” he said.

He hopes to increase the club’s membership.

“It doesn’t necessarily have to be a Battle of the Bulge veteran. It can be someone from World War II, from the Navy, Air Force, Marines or whatever,” he said.

7 Comments

  1. My father Joseph V. Lamie was captured at The Battle of The Bulge and held prisoner for 40 days. He was listed as MIA.

  2. Time is of the essence, Mr. Canale. You have been the guardian of your stories for the last sixty plus years, and IF we want them to live on, we need this book desperately.

    Not just the stories of the Battle, but the stories of the lives of the people and their families, when they got back to Oswego, the lives of their families while they were gone.

    There is nothing like oral history, and IF you need help getting your project off the ground, I think there are college kids who would take this on for ‘credit.’ So if you need someone to help you record on DVD these interviews, you might want to contact local historians like Judy Wellman (retired from SUNY), or the local archives at Penfield.

    SO many of these stories are ‘lost’ to time because someone didn’t get them done. For example: Lida Penfield began researching Dr. Mary Walker, but never got the book completed. FORTUNATELY, her papers are archived at Syracuse University for future generations, and other folks have been able to finish the work.

    But how much has been lost to time that wasn’t archived.

    So PLEASE take the help if you can get it. I know Dr. Wellman would know of someone that could help.

    God bless you for taking this on!

    Debbie Engelke
    Time & Again Books & Tea

    I did two interviews when I was in graduate school. Fran Brown and her experiences during the War with the Safe Haven refugees, as well as helping the black soldiers stationed at Fort Ontario find comfort with the Dunbar Center in Syracuse (no small feat at age 20 or 21 and newly graduated from college herself). I also interviewed Don McCann about the early days of The Oswego Players and early theatre in Oswego, but he threw in some great anecdotes on his years as a fledgling reporter, if I recall correctly.

    There is NOTHING like oral history…it lives long after the speakers are no longer living (but their stories ARE!), and is so fragile it can be lost so easily.

  3. I agree Debbie….our history can be lost (especially when people no longer write letters, emails are not saved or printed). My dad fought in the Battle of the Bulge. He had many many stories. He told them often and my siblings and I hold them dear. He died in 1988. I have attended many of John Canale’s luncheons and have always come away with a sense of awe when I hear the stories of the veterans. I book or an oralical history would be wonderful so we never forget!
    John, I am sorry I missed this last luncheon. I will attend the next one. I look forward to it.
    Louella LeClair

  4. John I have a photo I took in 2007 at Bridie Square in Oswego with a group of Battle of the Bulge men and some local politicians and a judge. There are a few member no longer with us today. I’d love for you to have this group shot photo. Beth Clark

  5. My father William Deban, was wounded at Luxembourg on December 24, 1944. He was a member of the 26th Yankee Division of the 3rd Army under Patton.

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