The children of Joe Amicarella believe our father was mentioned by legendary ex-Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee, in Tom Brokaw's excellent 1998 book "The Greatest Generation," a collection of interviews and stories about ordinary/extraordinary Americans who came of age during World War II. Brokaw devoted a chapter to Bradlee's naval experiences, which took place aboard a destroyer-class boat, the USS Philip, in the campaign for control of the South Pacific.
Bradlee was twenty-one, son of a prominent Massachusetts family, and fresh out of Harvard when he enlisted, and was assigned to the Philip as a communications officer. He must have been one of the original '90-day wonders,' but at least he was well aware how lacking in experience he was for this command. Brokaw writes "Bradlee was also able to see what others, those who lacked his pedigree, could do. He [Bradlee] laughs and says, 'They were all a guy named Joe with an unpronounceable last name. They could fix the radar, and you couldn't. I learned a tremendous amount about how excellence had nothing to do with class.' "
Well, Joe's loved ones believe that Amicarella was the "unpronounceable last name" Bradlee was referring to. At eighteen, our father was even younger than Bradlee when he enlisted, just out of Benson Technical High School in Portland, Oregon, afer graduating their programs in electronics and communications. He was indeed one of the radio guys in the Philip, and he could not only fix the radar, he could operate the Morse code station, and all the rest of the communication equipment aboard.
The USS Philip saw extensive combat action throughout WWII, as they were a part of major operations like the Solomon Islands and Guadalcanal Island campaigns, along with many other actions. They came under attack many times, but, fortunately, Joe Amicarella shared something else in common with Ben Bradlee. Neither was ever hit.
But unlike Bradlee, Joe's armed forces career did not end after being demobbed from the Philip at the end of the Second World War. He stayed in the Naval Reserve, stationed at Tongue Point outside Astoria, Oregon. And when Viet Nam became more than just an answer to an obscure geography question, he once more enlisted to serve his country, this time in the Army's Special Forces, popularly known as The Green Berets. He was a little older, but, thanks to a strict physical fitness regimen, which included running in marathons, he was in even better shape when he took part in that war in South East Asia, again as a communications specialist.
Today, the guy with the unpronounceable last name lives quietly, those war years far behind him. He still uses a Morse Code keyer to communicate around the globe, of an evening, and can still fix a sick communications system. So, this Veteran's Day, I'd like to remember not just my father, but all those Americans, male and female, from every imaginable ethnicity, who've fought so that I could be free to write these words.