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West Virginia Veterans Memorial

West Virginia Veterans Memorial

Remember...

Tony Esposito
1924-1945

"Let us form one body, one heart, and defend to the last warrior our country, our homes, our liberty, and the graves of our fathers."

Tecumseh

Shipfitter Third Class (SF3c) Tony Esposito was born 27 April 1924, in Elkins, West Virginia, to parents Ralph and May (née Schale) Esposito. Tony Esposito had seven siblings (according to the 1920, 1930, and 1940 United States Federal Census, Elkins, Randolph County, West Virginia, and West Virginia death and marriage records), all born in Elkins: Frank (born 3 August 1917), Joseph (born 31 January 1919), Camille Helena (born 1921, married name: Sawyer), John (born 24 January 1923), Eugene (born 1927), Madeleine Margaret (born 19 January 1929, married name: Wolfe), and Ralph Esposito Jr. (born 18 July 1930). On 1 June 1924, Tony Esposito was baptized as Antonius Esposito at St. Brendan’s Catholic Church in Elkins, it being the church custom of baptism under the Latin name. The baptism was performed by the Reverend James J. Daly. Throughout his life, though, he was commonly known as “Tony.” Esposito was a resident of Randolph County through the entirety of his early years. (Source: “Esposito Dies on Naval Duty,” The Elkins [West Virginia] Inter-Mountain, 17 Apr. 1945.)
St. Brendan's

St. Brendan’s Catholic Church, Elkins, West Virginia. Photo used with permission

The parents of Tony Esposito were Ralph (Raffaele) Esposito and Domenica (“Mae”) Sciello (Schale) Esposito: Ralph (Raffaele) Esposito was born 14 March 1893 at Marigliano, Caserta Province of the Kingdom of Italy, and died 5 February 1978 at Elkins, Randolph County, West Virginia. He is buried at St. Brendan’s Catholic Church Cemetery, Elkins. Ralph (Raffaele) Esposito came to the United States of America from Italy and arrived at the Port of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on 13 April 1910, aboard the SS Ancona, which had sailed from Naples, Italy, on 31 March 1910. (Source: National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C., Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1787-2004; Record Group Number: 85; Series: T840; Roll: 075). Ralph Esposito married, first, to Domenica (“Mae”) Sciello (Schale) on 4 November 1916 at St. Brendan’s Catholic Church, Elkins. Domenica (“Mae”) Sciello (Schale) Esposito was born 3 January 1900 at Marigliano, Caserta Province of the Kingdom of Italy, died 4 August 1930 at Elkins, and is buried at St. Brendan’s Catholic Church Cemetery, Elkins. Both Ralph (Raffaele) Esposito and Domenica (“Mae”) Sciello (Schale) Esposito became naturalized citizens of the United States of America on 17 May 1922 at Elkins. (Source: Naturalization Certificate No. 1659801, dated 17 May 1922, Circuit Court of Randolph County, Elkins, West Virginia). After Mae’s death, Ralph married, second, to Lucy Nucilli on 25 September 1930 at St. Brendan’s Catholic Church, Elkins. Lucy Nucilli Esposito [Tony’s stepmother] was born in Italy on 27 May 1905, died on 24 March 2001 at Elkins, and is buried at St. Brendan’s Catholic Church Cemetery.

The eight children of Ralph Esposito and his first wife, Mae Schale Esposito, were born at Elkins, Randolph County, West Virginia:

Frank Esposito was born 3 August 1917 at Elkins, Randolph County, West Virginia, and evidently died young.

Joseph Esposito was born 31 January 1919 and died 4 October 1982. Joseph Esposito enlisted in the Army of the U.S. at Huntington, West Virginia, on 14 February 1945 and was honorably discharged on 25 December 1945. Joseph Esposito was married, first, to Juanita Pearl Booth on 9 October 1937 at St. Brendan’s Catholic Church, Elkins. Juanita Pearl Booth Esposito died on 2 November 1946 at Hopemont, Preston County, West Virginia. Joseph Esposito was married, second, to Arlene Kerns on 30 January 1948 at St. Brendan’s Catholic Church.

Camille Helena Esposito was born 1921 and married George William Sawyer Jr. on 9 June 1947 at St. Brendan’s Catholic Church, Elkins. Camille Esposito Sawyer was a 1948 graduate of Davis and Elkins College at Elkins, West Virginia, where her husband was a 1949 graduate. They currently reside in Towson, Baltimore County, Maryland.

John Esposito was born 24 January 1923 and died 21 August 1923, at the age of seven months, at Elkins. John Esposito is buried at St. Brendan’s Catholic Church Cemetery.

Tony Esposito was born 27 April 1924 and died 12 April 1945. Tony Esposito enlisted in the U.S. Navy at Clarksburg, West Virginia, on 17 April 1943. He served in the Navy at the U.S. Naval Air Station at Whidbey Island, Washington, until 18 September 1943, when he was transferred to the Naval Operating Base at Adak Island, Alaska. He was promoted to Seaman First Class on 1 December 1943 and was promoted to Shipfitter Third Class on 1 October 1944. Tony is buried at St. Brendan’s Catholic Church Cemetery.

Eugene Esposito was born 1927.

Madeleine Margaret Esposito was born 19 January 1929 and married Glen Eugene Wolfe on 9 October 1965 at Clarksburg, Harrison County, West Virginia. Madeleine Margaret Esposito Wolfe died in January 1992.

Ralph Esposito Jr. was born prematurely on 18 July 1930 and died 19 July 1930, at the age of one day, at Elkins. His mother died 16 days later. Ralph Esposito Jr. is buried at St. Brendan’s Catholic Church Cemetery.

Tony Esposito attended Elkins High School for two years. After his years of secondary education, Esposito attained employment at the Kelly Foundry in Elkins. Eventually, Esposito ventured to Baltimore, Maryland, and acquired employment in the city (where exactly is unknown). After his service at the U.S. Naval Air Station at Whidbey Island, Washington, until he was transferred to the Naval Operating Base at Adak Island, in the Aleutian Islands, in the Territory of Alaska. He was promoted to Seaman First Class on 1 December 1943 and was promoted to Shipfitter Third Class on 1 October 1944. He served in the Pacific Theater of World War II, combating against Japanese forces during his tenure of service. (Source: “Esposito Dies on Naval Duty.”)


Map of the Aleutian Islands. Courtesy National Park Service

In the Pacific Theater of World War II, a struggle over the ownership of the Aleutian Islands was inevitable as the islands were in a strategic location for naval bases to exist. Japanese forces and Allied Forces fought for ownership of the islands in order to control the Great Circle routes (vital trade routes) in the Pacific region. In one stage during the war, a Japanese military force controlled the strategic islands of Kiska and Attu, components of the Aleutian Islands chain. In order to capture the two islands and more territories in the region, the United States had to create bases and sites that would aid them in their missions and attacks during the Aleutian Islands Campaign. Adak Island, Alaska, was one of the strategic sites United States and the Allied Forces occupied in order to conquer the Aleutian Islands region for military and economic purposes. Adak Island was chosen as the site for an active airfield and flight operations center, beginning in September of 1942. Although the island is considered remote, cold and foggy, the island served as a place to launch successful offensive operations against the Japanese. (Sources: U.S. Army Center of Military History, “Aleutian Islands” [3 Oct. 2003], accessed 31 July 2014, http://www.history.army.mil/brochures/aleut/aleut.htm; Chen, C. Peter, “World War II Database,” accessed 31 July 2014, http://ww2db.com; Bartoletti, Lee F., “Battle of the Aleutian Islands: Recapturing Attu,” World War II [12 June 2006], accessed 31 July 2014, http://www.historynet.com/battle-of-the-aleutian-islands-recapturing-attu.htm.)

On 12 April 1945, at 20 years of age, Tony Esposito was pronounced deceased at Adak Island after contracting severe burns. Esposito was survived by his father, stepmother, three brothers, and two sisters. His brothers, Eugene and Joseph Esposito, were serving in the United States Navy in an undisclosed location and in the Army of the United States at Fort McClellan, Alabama, respectively, at the time of Tony’s death. Esposito was initially buried outside the continental limits of the Allied Territory, but in 1948, he was eventually transferred to be buried in his hometown, Elkins, at the St. Brendan’s Catholic Church Cemetery. Although Tony Esposito had died a premature death, he was a genuine and excellent example of a man who literally gave his life to his country as an American serviceman. Tony Esposito will forever rest in absolute peace and will be revered by his community, city, state, and country as a bona fide hero. Thank you for your service, Mr. Esposito. (Source: “Esposito Dies on Naval Duty.”)

Original article prepared by Gene Bailey III
August 2014
Revised by Paul L. Teem Jr., whose mother, the late Ruth Bennett Teem, maintained an interest in the history of Randolph County and submitted Tony Esposito’s name for inclusion on the West Virginia Veterans Memorial
September 2014

Honor...

Tony Esposito

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