U.S.S. Little Rock Association
ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM
Interviewee: Joseph A. Molinaro
Interviewer: Nicholas Perillo
Date: July 14, 2006
PERILLO: I'm Nicholas Perillo. I'm going to be interviewing Joseph A. Molinaro, "Joe" to us.
Joe is from Revere, Massachusetts. He served onboard the USS Little Rock; the CL-92. This is our 15th reunion anniversary and I have some questions to ask Joe this morning and we're going to record this right now.
The purpose of the interview is to get to know Joe, and from his recollections, learn more about life and duty as an enlisted man aboard the USS Little Rock; the CL-92 during his tenure of service from . . . Joe, when did you get on the Little Rock?
MOLINARO: I believe it was July '47.
PERILLO: And when did you leave?
MOLINARO: I left approximately the following year in July of '48.
PERILLO: That's about the time I got out. It says right there, July of '48, alright.
Joe, for background, please summarize your early life, your education and work experiences, if any, before you joined the United States Navy.
MOLINARO: Well I was born in East Boston on June 20th, 1929. I was educated through the Boston schools. As a teenager during the war, I worked for the New York Central Railroad and that was located on Boylston Street in Boston and as of today that's where the Prudential Building sits. As a kid, I was working after school cleaning up the troop cars and so on and so forth. The title was a "Handy Man".
My brother had joined the Navy and I wanted to follow him into it; my older brother Tommy, about a year and a half older. But being five feet and less than a hundred pounds and only 15-16 years old I could never get through the front door. I could hardly wait until my 17th birthday to go to Boston Post Office Square Building and I joined the Navy and that was June 20th, 1946. Would you believe that's almost 60 years ago? It is 60 years ago. And on July the 8th, I believe, in 1946 I went to Bainbridge, Maryland for Boot Camp and the reason why I remember my company number is because I have a photo and my company number is 4639. For all of you sailors out there at that time trying to remember your company number - if you can remember me; Joe Molinaro, I'm sure you would like to know that that was your company number.
PERILLO: Joe, can you describe your boot camp experiences?
MOLINARO: Well the boot camp experiences [chuckle]; I don't know if I should mention this. I don't want to frighten off any of the young ones. But in boot camp I used the term "Riding the Range". I wonder if any of the sailors ever heard of that term "Riding the Range"?
Well "Riding the Range" had taken place in the galley in Bainbridge. I believe every company (had) like one week out of the eight weeks that you were there you had to do mess hall duty and I was there on the line. The sailors would go through with their meals; whatever it may be; chicken, meats, etc.
One day I had the duty of giving out the cake and as the cake was prepared and cut at the bakery, it came out on the assembly. I just issued it out. Before you know it a petty officer came over with a piece of cake. He said, "Did you issue this cake?" I said, "Yes I did." He said, "Well this cake here is oversized." I said, "Well sorry Sir, that's the way it came out of the bakery." He said, "Follow me".
Not knowing what he wanted I followed him. We went in the galley. "You see these humongous ovens with these big black hoods over the range? Grab that bucket, get some detergent, mix it up, get that ladder and climb aboard the range and wash it down." [Chuckle]
Well mind you at this time I'm only five foot two, 108 pounds and it's August in Bainbridge [chuckle]. It was a heck of an experience. But you know, I did it and that was it.
But as the years go by I keep mentioning to others that if they ever heard that term "Riding the Range", I guess no one was as fortunate as I was to ride that range [chuckle]. When I talk about it the first thing they think is saddling up and rounding up the cattle [chuckle]. So that was my experience in boot camp.
When did you report to the Little Rock, Joe?
MOLINARO: Well when I left boot camp my first ship was the Wilkes-Barre so that was in September of '46. So I reported to the Wilkes-Barre and I think the first time out, it was to New Orleans for Navy Day, then to GITMO and then we did the Mediterranean cruise. And right after that when we got back into Newport - and I figure that was in July of '47 - I was transferred to the Rock.
And I was surprised to see this . . . well I guess that's why they call them sister ships. They look exactly alike, exactly alike. My bunk was in the same location. My division was the same division. My general quarters was the same right through everything. There was no difference in between the two ships so it was like serving on one ship.
I did the Rock and I believe not soon after that I guess - I can't just remember offhand because I get confused between the Rock and Wilkes-Barre - and I believe we went back to the Mediterranean. Yes, we did.
PERILLO: What division were you in Joe?
MOLINARO: I was in the 2nd Division.
PERILLO: Did you have any assigned job?
MOLINARO: Not really, just a seaman.
PERILLO: What was your watch station?
MOLINARO: My watch station was the fantail.
PERILLO: And your battle station was . . . ?
MOLINARO: The lower magazine.
PERILLO: Okay. And what were your cruises now on the Little Rock? You told us about the Wilkes-Barre.
MOLINARO: The cruises on the Little Rock.
PERILLO: You went to the Mediterranean. I know that because I was on that.
MOLINARO: Yes, we went back to the Mediterranean, right. And what I remember most about it was spending Christmas in Piraeus, Greece.
PERILLO: Yes, I was there.
MOLINARO: You were there, right?
PERILLO: That's right, yes.
MOLINARO: And we had that open house and just about everyone came aboard.
PERILLO: Were there any other interesting ports of call that you did besides in Greece?
MOLINARO: Well I believe it was back to Naples and I can't recall.
PERILLO: You went to Venice?
MOLINARO: Venice, yes.
PERILLO: Venice, where they had the canals.
MOLINARO: Right, we went to Venice, right. Yes, we did Venice and yes, if you were on that cruise then you probably remember more than I do.
PERILLO: Yes. How would you describe the living conditions on the ship and the quality of the food and ship's service, and so on and so forth? For example, was there a barber shop? Was there a laundry?
MOLINARO: Oh yes, there was the laundry. And the living conditions; the food, I never had a bad meal, believe me. I never had a bad meal.
PERILLO: Even on a Sunday night?
MOLINARO: Oh, you want to talk about that Sunday night on the heavy seas? Yes, we couldn't set up.
PERILLO: [Laughter] We won't put it on the tape what they called it, alright. We'll let that be a secret part. I didn't mean to interrupt you.
MOLINARO: But you can understand like on the heavy seas they couldn't set up the eating area because the heavy storms that we were heading into. They'd never be able to hold the table and chairs in place.
PERILLO: And they had a barber shop if I recall.
MOLINARO: You know something. It seemed to me they had a barber shop but we never used it. It seemed like, I don't know, maybe because we were all Italians and it was natural for us to cut our own hair; like you would cut my hair and I would cut my buddy's hair.
PERILLO: Right. So I think irregardless of what we were; Italians or who we were, I think that was a common thing onboard the ship, okay. Each one cut each other's hair and that's how we got by. Because to make an appointment at the barber shop you didn't know where you were going to be, what duties you were going to do, and it wasn't like today at your home where you can just get in the car and go to the barber shop.
PERILLO: So how about telling me about some of your closer buddies that you had on the ship and maybe some colorful characters among your shipmates.
MOLINARO: Well my shipmates like Andy Pecora, from day one we've been in touch, ever since day one; from the first day. Andy and I were very good friends and still are. And Joe Pipilo who was a member of this Association that passed on, I believe it was two years ago, sadly missed. And you know it was like everything else; sailors going on liberty and having fun.
PERILLO: You and Andy have been very close through the years. I know it from the reunions. And Andy also is a member of the Association and a Director and our first Vice President right now.
PERILLO: And it's great to have a buddy that you're still friendly with. I know how it is because I have a few that I've been onboard ship with and we served on the ship, and we're still very friendly. That's really a great asset. Can you recall any moments of great shock or fear or special excitement that happened onboard the ship?
MOLINARO: Well I believe when we were going up to Trieste - and I talked to others about this and some of them remember going up into Trieste up in the Adriatic Sea. It was like mines and I can remember the Marines trying to pop them up as they were bobbing in the water. I'm not too sure now. I don't know if it happened on the Rock or another ship but I believe one of our destroyers was hit. I believe it was the Fox. And again, like I say, I think either two sailors were killed or seriously injured because it's been a while. But like yourself, if you had made that cruise, do you remember the mines? (Note: 1)
PERILLO: No, I don't remember those mines.
MOLINARO: You don't remember those mines?
MOLINARO: Andy remembers those mines. It was a foggy day and [laughter] . . . .
PERILLO: Do you have any interesting recollections of your Leading Petty Officers or your Division Officers or your Captains, or any of your Executive Officers that you'd like to mention?
MOLINARO: My captain was Captain Mee . . .
PERILLO: Yes, I had him.
MOLINARO: You had Captain Mee. When we were on deck or something doing our natural chipping paint and if I was to spot Captain Mee . . . well back at that time there was a group called the Mills Brothers and they had a big tune and the title was "Do Nothing 'Til You Hear From Me", and every time if I would spot Captain Mee I would start singing it. The rest of the boys were doing nothing [chuckle] and when they heard from me, everybody would jump on whatever they were supposed to be doing; chipping away or painting.
PERILLO: When did you detach from the Rock; in '48?
MOLINARO: 1948 in Newport, yes.
PERILLO: I bet we left the same day.
MOLINARO: I was discharged July 23rd.
PERILLO: I've got to check my records because I'm very close to you.
MOLINARO: Well I know at that time they were backlogged in processing the discharge papers. I joined on the 7th and I was supposed to get out on the 7th but it was like two weeks later.
PERILLO: That sounds familiar because as a Yeoman Striker they called me in to help type up the discharge papers to get the guys going, so it was very close.
PERILLO: So what was your overall impression of your tour on the Little Rock?
MOLINARO: You know it's something I'll never forget. I love the Navy [chuckle]. It's, I don't know, I love the Navy. I really do love the Navy. If it wasn't for the Navy I would have never been able to see Europe and North Africa, Cuba and other ports of call. And I can't seem to relate any more . . .
PERILLO: What civilian jobs did you return to after your tour in the Navy and on the Rock?
MOLINARO: When I first got out I did some construction for about seven or eight years. In 1957 I used my "Service of Veterans" preference and registered at the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Through Civil Service I went to work for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and ended up retired as a senior construction inspector after 35 years.
PERILLO: What lessons and values did you take away with you from your naval service that helped you in your future years?
MOLINARO: My commitment to my friends and family, being honest.
PERILLO: It really made you grow up, didn't it?
MOLINARO: It certainly did.
PERILLO: Okay. And from what I've seen - and I've known you for a few years, personally, and friendly at the reunions. I'd like to add that I see you with the other members of the ship; the other crewmembers, and I react. I think all of us that have served on the Little Rock have that same feeling when we see the other members that served with us. It's a feeling that never leaves you.
MOLINARO: It never leaves you.
PERILLO: You just want to be with them and see them, and that's what I've noticed with you. I don't mean to put words in your mouth but that's how I see you.
MOLINARO: I'm still an easy going guy.
PERILLO: Tell us about your place; your home, your family. I know you're married. How many years have you been married?
MOLINARO: I've been married . . .
PERILLO: You better be right on this Joe, come on now [chuckle]!
MOLINARO: It was 1951 and this i ... what, I'm going to married what?
PERILLO: You're going to be married 55 years because I was married in 1950 and I'm married 56 years so we're right behind each other, okay. And do you have children?
MOLINARO: I have four children; two boys and two girls.
MOLINARO: And five grandchildren.
PERILLO: Okay. How long have you been a member of the Little Rock Association?
MOLINARO: 1992. I did the very first Buffalo reunion.
PERILLO: Okay. So how many reunions have you attended so far.
MOLINARO: Well this is 15, right?
MOLINARO: This is 15, I've done 12.
PERILLO: That's great, okay. Okay, one more question. Do you swear that everything you've told me here today is true?
MOLINARO: Yes Sir [chuckle].
PERILLO: We're just joking about that Joe [chuckle] because we know you're telling the truth, okay.
This ends our interview with Joseph Molinaro. Is there anything you'd like to add Joe; just anything you would like to add to this tape?
MOLINARO: These reunions; they are something to look forward to and after this morning's meeting people suggesting different places to go to like Branson, Missouri where I'd love to go. I'd be the first one there probably; or Gettysburg, you better believe it. I'll be there; Buffalo, why not. You never get tired of seeing the ship.
PERILLO: This ends our interview with Joe.
We thank you Joe and we hope you have a great reunion here and we're going to be looking forward to seeing you next year wherever they're going to have it.
END OF INTERVIEW
Note: 1 USS Douglas H. Fox DD-779 departed Norfolk 21 July 1947 for a tour of duty in the Mediterranean. On 29 September while bound for Trieste, she struck a World War II mine which severely damaged her stern, killed 3 and injured 12 of her crew. She was towed to Venice by two Italian tugs, and put to sea on 13 November in tow of Luiseno (ATF-156) for Boston, arriving 5 December for repairs.
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