A dozen World War II veterans from Amityville and neighboring communities will ride in the village Independence Day parade Saturday as grand marshals, Deputy Mayor Jessica Bernius said.
Seventy years after the Allies declared victory in Europe, "This is probably the first time all of them have gotten together," she said. "It's living history."
More than 200 Amityville residents served in the military during the war, according to village historian William Lauder, 93, who was one of them. Hundreds more worked at nearby defense plants including Colgate-Larsen, which made seaplanes near where the Dinghy Shop is now located on South Bayview Avenue. Villagers also donated a disarmed World War I harbor mine and two Civil War cannons to a scrap metal drive, he said.
Bernius has compiled written recollections from the veterans, who range in age from 88 to 94 and were in their teens and early 20s during the war.
Charles Woodman, 91, an infantryman who fought in the Ardennes, wrote that memories of his comrades come to him daily, even now, "especially the ones who did not return."
Owen E. Brooks, 90, a Navy man, was an Amityville High School senior when the war began and slated to take part in a large-scale invasion of Japan when the war ended. Peace, he wrote, was sudden, "like popping the cork in a champagne bottle."
Joseph Washenko, 89, a Navy radio man, said he was in the high school auditorium when news of the Pearl Harbor attack was announced and in a ship in the Bay of Japan when the war ended. "Thank God it is over and I am alive and I can go home," he thought to himself at that time.
Lauder, an infantryman who received a Bronze Star for hauling a wheelbarrow full of ammunition up to the front line while under fire, has some memories of his own.
The French beach where he landed and slogged for miles; the German city of Cologne, so leveled by bombing that there wasn't a wall left standing higher than 8 feet; the Russian soldier who tried to steal potatoes from an old German woman in the city of Schwerin.
Lauder said "nyet," fired a round into the ground near the man's feet and later got dressed down by an officer, he said. "The whole thing was an ugly mess," he said in an interview this week.
He will also participate in the parade Saturday morning.
The parade will form at Amityville Beach at 10 a.m. and proceed north on South Bayview Avenue, cross Merrick Road and continue down Bayview Avenue to Avon Place. The veterans will ride in World War II-era jeeps. It will turn west at Avon Place and proceed onto Broadway, ending at the Amityville Fire Department on Oak Street for the traditional cookout, offered this year as a salute to the veterans, according to village officials.