On Friday, August 21, Sylvio Curcuruto celebrated his 98th birthday, surrounded by family and friends in his Gulfport home.
Curcuruto was born in Greenwich, CT in 1922 and married his childhood sweetheart New Year’s day in 1942. By December of the same year, Curcuruto had joined the Army.
The next four years would define his life. Curcuruto was assigned to Company D, of the 397th Infantry Regiment, First Battalion, stationed at Ft. Jackson, SC.
On November 12, 1944, Curcuruto deployed to Europe and spent the next six months in France and Germany.
“It was either them or me,” Curcuruto repeated throughout the interview. He didn’t say it with pride, but a sense of sadness. “I would close my eyes and shoot – sometimes it would hit, sometimes it wouldn’t – then we just kept moving.”
Curcuruto had a stroke five years ago, so his memory goes in and out – but his memories of the war are still vivid.
Asked what was the most difficult thing he saw while at war, he responded, “Seeing someone shot up on the side of the road and not being able to do anything about it. You had to keep moving and they had to wait for the medic.”
Curcuruto was awarded a Bronze Star; the citation tells an equally difficult story:
“Private Curcuruto, a driver in a machine gun platoon, performed his duties in a superior manner throughout this combat period. He especially distinguished himself on 10 April near Heilbronn, Germany, when while engaged in transporting ammunition across the fire-swept Neckar River, the bridge was destroyed by hostile shell fire. Undaunted, he swiftly located a boat and loaded the ammunition into it, set out across the water in the face of direct enemy artillery and sniper fire. Upon reaching the far shore he carried the entire load to his advanced platoon and although a bursting shell destroyed two boxes he courageously kept at his task until it was completed.”
The Bronze Star medal was established on February 4, 1944 and is awarded to those in the Armed Forces for heroic or meritorious achievement. It’s a high honor.
Curcuruto returned home just two weeks after his heroic act and served in the US Army until February 14, 1946.
He and his family moved to Gulfport in 1975 and he worked security at St. Anthony’s Hospital until retirement. Curcuruto now likes to work on his toy car collection – mostly of the Volkswagen variety – and spends his days surrounded by his three daughters and healthcare assistants who live in Gulfport. Curcuruto has five children, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
According to US Department of Veterans Affairs, 389,292 of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II were alive in 2019. Curcuruto comes from a family with longevity.
“Our mom lived to almost 93 and our grandparents lived into their 80s,” said daughter Carole Curcuruto. “I don’t know how they made it so long, but I hope I have them good genes.”