|By G. Michael Dobbs
Wilfred Delude has erected a personal memorial to his World War II shipmates.
Reminder Publications photo by G. Michael Dobbs
CHICOPEE – The flagpole in the front lawn of Wilfred Delude’s house doesn’t look too unusual at first glance, but a closer look reveals it is a personal memorial to the sailors who lost their lives when their ship was torpedoed on Aug. 27, 1944.
Delude was one of the men aboard the LST 327 who survived and he told Reminder Publications, “I’ve been thinking about the guys an awful lot.”
Last year, he decided to construct his own memorial and this year he and his wife added some finishing touches.
Delude explained the LST 327 was originally a Coast Guard vessel added to the Navy in preparation for the invasion of Europe. The ship’s duty was to fill and launch the landing crafts or Higgins boats that would carry the troops and supplies to the beachhead.
According to the Coast Guard history site, the ship participated in the invasion of Sicily in 1943. The ship also brought men and materials to support the landing at Anzio, Italy.
He recalled that his shipmates successfully and safely had completed their mission on D-Day by delivering Canadian troops to Juno beach on June 6, 1944. Several months later, though, a Nazi torpedo tore into the crew’s quarters at 8 p.m. Some of the sailors were in their bunks, while others were sitting along the outside edge of the area.
Delude was among those sitting and he said additional causalities came from the ship’s magazine exploding from the torpedo.
The result was 22 of the ship’s crew were killed and 25 wounded, including Delude whose legs were injured.
Delude and the other survivors were picked up by another Navy vessel and they were brought to a “survivors’ camp” in Southampton, England.
Although he was wounded during the course of duty, Delude did not receive the Purple Heart, despite his and others’ efforts.
He recalled the nightly Nazi bombing raids on England – the Blitz – caused him many a sleepless night.
Delude also remembered how he attended a Red Cross event, which featured a performance of popular bandleader Glenn Miller, who was leading an Army Air Force Band and performing for the troops. That show was on Dec. 15, 1944 and was Miller’s last show as the plane in which he was flying later that night disappeared and Miller was presumed dead.
Delude served in the Navy from 1943 to 1946 and came back to his home town of Chicopee where he was employed by the Department of Public Works and eventually served as its superintendent.
Looking at his private memorial, Delude said he has not been in touch with his surviving shipmates.
“Most are gone now,” he said.
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