(Editor’s note: How do you help a small town remember its war dead? Not just the
last war, but the one before that and the one before that ...all the way back to
before the town had its current name. National copyreader Anthony Buccino
decided there was a better way than forgotten plaques and nameless moments of
silence. He’s building a Web site dedicated to the men from his home town,
Nutley, N.J., who died in the nation’s wars. We asked him to write about his
experience researching the Nutley sons who never came back.)
At last year’s Memorial Day ceremonies I scanned strange names
rising from metal plaques on granite monuments and wondered, who
were these men?
How many paid full fare to prove “freedom is not free” as it says on
one three-panel walk-in monument?
In the century past, 127 who walked, played and worked on these same
streets and lived in these same houses heeded their country’s call
and paid the ultimate price to preserve this quiet tree-lined
But I needed to know more about these Nutley sons, brothers, uncles
and fathers. These men were more than names on a piece of metal and
I vowed to try to find out who each one was so that children of this
century and beyond will know them.
I gave my college-age daughter a summer job: print out all the
library’s microfilm on these fellows and I’ll do my editing magic.
In no time we’ll know all there was to know about these Nutley sons.
But it turned out to be a much larger job than anticipated. This
summer project has gone on for more than a year.
My little town has about 16 monuments and memorials honoring nearly
200 fallen service men, plus a large u-shaped memorial to all Nutley
sons who served in
World War II.
The gold stars numbered 88 on the World War II monument, but we
found 91. In beginning to research who these fellows were and where
they lived, we discovered that more than two dozen never had their
stories written in the local paper.
Seventeen Nutley sons were lost in
World War I, and most had
sizeable write-ups, but others had none. Nearly as many were killed
in combat as were killed in training, accidents or by pneumonia.
One of the men killed by the flu turned out to be my second cousin
Pasquale Di Francesco. I never knew he existed until I started this
research. I did know his younger brother, my father’s first cousin,
who was given the same name Pasquale Francisco.
In what has been called the
Forgotten War, nine Nutley
sons perished in Korea.
The fuzzy microfilm printouts tell of Nutley parents on the street
near mine awaiting word of their son missing in action for three
years, from 1951 to 1954, before his being “presumed dead.”
Their son William Nolze was awarded the Silver Star when he
distinguished himself by remaining in his forward post to establish
a base of covering fire while his comrades fell back against ‘a
numerically superior enemy force.’
Firing methodically into the enemy ranks, Nolze inflicted numerous
casualties and held off the remaining enemy until the withdrawal had
been completed. When he was last seen, he was engaging the enemy who
had surrounded his position.
News of one soldier’s death came only days after his letter asking
for cookies and candy to sweeten his Army rations.
The Selective Service System’s use of a young man’s birthday to
determine his eligibility resulted in a set of Nutley twins signing
up to serve together in the same outfit.
All around them in their unit in
Vietnam were guys from Nutley
and other area towns who had just a year earlier been competing in
sports. The twins were just miles apart when one was killed. The
headline in the local paper said, “Nutley Soldier Killed in War Near
While my grammar school buddies and I were acting out the re-winning
of World War II, these big buddies were struggling for another day,
another hill in a real war thousands of miles away.
Recently I went to double-check some information from the monuments.
When I came upon the memorial to the Korean War dead from my town,
the names -- Bliss, DiNardo, Gorman, Miller, MacMillan, Nolze,
Pucci, Smith and Van Der Linde -- popped out at me like a list of my
I had come to know these men as more than names on metal, I knew of
their high school nicknames, their girlfriends and families, their
training and trials and their loss. I felt like I knew these men,
even though they had all died before I was born.
Perhaps, through this
web site, others will some
day feel the same way.
First published in Dow Jones in-house newsletter
on August 28, 2002.
links subject to change
Sons Honor Roll: Remembering the men who paid for our freedom