(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 community.
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
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
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.
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 baseball teammates.
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.
in Dow Jones in-house newsletter on August 28, 2002.