IN?MEMORY… Remembering area war veterans

38th Infantry division, 149th infantry regiment

Service date: Feb. 10, 1942

Killed in action: Dec. 9, 1944, Leyte, Philippine Islands

Carl Schibetta, born Dec. 3, 1919, grew up in Fredonia’s Little Italy section. The son of Charles and Josephine Schibetta, he resided at 109 Cushing St., along with siblings Joe, Jim, Louise, Dorothea and Evelyn.

In the early years his first cousins, the Siracuses: Bange, Nin, Joe, Hap and Sal, lived upstairs at 109 Cushing St. Schibetta’s uncle, at one time, worked for his father at his Fredonia Cement Block Co. Eventually the Siracuses’ got their own home at 78 Orchard St. The bond of family and friendship between these families would be a strong influence in Schibetta’s life.

Growing up, although Schibetta was very close to all his Siracuse cousins, Joe was his best friend. They were born only weeks apart and shared the same interests. So close was Carl with Joe and his brothers that the secretary at Brown & Gugino Lumber Co., which was across the street from the Siracuse home on Orchard Street, actually thought he was a Siracuse! Carl and Joe had many good buddies in this close-knit neighborhood. They included Lou Ugino, Sal Gugino, Cheek Scanio, Lou Coniglio, Sam Andolora, Pete Tarazzo and Tony Conti, just to name a few. This made for a wonderful neighborhood to grow up in. Everything was right there. Schibetta could be at Andolina’s Market in seconds, Cellura’s Market in minutes. St. Anthony’s Church was in the center, providing a strong spiritual and social base. They hung out on the hill behind the future Eagle Street elementary school and played ball in fields below it owned by Charles Fadale. They explored the woods along Canadaway Creek. There was never much money but it never stopped these boys from having a great childhood.

Athletic standout

Schibetta entered Fredonia High School in the fall 1933. He was a well-rounded student, participating in the band and sports. He was a three-sport athlete, playing football, track and basketball. His track relay team in the Hilltopper’s inaugural season in spring 1937 won both the county and conference championship.

They went on to place second in the Western New York meet. This relay team included Schibetta’s fellow fraternity brother, Vince Coniglio, along with Tom Goggin and Hugh DeLury. In football, Schibetta’s fine play was a key component in FHS’s 6-0 upset of Salamanca.

Schibetta enjoyed a very active social life. He was a pretty decent singer and knew all the dance moves of the time. Always a sharp dresser, his younger sister Dorothy remembers she could earn money ironing his pants. And he would take her to Angola dancing. Spending time with his siblings was important to him.

In February 1937 Schibetta and 11 of his buddies, which included cousins Joe and Nin Siracuse from Little Italy, had formed the Sigma Phi Delta fraternity in response to ethnic prejudice. Their fraternity would expand and grow beyond the original 12. This group of boys from Fredonia’s Little Italy would be linked in life until their final days.

After his graduation from FHS, he eventually enrolled at Heidelberg College in Tiffin, Ohio with his good buddy Lou Ugino. He had a goal to become a dentist like his Uncle Charles Barone, who had a practice in Buffalo. Schibetta had completed two years when his dream was interrupted by world events. Schibetta and most of his childhood friends would either be drafted or enlist in the U.S. military as America entered World War II after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Military service

Schibetta was inducted into the U.S. Army at Fort Niagara on Feb. 10, 1942 with his cousin Joe Siracuse and several other Fredonia residents, including Guy Provenzano, Anthony Leone, Joe Joy and Joe Coniglio. Many family members and friends were there to see them off that day. Cousins Schibetta and Siracuse assured everyone that they would take care of each other.

The guys had their basic training at Fort McClellan in Anniston, Ala. After basic training, they were assigned to the newly formed 38th Infantry division, which was organized from the National Guard units of Kentucky, Indiana and West Virginia. The boys from Fredonia were part of the 149th regiment. The original headquarters was at Camp Shelby, Miss. From there they went to Camp Carrabelle, Fla. on Nov. 12, 1942 for amphibious training. They then moved on to Camp Livingston, La. on Jan. 28, 1943. The 38th embarked from New Orleans on Dec. 31, 1943 for Hawaii and arrived at Oahu on Jan. 21, 1944. It was then off to New Guinea on July 11, 1944. Their ship, the S.S. Monterey, was hit by a volcanic dust storm on July 23 near Milne Bay, New Guinea and had to transfer by LCIs to the S.S. Simon Bamberger for their final destination of Oro Bay, New Guinea. After training there they departed for Leyte in the Philippines on Nov. 27, 1944.

It must have been something for this group from a small town like Fredonia to able to travel to the Southeastern U.S., sail through the Panama Canal, stay in Hawaii for six months and then go on to Southeast Asia all in the span of two years.

Most of this group stayed together. Joe Siracuse joined the paratroopers and Anthony Leone joined the Army Air Corp. Although nearly all paratroop divisions participated in the European campaign, in a strange twist of fate, a very small part of Joe’s 507th paratroop regiment ended up in the Pacific. These paratroops would also go to New Guinea, Papua Territory and Leyte and Luzon, islands of the Philippines, just like the 149th. The first cousins stayed in touch as much as possible.

Next week: Part two.