THE CARL PADOVANO FAMILY INTERVIEW
Written by Bob Meli January 2006
This is an interview Bob Meli had with Carl Padovano's wife Kathryn 84 yrs. old,
Carl Padovano, Jr. 48 yrs. old, Nina Padovano 52 yrs. old and Bob Meli 50 yrs. old, asking the questions. When a person begins to speak, an abbreviation for who is talking is listed below.
Bob Meli – B.M.
Kathryn Padovano – K.P.
Carl Padovano – C.P.J.
Nina Padovano – Nina
If this story were made up it would be too hard to believe!
B.M.: When were you married?
K.P.: April 23, 1944 Carl was entering the reserves in 1943 and the military would let you finish college. He was in the Marine reserves when we got married after his officers training. Carl got his officers training in Quanico Virginia where he graduated second lieutenant. We got married at Saint Francis church Hackensack while Carl was at home on leave. Then we went to camp Pendleton California for training. Carl went from college 1943, to marriage to training at camp Pendleton, to transport ship to Hawaii and then to Iwo Jima. He was on a troop transport ship in a large convoy. They had lost two or three transport ships before he shipped out.
B.M.: Was Carl shot on two different occasions?
K.P.: Yes, the first time Carl and other officers were going over an attack plan. A shot was fired and the bullet went through him under his biceps area and came out and hit the man standing behind him right between the eyes and he fell dead. It was more dangerous behind the lines because the Japanese were coming up behind the lines to kill the officers and medics.
Nina: It got so dangerous for the medics that they stopped wearing their Red Crosses.
B.M.: after Carl got shot the second time did he go back to the front lines?
K.P.: Yes he did both times! The second time he was shot in the leg, he went back to the front without telling anyone he was leaving. The Marine Corp. had no knowledge of where he was they assumed he was dead and sent a letter home informing me that Carl had been killed. I was pregnant at the time and I received mail from him which was dated a day or two after the notice which told me he had been killed. I was so upset, I just felt something wasn't right. I notified the Marine Corp. through some officers I knew, about the letters and they checked it out and found Carl had returned to the fighting.
B.M.: What is the story with Neil Fulton?
K.P.: He was a pilot of a B29 Super fortress.
C.P.J.: He was as tactful as the front of a bulldozer.
K.P.: He was flying over Iwo Jima and saw all the bombing and fighting going on and he knew Carl had been hit but didn't know how serious.
Nina: He was a bit of a daredevil!
C.P.J.: The airstrip hadn't been secured yet. Neil Fulton faked engine trouble or low on fuel and he landed his plane on Iwo Jima. His crew was crossing their fingers as they landed on the island. His crew knew they were going to land and look for my father.
Nina: They were like this [crossing her fingers] in H.H.S. and they were like this [crossing her fingers] till the day they died. They are really quite a study [meaning their friendship].
B.M.: Their H.S. football team was terrible.
C.P.J.: I didn't know that. Must have served as motivation for all those years he coached.
B.M.: So how does Neil Fulton find out Carl is okay.
K.P.: Well, he asks around and someone tells him he is up at the front. The front line is only about a mile away so he goes up to the front and see Carl on a food line and-
C.P.J.: I know what you are going to say Neil sees my father in the food line and comes up behind him and hits my father in the back of the head, and my father without even turning around says ‘Neil you son of a bitch.' That was it, he got his crew, got back on his B29 and left.
Nina:That whole crowd they should make a movie about them.
K.P.: Carl was going up to the front lines as Mike Kraykowski was carrying a wounded Marine back and they met on the battlefield. Mike says ‘Carl they're killing all the officers,' then a shell landed nearby and they scattered.
C.P.J.: From H.H.S. to the battle of Iwo Jima .
K.P.: They protected the guys who put up the flag.
C.P.J.: After Iwo Jima They were preparing for the invasion of mainland Japan .
B.M.: What did Carl say about the Atom Bomb being dropped?
K.P.: Never mentioned it, never really discussed it.
B.M.: Did he ever discuss his role as operations commander of the city of Sasebo .
K.P.: He said how they took over and the people were deathly afraid of them.
Nina: I always felt that daddy thought they had fought and died and risked their lives and they had won the war and then the bomb was a bit on the over kill side. That was always my impression of how he felt about the bomb.
B.M.: Sasebo is less then 2hr drive away from Nagasaki did he ever mention seeing any refugees or effects from it?
K.P.: Yes, some badly burned people and the Marines that came back from Hiroshima and Nagasaki had deformed children and felt it was from having been there.
B.M.: Did he ever explain his responsibilities in Sasebo ?
K.P.: Yes, they were supposed to keep the people in order but they were such petrified people that they really didn't cause any trouble. As operations commander the Japanese mayor brought him to dinner on a boat and his wife gave him a shell with a rouge color on it, which meant they were a peaceful people. The people were so poor and they all went up to the mountains. They came down after awhile and would clean the Marines clothes etc. for food or money. Half the time Carl said you had to keep your own troops in line so they wouldn't take out revenge on the people.
B.M.: Was he able to send letters to you during the occupation and how long was the occupation?
K.P.: He was in Japan for about 6 months and we sent letters to each other the whole time. He said most of the Marines didn't get involved with the people. He told me a story about being at a train station and he saw this women squatting and realized she was about to deliver a baby so he gave a command for the Marines present to circle her so she could have some privacy.
B.M.: Did he ever mention any refugees from Nagasaki or about the condition of Sasebo ?
K.P.: Oh Yes, They saw people effected by the bomb. He said the city of Sasebo was in terrible condition , very behind the times.
B.M.: How did he change when he came back?
K.P.: When he came back he was quite a different person then when he went in. I don't know how to this day someone could go through something like that and not have a picture of it in the back of his or her head.
C.P.J.: I remember when we were on a fishing trip, I was around 12 yr. old and he was sleeping and all of a sudden I heard Dad start panting and yelling [note; Carl Jr.. made a noise that sounded like a man who was running forward into terror] I got scared and woke him up. I said dad, dad are you alright and he woke up and said ‘I haven't had one of them in awhile.'
K.P.: Sometimes he would freeze in a position and say Kay, Kay, just rub my arm. He used to be afraid to sit with his back to a window. For the longest time he would never do that. They never talked much about the war.
B.M.: What did you two do after the war?
K.P.: We had a day camp in Sussex with 110 kids and I did all the cooking. We sold the property for $25,000 and bought a house in Ridgewood. Carl started as a English and History teacher and then became just history. Then he became principal of the middle school and then vice principal of the H.S. followed by principal of the H.S. Finally he became superintendent for 14 yrs. He also coached football and baseball for 16 or 17 yrs.
K.P.: The 1960's we called the Camelot years because President Kennedy appropriated so much money to education.
B.M.: How hard was it for you during those war years, especially when you were notified of his death?
K.P.: I was so upset but I knew something wasn't right. Officers that knew Carl called to help me find out if he was dead. He didn't tell anyone he had left the hospital, which is why the Marine Corp. thought he was dead. He wanted to get out of the hospital area because the Japanese were killing everyone behind the lines on chow lines. The Japanese would actually get in the chow lines.
C.P.J.: There was no water so the Japanese would get so thirsty when they ran out of water they would attempt to get water on the Americans chow lines. The island is a volcanic island with no available water.
C.P.J.: Dad told us that they would come up to the caves the enemy was in and rather then surrender when they were out of ammunition the Japanese would sharpen wooden sticks like when you roast marshmallows and then stab themselves in the heart. When people would roast marshmallows and the smell of diesel fuel would bring back memories he said.
K.P.: He mentioned how sometimes when they would use the flamethrower into the caves the ball of fire would curl back and burn the Marine using it. He mentioned that because the 18 and 19 yr old guys usually would use the flamethrowers because they had the guts to use them.
B.M.: Did he ever tell you how he took those caves?
C.P.J.: No, never knew about it till after he died. I knew he had gotten the bronze star and the Purple Heart but he never explained what happened. He always used to joke,' you could never have gotten off the island unless you got a bronze star or a purple heart.' It was interesting, we went to the 45 th reunion and all the guys were about 66, 67 years old. They acted like they were 19 yrs old again and they didn't even have to talk but were communicating with each other. It was a very deeply emotional bond these guys had that no one could break and no one else could enter in. I was 35yrs old and I asked, ‘men can I get you a drink' and they said yes. I asked if they wanted anything in the drinks and they all said no. I should have just put the bottles on the table. They really couldn't drink like that anymore but they tried, oh how they tried.
K.P.: I never seen Carl wobble or be drunk, but when we came home from that party he was saying ‘I'm a Marine nobody wants to walk with me, I'm a Marine.' ‘Kay stay close to me so I can lean on you okay.' It was so funny none of us ever saw him drunk like that.
B.M.: What was his relationship with Joe DeFalco?
K.P.: He liked Joe a lot so did I. Carl thought he had a great sense of humor. He had him as a football player and thought he was great. He just liked the guy Joe had a great attitude.
C.P.J.: Dad sold Joe his first car.
K.P.: Last time I saw Joe He said, ‘Kay you look so wonderful ‘ it was about two weeks before the election. Those were the last words he said to me.
B.M.: He loved Carl.
C.P.J.: Joe always mentioned him in speeches when he spoke about people who most influenced his life Carl was always at the top of that list.
K.P.: Carl had that way about him. He affected people. Joe DeFalco said when Carl would give a speech he didn't know half the time what he was talking about because he would use Marine terms. One time at half time they weren't blocking well and Carl said ‘You guys your taking on water your taking on water,' Joe turned to the guy next to him and said ‘is that good what does that mean?' Oh I loved Joe he was such a great guy.
End of Interview
Whenever you see movies or T.V. shows on Iwo Jima or read any of the volumes of books on the subject, or see the famous picture of the Marines raising the flag, remember these men of Hackensack a history teacher, a mail clerk, and a police officer. We came in contact with these men every day and never knew. These ordinary men when called to duty performed extraordinary feats of heroism and bravery.
Bill Paladino explaining his experience in Vietnam said ‘Bob you do things in war that you wouldn't think of doing in every day life because you have to, you have no choice.'
But only those who have been through the battle know what it took to get through it.
Let us always be grateful for the Marine's sacrifice.