Share this article

print logo

WWII aviator still grieves for brothers who died – and the Japanese he killed

This story is about John N. Rosati and his World War II service in the Pacific Ocean on bombing runs aimed at destroying Japanese ships loaded with military personnel and equipment.

But it is also a story about Rosati's family members and the patriotism they exemplified.

There were seven Rosati brothers, all of whom served in WWII. Two gave their lives.

Navy seaman Daniel Rosati was killed when a German submarine torpedoed the USS Bucks, a destroyer, off the coast of Italy in the Mediterranean Sea in October 1943. He was 19 years old.

Dominic Rosati was killed four months later, while installing communication lines near Rome. An enemy shell struck the truck he was riding in with other signalmen.

Besides the seven Rosati brothers, three of their brothers-in-law also served in WWII.


John N. Rosati, 92

Hometown: Lackawanna

Residence: Lake View

Branch: Navy

Rank: Aviation machinist mate, 2nd class petty officer

War zone: World War II, Pacific Theater

Years of service: June 1943 – September 1945

Most prominent honors: 2 Navy Air Combat Medals, Navy Combat Wings, 3 battle stars; Asiatic-Pacific Theater Medal

Specialty: Aviation mechanic aboard 4-engine Privateer bomber, also known as PB4Y2


Returning to John Rosati, he mentions that the woman he would marry after the war, the former Grace Thobaben, also served in the Navy during WWII.

And while Rosati is proud of the patriotism that runs in the family, it is not easy for him to discuss the war because of the brothers and friends he lost, and even the Japanese who lost their lives.

Rosati was assigned as a flight mechanic to a Privateer, which was the Navy's version of the Army Air Force's B-24 bomber, known as the Liberator. He also doubled as the left gun turret operator.

When Rosati's Privateer wasn't up in the air carrying out missions, it was stationed on airfields on islands that included Guam, Tinian and Okinawa.

Reading from his WWII log book to stir his memory, he painted a picture of what it was like on some of the more hazardous missions.

World War II Navy aviator John N. Rosati kept a log book of his bombing runs as well as photos of his brothers Daniel, left, and Dominick who were killed during the war. (John Hickey/Buffalo News)

"June 4, 1945. My first combat hop. We saw a radar station and didn't see any ships. We blew up the radar station, but we lost one of our airmen on the other plane."

After the fatality from anti-aircraft fire occurred, Rosati said his plane and the second plane were summoned back to Okinawa.

Five days later, he flew another mission.

"June 9, 1945. We sighted three ships and sank two and got a probable. That's a ship that was bombed by us but not sunk. On the way back to Okinawa, we saw a radar station and made a strafing run on it. Two men were wounded on the other plane."

For weeks the missions continued, with yet another notable bombing on July 14, 1945:

"Four diversion plane strike across Korea. The object was to make the Japanese think this was a major strike and have them throw their military at us. Normally we only went out on two-plane strikes. Their fighter planes came at us."

The mission ended in success.

"We sank five ships and three probables."

The Navy's aerial assaults continued.

"July 23, 1945. We were on a two-plane strike. We sunk a small cargo ship. We nearly got shot down by a Japanese destroyer. Four Tojo fighter planes attacked us. We shot down one."

But in early August 1945, the bombing runs ended. The world's first atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and that brought the war in the Pacific to a swift end.

Rosati says that he supported President Harry Truman's decision to drop the atom bombs.

"There were a lot of innocent people who died, and people think that's wrong. But if we hadn't dropped those bombs, we would have had to invade the shores of Japan and you can't imagine how many people would have died on both sides," he said. "We would not only have been fighting their soldiers but citizens, as well, and so many more would have died."

Three years after he returned home from the war, he married Grace Thobaben. They raised a daughter and a son. Rosati worked at Bethlehem Steel until he retired in 1978, the same year his wife retired as a teacher from the Orchard Park Central School District. Adding to a long and happy retirement, Rosati said, were two grandchildren. His wife, he said, died in 1999.

And though the husband and wife were both WWII veterans, Rosati said they rarely talked about the military. She served in the Navy, assigned to Washington, D.C., photographing top secret documents for distribution to Navy brass.

"I didn't like talking about the service. We blew ships sky high out of the water and they were Japanese of course, but I felt sorry for doing it ..." said Rosati, his voice overcome by emotion.

After regaining his composure, the grandfather of two continued:

"They were human and could be somebody's father, somebody's son, somebody's sweetheart. Or they could be somebody's brothers, like my two brothers who were killed."



There are no comments - be the first to comment