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DeCaro, Thomas G.

Thomas G. DeCaro U.S. Army Air Corps WWII
Thomas G. DeCaro U.S. Army Air Corps WWII

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Date of Birth: 7/2/1921
Died On: August 21, 2020
Branch of Service: U.S. Army Air Corps - Eighth Air Force

Veteran Code: USAAC-176

Thomas G. DeCaro was born on July 2, 1921 to Nicholas and Mary DeCaro, here in New York. He attended Evander Childs High School in the Bronx and upon graduation joined the United States Army.

Thomas G. DeCaro

Thomas G. DeCaro was born on July 2, 1921 to Nicholas and Mary DeCaro, here in New York. He attended Evander Childs High School in the Bronx and upon graduation joined the United States Army. Within the first year of being in the Army, Japan, bombed Pearl Harbor, and the United States entered World War II. At that point he transferred from the field artillery into the U.S. Army Corp to commence pilot training. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant and promoted to First Lieutenant.

He was assigned to a B-17 aircraft with the 337th squadron and part of the 96th Heavy Bombardment Group. Their B-17 was flying out of the United Kingdom and bombing sites in Kiel, Germany included marshalling yards, where railway wagons, engines and carriages are kept when they are not in use. At this point in the war there was no fighter aircraft cover to escort the B-17’s during bombing missions and proximally 50% of his squadron was shot down during each mission.
He made his first mission in May or June of 1943. His second mission was on June 13, 1943 and his plane named Miss Carriage, was shot down over the Danish Peninsula. He was wounded in the attack by the German fighters and knocked unconscious. When he awoke, the plane was on fire, ridden with bullet holes and spiraling towards the Baltic Sea below.

He made his way to the bomb-bay area of the aircraft where he found the pilot hung up on the bomb-bay rack, unable to escape, and that the rest of the 10-man crew had already bailed-out (10 including the stuck pilot and Thomas DeCaro). All crew perished except for the pilot and Thomas DeCaro. He assisted the pilot in getting free from the bomb-bay rack, and he and the pilot successfully bailed-out of the aircraft. Upon impact the aircraft was confirmed to be 100% destroyed.

Mr. DeCaro landed waist deep in the waters of the Baltic Sea off a Danish beach. Unfortunately, it was a windy day, and before he could disconnect from his parachute it filled and dragged him out to sea. He was fortunate enough to be recovered by a local fishing vessel, who turned him over to the German authorities. Thereafter, he was provided with medical care and attention by the German Army and ultimately spending most of his time interned in Stalag Luft III in Sagan as a prisoner of war for the next 23 months. He was known as the “tinsmith” in the camp, he could create anything for the prisoners. He made most of the cooking pans, plates, and a cooking small stove, used by the members in his room at the camp’s South Compound. He was held with other Americans in the South Compound specifically in Block 136, Room 136. Thomas also created a set of weights for the ones in his room so they could regain strength and exercise.

Soon, the Russian troops approached Sagan, Poland and became within 12.4 miles of Stalag Luft III. The POWs could hear the battles and thought they would be liberated soon. Unfortunately, on the night of January 27th, 1945 Adolf Hitler had demanded the evacuation of all camps. Stalag Luft III had six compounds and the order was to march that night. American airmen in the South Compound including Thomas DeCaro left first at 9:20 pm, they had little time to prepare food rations and clothing. The conditions were extreme with sub-zero temperatures and deep snow. One of the coldest German winters in living memory. Mr. DeCaro and the other men marched hour after hour only having 10 minutes halts so often. Next, they were led to cattle trucks where they were sent to either Stalag XIII-D or Stalag VII-A or channeled through both camps. When US forces started to encroach those two camps Mr. DeCaro and other POWs originally from Stalag Luft III were marched another 99 miles to the South to Stalag VII-A (Moosburg), by this time it was April 20th. The morning of April 29, 1945 the 14th Armored Division of General George S. Patton’s 3rd Army approached Stalag VII-A. Where a battle ensued and at 12:15 pm the American Flag flew over the camp and soon the United States forces breached the barbed wire fencing of the camp. Liberated by General Patton’s 3rd Army, Mr. DeCaro was finally free after 23 months.

Upon return from the European theater his parents held a party to celebrate his safe return. At that time, his father was a machinist in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and he had invited several of the women who were working in the Navy Yard as “Rosy the Riveter” to join the celebration. It was at this party that Thomas met Violet Lewis, who was a worker at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and after a short courtship they married.

After the service, he worked as an adjuster for Allstate Insurance while attending New York University at night where he received a degree in engineering. He then realized that law was his calling. He attended law school at night at St. John’s University School of Law and became a trial lawyer in 1955.

He moved from Mount Vernon to Rye Beach Avenue in 1966, where he and his wife raised three children. Mr. DeCaro was actively involved in civil service in town. He was a member of the Rye Fire Department and served on the Board of Wardens. In 1973, he was appointed to the Rye City Court and served as Rye City Judge for 18 years, until his retirement from the bench at age 70. He continued working in his private practice, DeCaro & DeCaro, P.C., with his son Phil until the age of 90.

In his spare time, he could be found traveling across the country with his wife in their motorhome or tinkering in his basement workshop using copious amounts of wood glue. He had an affinity for purple, loud patterned shirts, and plaid shirts and ties. He loved listening to books on tape and sitting for hours doing research on his iPad.

Tom DeCaro was a humble and modest man who believed that every new day was a great one. He loved spending time with his family in Rye and invited all for Sunday dinner.

At the time of his wife Violet’s passing in April 2017, the DeCaro’s had been married for 72 years. “He talked about her every day and missed her immensely,” said his children.

Thomas DeCaro was 99 and is survived by his children, Tom (Faye) DeCaro of Greenwich, Lori DeCaro of Rye, and Phil (Leah) DeCaro of Rye; ten grandchildren: Kristin Rodriguez, Peter Junggren, Andrew Junggren, Stephen Burkly, Lauren DeCaro, Chelsea DeCaro, Carson DeCaro, Callie DeCaro, Molly DeCaro, Thomas DeCaro; as well as one great-grandchild, Riley Rodriguez.

Awarded the: POW (Prisoner of War Medal); Purple Heart; American Campaign Medal; European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with 2 Bronze Stars; World War II Victory Medal and a Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster on his Distinguished Unit Citation. New York State Medal for Merit; New York State Conspicuous Service Star and New York State Conspicuous Service Cross.

Carson DeCaro
RHS 2013
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