POWHATAN POINT - Sixty-Five years ago, Powhatan resident Private First Class Marion Veneri heard these words on the deck of an Attack Transport sitting at anchor in Buckner Bay, Okinawa, in the South Pacific theater during the final days of War World Two.
'Mario' received his 'basic training' in the Canal Zone in 1942. The Panama Canal was a vital link in the American War effort for both the Atlantic and Pacific Theaters of War. Following 'basic' Marion was assigned to 'D' Battery of the 903rd Anti Aircraft Artillery Automatic Weapons Battalion on the West entrance to the Canal near Balboa. He was trained as a 'Communicator' which required him to learn the intricacies of the 14T (cord-plug) Switchboards, Enemy and Friendly Aircraft Identification, two-way radios. He was in position to report the 'bearing' and 'altitude' of any and all 'aircraft' flights in and around his area and relay this information to four 30 Caliber multi-Anti-Aircraft Gun Emplacements in his Canal Zone Area. As Firing Coordinator, his duty required reporting the exact identity of the 'unfriendly' aircraft so proper ammunition could be used. For instance, there was one particular type of ammunition that could not be used during rainfall because it had TNT projectiles that could be exploded by contact with 'rain drops'. There were occasions for tense moments when the Command Center would report 'unidentified' air traffic. The Canal Zone was a prime target for the enemy.
There were numerous occasions of 'reported' and actual enemy incursions. His 1st Lieutenant advised them there had been an actual capture of five members of an 'enemy' commando team ordered to destroy one or more of the locks in the Canal. The capture was a few short miles away in Balboa from his duty station.
After seventeen months in the Canal Zone, Mario was assigned to the Signal Corps and ordered on a Transport Ship to the Marshall Islands. He spent two months there and then on to Okinawa in the final days of 'mopping up there'. Orders came down, "we are preparing to invade the main Island of Japan on November 1, 1945". Fortunately for Mario, that August anchored at bay in Okinawa, the Atomic Bombs were delivered on targets in Japan and the Japanese 'surrendered'. The War was over! Mario had accumulated enough points at Okinawa to finally return home to Powhatan.
Mario had spent 17 months in the Canal Zone and found himself 10,000 miles away when the War ended.
He had even crossed the International Date Line on the USTS Irenville and initiated into the Sacred Order of the Yellow Dragon. He will proudly show you his 'Yellow Dragon' card.
Mario was shipped back home to Powhatan in early 1946. He went back to work at Powhatan No. 1 Mine. He is retired from North American Coal No. 6 Mine as a Coal Miner with Membership in District 6 UMWA. He joined Saner Post #228 of The American Legion later that year and now carries a 64 year Continuous Membership Card. He has served the Post in many capacities and the Powhatan Community for many years. Most recently he found it necessary to surrender his job as Post Chaplain which he held for 20 years.
Prior to entering Military Service, Mario had worked at Powhatan No. 1 Mine. In 1935 Mario had joined Boy Scout Troop 120 in Powhatan. He and his buddies built a 'log cabin' (now gone) on the Aaron Ramsay Farm. Clark Nichols was his Scoutmaster. He still has his Scout membership cards (1935/1938).
Veneri was honored for his service to his country last Wednesday during a Vetarans' Day ceremony at the Powahatan school, one he attended prior to going off to war.