Comrades from Beginning to End Samuel Belmont, left, and Maurice "Sonny" Cetta are shown as newly Federalized soldiers training with the rest of Walton's Company F in Fort McClellan, AL, prior to the start of World War II. At least 50 Walton soldiers participated in the invasion of Saipan Island and later in the bloody battle of Okinawa. Sam and Sonny fought in both battles.
Sam Belmont: "We Fought the Battle"
"I could see the bullets pelting behind my feet. Then I got over a knoll."
When an interviewer sought to learn what occurred to him in battle, it was apt description by Walton's laconic Samuel Belmont, Jr. A race against death. He can recall the afternoon on Saipan when three Waltonians Price, Barnhart, and Spencer lost their lives in that most brutal battle of the Pacific during World War II. "We went right into a trap. All were killed that afternoon," he recalled. Not a man to let the words flow, Sam puts it this way. "We fought the battle."
Born in 1919, Sam was 20 in October 1940 when Company F left Walton for infantry training at Fort McClellan, Alabama. He had volunteered for the company a year before and recalls making platoon sergeant at McClellan. "There were no draftees," he says of the Walton-based unit. Among other stops were stations in California, including Orchard City, Fort Ord, and Riverside, and on March 13, 1942, the troops left the mainland from Pier 36, San Francisco. For a year they were on the big island of Hawaii; then they shipped to Scholfield Barracks on Oahu.
Their first combat was on Majoro in the Gilbert Islands. "We weren't there long. It was a very easy island," he says succinctly. It was in June 1944 that Company F troops were shipped to Saipan.
"A lot of Walton men were killed there," remarked Sam contemplatively. "Gene (Eugene) DuMond was as close to me as you (his listener in a chair about four feet away) when he got wounded. We were in foxholes. The only thing was that you really couldn't dig a foxhole in coral, so it was made out of shrubs. He got hit in the leg." His recollection was that as the landing craft which bore the troops hit he beach, "there was no action for us." What occurred from that point, thought, will be recorded as one of the most vicious battles in the annals of war, George Cable, another Company F man, also paying the supreme price.
"There were only eight men left out of my platoon out of forty-some. Just war is what is was." And what was war? "A lot of crawling. A lot of running. Firing. Artillery. Plane strafing. Just battle. We used flamethrowers." When the island was taken, the remnants of the company were sent to the New Hebrides to regroup "11 degrees below the equator," Sam recalls.
Replacements came from Port Walter, TX, mostly Arkansans.
After 31 days on the ocean, as part of the largest fleet ever assembled in the Pacific, the company participated in the invasion of Okinawa. Sam does not recall Japanese kamikaze aircraft attacking the flotilla until it had reached its destination in the harbor.
His personal recollection is that his unit came ashore April 1, 1945. On May 28, he was wounded.
"I got shrapnel in my back. They sent me to Tripler General Hospital in Hawaii. I was discharged August 15, V-J Day."
That thrust into Okinawa again took its toll as Anthony Possemato of Company F lost his life.
Sam's Army career did not end with the war, however. He joined the National Guard and made captain in the reserves while completing 33 years in the service.
Using the GI Bill, he learned the carpenter trade from Ralph Clark of Walton and is now retired.
The shrapnel he took in the back has left its mark. As it has disintegrated, it has affected his lungs, and he resorts to oxygen use to assist his breathing.
The war still is taking its price.
Yes, and for Sam a Bronze Star with cluster, Combat Infantryman's Badge, and Purple Heart with cluster. Some glory with painful memories.
Many New Yorkers are wondering what the insignia worn on the left shoulder by soldiers of the 27th Division really means. Here is the answer.
The first symbol is the letter N; it stands for "New." The second is the letter Y, denoting "York." The third symbol is the letter D, for "Division." The three letters together form the monogram NYD, denoting, of course, "New York Division."
The seven stars represent the brighter stars of the constellation Orion. They are included in the insignia as a compliment to Major-General O'Ryan, who commanded the New York Division for seven years. When these components are all assembled as shown here, we have the complete insignia of the 27th Division probably the most unique insignia of any American Army Division.
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