Lexington Remembers WWII

Links to Stories in the Lexington Remembers WWII Series








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Heroes Among Us

By E. Ashley Rooney

Chuck French, a committee member, with Bill Pierro, who identified many East Lexington residents who were WWII veterans.

Sixty-two Lexingtonians died in World War II, and more than 14,000 enlisted in the military services.  The Lexington Remembers WWII committee has been looking for information, photos, or other “treasures” to honor World War II veterans and those who survived the war. One of our members, Sue Stering, has been going through high school yearbooks page by page; Paul Doherty tries to upgrade those images to use in the eAlbum that George Gamota and Chuck French are compiling. On March 11, we held a Gathering at the Community Center, for all those who had information on their Lexington WWII veterans.

Many came with their loved ones’ pictures, their medals, and honorable discharge papers. People talked about Lexington in those nostalgic times, where the guys hung around the local drugstore, and the girls were babysitting. There were only three banks then, and many stores. In 1940, Lexington had three trains a day, and five railroad stops.

Todd Cataldo spoke about his father’s family farm. There were five brothers, and since they were farmers, they were not drafted. Finally, the Draft Board came to them, saying, “We are getting a lot of flak,” and they drafted the youngest brother, Robert. William H. McAlduff’s daughters were sure he lied about his age to enter the Navy because he received his diploma from Arlington High School when he returned home from the Pacific Theater.

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Lexington WWII Committee Researching Lexington Veterans

By E. Ashley Rooney

The Lexington Remembers committee has been working on finding the veterans from this war.  It was quite simple when we tackled WWI; we even had a plaque with names on it and trees to memorialize our fallen.  We had many pictures, but WWII was different.

There were no pictures of would-be recruits standing on the Green ready to go to war.  There was no list of those who went. And there were several plaques (one in the Library, another in LHS) of the fallen, but they had different names and different counts.  Perhaps that is because The Pearl Harbor attack pushed an unprepared country into a terrifying new brand of warfare. Soon after the Japanese attack, German U boats were sinking hundreds of US merchant ships- some right off the American coast. In the Pacific. Japan’s forces far outweighed those of the United States.

The committee has been compiling the list of Lexington WWII vets and developing an eAlbum of the 59 fallen.   We have found some wonderful stories.  There was John Ayvazian, who volunteered for the draft in 1943. “When I was getting on the train to go to Ft. Devins, I was laughing, and my mother was crying. It was a big adventure for me. I always wanted  to get into the Air Force.”

John became a navigator at a base northeast of London. Every group had three squadrons; every squadron had twelve bombers.  Sometimes, there were over 2000 planes in the air. John flew B17s and B24s.  “I didn’t have time to get scared. The only time I got jumpy was when we started off on a mission. Of course, our nose gunner never fired his gun when I expected it. So to this day, I still jump when there’s a loud noise behind me. Basically, the only way I saw anyone getting hurt was when a plane would get hit. A plane would break up into three balls of flame. We were instructed  to watch for a parachute.”

Chuck French, who is supervising the Committee’s research, comments, “We found a male Canadian national living in Lexington who got his pilot’s license before he was old enough to get his driving license.  He joined the Royal Canadian Air Force.  We had one female Canadian national who was raised in Lexington. She tried to join the service in Canada, but they were not accepting women, so she joined the WAVES.  One of the stories we have from the VFW archives stated that 60 women from Lexington joined the military.  That last time I counted, we have the names and records of 53 of them.” One was William W, Stevens an Aviation Machinist Mate frim 77 Brant St. He was the only Lexingtonian (we have found) who served on the  USS Lexington.

In the course of compiling the list of “Lexington WWII vets, the committee discovered there were two kinds of Lexington vets:  Those that had just graduated from LHS and those that moved to Lexington after the War. As a result, the committee has compiled three lists.  To the best of our knowledge, there are 59 residents who joined the military and did not return. With the blessing of the Selectmen, we are raising funds to place a plaque next to the WW I plaque in Cary Hall.   There is a list of 1,422 Lexington residents that served in the military during WW II and an additional list of 36 vets that moved to Lexington after the War. In addition to this list, there are over 50 video interviews under “Lexington Remembers” on Youtube.com.  We are continuing to add to this collection with WW II veterans and Lexington Homefront interviews.

If you have any information, photos, or other “treasures” that you want to share to honor your relatives? Please join the Lexington Remembers WWII Committee on March 11, 4-6 PM, Lexington Community Center, Room 237.

We are also seeking stories from “The Home Front” and from those who survived and came to live here.  For more info, contact  WWTWOLexington@gmail.com

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Lexingtonians Who Served: Ruth Fullerton & Denis Fullerton

By E. Ashley Rooney


Ruth J. Fullerton (nee Porter)

Ruth Fullerton

Born in 1923, Ruth J. Porter (m. Fullerton) grew up on 39 Adams St, which was the Porter Brothers & Wilson farm with 14 greenhouses, chickens, one cow, and two plow horses.  That land now holds Fisk School and condo developments. There were six girls and one son in the family and 141 in Ruth’s graduating class. Life was quite peaceful.  And then Pearl Harbor came. Ruth Fullerton told me that when Pearl Harbor occurred, she was babysitting on Lincoln St. “All I could think is where’s Pearl Harbor?”

At age 20, she left an excellent job at John Hancock, Boston, to enlist in the Marines.  Ruth went to North Carolina for basic training, which was, she said,  ”a lot of marching around, you know, left, right, left, right.”

After basic, she was assigned to Camp Miramar in San Diego, where she was a Sergeant in the US Marine Corps. Subsequently, she managed the PX there.




Following the war, her mother wove her uniform into a hooked rug, which has become a family keepsake. After the war, Ruth returned to her position at John Hancock until she married Denis Fullerton and started planning a family in 1950. They lived on Wallis Court, Lexington.

Ruth today with her family and the rug made from her uniform.

Denis Fullerton

Denis Fullerton and Buddy Porter

Denis Fullerton, along with five other siblings, grew up in his mother’s boarding house in Depot Square above a blacksmith shop. In 1939, Denis enlisted, underage, in the National Guard, Concord Armory, with his lifelong friend William “Buddy” Porter, Ruth’s brother. They were only days away from discharge when Pearl Harbor occurred. Being members of one of the most trained units in the country, they were rolled into the Regular Army and sent to the South Pacific, to push back the Japanese offensive. They were issued three bullets each when they landed, and World War I helmets and were among the first soldiers to engage the enemy on the ground in WWII. They fought in the battle of Guadalcanal, Bougainville, and up the island chain. At one point, the battle was so fierce that Denis threw down his machine gun because it was too hot to hold.

In addition to the struggles of war, malaria, and casualties around them, Denis faced an additional threat. He was lying in a foxhole at night with his American platoon, with an enemy patrol searching the immediate area.  As they came closer, a tropical snake slid up his pant leg.  As he reached to grab the snake, it bit him on the upper inner thigh, and he could not make a sound without exposing his entire group. His wife, recounting this incident later, said that he was supposed to have his pants tucked in!

After Guadalcanal, they were sent to Fiji, where Buddy was sent home on a hospital ship to recover from malaria and hepatitis. Ultimately, he returned to Lexington and continued the family farm, Porter Bros. and Wilson, raising hothouse tomatoes and cucumbers.

Eventually, Denis was sent back to the US, where he was responsible for guarding German prisoners in Alabama. He found that the Germans were happy to be here. They were removed from the war and the Nazi regime, well-fed, and so passive that Denis didn’t worry while guarding a group of them picking those Georgia peaches. When the war was over, Denis threw his rifle into the river, returned to Lexington, where he married Ruth and became a Lexington fireman for 30 years.

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Lexingtonians Who Served: The Adler Family

By E. Ashley Rooney

Paul Adler


Twin brothers Paul and Karl Adler and their family moved to 16 Parker St, Lexington, in 1922. After a year, the landlord decided not to renew their lease because the twins had broken the windows in his chicken coop.   Grandfather Adler was able to purchase a home on Bedford St, and the children went to Hancock School (now condos).  After six years on Bedford St, the family of seven moved to 12 Berwick Rd., a house with only three bedrooms and one bathroom! Paul and Karl were accepted into Battle Creek Chapter, Order of Demolay.

In 1934, Paul became a Riding Academy instructor, which led to him hobnobbing with the Lexington Hunt Club. His equestrian abilities were so good that he was selected more than once to play the part of Paul Revere, riding from Boston to Lexington, a reenactment performed on July 4 during those years.   In May 1938, Lexington School Department Superintendent thanked Paul for training the Color Guards at the Parker (now condos) and Hancock schools. With his parents being unable to send him to college, Paul joined the military to better himself in June 1939.

During the attack at Pearl Harbor, Paul was in the US Air Corps as an Aircraft Engine Mechanic Instructor at Hickam Field, one of the Japanese targets.   He survived, married, and in July 1942, he and the 42nd Squadron left Hawaii for the South Pacific and the Battle of Midway. In 1943 as a crewmember of a B-17 aircraft, he departed from Guadalcanal on a bombardment mission to Munda when his plane disappeared. His infant son received his Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal, and a Purple Heart in February 1943. Paul is one of Lexington’s 61 Fallen.

Karl Edwin Adler, Paul’s fraternal twin brother, was in the US Navy, trained in Detroit as a ship carpenter’s mate, spending time in Newport News, VA, repairing ships at the docks. For most of the war, he served on a tanker in the Pacific as it went on refueling missions. He was close enough in Tokyo Bay to see the Japanese delegation coming to surrender on the USS Missouri formally. He served on the USS Alcor and the USS Wisconsin.

Their older brother Robert Alfred wanted to be a B-17 Gunner because of Paul. He flew several missions over Germany, but because his inner ear was badly damaged, he was transferred to a tank and artillery unit. He landed at Utah Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944. In 2001, he was awarded the French Government Gold Medal for his bravery in action in the Allied Forces march to free Normandy.


Finding Lexington’s WWII Vets

The Power of the Press!

By E. Ashley Rooney

The Lexington Remembers WWII Committee has been working on finding the veterans from WWII. In my last article, I said we had found that there were 59 Fallen. Thanks to that article and the ensuing response and our own stalwart researchers, we have now found that there were 62 Fallen, 1872 Lexington residents that joined and came home, and 52 that returned and came to Lexington after the WWII. We have pictures of 50% of the 62 killed in action. We are getting 2-5 new “finds” per week from family members of the WWII veterans.

Honoring Lexington’s Fallen

The Lexington Remembers WWII committee is honoring those who served our country (see Lexington Remembers World War II on Facebook). Do you have any information, photos, or other “treasures” that you want to share to honor your relatives? We are also seeking stories from “The Home Front” and from those who survived and came to live here.  For more info, contact  WWTWOLexington@gmail.com

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Lexingtonians Who Served – James Silva & William J. Wiles

By E. Ashley Rooney

James Silva


James Silva, 1942 LHS, was a P-51 fighter plane pilot, a member of the 160th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, 363rd Tactical Reconnaissance Group, 9th Air Force. He was shot down by the Germans on Sept. 19, 1944, bailed out and was captured by the Germans. He was a POW in St. Nazaire, France, for 2 ½ months, during which time he was the Sr. American officer of a small group of 19 American soldiers. He is now a resident of Brooksby Village.








In WW II, William J. Wiles fought at the Battle of the Bulge and served as a “Railsplitter” in the United States Army in Europe. The  “Railsplitter” division landed on Omaha Beach in Normandy in early November 1944, five months after D-Day (June 6, 1944). From France, the unit moved quickly into the Netherlands in preparation for an offensive into Nazi Germany. Bill received the Bronze Star.

In the photo left, Wiles is third from the right in this picture with Russian soldiers. He moved to Lexington in 1955. He is interred in Westview Cemetery.

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Lexington to Celebrate 75th Anniversary of WWII

By E. Ashley Rooney


This year is the 75th anniversary of the end of WW II. The Lexington Remembers WWII ad hoc committee made up of members of 12 organizations in the town of Lexington is planning a series of festivities beginning on May 1st  when we commemorate the end of the European Theatre (VE Day) with entertainment, reenactors and a special WWII music piece by the Lexington Symphony. Before Memorial Day, when we will honor the Lexington Fallen 59, we plan to have music and dance of the era, movies, and a lecture on the Marshall Plan. In the fall leading up to Veterans Day, noted speakers will lecture on the key topics, including stories about Lexington “Home Front” in that period. With approval from the Select Board, we also plan to raise funds to create a plaque honoring the Lexington 59 Fallen and place it along the memorial plaque dedicated to  WWI Fallen Eight at Cary Hall. Throughout this period, displays will be set up at the Community Center and Cary library. As during the war, a Victory Garden will be created next to the Green to allow the community, and visitors will learn about what happened in Lexington during the war.


World War II involved more than 100 million people from more than 30 countries. Marked by 70 to 85 million fatalities, it saw the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, massacres, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the first use of nuclear weapons.

After World War I, many Americans did not wish to be involved in another costly international conflict. Although Nazi Germany had pervasive anti-Semitism, annexed Austria, and had moved against Czechoslovakia, in 1935 the US Congress passed the first Neutrality Act (Senate Joint Resolution No. 173) in response to growing threats. The Act was renewed in 1936, 1937 and 1939 to limit US involvement in future wars.

In January of 1941, President Roosevelt introduced the lend-lease program which was a way for the United States to help Great Britain fend off Hitler’s advance while becoming only indirectly involved in the conflict. Congress passed the Lend Lease Act where the United States would lend, rather than sell, military supplies to Great Britain for use in the fight against Germany. Roosevelt said, “Suppose my neighbor’s home catches fire, and I have a length of garden hose four or five hundred feet away. If he can take my garden hose and connect it up with his hydrant, I may help him to put out his fire…I don’t say to him before that operation, “Neighbor, my garden hose cost me $15; you have to pay me $15 for it.” I don’t want $15–I want my garden hose back after the fire is over.”

With Britain facing Germany in Europe, the United States was the only nation capable of combating Japanese aggression in the East. On December 7, 1941, 360 Japanese aircraft attacked the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, surprising the Americans and claiming the lives of more than 2,300 soldiers and sailors. The attack served to unify American public opinion in favor of entering World War II; the next day Congress declared war on Japan with only one dissenting vote. On December 11, Germany declared war against the United States.

Above: William Baskin and Janice Porter (Wilson) believed to have been taken during WWII scrap metal drive.

In May 1940, Lexington’s population was 13,113. Although many of Lexington’s farms began to decline in the 1940s, the town continued to prosper.

With the outbreak of the European war, Lexington formed a Civilian Defense Committee believed to be the first in the nation. As time went on, the committee’s name was changed to Committee on Public Safety, and it manned a central reporting center and an Airplane Warning Post established on the grounds of what is now Lexington Golf Club. It was the first warning post established in the country and first one manned 24/7.

Once Congress declared war, a number of LHS seniors left school to enlist. Over 1416 men and women from Lexington served overseas in every branch of the service. Approximately 60 died.


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