Wartime Memories

While the war did not intrude often into the lives of SI students, more than a few incidents served to remind Ignatians that they were not a world apart. The school conducted air raid drills and continued to train students in ROTC. For Jack Grealish, the war came home when Bill Telasmanic ’37, a star end on the football team and catcher on the baseball team at both SI and USF, died in a plane crash in North Africa in the early days of the war. “Everyone felt his loss,” said Grealish. “Every day, we would check the newspapers to read the casualty lists. But we were 16, and we tended to focus on our high school problems.”

Grealish recalls one alumnus, a Navy officer, visiting his Latin class, taught by Fr. Lloyd Burns, SJ. “Fr. Burns, who was very proud of his Latin class, asked him if Latin had helped him. The officer gave Fr. Burns a funny look and said, ‘It hasn’t done me any good at all.’ That’s not what Fr. Burns wanted to hear.”

Val Molkenbuhr ’43, while jogging around the Beach Chalet, recalls seeing ships coming in and out of the Golden Gate. “Once in awhile we heard of alumni dying in a battle, and we prayed for them.”

Bob Lagomarsino ’39 lost about a dozen friends to the war, including his good friend, Dan Hurst ’39. “We went to grammar school together, and after he enlisted, we corresponded. My mother was the first to hear that he was missing in action, and later we heard that he had been killed in the South Pacific. I was quite upset. I knew his parents and sister and felt so sorry for them.”

Grealish, Molkenbuhr and Lagomarsino enlisted, as did thousands of fellow Ignatians, with many graduating early or leaving before graduating to fight what nearly all considered to be a just war against brutal dictatorships. “This wasn’t like the Korean War,” recalled Grealish. “Everyone was 100 percent behind it.”

The specific tragedies of each of the 96 SI alumni deaths were spelled out in Gold Star Ignatians, a commemorative pamphlet published in 1947 by the school. (The 96 dead listed in that book also have their names printed on a memorial plaque in the Alfred S. Wilsey Library.) Reading through these names and the circumstances of their deaths, we are reminded of the horror of war in its particulars. These men, some barely out of boyhood, died all over the world, from the Arctic waters off Alaska to the deserts of Africa, from the forests of Germany to the islands of the South Pacific.

Lt. Col. James M. Sullivan ’10, a doctor with the Reserve Medical Corps, was one of these men. In May 1941, he was called into service and sent to Sternberg General Hospital in Manila, and then to Base Hospital No. 2 in Bataan. He survived the Bataan Death March and was sent to Cabanatuan and Bilibid Prison Camps. “After surviving three years of imprisonment, he died after reaching Moji, Japan, on January 31, 1945, from fatigue, starvation and wounds received during the sinking of his hospital ship by U.S. forces.” Others died in less dramatic ways, from car accidents to illness to being crushed by falling trees in storms, yet their loss, too, was felt by family and friends.

Among the Ignatian servicemen were numerous war heroes, including Capt. Joseph Golding ’36 and Sgt. Roy Bruneman ’25, who were awarded Silver Stars posthumously in 1944 for gallantry in action in the South Pacific.

The four most famous Wildcats who served in the war were Rear Admiral Daniel Callaghan (SI 1907), his brother, Admiral William Callaghan ’14, General Fred Butler ’13 and Ensign William Bruce ’35.