Jack Albert DeNunzio was born July 17, 1925 in Summit, New Jersey to Jack J. DeNunzio (1898-1990) and Teresa Rose (Papio) DeNunzio (1898-1988). Jack and Teresa had two children: Jack and Dorothy. Jack J. was an electrician with New Jersey Power and Light Company for 47 years.
Jack Albert enjoyed distance swimming and attended Summit High School. He was eager to join the Coast Guard at age sixteen. His parents; however, were not in favor of this idea. Almost immediately upon turning seventeen Jack and a high school friend, Fred Ryman, enlisted in the US Coast Guard, much to the chagrin of his parents.
The Coast Guard is one of the oldest organizations of the federal government and until Congress established the Navy Department in 1798 they served as the nation's only armed force afloat. The Coast Guard protected the nation throughout their long history and served proudly in every one of the nation's conflicts. Their national defense responsibilities remain one of our most important functions.
Jack trained in New Jersey and Brooklyn before going overseas. He served on the USS LCI (L) 94 as a Seaman 1st class.
“The Coast Guard-manned USS LCI(L)-94 was commissioned on February 15, 1943. She was assigned to LCI(L) Flotilla 4. After undergoing shakedown and training exercises, she sailed across the Atlantic in company with the other LCI(L)s of the flotilla and participated in the North African occupation in Tunisia, from 1 June to 9 July 1943. She then landed troops during the invasion of Sicily on 9 July 1943 and the landings at Salerno on 9 September 1943.
She then sailed for England as part of the same flotilla, now renamed Flotilla 10, in preparation for the invasion of Normandy. On D-Day, she was attached to Force "O" to support the landing on Omaha Beach, where she was assigned to deliver elements of the 104th Medical Battalion. The 94 maneuvered through the numerous other landing craft and beach obstacles to the proper beach and discharged her troops. While she was withdrawing from the beach, she received a direct hit to her pilot house which killed three crewmen, knocked out communications, disabled the engine telegraph and electric steering. Seaman 1st Class DeNunzio was aboard the Landing Craft, Infantry 94 when they had embarked their troops on Omaha Beach.” The shells from the German shore-based batteries that exploded in the pilot house, mortally wounded Seaman 1st Class De Nunzio.
It was a summer day after the invasion, Jack's father was home for his noon time meal break. The family was enjoying the day on the porch when a Coast Guard vehicle pulled in their driveway. Jack’s father knew it couldn’t be good. Two men, one of which served with Jack, informed the family that Jack was killed in action on June 6, 1944. His sister, Dorothy, a mere 14 years old, tried to console her family as best she could.
Jack’s girlfriend, who always said she and Jack would marry, told his parents she would never marry anyone else, Jack was her true love. Although his mother told her after Jack’s death it was alright to move on and marry, she never did. She and Jack are together now.
He was laid to rest in the Normandy American Cemetery in Basse-Normandie, France. His father wanted him to stay with his shipmates. It is not clear why but the stars on his burial flag were all gold instead of the usual white. He was awarded the Purple Heart posthumously.
Jack’s sister shared that he was a prolific writer. His letters are now in the US Coast Guard archives in Washington, DC. In a letter he sent to his family prior to the invasion, he wrote “something big is going to happen”. He is honored in the US Coast Guard Museum, US Coast Guard Academy, New London, Connecticut. Dorothy donated Jack’s military items to the museum. A painting done by Tony Falcone which depicts the 94 and it’s men hangs in the museum. America Storms the Beaches 1944, authored by John Devaney, is dedicated to Jack.
Thank you, S1 Jack DeNunzio, for your service and sacrifice.
Thank you to Bruce Oran, Dorothy’s nephew, for reaching out to me and putting me in touch with Dorothy.
And to Dorothy, thank you for sharing your memories of Jack and your family with me. It was an honor and a pleasure to speak to you.
This story is part of the Stories Behind the Stars project (see www.storiesbehindthestars.org). This is a national effort of volunteers to write the stories of all 400,000+ of the US WWII fallen here on Fold3. Can you help write these stories? Related to this, there will be a smart phone app that will allow people to visit any war memorial or cemetery, scan the fallen's name and read his/her story.
Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012
Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2002.
Coast Guard Museum, U.S. Coast Guard Academy, New London, Connecticut
Phone interview with Dorothy DeNunzio Lange.