Sam Cammarata grew up in Pittsburgh’s Manchester neighborhood. At 94, he fondly recalls it as a wonderful place to live—ethnically rich and always exciting.
After dropping out of high school, Sam went into the service in early 1940 (before US involvement in the war) and he served until several months after VJ Day. According to Sam, he and his friends were drafted in to a branch of the military. But which one? No one knew. It wasn’t until after a long train ride west to Texas that that found himself in the Army Air Corps.
“I don’t understand how that happened,” Sam wonders, shrugging his shoulders. In those days one had to specifically apply to the Air Corps, but that’s where he ended up without trying. “And would you believe that I never had basic training?” he exclaims.
Even Sam’s specialized training was haphazard–a little gunnery school, some aircraft mechanic classes. He learned to mess cook. Anything as as required; whatever the Army wanted him to do. Nothing was difficult. Go here, go there. It was all pretty easy. “I had the best duty you could imagine–all stateside,” he says, “doing nothing, really.”
On January 19, 2015, we invited Sam Cammarata and four other local WWII veterans to share their stories with us at the Senator John Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Our partnership with the Heinz History Center, an affiliate of the Smithsonian, officially came about in 2014, but since 2012 we have conducted several audio and video interviews capturing the experiences of Western Pennsylvanians as part of our involvement with StoryCorp’s National Day of Listening, the Heinz Center’s Italian Heritage Day, and of course, our own veterans’ oral history initiative.