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Durante, George Thomas

Name: Durante, George Thomas, PFC, USA

Address: 49 Gerard Ave, Aberdeen, NJ (home was demolished during Garden State Parkway construction)

The Durante family has roots in San Lupo, Italy, and many individuals from that small, mountain town in Benevento Province northwest of Naples settled in Matawan in the late 19th, early 20th century. George’s father Lorenzo “Lawrence” Durante (1882-1947) arrived in New York on February 27, 1902 and subsequently married Rose Florence DiSanto (1891-1963), whose family, also from San Lupo, had been in Matawan since the 1890s. They eventually had eight children, George being the seventh, born July 28, 1924 in Matawan.

George attended St. Joseph’s Catholic School in Keyport, near his home. In the 1st grade, the Catholic Daughters awarded him a prize for his grade in 1931, and in 1933 he had perfect attendance for the year. He received his graduation diploma from the school in June 1937. Matriculating to Matawan High School, he was a member of the Shorthand and Reporters Clubs in 1941, and he entered the Gregg Shorthand Contest that March. He graduated from Matawan High in June of 1941, six months before Pearl Harbor.

On December 23, 1942, he registered for the draft. The record indicated he had gray eyes, black hair and a ruddy complexion and had a scar on the top of his left hip. He had previously worked for the Hanson-Van Winkle-Munning Company in Matawan, and was at the Central NJ Railroad in Elizabethport, NJ at the time of his registration. He was drafted into the army, and on July 13, 1943 a large contingent (38 to the Marines, two to the Navy, and around 100 for the Army), many from Matawan, departed the Freehold Court Street Armory by bus to their recruit depots. Imagine the scene in downtown Freehold, where 100s of family members gathered to see their sons off to war – and some would not come home.

Durante-headstoneGeorge received his basic training at Camp Wheeler in Georgia, qualified as an expert marksman, and then was assigned to Fort Meade in Maryland prior to deployment to Europe in January of 1944 – his parents were notified in February that he made it to England.

He was assigned to the US 2nd Division’s 23rd Infantry Regiment and trained in the United Kingdom prior to the invasion of France – the division landed on Omaha Beach D Day +1, June 7, 1944. Three days later the it crossed the Aure River and pressed on to the strategic town of St. Lo, where they arrived near in mid-July. The 23rd was directly involved in the bloody fight for Hill 192 outside of St. Lo which they assaulted on July 11th and eventually carried. The regiment then headed for the River Vire, which they crossed in early August and captured the town of Caumont on the 9th.

On August 2, 1944, somewhere in this vicinity George was killed. Army hospital records indicated he died from German artillery shrapnel. He was originally reported to his parents as missing but was later confirmed dead and is buried in the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, Colleville-sur-Mer, France (the cemetery in the opening and closing of the movie Saving Private Ryan.) His parents erected a memorial stone for him in the St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Keyport, next to where he attended grade school.

His brother Luke Anthony (1921-1986) was a Marine wounded in the Marshall Islands in March 1944. His cousin, another Luke Durante, was killed in action with the Navy in 1945 (see separate Wall of Honor entry for him.)

 

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Mark Chidichimo
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