Durante, Luke John

Name: Durante, Luke John, CPM, USN

Local address: 6 Main St, Matawan, NJ

Luke’s father Giovanni “John” Durante (1885-1955) was yet another Italian immigrant from San Lupo, Italy, who came to the United States on March 3, 1911, following his brother Lorenzo who arrived in 1902 (Matawan has numerous families that came from the small mountain town in Benevento Province northwest of Naples.) Like his brother, he worked as a laborer for the Jersey Central Railroad. He had married Luigia “Louise” Cesare (1890-1987) in Italy, and she joined him in 1914. In Louise’s obituary, it indicated she had operated the Durante’s Grocery Store from 1933 to 1946 (their residence at 6 Main appears to have originally had a store front, now modified – I would imagine the family lived upstairs.

Luke was their first child, born in 1915 – the couple subsequently had five more children. He graduated from Matawan High School around 1933 and subsequently enlisted in the Navy at Trenton October 26, 1938 and began twelve weeks of basic training at Newport, RI. He completed basic photography school at NAS Pensacola in July of 1941 and received instruction at the Fairchild Maintenance School in Jamaica, NY. In April of 1942 he was promoted to Photographer’s Mate, 2nd class. He then was assigned to NAS Key West.

In June of 1941, he married 20-year-old Juanita Geneva Driggers in Pensacola. On August 4, 1943, she died in childbirth with her infant son in Key West. Both are buried near her parent’s home in Bradenton, FL.

Luke was then assigned to the Essex-class fleet carrier USS Franklin (CV-13) and by the spring of 1945 had been promoted to Chief Photographer’s Mate aboard the ship.

In the early morning hours of March 19, 1945, the Franklin was involved in air strikes against mainland Japan, and had maneuvered just 50 miles off the coast, the closest ay carrier approached that country during the war. While conducting flight operations, a lone Japanese Yokosuka D4Y Judy dive bomber, undetected by the ship’s radar, dropped two 550-pound armor-piercing bombs on the Franklin. In the ensuing explosions and fire, over 700 US sailors were killed, including Luke Durante. The ship was miraculously saved.

Luke was buried at sea with hundreds of his fellow shipmates. His family erected a memorial marker for him in the St. Joseph’s Cemetery near his home. The space reserved for him with his wife and infant daughter goes unfilled.

George’s younger brother Angelo (1918-1984) served with 384th Corps of Engineers and landed on Omaha Beach on D Day. In May of 1945, his unit was with the 82nd Airborne when they liberated the Wöbbelin concentration camp near Ludwigslust, Germany. He wrote home regarding the horrors he had witnessed that day.


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Mark Chidichimo


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