CENTER FOR U.S. WAR
VETERANS' ORAL HISTORIES
World War II
Sergio Carabellese was born in January 1922 in Hoboken, New Jersey. His father had served in World War I and was exposed to mustard gas, which caused him to suffer for the rest of his life and he succumbed to it in 1955. Sergio’s brother served in World War II as did his nephew.
Carabellese grew up living in a tenement flat in Hoboken. His family had very little money. He recalled that, even though he was a child at the time, the stock market crash and the Great Depression that followed brought further hardships to his family. The economic prosperity that returned during World War II, however, enabled his family to recover. His father purchased their first radio, from which they heard news of the progress of the war.
At the age of 20, Carabellese left his factory job and went straight to the Recruiting Office in lower Manhattan, where he attempted to enlist in the military. Rejected because of his small stature, he felt discouraged. Carabellese had always been very patriotic and very much wanted to become part of the war effort. Eleven days after his rejection, he returned to the Recruiting Office and this time was successful. As a boy, Carabellese had been a member of the Sea Scouts, which proved to be an asset, as he had a solid understanding of basic nautical knowledge and skills and was accepted by the United States Navy.
After boot camp training, Carabellese was sent to the Great Lakes, Illinois Navy base for further training. In December 1942 he was assigned to the newly commissioned USS Renshaw, “Fletcher Class” destroyer. His bunk was located just at the stern of the new ship. Carabellese recalled that it took some time to get used to the bumpy movement through the waves while trying to get some sleep.
In early 1943, the Renshaw, with Carabellese aboard, went on her initial shakedown cruise in the North Atlantic. He recalled that the ship engaged in many difficult tactical maneuvers, but he believed the most dangerous and complicated part of the cruise was loading tons of ammunition aboard the destroyer while at sea. Carabellese’s job during this task was serving on the crew of a five-inch gun on a five hour on/off watch. He mentioned that the crew was cautioned about German submarines patrolling nearby waters, which made the ammunition transfer even more potentially dangerous. Several men were lost to accidents during the process.
After the shakedown cruise, the Renshaw sailed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and from there on to the Pacific theater of war. Shortly afterwards, Carabellese was medically discharged and returned to the United States. After his service, Sergio Carabellese was employed by the Ford Motor Company for over 30 years. He spoke with pride about his service to the country and said he would do it all again if needed.