By Rebecca Chaizen
On a recent June day in a bustling restaurant, 11 West Side WW II Navy veterans reunited to celebrate their time in the US Navy.
Although each had different experiences and went to different places, they all share a common bond where they grew up.
Some served their time in the Pacific, others in the Mediterranean; some on destroyers, some on battleships.
Amidst the conversation and laughter, one could feel the happiness the men experienced as they reunited with their Navy vet friends. All shared stories and experiences, reminiscing about the good and bad times during the war.
We all went through hell and lots of action during the war, so I never really talked about it with other guys when I got back, said Marvin Lederman.
Lederman enlisted in the Navy in 1944, spent his time on the USS Wilson DD-408 where he was a radioman runner 3rd class. His destroyer was mainly stationed in the Pacific theater during the war.
Anything you could imagine happened while I was on the ship. We sunk submarines; we shot down 15 Japanese planes, and were hit by Japanese kamikaze planes.
Most of the men had some memories that stuck out, but when Lederman stood up and gave the speech which he had given at his ships 60th reunion, everyone seemed touched. He recalled the commands the men might have heard over the loud speaker while onboard their ships.
Phil Mobell spent his time in the Navy onboard the USS Lansdale in the Mediterranean.
The Lansdale was torpedoed and sunk in 1944. I jumped overboard when we got hit. I spent four-and-a-half hours in the water floating around. We ended up being taken to Algiers after we were rescued, Mobell said.
Others had more positive memories.
Morris Hoffman was 22 when he joined the Navy. He was stationed on the USS Iowa as a gun captain.
While I was on the ship we took President Roosevelt to the Tehran Conference during the war where he met with Stalin. I heard him make an amazing speech, one experience I will never forget.
Each of these former West Siders had the chance to help defend their country in time of need. The Navy took them to far off places like Africa and Southeast Asia.
It was a good experience; I saw things and went to ports Id never have the chance to see again, said Mobell.
More men trickled in and eventually the table was almost full. The room echoed with stories and laughter. There was a feeling of coming full circle. They had all gone separate ways, but still stayed connected and still feel the bonds of their childhood on the West Side.