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Recalling Another Time, Another War

Armando Kaizzi and his

wife Annette.

Before dawn, on Saipan Island in the South Pacific in 1943, Milford grocer Armando Kaizzi would begin his day sitting in the pilots' cockpits of a squad of B-29 bombers to see that all four engines were running properly and that all the instrument readings were correct. If everything was all right, he would then tell the pilots they were good to go on bombing runs to Japan.

Now 92, and living in the Pond Home in Wrentham where his wife Annette also lives, Armando recalls vividly his three years as a mechanic in the U.S. Army Air Force which led him to those pre-dawn assignments in the B-29 cockpits. He says it still gives him shivers to remember his responsibility to give the pilots and their 10-man crews the assurance that their planes were ready.

Armando also recalls that many plane crashes occurred when the heavy planes, loaded with 7,000 gallons of fuel, could not make it back to Saipan for lack of fuel. To remedy the problem, he recollects that General Curtis Le May ordered the planes stripped down so that the heavy bomb loads could be carried and the planes would have enough fuel to return safely.

He remembers seeing less fortunate results for planes taking off from nearby Tinian Island. "Tinian was lower and flatter than Saipan and we saw crashes when planes barely lifted off but then crashed and exploded in the ocean," Armando said. Saipan's topography was relatively higher above the water, which gave the planes taking off a greater margin for error as they lifted off from the runway.

There were still some Japanese troops, stragglers, up in the hills in Saipan, and Armando recalls there were signs warning airmen to stay out of marked zones. He said, "We had some trucks with 18-inch armor plates on the sides, and I made sure to crouch behind them if I was on the trucks."

Armando's wartime life was a far cry from his life locally. He and Annette were married on November 11, 1941, Armistice Day, and Armando was facing an imminent draft call so he decided to enlist. He wryly smiles as he recalls thinking the Army might use him in food services, as he had started working for Stop & Shop in 1932. He graduated from Milford High School in 1936.

Armando's yearbook predicted he would work with Stop & Shop, and the prediction came true. He worked for the chain for 51 years, first as a store manager in Worcester, Woonsocket, Braintree and Milford and eventually becoming a supervisor.

In 1956 Stop & Shop gave him a national award for good citizenship. Before he retired, Armando was responsible for overseeing the remodeling of several Stop & Shop stores.

His community interests included the Milford Kiwanis Club and the Milford Italian American Vets. One of his fondest memories of Stop & Shop was his hiring and training of young workers, many of them from families just learning English. "They were good, hard workers. I would tease some of them, saying 'I'll have to talk to your parents if there is a problem.' It was a pleasure to have their enthusiasm in the store."

Armando was born Valentine's Day 1918 in Milford, the fifth child of his parents who had emigrated from Italy.

He delivered milk for Lowell's Dairy when he was 10 years old, walking a mile to meet the truck from which the driver and he would deliver bottled milk and other dairy products. He was paid $3.50 a week.

In November Armando will be 93, and he and Annette will be celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary.


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