Bartholomew “Bennie” Ficeto was just 19 when he joined the Army Air Corps as an enlisted air crewman. He flew missions over North Africa, Sicily, Italy and Sardinia as a radio operator, and gave the Germans hell as a top turret gunner on B-25 “Mitchell” bomber.
“As a child, I idolized him and asked him about his experiences in the war,” Ficeto’s nephew, Brendan Dullaghan told The Veterans Site. “He would never want to talk about it. After I returned from Operation Desert Storm, he viewed me as a fellow veteran and told me stories so harrowing and tragic about some of the missions with his unit that had us both watery-eyed.”
Dullaghan served as a combat medic assigned to the 365th EVAC Hospital between November 1990 and April 1991. He saw his own share of traumatic events, the tragic eventuality of war, but will never forget the stories his uncle shared.
Even as the WWII veteran approaches 100 years old, some of those memories have never lost their sting. The one mission Ficeto was sidelined from because of illness, for example, left a mark that hasn’t faded with age.
“The one mission he didn’t go on because he had a sinus infection (I think), his aircraft was shot down and the whole crew were killed,” Dullaghan said. “His commanding officer and all his buddies died that day but because he couldn’t fly at altitude with his illness, he didn’t. It still pains him to this day.”
Ficeto more recently made headlines when he turned 98, still working two four-hour shifts per week bagging groceries for people at the Stop & Shop store in Edison, New Jersey. Ficeto’s boss, Sal Marconi, wanted to honor the venerated veteran’s service. Marconi had a special cake made and presented it to Ficeto while USO singers provided accompaniment from a back catalog of 1940s favorites.
Not one to be caught leaning, Ficeto works through his breaks at the Stop & Shop. His coworkers actually had to interrupt his work to surprise him with the party.
“Bennie’s got a great sense of humor,” Marconi told CBS News after the party. “He loves his job. He’s a great inspiration and morale booster for everyone else.”Whizzco