Joe “Peppy” Sciarra was 16 years old when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. He was drafted into the Army the day after he graduated high school. He had planned on enlisting anyway.

Sciarra was assigned to an 81 mm mortaSciarrar squad of the 25th infantry division under General MacArthur. After 9 months training in New Caledonia and a stop for supplies on Guadalcanal, he and 68,000 men landed at Luzon in the Philippines.

He would spend the next five and half months involved in terrible jungle fighting, capturing 47 different ridges from 100,000 Japanese. “My mortar tube was 45 pounds and my pack was 50 pounds, plus my weapon.   That made for some difficult climbing.” Despite the fact that he had many comrades killed to the left and right of him, Sciarra says his only injury was nearly knocking out his front teeth when the hit the ground a little too hard during shelling.

After being ordered to venture ahead of the company in order to draw enemy fire, Sciarra vented his anger at the Lieutenant after the patrol. “I didn’t care if he court martialed me, I had to tell him off”.  Sciarra and that Lt. would become close friends.

Following the Japanese surrender he was assigned as part of the mainland occupation forces. He says it was surprising how courteously the Japanese people treated him.

Sciarra suffered from the effects of malaria for a long time after returning home and faced numerous challenges securing his Veteran benefits because many of the records had been destroyed. He finally had to personally travel to Hawaii in order to secure proof of his service.

TAKEAWAY: “I want these messages about what our guys went through to be known all across the country. Even though it has been 80 years I still think about all the men in my platoon who didn’t make it.”