One pg 5 11-24-21


Veterans Program
The Putnam Rotary Club Nov. 9 heard from WWII and Korean conflict veteran Peter “Pete” Trama (third from right). Guests and Rotarians who are veterans included, from left: Guest Mike Rocchetti, Rotarian Jay Wade, Trama, Rotarian Peter Benoit and Rotarian Ron Coderre. Linda Lemmon photo.

By Linda Lemmon
Town Crier Editor
Peter “Pete” Trama didn’t know what the Merchant Marines was but he did know that he didn’t want to get drafted into WWII.
In honor of Veterans Day, Trama, 96, gave razor-sharp details of his experiences in the Merchant Marines during WWII and later in the Army draftee in the Korean conflict at the Nov. 9 Putnam Rotary Club meeting.
“At 17 I didn’t know what I was getting into. I didn’t even know what it (the Merchant Marines) was,” he said.
The Merchant Marines at the time was a branch of the military. They spent their time at sea delivering fuel, military vehicles and more
After joining he found himself in Oyster Bay, N.Y., training. His most vivid memory of training was the tall tower over water. At first sight, he wondered what the tower was for. He’d soon learn: “We had to jump off the tower — practice for jumping off the ships.” The Merchant Marines were the most vulnerable of all the branches of service during the war. The German U2 boats always went after them. All they could do was steer in a zig zag pattern to try to stay safe. “So many men were lost. So many ships (370),” he said.
The Merchant Marines had to continually keep their numbers up, he said. “They were losing men left and right.”
There were no jobs after the war so he said he stayed in the Merchant Marines eight years. In that time he took 73 sea trips total. Each trip was from 60 to 90 days. “Let me tell you,” he said, “that ocean is BIG.”
During the war he saw the world making deliveries from to Australia, the Marshall Islands, Korea and many more places. He went through the Panama Canal 18 times and through the Suez Canal four times.
And he was seasick for eight years. That’s right; he was seasick the whole time he was in the Merchant Marines.
Those were different times at home. He remembers being sandwiched in with other veterans on a train headed toward home. “I had a club sandwich,” he said. When he went to take a bite, as inconspicuously as possible, all eyes riveted to him and his sandwich.
He got off in Putnam — off a very late train — and walked home and dropped into bed. In the morning his sister was surprised to see he was home. “Doors weren’t locked back then.”
After the Merchant Marines, at age 27, he was drafted into the Army during the Korean conflict. “If I’d been 28, I couldn’t have been drafted,” he said. He was sent to Germany as some thought the Soviet Union might try to invade Germany.
Following that, he returned to Putnam and ran Tony’s Package Store and, according to Rotarian and veteran Ronald P. Coderre, was/is a good community servant, doing much for Putnam.


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