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Find “Zeke” Zuccala, WWII Paratrooper

The Mayor’s Office called and told of an author from Ann Arbor, MI, looking for a Glen Cover who served in the famed 82nd Division that jumped into fortress Nazi Europe in June 1945. Her father, an Army hospital medic serving in England, treated this Glen Cove soldier for wounds received when landing in France on D-Day. Dr. Johnson was so overtaken by the bravery of this paratrooper known to him as Sgt. Zeke Zuccala.

Dr. Johnson wrote half of his war memoir about the brave 82nd Division jumper. Zeke was informed that he received a back side wound which was eligible for a stateside trip home to be treated. Dr. Johnson reports that he was begged by Zeke he’d have no such thing. Zeke’s fellow paratroopers did not leave him on the battlefield but took heavy fire to get Zeke to a medic station on the Normandy Beach and no way was he going to go home. Doctors believed him and treated him to get him back to his “All American” division. Zeke’s fellow Army buddy informed Zeke that their Division was preparing the largest jump operation to cut off the Nazis in Holland. The operation was called “Market Garden.” Dr. Johnson said, “Goodbye” to the recovered Glen Cover and Dr. Johnson, hearing that this British planned jumped in Hitler’s backyard was a disaster. “Market Garden” consisted of 82nd Airborne, 101st Airborne, British jumpers and a brigade of Polish troops – 35,000 in all. This operation failed and the loss to the allies was higher than the D-Day invasion, which were 5,000 killed in action. Dr. Johnson finished his memoirs thinking that this brave Glen Cover never survived “Market Garden” or “The Bridge Too Far.”

Janice Johnson, finding her father’s memoir, never knew her father’s war experience. Dr. Johnson came home and put WWII way behind him and his family. Janice Johnson called the Glen Cove Mayor’s office and got in touch with a cousin of Zeke’s family, Bobby Zuccala. Bobby informed Janice that, to his knowledge, the whole family was not around and last he heard Joe Zuccala, Zeke’s nephew, was killed in the Sept. 11, 2001 World Trade Center.

Upon getting this call, I traced Zeke to be Renaldo, his four other brothers also serving in that war. I remember the “five stars” in the window on the Zuccala’s homestead on Third Street and Nassau Avenue. Later during the war, I was their Newsday paperboy and noticed a gold star (meaning killed in action) replaced one of the five stars. Brother and Navy man Michael was killed serving on the carrier USS Handcock during the suicidal Japanese kamikaze attack. The American airplane carrier sunk with a very high casualty of our Navy men.

My sincere thanks to WWII combat veteran John Famiglietti who told me that “Zeke” was “Reni”; and to Kathy Trimarchi, who is first cousin to the Zuccala family. On Nov. 11, author Janice Johnson and I met at the home of Zeke Renaldo in Hobe Sound, FL.; the author and her cameraman had two long interviews with this hero.

At the second interview, Mayor Ralph Suozzi sent this hero a City of Glen Cove citation, which I had the honor to read to Zeke. The tears flowed down his cheeks and he murmured to me, “My city never forgot me and my family,” followed with “I wish my mother, a WWII Gold Star mother, was here with me to hear this proclamation.” I told Zeke she was here with all of his deceased brothers.

Thank you Glen Cove and to Janice Johnson who I have, no doubt, will send our city a copy of her book.