Written by Daniel Offner Wednesday, 30 July 2014 00:00
U.S. Air Force Veteran Mario Dell’aera, 80, of Levittown said he first volunteered for service in 1952, during the Korean War.
“They called volunteers ‘regulars,’” he said, reflecting back to when he first enlisted.
From 1952-1956, Dell’era called the Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, Nev. home. The base, he said, operated 24 hours, 7 days a week, training pilots to fly overseas into Korea.
He said that the training that would normally take 14 weeks was curbed to an 8-week crash course in order to prepare for battle.
To have completed the training would be required to take a final exam every night when they lowered the flag at sundown.
“In order to graduate, a pilot would have to break the sound barrier,” Dell’aera said without reservation.
During his time in the Air Force, Dell’aera worked on several planes including the T-33 airplane, which the government had stolen from the Russians. Of all the aircraft he worked on, he said, his favorite was the F-86.
“If we didn’t have that we wouldn’t have won the war,” he said.
Dell’aera said he also remembers watching the U.S. Military testing of the atomic bomb out in the desert.
“We’d sit on top of the barracks,” he said, adding that people sat and watched from the Las Vegas strip.
Dell’aera continued in aeronautics after the war, getting a job with Air Research, a firm which he worked for 53 years as a project coordinator. Six years ago, when he retired, Dell’aera recieved the Charles Taylor award-named after the Wright Brothers’ mechanic-his name was also put on record with the FAA in Washington D.C.
On Dec. 3, 1963, Dell’Aera left his home in the Bronx, headed for Levittown, where he raised four kids with his wife, who recently passed.
Dell’Aera recalls seeing farms all along Hempstead Turnpike.
Back when William Levitt first constructed the more than 17,000 houses for GI’s returning from World War II, he had no idea the population boom that would follow.
“Now, [with the population larger] it’s hard to find an original Levitt home,” Dell’aera said.
Today, ‘Red’ said, he keeps busy doing pro bono work for senior citizens as well as interior maintenance for the American Legion Post #1711, where he has been a member for 18 years. Of all his work with the Legion, Dell’aera said he enjoys the flag etiquette program and assembling the 110 flags for Memorial Day.