Freeport American Legion honors East Meadow comrade

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Cmdr. Coy Richardson, left and 1st Vice Cmdr. David Cockerel right, saluted Bonnie Barbosa, Gerard Barbosa’s daughter, after presenting her with special posthumous recognition for her father’s contributions to the military, and to American Legion William Clinton Story Post 342.
Cmdr. Coy Richardson, left and 1st Vice Cmdr. David Cockerel right, saluted Bonnie Barbosa, Gerard Barbosa’s daughter, after presenting her with special posthumous recognition for her father’s contributions to the military, and to American Legion William Clinton Story Post 342.
Nadya Nataly/Herald

Gerard “Jerry” Barbosa, of East Meadow, who survived Japanese warplane attacks while stationed on the USS Raleigh as a gunner’s mate at Pearl Harbor, and the D-Day landings later in World War II, was honored posthumously by American Legion William Clinton Story Post 342 in Freeport on Dec. 7, the 76th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Barbosa died on Sept. 15, at age 95, in his East Meadow home.

“My father was always worried that he wouldn’t be remembered,” said Barbosa’s daughter, Bonnie, who lives in Salisbury. She was presented with an American flag and a plaque, which recognized him for his contributions as an honorary member of Post 342.

“It’s definitely been proven that’s not true,” Bonnie continued. “If he was here I’d say, ‘See, Dad, you were wrong. Anyone that knew you would never forget you and what you did.”

Until his death, Barbosa was one of the few Pearl Harbor survivors in the area. He was just 17 when he volunteered for the Navy in March 1941. He was later stationed on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. In a 2011 Herald interview commemorating the 70th anniversary of the attacks, Barbosa said he had been relaxing when he heard planes overhead on Dec. 7, 1941, and recounted miraculously surviving several attacks on the USS Raleigh, including a torpedo and a Japanese dive bomber.

He later participated in several raids in Europe, including D-Day. Barbosa was aboard one of more than 5,000 ships that landed on the beaches of Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944.

“When the tide goes out,” he told the Herald, recalling that day, “you’ve got nowhere to go. Your ship is on dry land, and you can’t move it until the tide comes in. By the time the evening comes around, the German fighter pilots are coming over, because we’re sitting ducks.”

But Barbosa managed to stay alive. He was discharged a year later, and settled in Queens with his family. He moved to East Meadow in 1993, and dedicated his life to honoring and advocating for veterans across Nassau County.

“He was known around the post for surviving Pearl Harbor,” said John Mallico, commander of East Meadow’s Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2736, of which Barbosa was a member for more than 20 years, until he died. “He had many friends around here. We were very pleased to know him and to be his friend. He will always be honored.”

“It is my privilege and my honor to talk about Pearl Harbor,” 1st Vice Cmdr. David Cockerel said during the ceremony in Freeport. “Most of the witnesses are no longer with us, but [the memories of] most of the men and women who defended Pearl Harbor that day of infamy will always remain.”

Barbosa is survived by Bonnie and a son, Gerard Barbosa.