Army Cpl. Dominick Gualtieri fought through three first-wave landings on the islands of Kwajalein, Leyte and Okinawa during World War II. He lived through the steamy heat of jungles, sleeping in caves and eating scraps from villagers. He endured relentless typhoons, with winds blowing trees away. He fought Japanese ambushers, who patrolled at night to find and eliminate American troops.
A Sherman-tank gunner with the 767th Tank Battalion, 7th Division in the Pacific Theatre of Operations, Gualtieri secured landing zones to allow infantrymen to land on Okinawa. He died on Oct. 11 at 98, after he was moved into assisted living last year due to deteriorating health.
“He was always a quiet person,” said Michael Gualtieri, Dominick’s son. “He liked living alone, but when people would come over, he would always bring out chips and cookies for people to eat. He was reserved, but inviting when people visited his home.”
Gualtieri was born in Brooklyn on Aug. 8, 1920. He was one of nine children, and worked in his parent’s shop, Ice & Coal, helping with ice shipments. He was 22 when his draft number was called, and he was sent to Camp Upton in Yaphank. He trained in Fort Knox, Ky.; Camp Campbell, Tenn.; Camp Polk, La.; Fort Ord, Calif.; and Schofield Barracks in Hawaii, where he was stationed for eight months in 1943.
Gualtieri met the love of his life, Anne Cosanza, on a blind date before he was deployed. She wrote him letters while he was in the Army.
Early in 1944, Gualtieri fought in the Battle of Kwajalein, and, later in the same year, he also fought in the Battle of Leyte. Gualtieri told the Herald in 2016 that the fight at Kwajalein was challenging, because the Japanese fought ardently. However, he also said that “Okinawa was the worst,” where he fought from April 1 to Dec. 6, 1945.
He was discharged on Jan. 7, 1946, and married Cosanza in August. They had four children together.
“He is part of the greatest generation there ever was,” Harry Denni, Gualtieri’s son-in-law. “He’s my hero. He’s our hero. It’s because of him that we have our freedom.”
Gualtieri lived by himself for 23 years after his wife, Anne, died. He enjoyed spending time with his family at his home, where their photos adorned the walls.
Geri Denni, Gualtieri’s daughter, recalled the happy times when she would visit her father every Thursday night, and he would try to make those nights special.
“He was so proud of being a veteran,” Geri said, “He would always tell [strangers] he had 14 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren. He would just watch those children and they made him smile. He really loved his family.”