Shortly after World War II the Township decided to honor two residents who lost their lives serving their Country : Alois F. Repa 1908-1944 and Louis J. Esposito 1918-1945. They also chose to honor ‘All Caldwell Township Veterans who served their Country’ including all of the previous wars ( both living and dead ).
The stone on which this Memorial is placed was found on the former Pearce / Collerd Farm Property that had been excavated by Kemp Brothers Construction. So this memorial boulder came from our own Boulder Beach. Sixteen year old Lawrence Collerd with help from his Father Morris loaded the stone (pictured above) onto a large ‘stone boat’ then dragged it to the Municipal Building with an old Kemp Company tractor. I’m sure the Collerds were particularly proud of their role in the Township’s fitting tribute to our local Veteran heroes.
Old one and two piece ‘stone boats’ (Sometimes Farmers just used old upside down car hoods instead).
Thirty three year old Alois F. Repa enlisted in the Army exactly four months after the surprise attack at Pearl Harbor and was eventually assigned to the 771st Tank Battalion. Repa lost his life five days into the Battle of the Bulge when the Germans launched their surprise attack on American forces under the cover of bad weather over Belgium. With 89,000 American casualties and 19,000 killed, the ‘Bulge’ was the third deadliest campaign in American history.
Corporal Alois F. Repa, his grave in the American War Cemetery in the Netherlands, and the gothic-arched stained glass window (left- Christ the Shepherd) at the Fairfield Reformed Church dedicated to his memory.
Born in 1918, Louis J. Esposito was the sixth of Vito and Josephine (Cresculo) Esposito’s seven children (Dominick, Anna, Angeline, Frank, Jenavie, and youngest James). Our Veteran Louis had an Aunt Ermelinda and an Uncle Joseph who had his four Cousins in Fairfield also ( Anna, Dominick, Alfonso and John ).
As a Private First Class, Louis served in the Infantry ( 34th Infantry Division 135th Regiment ). He was killed in action March 12, 1945 during the Italian Campaign that had lasted nearly two years. Fifty-one days later the Germans surrendered the entire peninsula to the Allies.
Twenty seven year old Louis was buried at the Florence American Cemetery at Impruneta, Toscana, Italy. Both American and Italian flags decorate the graves there on days of solemn remembrance ( pictured below ).
Louis J. Esposito was buried in Italy 45 years after his Italian born Parents left there for America.
Robert L. Whitehead Brother of Joan Whitehead killed in North Korea 1952
“Private Whitehead was Killed in Action while defending an outpost "Alligator Jaws" on Hill 200, North Korea on October 31, 1952.Private Whitehead was awarded the Purple Heart, the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Korean Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Korean Presidential Unit Citation, the Republic of Korea War Service Medal and given a letter of commendation posthumously.”
On Veterans Day November 11, 1969 Fairfield dedicated an Honorary Monument to Neal David Epifanio just ten weeks after he gave his life for his Country.
Neal Epifanio and granite monument placed at Fairfield’s Hillside Cemetery flagpole (C) indicating Neal’s burial at Arlington National Cemetery (R).
As reported by Gail Bottone in TAP into West Essex November 9, 2019
“At a special meeting of the Fairfield mayor and council, the governing body officially proclaimed that the area on Horseneck Road between Fairfield Road and Plymouth Street will be ceremonially named “Corporal Neal D. Epifanio Way” in memory of the Fairfield resident who died in the Vietnam War 50 years ago on Sept. 3, 1969.
“The Township of Fairfield will never forget the ultimate sacrifice made by Fairfield resident Corporal Neal David Epifanio and all those other veterans who have defended the United States of America to protect the freedom and liberty we all still enjoy,” the proclamation states.
According to the proclamation, Epifanio was born on Oct. 8, 1950 to Gerald and Phyllis Epifanio and resided at 191 Horseneck Road in Fairfield with his parents and brother, Philip.
He was a member of both the Fairfield Dutch Reformed Church and the Fairfield Methodist Church, and graduated from West Essex High School in 1968. He then enlisted in the United States Army, where he trained for a year as a mobile radio telephone operator (RTO) specialist and was assigned to the premier 101st Airborne Division, 1st Battalion, Army 502nd Strike Force Infantry.
In July of 1969, Epifanio went to Vietnam and participated as a mobile radio operator, doing quick strike force landings via Huey helicopter.
On Sept. 3, 1969, Epifanio’s 502nd Infantry patrol received enemy fire; 14 Huey helicopters were dispatched to the Quang Nam Province extrication zone that was studded with tall trees, requiring that the aircraft takeoff in a particular direction.
According to the proclamation. The first seven Huey’s successfully maneuvered the trees, with the eighth being waved off on its first approach due to artillery strikes near the pickup zone but landed without difficulty on the second approach. Epifanio was the fifth soldier to hop on the helicopter, giving it its maximum load.
On lift off, the blades of the helicopter struck a 60-foot tree, causing a crash and killing four crewmen and five passengers, including Epifanio.”
Fairfield has honored Alois, Louis, Robert and Neal at the Municipal Headquarters flagpole. Another Memorial honors all the innocent victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks of 2001. John Patrick Salamone grew up in Fairfield and lost his life in New York on that horrific day.
Robert L. Whiteheads Commemoration quoted General John J. Pershing:
“Time will not dim the glory of their deeds”
................Paul Pollio April 13, 2020