Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

World War II veteran still swinging

By Mike Miller, CNN Photojournalist
updated 1:50 PM EST, Thu November 10, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Anthony Snetro was a machinist in the Navy during World War II
  • Snetro, 93, is still haunted by the image of a Japanese torpedo bomber
  • To cope with the stresses of war, Snetro turned to sports

Editor's note: Tune in at 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday for a special Veterans Day edition of CNN's "In Focus." The award-winning series produced by CNN photojournalists brings you stories of America's heroes as told by the men and women who fight for our country every day.

(CNN) -- It has been more than 65 years, but for 93-year-old Anthony Snetro, the image of a Japanese torpedo bomber closing in on him will never go away.

Snetro still has vivid memories of the day his life flashed before his eyes.

"Our ship was starting to swing around," Snetro softly recalls. "All of a sudden, here comes a Jap torpedo bomber all aflame right at my eye level. I could have reached out and touched the wing."

Snetro joined the U.S. Navy in 1942 and was immediately assigned to serve aboard the USS Boston in the South Pacific. He hoped enlisting in the Navy would prevent his younger brother from being drafted.

"Let him stay home to help the family," Snetro recalls. "That's why I joined the Navy, I was 25 years old. But finally near the end, they drafted him. He was wounded in Germany but made it home OK."

Snetro was a machinist in the Navy during World War II. Although he had experienced many terrifying moments during his four years in the service, nothing compared to that October night during the Battle of Formosa in 1944.

Up until now, the World War II veteran has shared the experience of that frightening night with only one other person, his son.

"Plainly, I saw the pilot and the gunner in there," Snetro explains as his voice gets louder. "The plane was afire. Good thing we were swinging. It just missed us and went along and crashed in the ocean and exploded."

Two other cruisers, the Canberra and the Houston, had already been aerial torpedoed the previous two nights.

"I know one thing, I was really scared there," Snetro recalls, slowly shaking his head as his eyes grow wider. "I couldn't do anything. I was stupefied. I was frozen."

iReport and Facebook team up to honor veterans

Anthony Snetro served as a machinist in the Navy during World War II.
Anthony Snetro served as a machinist in the Navy during World War II.

The four years that Snetro served were extremely stressful, he says. The heavy cruiser would be at sea for months at a time before finally pulling into port for supplies. When out at sea, there was always a concern, especially during war time.

"We never knew how close we came to being torpedoed, " Snetro says. "The engine room was down below the water. You get hit with a torpedo and you're done."

Snetro realized he needed something to help cope with the dangers of war. He decided to turn to a sport he had been playing since age 10.

"We'd get a few hours off on the beach," Snetro says. "We had equipment, softballs, bats, different things. A bunch of guys would get together and we'd start a little game. It was just for fun. You got a little relaxed."

Playing ball helped him during the unnerving days of World War II and it has helped him ever since. Snetro hopes to continue playing ball for at least a couple more years.

"I enjoy playing ball. It makes me feel good. Seeing my age, I can still run around." he says, smiling. "I can't play like I used to, but I get a hit once in a while."

"Baseball was something that you could keep playing. Just my luck, I came down here (Coral Gables, Florida) and they had a team and I've been playing ever since. It's been great! Otherwise, I'd be sitting at home in a rocking chair!"

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT