Friday, December 07, 2018
With Legionnaire’s help, USS Arizona sailor memorialized on Pearl Harbor Day
By Robert Stronach
UTICA, NY — Petty Officer Gerald J. “Bob” Magee of Utica died at his battle station aboard the U.S.S. Arizona on Dec. 7, 1941 – one of more than 2,400 Americans killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that thrust the U.S. into World War ii.
Thanks to Legionnaire Mark Williamson, Magee is now memorialized in a granite monument along Utica’s Memorial Parkway and in a Pearl Harbor exhibit at the Oneida County History Center.
The unveiling of the exhibit and of the monument took place on Pearl Harbor Day.
“Mark Williamson had THE role in this,” noted Magee’s nephew, retired Army Major David DeSantis. Williamson, a member of Utica Post 229 and a retired Navy Master Chief who works with Junior ROTC cadets at Proctor High School, encouraged DeSantis to donate items to the History Center and “made the monument happen,” DeSantis said. “His JROTC kids raised the money.”
For Williamson, it was an opportunity to bring patriotism and history to life for his young cadets so they will become “viable men and women who do the right thing.”
“It’s all part of making a good person,” he said.
Produced by Yorkville Memorials at cost, the granite monument sports images of the Arizona and Magee, along with an inscription honoring Magee’s service and sacrifice.
The centerpiece of the Pearl Harbor exhibit is Magee’s Cruise Album. “It’s a year book for a ship,” explained DeSantis. It includes pictures of Magee and other sailors on the ship, pictures of other battleships that the Arizona sailed with, diary entries by Magee, and other material, including photos and letters that the family added after Magee’s death.
DeSantis called the Cruise Album a “stunning” piece of history, and said he was aware of one other copy — the Arizona Cruise Album on display at the Pearl Harbor Museum. “I consider it to be priceless.”
The family had possession of the album only because the 20-year-old Magee came home for a funeral six months before the attack and left it with his father. DeSantis and his family donated the album along with Magee’s other personal effects, such as posthumous medals and certificates, and Navy photo.
History Center Executive Director Brian Howard said the exhibit items “are of national historical significance” and that “this History Center is deeply humbled and honored to receive the mementos” of a local sailor “who gave his life aboard the battleship U.S.S. Arizona.”
“Their preservation here ties Oneida County to this pivotal moment in world history, and will help to inspire our area’s residents for generations to come. Our sincere thanks are extended to Magee’s family for this priceless gift to the community.”