Sunday, September 30, 2012

City should herald 
                    '... a courage unfathomable' 
                                                                                                     by Angela Carella 

STAMFORD, CT ADVOCATE  September 30, 2012

One of the most decorated American heroes of World War II was a Stamford man.

Homer Lee Wise

Homer Lee Wise received the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military award, for what he did during the Battle of Magliano in Italy in June 1944. The Army's report of the action that day, now in the National Archives, reads, "The unhesitancy with which Sergeant Wise repeatedly put himself into positions where any escape seemed miraculous demonstrated a courage unfathomable."

The report concluded that the memory of Wise's bravery "will perpetually inspire fighting men."

There's no doubt that Wise's deeds are inspiring, but nearly 70 years later, who remembers?

Stamford, where Wise lived for much of his life, should. But residents so far have barely responded to calls to honor him.

For four years, James Vlasto has worked to raise $65,000 for a statue of Wise for Stamford, but nearly all the money has come from places other than Stamford.

Now there is a 6-foot, 7-inch bronze statue of tall, handsome, blue-eyed Wise in a warehouse in Stamford, but Vlasto's nonprofit group needs $12,000 more for a base, plaque and maybe some installation costs.

        (Bronze statue of Sgt. Wise recently completed and waiting to be dedicated.) >>>>

"Fundraising has been difficult in Stamford," Vlasto said. "About 85 percent of the money we raised came from elsewhere -- 19 different states, at last count. Most of the contributions have been very small, with a couple of major ones, including one from Las Vegas." 
Vlasto said he began with Texas. Wise left his home in Louisiana and went there when he was 14 to find a job during the Great Depression. In 1941 Wise joined the Army. His regiment, the 142nd in the 36th Infantry Division, was formed in Texas.

"People there helped me contact people in other states whose family members served in the regiment," Vlasto said. "There's a great fondness for the regiment in Texas."

Part of the reason is what happened in Italy in the spring of 1944, when the regiment was up against some of Germany's best-trained troops in especially vicious fighting. It would end with the Americans and their allies pushing the Germans out of Italy.

As the 142nd Regiment was being pummeled by German troops in the Battle of Magliano on June 14, 1944, Sgt. Homer Lee Wise ran through gunfire to carry a wounded soldier to safety. In an effort to protect the rest of his men, Wise single-handedly held off German gunners with a grenade launcher. When the gunners fled, Wise followed, firing at them with a submachine gun.

Other German troops began to fire from a more distant range, so Wise, a good shot, walked through flying bullets, picking them off with an automatic rifle. An American tank emerged from the trees to help, but German fire was so intense that the tank had to button up. A machine gun mounted on the turret was known to be jammed, but Wise leapt up on the tank, unjammed it and fired 750 rounds, clearing the way for his regiment to take their objective, Hill 163.

For acts of bravery in other battles Wise also was awarded the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart and other medals.

His deeds were so brave that in 1958, when President Eisenhower presided over a ceremony to bury unidentified soldiers in the Tomb of the Unknowns in Washington, D.C., Wise was one of six Medal of Honor recipients chosen as pallbearers.

Three years ago, the World War II Museum in Wise's home state of Louisiana inducted him into its Hall of Fame.

But in Stamford, there is only a patch of grass and a small plaque at Bedford and Chester streets. Wise adopted the city as his hometown after marrying Madolyn DiSesa, of Stamford, whom he met while he was stationed at Camp Edwards in Massachusetts and she was vacationing with her family on Cape Cod. They had one child, Jeff.

"After Homer died, I would go there and sit on the benches," said Vlasto, whose family knew the DiSesa family. "Within a few years the benches were rotting and I would think, `This is not significant enough. We have to do something that recognizes what Homer Wise did for his country. He never looked for recognition when he was alive.' "

Wise was a quiet, unassuming man who held humble jobs and carefully tended the yard of his home on Tree Lane in Springdale. Jeff Wise did not know about his father's Medal of Honor until a teacher told him when he was 12.

Later, to earn money for Jeff's college tuition, Wise worked as a waiter. People sometimes recognized him and refused to be served by him, inviting him to sit with them instead. Wise was embarrassed by it, Vlasto said.

In 1974, when Wise was 57, he collapsed at his job as a mail supervisor at a bank. An artificial artery implanted years earlier to repair a war wound had collapsed. Wise died the next day at Stamford Hospital. His son died in 1990 at age 40, and his wife died in 2002. Wise's niece, Jean Rinaldi, still lives in Stamford.

No one knows what happened to Wise's war medals, Vlasto said.

"We had to replicate everything," Vlasto said.

Some 16 million Americans served in World War II, but only 2 million saw combat, Vlasto said. Of the 2 million, just 464 were awarded the Medal of Honor, and nearly half of them received it posthumously.

Most, like Homer Lee Wise, returned home to live quiet lives as good neighbors and citizens, Vlasto said. To help students and others learn more about the nation's military heroes, he started a website,

"One thing I hope the Homer Wise project will do is bring more attention to all those who served," Vlasto said.

To make a donation, visit or send a check to the Homer L. Wise Memorial Committee, c/o Jean Rinaldi, 21 Fairmont Ave., Stamford CT 06906.; 203-964-2296. reprinted with permission Stamford CT Advocate


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Dear Friends, Supporters and Interested Parties

We thought you would appreciate an update on the work we are doing to honor Sgt. Homer L. Wise.

The statue of Sgt. Homer L. Wise is completed thanks to donations received from patriotic citizens from 19 states.

We are happy to report that donations totaling more $64,000 have been received, mostly in small contributions. Our goal is $98,000.

We’ve accomplished a great deal. Please tell your friends and neighbors about our project and urge them to visit our web site and donate to this very meaningful and lasting tribute to one of the greatest soldiers of World War II.

You can make a contribution online by clicking the donate button on this page or by mail payable to Homer L. Wise Memorial Committee, Inc. c/o Jean Rinaldi, 21 Fairmont Avenue, Stamford, CT 06906

We need your help now

On behalf of the THE HOMER L. WISE MEMORIAL COMMITTEE, INC, we thank you.

Paul W. Bucha, Morton Dean, James S. Vlasto

Connecticut town erects statue for Medal of Honor winner

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Statue of  MOH Homer L.Wise and sculptor Janice Mauro
It has been nearly 68 years since Army Sgt. Homer L. Wise, possibly the only Medal of Honor winner from Baton Rouge, performed his remarkable act of heroism, and almost 38 years since he died. Yet, in his adopted hometown, a new honor is coming his way.

A statue of Wise is nearly completed and will be erected later this year in Stamford, Conn., said James L. Vlasto, who chairs the committee that seeks to preserve the memory of Wise’s gallantry during World War II.

“Some people, believe me, don’t know what the Medal of Honor is,” Vlasto said from his home in New York City. “I run across it all the time.”

Wise was born on Feb. 27, 1917, in Baton Rouge and grew up in the Central area, the oldest of five children of William Tony Wise and Edna Stephens Wise.

He did not finish school, but, at age 14 and with the Great Depression in full swing, sought work in Texas before returning to Baton Rouge and enlisting in the Army in 1941.

While stationed at Camp Edwards on Cape Cod, Mass., in 1942, Wise met Madolyn DiSesa, of Stamford. They became engaged before Wise went overseas, first in North Africa, then into combat at Salerno, Italy. He was known as “Blackie” to the men of Company L, 142nd Infantry Regiment. The actions on June 14, 1944, near Magliano, Italy, that earned him the American military’s highest award for heroism are described in the medal citation:

“While his platoon was pinned down by enemy small-arms fire from both flanks, he left his position of comparative safety and assisted in carrying 1 of his men, who had been seriously wounded and who lay in an exposed position, to a point where he could receive medical attention. The advance of the platoon was resumed but was again stopped by enemy frontal fire. A German officer and 2 enlisted men, armed with automatic weapons, threatened the right flank.

“Fearlessly exposing himself, he moved to a position from which he killed all 3 with his submachinegun. Returning to his squad, he obtained an M1 rifle and several antitank grenades, then took up a position from which he delivered accurate fire on the enemy holding up the advance. As the battalion moved forward it was again stopped by enemy frontal and flanking fire. He procured an automatic rifle and, advancing ahead of his men, neutralized an enemy machinegun with his fire.

“When the flanking fire became more intense he ran to a nearby tank and exposing himself on the turret, restored a jammed machinegun to operating efficiency and used it so effectively that the enemy fire from an adjacent ridge was materially reduced thus permitting the battalion to occupy its objective.”

Wise received the Medal of Honor on Nov. 28, 1944, by which time he also had earned a Silver Star, Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts.

Two months later, Wise was honored in Baton Rouge with a banquet held by the labor union to which he belonged, and Wise rode on horseback in the Baton Rouge March of Dimes Parade on Jan. 27, 1945. On Feb. 12, he married DiSesa, and they settled in Stamford. Wise was honorably discharged six months later, but re-enlisted in the Army in 1947, retiring in 1966.

Wise was one of six honorary pallbearers when the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was dedicated at Arlington National Cemetery in 1958. Otherwise, Vlasto said, Wise drew little attention to his heroism. His only child, Jeffrey, only found out about his father’s Medal of Honor at age 12 when a friend told him.
“He was just a really regular, down-to-earth kind of guy,” said Jean Rinaldi, Wise’s niece. “Hero wasn’t a word you would have thought of, because nothing like that was ever implied. … He was just a great guy.”
After retiring, Wise supplemented his income as a waiter.

“There are a number of stories of people recognizing him in the restaurant and demanding to the owner of the restaurant that Homer sit with them instead of wait on them,” Vlasto said.

Wise died of congestive heart failure at age 57 on April 22, 1974, and two years later Stamford named a park in his memory. Jeffrey died in 1990, Madolyn in 2002.

“When I would go up to visit, I always would stop at the park, and over the years just kept shaking my head and I said, ‘This is not good enough,’ ” Vlasto said. “It was a nice little park in a fine residential area, but it was not up to the caliber of a memorial to this great soldier.”

In 2004, Vlasto started pursuing the idea in earnest. He has raised about $63,000 and hired sculptor Janice Mauro, of Redding, Conn., to create the larger than life-size bronze statue. A base for the statue must be built before it can be erected, Vlasto said. No date has been set for erecting the statue.

Vlasto has had little luck finding Wise’s blood relatives. At least three of his siblings — brothers Edward and Leon, and sister Gracie Pipes — are deceased, and Vlasto doesn’t know the whereabouts of his other brother, Robert.

Regardless, Vlasto thinks the effort is worth it to remind current and future generations of the extraordinary heroism of Medal of Honor winners. Of the 16 million American men and women in uniform in World War II, only 464 received this honor, 266 of them posthumously.

“That’s why soldiers like Homer Wise are extraordinary in my mind,” Vlasto said.

Louis “Woody” Jenkins, editor of the Central City News, said he has been in touch with Mauro to explore the possibility of making a statue for Central. Jenkins said that when he gets a cost estimate from Mauro, he’ll see if there is enough community support for such a project.

Wise is the only Medal of Honor recipient known to have been born in Baton Rouge. There are conflicting accounts of whether cavalry Sgt. Thomas Shaw, who was awarded the medal during the Indian Wars of the late 1800s, entered service in Baton Rouge or in Pike County, Mo. Union Maj. John C. Curtis of the 9th Connecticut Infantry received the medal for his actions in the Battle of Baton Rouge on Aug. 5. 1862.

Copyright 2011 The Homer L. Wise Memorial Committee, Inc.