Street renamed in honor of MOH recipient, Homer L. Wise

Saturday, November 2, 2013


Homer L. Wise dedication ceremony

Saturday, June 1, 2013

A legacy of service, an expression of thanks

By Olivia Just

The Stamford Advocate

Plaque to veteran unveiled as city honors fallen troops

STAMFORD -- The story of Staff Sgt. Homer L. Wise is the tale of so many of America's veterans, men and women who fought on foreign soil and returned home to start a family and a new life in the suburbs.

Along the way, these veterans rarely, if ever, spoke a word of what they saw or did in action.

But Wise's story has a further coda, one that began with his designation as a World War II Medal of Honor recipient by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and ended Sunday following the city's annual Memorial Day parade.

The parade, which wound down Summer and Main streets, ended its run at Veterans Park in Stamford, where a ceremony was held to unveil a plaque at the base of a 6 ½-foot statue of Wise that has stood in the park since December.

The unveiling marked the culmination of a five-year fundraising effort led by Wise's old friend and veteran, James Vlasto.

Vlasto was joined in speaking at the event by Rabbi Phillip Schechter, Mayor Michael Pavia, Morton Dean, the former CBS and ABC news anchor, and Paul Bucha, a recipient of the Medal of Honor in 1968 for his actions in the Vietnam War.

Vlasto, Bucha and Jean Rinaldi, Wise's niece, lifted the cloth from the plaque bearing Wise's accomplishments as they were serenaded by the Stamford High School Madrigal Singers.

"This is a very historic day for Stamford," Vlasto said. "They've never honored a Medal of Honor recipient. He's Stamford's only Medal of Honor recipient. When he came back a hero, he came back to Stamford."

The fact that Wise survived the war was no small accomplishment, Vlasto said, noting that the lifespan for an American soldier in combat during World War II was 14 days.

On a hot day in June 1944 in Magliano, Italy, Wise ran through German gunfire to pull a wounded soldier to safety.

Then he single-handedly held off enemy gunners with a grenade launcher, along with peppering the retreating Germans with fire from a submachine gun and firing 750 rounds from an American tank in order to allow his men to advance.

Roosevelt's citation called Wise's actions "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity." Wise was also awarded the Bronze Star, the Silver Star and the Purple Heart.

After the war, Wise, a handsome, blue-eyed man from Louisiana, came to Stamford to marry Madolyn DiSesa, whom he had met at Cape Cod during the war.

The couple had one son, Jeff, who died in 1990, and only learned about his father's medals at the age of 12 through a friend at school.

Wise was by most accounts a quiet, unassuming man, who returned to the army as a recruiter and then worked in a civilian capacity as a mail supervisor in a bank. He also waited tables for extra money. Wise died in 1974 of congestive heart failure at the age of 57.

Joe Rumore, Wise's nephew, speculated that Wise might have been a little lost for words had he been able to see the statue's dedication or the large crowd that attended the event.

"I think it's beautiful, it's a fantastic commemoration," Rumore said. "I got all choked up. He'd be very proud of the presentation, but I'm sure he wouldn't have much to say about it because he was a very private man. He didn't talk at all about his heroics."

Bucha, who spoke eloquently and emotionally, noted that the Medal of Honor is given to an individual, but it also represents the unsung actions of others, and the collective experience of the recipient's comrades.

"Homer Wise would say the same thing: I earned this medal for those who did not receive it, but earned it," Bucha said. "People come to me and say, `What can I do (for veterans)?' and I say, please don't say, `Thank you for your service.'

"Don't take pride in writing a check or the fact that you gave them some of your stuff. There's only one thing we possess that is truly precious and finite and that is our time. Today, you have given of your time. And those who have served, and their families, know you are grateful."

After the ceremony ended and the crowd dispersed, Stamford resident Betty Hardiman was one of those who lingered for a moment.

She said the ceremony brought back memories of her grandson, U.S. Navy SEAL Brian Bill, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2011.

"Everything was just terrific," Hardiman said of Wise's commemoration. "What a moving speech."

Medal of Honor recipient statue dedication in Stamford, CT

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Dear Supporters, Friends and Interested Parties,

On Sunday, May 26, 2013, we will dedicate the statue of Sgt. Homer L. Wise. The ceremony to feature as the keynote speaker, Paul W. Bucha, Medal of Honor recipient, Vietnam, March 1968, West Point graduate and former President of the Medal of Honor Society.  The master of ceremonies will be Morton Dean, former CBS and ABC news anchor and correspondent. Mr. Dean covered the war in Vietnam for CBS and other wars throughout the globe.

Please try to attend this historic event. The ceremony will begin around 1 PM, in Veterans Park, Main and Atlantic Streets, in downtown Stamford, CT, following Memorial Day parade. Plenty of parking available.

It is time to honor our veterans who served to protect our freedom and to honor a very special soldier, Homer L. Wise, a recipient of the Medal of Honor.

Thank you,

James S. Vlasto
Executive Director
Homer L. Wise Memorial Committee

WWII eyewitness to heroic action of Medal of Honor recipient Homer L. Wise

Monday, April 1, 2013

We recently had the high honor to speak with John Boner of Mansfield, Ohio. Mr .Boner, 93, served with Sgt. Homer L. Wise in Italy during World War II. Mr. Boner, a sergeant, was an eyewitness to heroic action by Sgt.Wise on that very hot day in Magliano, Italy, June 14, 1944, when Sgt. Wise was awarded the Medal of Honor. He described the moment when Sgt. Wise climbed on top of a disabled tank and fired 750 rounds from the 50 caliber machine gun. Forcing the Germans to retreat and enabled his Battalion to regain their position.

Photos: (Left) Sgt. Boner. far right, first row, being congratulated by Major General John E. Dahlquist, Commanding General 36th Infantry Division, after being presented the Silver Star medal in Germany shortly after the German surrender in May 1945.

(Center) The group photo left to right, Pvt. Robert M. Laub, Chicago, Pvt. William K. Grubb, Chicago, Cpl. John Boner, Mansfield, Ohio and Pvt. Adolph Walla, Waco, Texas all members of the 142d Infantry Regiment of the 36th Infantry Division, in Italy. Pvt. Grubb was later captured by the Germans and became a POW.

(Right) Sgt. John Boner (standing) at the rest camp in Caserta, Italy, late 1943.

Stamford WWII Medal of Honor Hero gets his statue

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

As reported by Eve Sullivan, Stamford, CT Advocate, December 19, 2012

 STAMFORD -- In the darkness and pouring rain, city workers lowered a bronze statue of Homer Lee Wise -- the city's only Medal of Honor recipient -- onto its base at Veterans Park on Tuesday night.

James Vlasto, Wise's longtime friend who had been waiting for the moment for years, quickly took off his tweed newsboy cap and put on his garrison cap. "When they put the statue up, I want to salute it, and I can't salute it without my hat on," Vlasto said. And so, in a touching moment between friends, that's what he did. Vlasto jumped onto the platform mound, stood near the statue and gave him a salute.

Though placing the statue was a battle, Wise faced much tougher ones during his time in World War II, particularly in the Battle of Magliano in Italy in June 1944. His actions there are what gained him the nation's highest military award.

The U.S. Army's report for what he did that day says, "The unhesitancy with which Sergeant Wise repeatedly put himself into positions where any escape seemed miraculous demonstrated a courage unfathomable."

Now Wise will stand looking out on Atlantic Street, a short distance from St. John's Church, where he married his wife, Madolyn DiSesa, and across from Old Town Hall, where he worked for 12 years as an Army recruiter.

"They should have done this a long time ago for him," said his niece, Jean Rinaldi. "He was a great guy, down to earth, quiet, a very unassuming man."

Wise left his home in Louisiana and went to Texas at age 14 to find work during the Great Depression. In 1941, he joined the Army and was stationed at Camp Edwards in Massachusetts, where he met DiSesa while vacationing on Cape Cod
Rinaldi said DiSesa, her mother's sister, became engaged to Wise before he went to war. Rinaldi was a baby at the time, and Wise carried her picture in his wallet. When he returned, Rinaldi said their families were close and his son, Jeffrey, was like a brother
Rinaldi said watching the 6 1/2-foot statue being placed was a great moment -- one that has taken about five years to happen.

"I knew Jim from years ago," she said. "He asked if I wanted to be part of this project and I said `Of course.' If anybody deserved it, my uncle did. And it's taken us this long to get to this day."
Vlasto raised $65,000 for the statue, and the city paid for a concrete base and plaque. The base reads: "Master Sergeant Homer L. Wise, Medal of Honor, June 14, 1944, United States Army."

As his regiment, the 142nd in the 36th Infantry Division, was being pummeled by German troops in June 1944, Wise ran through gunfire to carry a wounded soldier to safety. In an effort to protect 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 enemy troops began to fire from a distant range, so Wise walked through flying bullets, picking them off with an automatic rifle. An American tank emerged to help and Wise leapt on top and unjammed a machine gun mounted on the turret. He then fired 750 rounds, clearing the way for his regiment to proceed up a hill.

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

Janice Mauro, the sculptor, said she was asked to make a facsimile of Wise, so she came up with three 10-inch wax figures. The Homer L. Wise Memorial Committee chose one of him standing. From there, she went to a 30-inch clay model and then the final version. The statue was cast at the New York Foundry in Brooklyn through the lost wax process.

"So I really didn't work with a model," she said. "What we had were pictures of him from being a young man to an older man."

Vlasto wanted him at a virile age, when he fought in the war, Mauro said. She then found a World War II uniform and had her husband pose with it on. "I felt this was in honor of the action he took, but I found that he was just a guy doing these things," she said.

Mauro turned his head like Michelangelo's David. She said just like David fought Goliath, Wise had to fight and save his platoon. She said Wise -- who was 6 feet tall with dark hair and blue eyes -- was a very good-looking man.

"That's why I loved working on the project. He was so handsome," she said. "He was Hollywood handsome."

Since this is the end of the project, Mauro said she wanted to be there Tuesday to make sure the statue was facing the way she wanted it. "It's exciting that it will be here forever," she said. "It's a big city, and people will see this every day."

When workers arrived in the park with the statue, Vlasto watched them take it off the truck, face-down on a handcart. He said Wise received the Medal of Honor at 27 years old. "And that's exactly how he looked, too," he said.

Vlasto said receiving the Medal of Honor is a distinction because of the 16 million who served during World War II, only 2 million saw combat and just 464 received the medal. Nearly half received it posthumously.

After earning the medal, Vlasto said they wanted to promote Wise to captain, but he said he would rather be a live sergeant than a dead captain. Wise told a military newspaper, "I'm going to Stamford."

Wise returned to Stamford and got married in February 1945.

Vlasto said he met Wise in 1956 at Jackson's, his uncle's bar in the Ridgeway Shopping Center. His aunt introduced them and they became friends.

"The statue captures him perfectly," Vlasto said. "I saw a picture of him and I liked the pose."

Left to right Sculptor  Janice Mauro, of Redding , CT; James S. Vlasto, founder and executive director of Homer L. Wise Memorial Committee; Jean Rinaldi of Stamford, CT, niece of Homer Wise and George S. Vlasto, Vice President of the Homer Wise Memorial Committee and long time friend of Homer Wise.

Wise didn't like the attention he received and had a hard time adjusting to life after the war, Vlasto said. After two years of civilian life, he went back into the Army and was stationed at the recruiting office in Stamford.

"He worked for 12 years in that building over there -- Old Town Hall," he said.
Wise, who lived in Springdale, took some assignments in Europe and then left the military in 1966. Seven years later, he collapsed and died on a Stamford street.

All Photos by Dru Nadler, Cheshire, CT

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