Sixth Marine Division
Official Website
Stories by Others About the Sixth Division, the Marines, and World War II

Searching for My Dad's Buddies: The Sixth Division Breakfast Club of Norristown, PA

by Bob McGowan

In May of 2004, I was among the 100,000 spectators attending the dedication ceremony of the WWII Memorial in Washington, D.C. When I got home, I resolved to try and connect with any of my Dad's old buddies that were still around. My Dad had died a few years earlier, but my Mum still had the phone numbers of some of the Marines my Dad used to talk to from time to time. My Dad never attended any of the reunions, but he loved to read the newsletters, call his old buddies, and shoot the breeze.

Warren Martin, Ben Prophitt, Ed Novitski, and Dan Cantwell were all with my Dad in H Company, 3/29. I called all four Marines and found them alive and well. Dan Cantwell told me that a bunch of the guys got together once a month at a diner in Norristown, PA near Philadelphia. I showed up at the next meeting, and Dan introduced me as the son of Sgt Bob McGowan, a squad leader in H/3/29. Sam Petriello, Andy Sinatra, and all the other guys made me feel right at home.

The drill in those days was to roll into the Blue Bell Diner, take over a big table in the side room, and let the sea stories flow, while plates of eggs, bacon and pancakes were passed around. Then we'd head over to Sam's house where his wife Millie and his dog would greet us at the door, and we'd head down to the basement for more good-natured talk. Millie would set out a big plate of fruit, and the guys would exchange interesting articles and old jokes.

In 2005, Dan Cantwell came up with the idea of having a memorial ceremony on the USS New Jersey on April 1, the 60th Anniversary of the invasion of Okinawa. We wrote a couple of letters to the Commandant and Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, hoping to attract some attention. It worked. On April 1, I rode down to the ship with Sam, having no idea what kind of reception we would find. You can imagine how we felt walking up the gangplank and looking up on the deck to see a full contingent of Marines in Dress Blues waiting for us, along with Color Guard, Firing Squad and Bugler, plus a couple of Officers representing the Commandant. Dan Cantwell and Eric Turner made memorable speeches, and later Sam and Andy laid a memorial wreath on the river as Taps was played. It was a beautiful day and a first class way to honor the fallen, standing on the deck of a battleship that had participated in that battle so many years ago.

In 2009, my company (Airgas) wanted to do an article about my work with Operation Homefront, a military charity that my wife Carroll and I volunteer with. They wanted a picture of me for the article, so I suggested the photographer take a picture of me and a few of the gang at the East Norriton War Memorial. I don't like getting my picture taken and I hate smiling for the camera, but I can't help smiling when I'm with these guys. In the picture below I'm wearing a 2nd MARDIV hat (my own outfit) that Harry Simes gave to me along with my Dad's 6th MARDIV belt buckle, which I wear every day to remember him and his buddies.

I feel really blessed to have been part of the Breakfast Club, if only for a short time. Those guys encouraged me to attend my first reunion and get involved with the emerging Sons and Daughters organization. Because of my Dad, they accepted me as one of their own. I can honestly say that when I was with those guys, there was no place I'd rather have been in the whole wide world.

Walt Gasavage, Dan MacDougall, Andy Sinatra, Sam Petriello, Bob McGowan, Hank Henry, Dan Cantwell, Lou McQuairns in 2009