Michael J. Marino, 82, decorated Navy aviator

August 04, 2004|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Michael J. Marino, a highly decorated Navy aviator who participated in some of the most significant Pacific naval air battles of World War II, died of cancer Thursday at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center. He was 82.

Mr. Marino was born in Baltimore, the son of an immigrant stonemason from Palermo, Italy, and grew up in the home his father built on First Avenue in Brooklyn.

He was a 1939 graduate of Glen Burnie High School, where he played second base for the school's baseball team.

Mr. Marino joined the Navy in 1941 and was trained as a radioman and gunner. He was assigned to the USS San Jacinto, a carrier that joined the Pacific fleet in 1943.

"One of his fellow crew members aboard the San Jacinto was former President George H.W. Bush, who was shot down and later rescued. Artie Donovan, who later became a Colt Hall-of-Famer, was also a crew member," said his son, Michael E. Marino, a Towson attorney.

Assigned to Torpedo Squadron 45, Mr. Marino flew aboard TBF Avenger torpedo-bombers. Mr. Marino did not know Mr. Bush, who was a member of another squadron.

Mr. Marino flew aerial combat missions at Saipan, Guam, Philippine Sea, Northern Luzon and Formosa. He also was a participant in the historic sea battle when the Japanese and U.S. fleets clashed at Leyte Gulf in October 1944.

In 1945, he flew in the assault on Iwo Jima and later in aerial attacks on the Japanese homeland.

Mr. Marino's decorations included the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal and five gold stars in lieu of successive Air Medals. He also shared in his unit's Navy Presidential Unit Citation with Star, seven Campaign Ribbons, two Philippine Government Ribbons and 10 Combat Stars.

"Completing his twentieth mission during this period, Marino assisted his pilot in pressing home attacks against enemy shipping, airfield and installations and contributed to the infliction of extensive damage on the enemy," reads the Distinguished Flying Cross citation. "His gallant devotion to duty was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Navy."

"He was one of the best aviation radiomen gunners in the Navy and had loads of medals to prove it. Nothing ever fazed him, and he went on every flight," said Anthony Cvach, who had been a yeoman first class on the San Jacinto, and is now retired from the U.S. Public Health Hospital in Wyman Park, where he had been financial manager.

"He had flown many dangerous missions to Tokyo, Iwo Jima and the China Sea, and was never shot down," he said.

After the war, Mr. Marino returned to Baltimore and in 1950 married Kathleen Fischer. He later moved a block away from his boyhood home to a new one on Second Avenue, where he lived until his death.

"From 1954 until 1962, he owned a package store on Third Avenue and Ritchie Highway in Brooklyn Park. Then-Gov. J. Millard Tawes was a regular customer, and Artie Donovan, his former shipmate, was his liquor salesman," the son said.

Mr. Marino became a construction supervisor in 1962 for the federal Government Services Administration. He retired in 1975.

In 1979, he rehabilitated a 90-year-old farmhouse in the Woodbrook section of Baltimore County, where his son now resides.

"He was proud of his service to the United States during World War II. He was also proud of his Italian heritage and relished most things Italian. And he was known to say, `Anything worthwhile was invented by the Italians,'" the son said.

A Mass of Christian burial was offered yesterday at St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church.

Mr. Marino is survived by his wife and son.

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