Bridges to Freedom
Mary Ann Massoglia, Howard Community College assistant professor of psychology and human development, has a very personal connection to World War II. Her late father, Major Martin Massoglia, served during the war with the 238th Army Combat Engineer Battalion and later wrote “Bridges to Freedom,” a memoir of his time with the 238th rebuilding destroyed bridges throughout Europe.
To stay connected, the men of the 238th have met each year since 1947, and thanks to Mary Ann, they gathered in Howard County on July 18 to bring her father’s book to life before an audience of students, faculty, staff and community members in Smith Theatre. Four WWII veterans — including one member of the 238th — took part in a panel discussion led by Fred Campbell, associate professor of history at HCC. Campbell set the tone for the event, providing the large audience with a historical perspective of the war, before asking the veterans to share their experiences.
First was Don Casey, member of the 238th under Major Massoglia. For Casey, the war took him far from his home in North Carolina. “I never thought I would see the world – as I’m just a simple country boy,” said Casey, “but I’ve been to 43 states and 13 countries in my life.” Casey also spoke about returning to France last year with Campbell, Mary Ann, and several students as part of the college’s annual World War II study abroad trip. “It was one of the best experiences,” he said.
Henry Mouzon Sr. was a member of the US Navy aboard the USS Intrepid. A native of South Carolina and current resident of Howard County, Mouzon was drafted off his mother’s farm at the age of 18. As an African American, Mouzon explained, “there weren’t many opportunities during basic training.” But aboard the Intrepid, he was promoted from mess cook to gunnery school, and eventually became a gunner’s mate, serving throughout East Asia.
Colonel Louis Schott — who is the father of longtime HCC faculty member Patricia Turner — was a member of the 5th Marine Corps Regiment serving in the Pacific. He recalled hearing about the bombing of Pearl Harbor over the radio as a student at LaSalle College. Eager to get into the war as soon as possible, he joined the Platoon Leader program to earn his degree before entering the Corps. “I received orders one month before graduating,” recalled Schott, “but my father accepted on my behalf.”
Herbert Sauber was a member of the US Navy aboard the USS Canberra, which is the Navy’s only warship named for a foreign capital or warship. Sauber viewed the draft as inevitable and enlisted. “On January 1 I turned 18, and on January 2, 1942, I was shipping off from Baltimore to Norfolk, Virginia for training,” he said. Sauber served throughout the Pacific Theatre before his ship was torpedoed during the Battle of Formosa and eventually towed from the coast of Japan to Boston Harbor.
Throughout the evening, the veterans provoked tears of laughter and sadness. The crowd erupted at the story of Casey’s friend who had grown up on a shrimp boat, but on D-Day was ironically seasick as they landed on Utah Beach. Tears welled up as Mouzon recalled one of his most vivid memories: “I was going up the hatch to my battle station,” he said, “and a marine ahead of me was going to his. As soon as his head got out of the hatch, a bullet cut it off, and he fell back onto me. It bothered me for a long time after I got out the service – I would see it in my dreams."
As the event drew to a close, Campbell urged the crowd to remember the importance of asking questions of this generation and those who served. “Once [these men and women are] gone, their memories will leave with them unless we capture them,” he said. The sobering reality, Mary Ann added, is that we lose more and more of these men and women from the "Greatest Generation" every day. As her father wrote in his memoir, “Time has taken its toll…what the Germans could not do, Father Time is doing.”
As the audience rose to its feet to give the men a standing ovation, Casey turned to the crowd, raised his hand to his temple, and saluted the audience in a perfect patriotic closing to a very memorable event.
To view photos from the event, visit the college's Flickr stream. Read more about this event, the featured veterans, and the efforts by HCC students and faculty to preserve their stories in this Baltimore Sun article. You can also read more about Henry Mouzon Sr.’s story in this Baltimore Sun article.