Radar Operator, 2nd Class
USS Albany (CA-123)
USS Columbus (CA-74)
Michael R. Valvo, U.S. Navy
USS New Jersey (BB-62)
Married: Virginia (Corsoro) Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church, Dunkirk. Arlene (Barton) in Seminole, Fla. in 1992.
Children: Joseph Valvo and Nancy Ringler
Grandchildren: Joey Valvo, Jamie Valvo, Michael Ringler, Jennifer Ringler
Great-grandchildren: Gianna Valvo
Michael R. Valvo was born on Aug. 29, 1931, in Buffalo. He is the son of Babe and Petrina (Borziller). The family resided at 911 Niagara St. in Buffalo.
Michael's father became a bartender at the White Inn in Fredonia when the family moved out of Buffalo, after Michael's sophomore year. His father also held a second job as the shipping foreman at the Dunkirk Van Raalte Co. The Valvo family received two checks every pay day from the Van Raalte Co. because his mother Petrina was also employed with the company running the company's employees' store. The Valvos' new address was on Orchard Street in the Village of Fredonia.
Valvo attended Fredonia High School after moving out of Buffalo High School. He played on the varsity baseball team while at Fredonia. It didn't take him long to make friends. His best friends included Abner Fadale, Clyde Saletta, Vince Manzella, Anthony Battaglia and Sal Siracuse.
In order to find this group, which wasn't difficult, all one had to do was go to the pool hall on Water Street across from the playground. The group loved playing softball, baseball and, in the fall, football. One summer, Valvo had the opportunity to play some semi-pro baseball as a catcher for Fredonia. Most games were played in the Buffalo area, but at times were also played in Dunkirk and Silver Creek.
After graduating from high school, he continued his education at a technology school in Buffalo where he found the classes extremely easy. He claimed to the teacher that he probably should be teaching the course instead, which didn't set well with the teacher of course. The teacher and the principal both seemed to be thankful that Valvo decided to leave when the semester ended.
Valvo decided to attend Fredonia State College. He graduated with a teaching degree. He recalled when he received his teaching position at Fredonia, he walked through the teachers' faculty room for the first time and the first person he saw was the principal from his old school in Buffalo. The former principal and Valvo, who felt he knew more, were now both colleagues.
Valvo continued in the education field and received a fellowship to Michigan State University in counseling and student personnel. Later, he became a guidance counselor at the Silver Creek High School and held the job of a director at Board of Cooperative Educational Services.
In 1947, when he was only 16 years old and still attending school, his friend helped him doctor his birth certificate with a removal ink. This ink was a bleach that took off black ink, and with the dab of this removal ink and a new pen Valvo was now the age to join the United States Navy.
Thanks to his doctored birth certificate in 1947, he and his friends Abner Fadale and Clyde Saletta (both now deceased) joined the Navy. This trio heard the Navy was the place to be from all the stories the area sailors that came back from the war told. The sailors claimed it was great to travel, have a steady job, three square meals a day and a cot each night. The whole world was there for these three young Fredonia men. Being a sailor on a ship meant no fox holes or marching miles each and every day, according to the soldiers that had returned. The three boarded the bus from in front of Fredonia's village hall and headed to Buffalo to the government's federal building.
Valvo recalled it being a cold, snowy day. but in the back of his mind, he was seeing himself walking the beaches of Honolulu. Before paradise and now back to reality he went through boot camp and the trio was not headed to Hawaii. They were headed for the Navy training station in Great Lakes in Chicago.
Once the train left the station in Buffalo the weather turned into a winter blizzard. During the delay he thought of home and that he was headed into a world that was completely new to him. As the train left the station and headed west the storm got worse, which made his first trip away from home even harder. The train was forced to make a stop with strict orders that no one was to get off the train because the engineer could start it at any moment. When the train was completely stopped due to the blizzard, the trio looked out the window and realized they were in Dunkirk. The building they were looking at was the McKendrick's soda shop, the place where the boys spent the night before they left. The minutes they were stopped in Dunkirk seemed to be hours.
The trio had eight weeks of boot camp at the Great Lakes. After boot camp, Valvo was now a true-blue sailor and he still didn't know where he was going to be sent. Later he was handed orders to report to the commanding officer of the USS Columbus (CA-74). However, in order to reach this new home, Valvo had to hitch a ride on the USS Albany (CA-123) that was going to be en route to Europe and meet up with the USS Columbus (CA-74).
He served on the USS Albany (CA-123) for three months. As the Albany reached Plymouth, England, the USS Columbus was the only United States Ship in the Navy that did not have a home port. This to many in the Navy was a dream come true. A ship that didn't have a home port meant that the ship could be available to go anywhere it was needed. That is exactly what the navy had in mind for the USS Columbus .
The war over and the USS Columbus was a newer ship so the Navy put her on display to all of Europe. She was sent on good-will missions to visit ports. Tours of the ship were given to show the world what a U.S. naval fighting ship looked like.
Valvo was serving on one of the finest vessels. Sailing under the Admiral Richard Connolly, the ship visited Africa, Scandinavia, and all ports of interest. While in port, the ship entertained the King of England, the Prince of Siam and many heads of states, all goodwill ports of call. She later sailed to Libya and Syria.
Valvo recalled that he was one sailor in the Navy that could say he did see the world. Each stop lasted at least five to 10 days with liberty in each port to let the other people meet the U.S. sailor. It was great fun, yet each sailor knew the price that would be paid if he stepped out of line or infringed on one of the other countries' customs. The sailors had to be squared away along with the Columbus.
The U.S. navy decided to recommission the USS New Jersey. She was one of our newest battleships that the navy decided was no longer needed after World War II. The Jersey was needed to shore up our East Coast defense. The USS Missouri who held the East Coast defense was headed for a little country named Korea.
The Navy later decommissioned the Missouri and placed the USS New Jersey in Korea. This action not only relieved the "Mighty Mo" which needed refitting; it also flexed our muscles to the world. With all this big Naval news, Valvo was surprised when he was given orders to report to the commanding officer USS New Jersey (BB-62) from the Columbus. He had to take a troop carrier from Europe to the Brooklyn Naval yards to meet his new ship, the refitted USS New Jersey, the navy's most powerful battleship.
With the ship's name came all the history and glitter. The New Jersey finally got back in harm's way with Admiral Sherman. She along with cruisers and destroyers became outer protection for the carriers based off the Korean shores.
Since Admiral Sherman wanted to show off this fleet, he brought in all his class vessels into Wonsan harbor feeling safe with all his fire power. The admiral stood proud until those trophies he had sailed into the harbor were worth the risk that the Koreans took by trying to shell his fleet from artillery guns hidden inside tunnels. The guns were wheeled out to open fire on the fleet. Some of the smaller ships took some shrapnel fire and the bigger ones surrounded the carriers and sailed out of Wonsan Harbor. Valvo remembered that day and recalled seeing the USS Manchester being hit and losing 13 sailors. Shrapnel was flying all over the harbor and it ended up killing one sailor from the USS New Jersey.
When the Korean War ended and Valvo's naval obligation was finished, he returned home to continue his life in the education field.
Now he spends much of his time in Florida. He still holds membership in the First and Fourth Ward Falcon Clubs, the Dunkirk American Legion Post 62, the Dunkirk Lakeside Club and the Exempt Firemen Club.
This is another story that needed to be told from a veteran who signed the paper at 16, wanting to serve his country and with the roll of the dice get to see the world.
A tour in the Navy that people today would pay thousands to witness. Being at a different port every week, at just 17 years old, and serving aboard an American fighting ship that at any time could be called away and within hours possibly exchanging rounds with another Navy.
Mike Valvo can go back to any of his ports any time he wants to, he just has to take time and go back.
I was honored to have him take me to a few ports and relive that time and date in a time in history when I wasn't even born yet. I can remember in the mid 1950s when the Navy actually had ships in the water off Dunkirk harbor to be put on display. It was so exciting to go out and tour those ships.
Somewhere there is a sailor telling his grandchildren of the time he was in the Navy and his ship was on a Lake Erie cruise and a good-will tour and made a stop in a place called Dunkirk. Mike Valvo, thank you for serving. You are our Hero of the Week.