WW2 vet Vito Pisano was taught by parents work hard to succeed—he did and he is


Vito Pisano was grand marshall in the 2016 Pelham Memorial Day parade.

At age 17, Vito “Ace” Pisano graduated from Bronx Vocational School and started working in the Brooklyn Navy Yard as an apprentice steamfitter. It was the beginning of World War II. He put in long, tough hours.

“I was working maybe 80 hours a week, and that is something I will never forget…this was no life for me,” said Pisano, a resident of Pelham Manor since 1947.

Pisano received a draft notice every four months, and he would give it to his supervisor, who would notify the draft board that Pisano was doing defense-related work. Pisano would get a deferment. When Pisano received his sixth notice, he held onto the card until it expired, meaning it was too late to get another deferment and Pisano could leave the job at the Navy Yard for military service.

On Jan. 16, 1943, Pisano was drafted and sent to Fort Dix, N.J., for basic training.

Pisano’s mother now had five stars in her window for her five sons serving in the armed forces, a rarity considering most families on their block had one, maybe two stars. Now 98 years old, Pisano, the fourth of six sons and one daughter, was born Feb. 1, 1923, in the Bronx,. From a very young age, his parents instilled the value of working hard to succeed. He carried that message into every job he worked.

As a boy, Pisano said, it was tough for his family to get by during the Great Depression. His father and mother made a combined five dollars weekly. Pisano and his siblings would work odd jobs when they were not in school to help support the family

A duck boat (DUKW) like that Vito Pisano piloted during World War 2. The National Archives photo does not provide a location or date for this vehicle. (U.S. National Archives)

After boot camp at Fort Dix, the military sent Pisano to Kansas City, Mo., to study radio, and then to Camp Murphy in Florida to learn about radar. After radar school, he was sent to San Antonio, where he waited to be assigned an outfit. While waiting, he took the pilot test and passed. But Pisano ended up volunteering to be a duck boat driver and spent 53 days sailing to an unknown destination in the Pacific Theater.

Pisano arrived in Saipan, an island in the Northern Mariana Islands, in 1945. He worked driving his duck boat. Japanese fighter bombers attacked the airstrip several times a week. Pisano mastered the skill of timing when the waves would break so his boat wouldn’t capsize, was promoted to staff sergeant and seven months later shipped out again for another unknown destination.

It was Iwo Jima, and the troops were welcomed by Japanese bombing the island. Pisano was assigned to be a stretcher-bearer if his ship was hit.

As the war was coming to an end, Pisano’s ship was sent back to the U.S., so he was assigned to an outfit on land and became a cook. Three months later, Pasino was notified his mother was sick, and he traveled home, arriving on Dec. 9, 1945; his mother passed three days later.

After coming back to the Bronx, Pisano worked as an electrician. In 1947, Pisano met his wife future, Mary Pellino, and in May 1948, they were married. Mary’s parents bought them a house in Pelham Manor as a wedding present. He continued to do electrical work in Westchester County. His sons Robert and Anthony attended Siwanoy School and graduated from Pelham Memorial High School.

Mary Pisano passed away on March 26, 2019.

Now, the 98 year old spends his time gardening, planting tomatoes, cucumbers, perennials and fig trees. He’s a senior member of Pelham Post 50 of the American Legion, been honored in the Pelham Memorial Day parade and was celebrated this season on the big screen at Yankee Stadium.

“The reason I think I am alive at this age is that I started work very young,” he said. “My advice to people is to work hard and not to just lazy around. I work very hard. I have worked since I was twelve years old.”