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The Suburbanite
  • World War II: Then and Now: Hearing the roar

  • Music almost made Adone “Cal” Calderone of Jackson Township a victim of the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

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  • Music almost made Adone “Cal” Calderone of Jackson Township a victim of the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.
    Calderone was a musician in a ship’s band assigned to the U.S.S. West Virginia, a battleship tied up to the U.S.S. Tennessee on Dec. 6, 1941, just hours before the day that would “live in infamy.”
    “Each ship had a band and they had a battle of the bands for the Pacific fleet, but we couldn’t participate because we had guard duty,” said Calderone, a tuba and string bass player who nevertheless got permission to play as a substitute for the Tennessee’s band.
    “The band from the Arizona also competed,” said Calderone, who had attended the U.S. Navy School of Music with many of the other music-minded sailors on the ships at Pearl Harbor. “The band master for the Arizona was a good friend. He said, ‘Cal, why don’t you come over to the Arizona and spend the night and in the morning we’ll have  breakfast together.’ I said I couldn’t. ... My plan was to get up on Dec. 7 and go to the Oklahoma to go to church with my friend Sam Biviano.”
    Calderone returned to his ship the night of Dec. 6. After arising at about 6 a.m. the morning of Dec. 7, Calderone decided to stay on the West Virginia instead of visiting the Oklahoma.
    The Japanese attacked shortly before 8 a.m.
    “If I’d gone to the Arizona, I’d be dead. ... Nobody from the Arizona’s band survived. They were all killed in the attack, and I would have been with them,” said Calderone. “If I’d gone to the Oklahoma, I probably would have been killed because that ship turned over. The good Lord helped me make the right decisions.”
    ABANDONED SHIP
    The West Virginia also was damaged in the attack, struck by torpedoes and bombs and left listing — leaning against the Tennessee.
    “I had gotten up, got cleaned up, and was talking to a couple of friends, then WHAM!” said Calderone, clapping his hands. Assigned to damage control as well as a occupying his seat in the band, “we got hit by two torpedoes before I got to my battle station.
    “The third torpedo blew the area I was in up, and that’s when I got hit by some shrapnel,” said Calderone, touching the side of his head. A guy next to me said, ‘Hey Cal, you’re bleeding.’ I didn’t even know.”
    After treatment, Calderone returned to his post. “I was in damage control and we were getting damaged,” he said, matter-of-factly. The order to abandon the West Virginia came during the second wave of the attack, he said.
    Page 2 of 2 - “The planes were strafing. I looked across the water and jumped in,” said Calderone, who said he was thrown a line by a small boat and towed to the oil dock. “It took all my strength to go up the ladder.”
    After he was rescued, an officer looked at his bandage and said, “well, son, you’ve got yourself a Purple Heart,” but Calderone smiled when he said he never saw it. Never felt he deserved it, he said. The men who deserved medals did not survive the attack on Pearl Harbor, he explained.
    During much of the rest of the war — both aboard other ships and stationed ashore — Calderone continued to play in military bands, directing his final musical unit.
    Sometimes, however, he helped to decode enemy messages. It was a job frequently assigned to musicians, he said, because of their ability to think about many things at once during a performance.
    BACK HOME
    With Calderone back in the United States on leave, he and his wife, Carrie, got married on March 17, 1945. After he was discharged in 1946, they raised two sons, Ron Calderone of Arizona and Greg Calderone of Jackson Township.
    While Calderone’s work was insurance and investments, his passion remained music. He was executive director of the W.D. Packard Concert Band in Warren, a band he helped start in the 1950s.
    His time is spent listening to music now, instead of playing it. The notes still are pleasant to the ears — far different from the sounds he recalls hearing during the attack on Pearl Harbor.
    “I remember the noise. It was just a roar. And everybody was shooting at you. That’s the feeling I had — that everybody was shooting at me. You know what it’s like during the finale of fireworks. Well, let that go on for two hours.”