James Rizzo grew up near the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Maybe that had nothing to do with his wartime fate, but when he was drafted into the military in 1942, at age 20, he landed in the army.
After basic training at Camp Crowder in Neosho, Missouri, Jimmy Rizzo and a band of wilderness-savy Louisiana boys were assigned to the Fifth Army’s 96th Infantry Division.
In 1943 the men boarded a Liberty ship for Algeria and there were transferred to the British transports Banfour and Oriana, referred to by some as “coffin corners” due to their vulnerability to enemy planes. The nickname proved darkly appropriate when a German bomb sank the Oriana in the Mediterranean. Rizzo, luckily, was on the Banfour, which was spared.
After further travels, the boys of the 96th finally arrived at their post along the Burma Road. They reported to General Joseph Stillwell to serve alongside Chinese and Burmese soldiers. Rizzo worked as a warehouseman with the special operations group known as Merrill’s Marauders. His duty was retrieving supplies and packages by airdrop from dangerous jungles and terrains, ensuring these supplies arrived at their military and medical destinations on time and intact. His main job was to fix electrical equipment and deliver generators and other supplies. The job was a dangerous one, and during his time in Burma he faced two near-death situations.
Having been promoted from Private to Corporal and then to Sergeant, he was awarded the African and Burma Stars. For his service and sacrifice, our nation will always be indebted to Sergeant Rizzo, and his bravery and selflessness then and now continues to inspire us all.
In October of 2018, Congressman Lee Zeldin (R, NY-1) presented 96-year-old World War II Veteran Sergeant James Rizzo with a tribute the Congressman entered into the Congressional Record to honor his service and sacrifice. The ceremony took place at The Arbors Assisted Living in Islandia where Sergeant Rizzo currently resides