The Flasco brothers know the true meaning of Memorial Day in America.
Steve, 93, and Palmer, 91, are North High School graduates who served in World War II and witnessed friends die for their country.
On a morning earlier this spring, for the first time, the brothers spoke together publicly about the war and the toll it took on them — and on their American comrades.
Steve Flasco served in the 10th Armored Division in Europe as a welder from late summer of 1944 until the war ended in May 1945. His unit usually served well behind the lines, making repairs on equipment, but the war came to them often as well.
“One man was shot by a German plane,” said Steve, who worked in industrial sales after the war. “I saw a lot of dead people.”
Palmer Flasco served as an aviation mechanic in the Navy on the USS Wasp, an aircraft carrier, in the Pacific.
On March 19, 1945, a 500-pound bomb from a Japanese bomber landed on the ship, killing more than 100 sailors and wounding nearly 275, Palmer said.
He was 75 feet away from where the bomb landed and was supposed to be eating under the deck at the time, a location where many men died. He and three others worked to put out the fire, he said.
Nearly 70 years later, he hesitated several times when talking about what he witnessed because he was still overcome with emotion.
“I knew them,” he said of the casualties. “Those poor guys down there.”
He said he had bad dreams afterward and rarely has ever spoken of the experience.
Several months later — a day after the war was supposed to have ended — a Japanese Kamikaze pilot drove his plane toward the Wasp but crashed beside the ship.
A piece of the pilot’s map blew onto the deck. Palmer grabbed it and still keeps it at his North Akron home, a block away from Steve’s house.
Both Flasco brothers believe most people today have no concept of the sacrifice made by those who served in World War II and their families.
“You see those guys getting slaughtered,” said Palmer, who worked as a linotype operator for Firestone for more than three decades after the war.
Steve said he got out of the war without a scratch — except for a back injury when he fell off a truck — and attributed his relative safety to a “great amount of luck.”
“War is worse than the average civilian thinks,” said Steve, who with his wife, Lucy, has one daughter, three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. “It is ten times worse.”
The war came home in a real and chilling way to their North Akron community.
On the North High School alumni website — www.northhighviking.com/Killed-or-Died-While-Serving.htm — are the names of well over 100 men who were killed in war or died while serving. One name belongs to Steve Palmer’s classmate, Norman D. “Curly” Brueggeman, who was a member of North High’s 1939 state championship basketball team.
Brueggeman was a 23-year-old Marine second lieutenant when he was killed on Iwo Jima the first day of the invasion, Feb. 19, 1945.
Palmer — given the name because he was born on Palm Sunday in 1923 — and his wife, Olga, have two children, four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. He said that even though he lives just a short walk from his brother and they speak regularly, the two never talked about the war together until recently.
Talking about their war experiences helped, but it cannot erase the memories of what they saw and what they still think about.
“You can’t get it all out,” Palmer said. “I wouldn’t wish war on anyone.”