December 7, 1941. For some people, it is just a date in history. For Benjamin Vinci of Port Chester, New York, it was the date that his life changed forever.

Drafted in March 1941, 22-year-old Vinci successfully completed basic training within a few weeks at Fort Eustis in Virginia. He was sent to Pearl Harbor right after basic training ended, and just short months before the attack. Vinci was a Private First Class with the Company "G" 97th Coast Artillery stationed in Fort Weaver, Hawaii, on the eastern side of Oahu Island. He had spent a lot of his time boxing while he was stationed in the Schoffield Barracks. Pvt. Vinci was noticeably proud of his boxing prowess when he said, "I had a wicked left jab and a mean looping right cross…"

He was only days away from receiving a promotion up to a Sergeant rank when the Japanese planes plunged through the skies above, with their bullets ripping through the troops on the ground. Ben Vinci had once told a local newspaper, "We were just having chow [breakfast] -and I had four eggs in front of me- sunny side up, when the Japs flew over and bombed the Arizona a half mile away in Pearl Harbor." The troops were ordered to leave the mess hall and return to their posts. Vinci immediately obeyed the orders. While running back to his post, the young soldier was struck in the right side by a bullet from the Japanese warplane flying above him. Vinci didn't even realize he had been shot until he reached his post. By then, his emotions were running rampant. Fear, anger, and confusion ran through his body. Despite his injuries, he continued to shoot at the enemy. He said, "It gets you so mad to have someone come shooting at you like that…You just feel like you want to get them, too---So, I just took up my gun and started shooting [back] at them."

After the attack was over, Vinci was transported by ambulance and forced to stay the night in a field hospital with other wounded soldiers. He recalled the sounds of soldiers "in pain…crying and groaning."

On December 11, 1941 at 1:07am, back in Port Chester, New York, Vinci's parents received a Western Union Telegram." It read:
The Secretary of War desires me to express his deep regret that your son, Private First Class Benjamin Vinci was wounded in action in defense of his country in Hawaii-Dec 7th.

The family immediately tried to find out more information on the whereabouts of their son, but their wires to the War Department were never answered.
Back in Hawaii, Vinci had been taken to a hospital in Honolulu and then transported to his final destination on the road to recovery, Fitzsimmons General Hospital in Denver, Colorado. Doctors at Fitzsimmons performed the surgery to remove the bullet, however, they were unable to get it out. The bullet remains lodged in his body to this very day.

Vinci was allowed to return to active duty in June 1942. Shortly thereafter, on Monday, July 26, 1942, Vinci returned to Fitzsimmons General Hospital. Not as a patient, but this time…as a Hero. At just 22-years-old, Private First Class Benjamin Vinci was being presented with the distinguished Order of the Purple Heart. Brig. Gen. Omar H. Quade pinned the medal on the soldier' s chest citing that he was receiving the medal for being wounded "while performing meritorious acts of essential service." Vinci's Purple Heart stands for his bravery and courage on the battlefield. It serves as a continuous reminder of the Bombing at Pearl Harbor. A constant reminder that over twenty three hundred lives were lost on December 7, 1941 and he was one of the "lucky ones" who got wounded, yet still lived to tell the story. So many others were not as fortunate as he.

December 7, 1941 isn't just a date in U.S. History or World History. It's a date that jolted the lives of many American families. A date that will forever be remembered as the historic attack on Pearl Harbor that resulted in the death of so many sons, fathers, husbands and brothers. Let us take a moment from each day to show our appreciation to those who so valiantly served our country, and to honor both those who were lost as well as those who remain.

On July 27th, 2001, the following was read to the United States Senate Honoring Benjamin Vinci

HONORING BENJAMIN VINCI -- (Senate - July 27, 2001)
[Page: S8343] GPO's PDF

Mr. SCHUMER. Madam President, Senator Clinton and I rise today to recognize and honor the service of Benjamin Vinci of Port Chester, New York--a true American hero.

In 1941, at the age of 21, Benjamin Vinci left home to serve in the U.S. Army, and by December of that year, was stationed in Hawaii with the 97th Army Coast Artillery Guard. Like so many there on the morning of December 7, 1941, Benjamin Vinci was going about his daily business. He had just completed all night guard duty and was eating breakfast when the whole base erupted in smoke and fire as Japanese war plans attacked Pearl Harbor and the surrounding area.
As bombers strafed the mess tent, a 50-caliber bullet hit Private Vinci in the back. But ignoring his wound, Benjamin Vinci reached an anti-aircraft emplacement and began to fight back. He stepped down only when he was ordered to find an ambulance and tend to his wound.

Along the way, instead of seeking cover, Benjamin Vinci ran down to the beach and rescued a man who had been shot through the legs. Helping the other soldier into a motorboat, he navigated through a hail of bombs and ammunition to the other side of the bay where he finally boarded an ambulance. But on the way to the hospital at Hickham field, planes targeted the ambulance and Benjamin Vinci was wounded again--this time a 50-caliber bullet coming to rest near his heart.
Mrs. CLINTON. In the aftermath of the attack, doctors believed Private Vinci's wounds were fatal, but he persevered. He received the Purple Heart and eventually was transferred to a hospital in Colorado, where doctors were able to remove one of the two bullets that had almost taken his life, but not both. He continues to carry with him the second bullet, which has never been able to be removed.

Disabled from his wounds, Benjamin Vinci returned to Port Chester after being discharged from the Army and resumed life as a civilian. For many years, Mr. Vinci worked as a vacuum cleaner salesman in Westchester County. He married Rose Civitella in 1945, and together they raised four children: Peter, Burnadette, JoAnn, and Joseph.

We honor and thank Benjamin Vinci for his tremendous sacrifice, vital contribution, and gallant service to our Nation. His acts of bravery are an exceptional example of the fortitude, determination, and strength of the American spirit. As Mr. Vinci carries the burden of his wounds and the bullet he received on that December morning of infamy, so too must we carry the memory of his heroic deeds, remembering and honoring all the men and women of that great generation--those veterans of World War II who saved our Nation, and the world.


On February 13th 2002, the Vinci family is very saddened that Benjamin Vinci, a father, grand father, hero, and friend had passed away. If you would like to email the Vinci Family please Click Here


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