It was my honor to award a special tribute during session on September 17— Constitution Day— to James Palermo, a World War II veteran who served in the Pacific theater of combat. Many of Mr. Palermo’s family watched from the Senate gallery as he was recognized on the Senate floor for his sacrifices to our nation.
Palermo registered for the draft on his 18th birthday, January 18, 1944. He was sworn in to active duty on April 5, 1944 at the Federal Building in Detroit and was soon assigned to the USS Thorn, a Navy Destroyer.
The decision Mr. Palermo made at the age of eighteen is a sacrifice that few of us will make in our entire lives. He chose to put others before himself and to help defend this country in a time of need. Mr. Palermo served in some of the largest battles in the Pacific and his dedication to his country in its time of need will not soon be forgotten.
The USS Thorn was involved in six planned land attacks where it shot down two enemy planes, sunk one enemy ship and one submarine. It was involved in the Battle of Surigao Strait in the Philippines, the last battleship-versus-battleship engagement in history, and survived three typhoons. The defeat of the Japanese at Surigao Strait played a significant role in winning the Battle of Leyte Gulf and in so doing, helped to secure the beachheads of the U.S. Sixth Army on Leyte against a Japanese attack from the sea. Overall, Mr. Palermo traveled more than 225,000 miles on the ship in the Pacific Ocean.
Following World War II, Mr. Palermo worked for Ford Motor Company until his retirement in 1986. He currently resides in Trenton, Michigan and winters in Naples, Fla. He has four children, nine grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
As we celebrated Constitution Day, we were able to recognize one of the members of our greatest generation who made great sacrifices so that all of us could continue to enjoy the freedoms he fought to protect. Mr. Palermo represents so many brave men and women who have answered the call to serve. Today’s tribute is but one small way to send them our thanks.