ST. LOUIS ( -- The Hill neighborhood in south St. Louis City had a significant number of men serve in World War II. One of those men survived one of the worst battles of the war. 

In late 1942, at the age of 20, John Pozzo enlisted in the U.S. Navy.

"I didn't want to join the army and sleep in a fox hole, if I join the Navy, I'll have a place to sleep," Pozzo said.

As a ship fitter 1st class, one of his main responsibilities during World War II was helping transfer fuel from one ship to another at sea.

"We supplied oil to the ships as they went for invasions. We refueled made sure they had enough fuel to get back,” Pozzo said. "It was rough, took us 24 hours sometimes to unload, we would work continuously for 18 hours."

While serving in the South Pacific, Pozzo found himself in the middle of one of the most brutal battles of the war.

"One of the incidents in Guadalcanal, 120 Japanese planes attacked us,” Pozzo said. “My battle station was on the top deck, evidence Japanese planes just falling all over, the pilots were visible because they came so close, fortunately they didn't strafe the ship."

During his three and a half years of service, Pozzo started making tiny replicas of U.S. ships. All made by hand, down to every little detail. 

"The captain wanted to buy it, said no, not selling. He said, ‘Pozzo you can make another one.’ I said ‘no sir, I am taking that home.’"

And while it will always be tough to talk about his memories of the war and the losses he experienced, Pozzo also wants to recognize his life-changing service to our country.

“I'm proud to serve, my wife's buried in Jefferson Barracks," Pozzo said.

Pozzo and his wife Clara raised two sons, one of whom escorted him on an Honor Flight to Washington D.C..

"I loved it,” Pozzo said. “[I] wish I could go again."

"I can't believe the personnel they have honoring us veterans," Pozzo said. "I got an envelope with mail from friends and neighbors, letters from grand kids, just makes you want to shake and cry."

While he truly appreciates such recognition, Pozzo also worries about the long-term honoring of  veterans.

That's one reason he compiled a lot of what's on his table into a book.

“I just want my grand kids to remember that I served,” Pozzo said. “So many kids today don't even realize there was a World War II."

So at the age of 97, Pozzo is still on a mission to share his story and the stories of those who bravely served alongside him in World War II.

"My story isn't as rough as other guys who aren't here to tell it,” Pozzo said. “I feel guilty and humble to be here telling you my side.”

Copyright 2019 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved

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