FOR WWII VET, IT WAS ALL IN A LIFE’S WORK
Charles Monaco is a big fan of General George S. Patton. He’s reread his three books about the man at least four times apiece.
But this Colonia, New Jersey resident isn’t only a WWII history aficionado. He is 87 years old, and one of the few alive who served under and knew the famous General personally. And Patton’s boisterous, eccentric reputation is nothing but truth.
“He was a character,” Monaco proclaimed. “He was always getting into trouble, always making his superiors look stupid.”
Charlie was drafted in 1944. He trained for 17 weeks in South Carolina before being shipped overseas, first to England, where he joined Patton’s Third Army, 90th Infantry Division. Monaco’s chief reaction to being drafted was patriotic acceptance.
“You had no choice,” he simply said. “We just went. It was my duty to my country.”
From England, Charles moved over the course of his time in the war to France, Germany, and finally Czechoslovakia. He recalls having served as a replacement in France and made several river crossings, including the Moselle, which was a notably slow, arduous experience involving rafts.
Once his division had reached the German fortress city of Metz, Monaco’s proudest moment in the war was achieved.
“There was a big banner hanging across the street,” he remembered, “and it said that there the German Panzer division had hereby surrendered to us, the 90th Infantry Division of the Third Army under General Patton.”
The great General was always one to praise his troops for a job well done, but Monaco had not heard it so lavishly until that victorious day in Metz. It was a major highlight in the life of a man who had seen other difficult times back home while living through the Great Depression.
Monaco displays his three favorite books on the great General.
Born August 28, 1922 into an Italian family of Newark, NJ, Charlie grew up with three siblings. During the Depression years, life in America was an entirely
separate world from today.
“You just had nothing,” Charlie said, adding that the youth at that time were much more disciplined, rarely arguing against their parents.
“Our parents would say, ‘We’re having hamburgers tonight. You don’t like it? That’s okay. Put it in the ice box, and maybe you’ll want it tomorrow!’”
Cooking three or four individual meals to accommodate everyone, while commonplace in the modern world, was unheard of. For having so very little, though, nobody complained.
Before and after joining the Army, Monaco lived in a total of three New Jersey cities and worked at least six different types of jobs throughout his life.
Charles once worked as a gas station attendant in his then-home of Irvington, New Jersey for the original Mr. Getty, who was, in Monaco’s words, “one of the richest men in the world, and one of the cheapest.”
The original Getty.
When it came time to leave Czechoslovakia in 1946 and return to his previous existence in the States which he’d left behind for two years, Monaco was a Private First Class. Discharged from Fort Dix, he was not actually as delighted to have left the Army as might be expected.
“It felt all right to be coming home,” he said. “But later I wished I’d stayed in the Army for much longer, thirty years or more. If you do it for that long, they’ll take care of you forever.”
Thankfully, he was never wounded, but for his fighting Charlie accumulated a number of awards to take home with him: three battle stars, a good conduct medal, a Bronze Star, WWII Victory Medal, and a Combat Infantryman’s Badge.
Plaque received from James E. McGreevey, Mayor of the Township of Woodbridge, on August 20, 1998.
To this day Charles is recounting to friends and family his memories of the 30s and 40s. Following a successful bypass surgery a few years ago, he’s in excellent shape and very much loving life.
“My doctors told me that between the two of them, they’re going to keep me around for at least another fifteen years,” he said with a smile.
Odds are, he’s going to get around to reading those books of his many more times.
Returned envelope from the XII Corps Historian in Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Monaco tried to reserve his $5 volume of The Official History of the XII U.S. Army Corps, “Spearhead of Patton’s Third Army” in 1998, and has never been able to figure out why his request failed.
Charlie and his late wife never had children of their own—human children, that is. But his beloved Standard Poodle, Kissee, beautifully fulfilled a daughter-like role in his life for most of the nearly 17 years of her own. Her ashes rest atop an antique television set in Charlie’s cozy, heavily Poodle-decorated home. Here she is photographed as a pup with her Halloween ribbons on October 22, 1987.
Charlie and friends in 1967, advertising a game called Flying Aces: “Win up to $2,500 free!”