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The Boston Globe


The Podium

Cocoanut Grove fire — I was one of the lucky ones

It was the war that brought me to Boston on the day of the Cocoanut Grove fire, November 28, 1942. I had trained with the ROTC (Cavalry) at the University of Massachusetts from 1937 to 1941, and in the summer of 1939 had learned to fly in a government program designed to increase the number of officer candidates with flight experience. On that Saturday, I traveled from my home in Springfield to Boston’s main post office to take the final exam that would qualify me for naval aviation training.

I was to be sworn in the following Monday but never made it. Instead of flying planes off a carrier, my biggest contribution to the war effort would be as a patient receiving experimental surgical procedures developed by Dr. Varaztad Kazanjian, procedures that not only saved my life, but those of countless pilots and other victims of the war.

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