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August 9, 2013

A WWII Veteran Brings the LT-5 Tugboat to Life

World War II Veteran Joe Murabito with his LT-5 Tugboat picture and 155th Infantry Army uniform. Badges on his uniform include his combat infantry badge, year of service, pacific badge, badge rank and his discharge badge. "I am no hero, just one of the many that were there," said Murabito.

OSWEGO - The LT-5 tugboat, docked at the H. Lee White Marine Museum in Oswego, is a National Historic Landmark because of its brave acts during World War II. The tugboat was built in 1943 and is one of the last remaining operational US Army Transport vessels of its type left from the war. The tugboat tells a story that no one else can tell but one man. A story that this man lived as he too faced brave acts of his own, making the LT-5 not only a tour but an experience of a lifetime.

Joe Murabito, age 93, is one of a kind. He has been volunteering at the marine museum for over three years and specifically focuses on the LT-5 tugboat. Mercedes Niess, the museum's executive director, explains that his tours are very popular and the museum frequently receives cards from visitors in the mail regarding Murabito's amazing real-life stories and knowledge.

"Joe is a special and very dedicated volunteer. We are honored to have him here. His tours are becoming legend," said Niess. "Just last week we had a lady from New Zealand stop down to see him!"

The museum is celebrating Joe Murabito and other WWII veterans on Sunday, August 25 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. where there will be free tours for all veterans. This event is to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the LT-5 as well as all of the WWII veterans who served.

Murabito was born in Oswego in August of 1920 and lived all of his life here. He worked at Fort Ontario growing up and was drafted into the service in 1942 at age 21. He spent three years in the Army, 155th Infantry as a scout, and was discharged in 1945 because of tropical diseases contracted in the swamps of New Guinea, Buna, Morotai and the Phillipines. Murabito was a part of three invasions and knows from his experience in the islands how important the LT-5 tugboat truly was to Normandy.

During the D-Day invasion in June of 1944, the LT-5 ferried supplies to the landing beaches of Normandy. Its gun crew shot down a German fighter aircraft June 9, 1944.

"The LT-5 tugboat was essential for us all. It would drop off cargo and equipment for us and go back to reload and start over. Back and forth and back and forth," said Joe Murabito.

After his time in the Army, Murabito married his wife Lena (Quattrini) whom he met while working at the fort and they had three children, John, David and Judi (Kenific). He then worked from 1946 to 1985 as a carpenter and retired as a carpenters' general foreman for Stone and Webster Engineering. During his retirement Joe then volunteered for 17 years delivering mail for the Oswego Hospital, a position he loved. Later, he volunteered part-time for the O'Mara Welcome Center and through the RSVP program he soon became more familiar with the marine museum. He began tours in 2010 which was the first time he could bring his past to life again.

"People should get to know what the LT-5 did, if you lose that, you lose history. It's like a man coming back from the war, you don't ignore him. He (LT-5) is the only one left," said Murabito.

Currently, Joe works at the marine museum once a week, usually on Thursdays. He gives a unique tour as he puts visitors in the crew's position so that everything comes to life.

"I emphasize what it had to feel like for the captain and the crew on the LT-5. Going into France you can't even imagine the feeling, your enemies were overhead and you can't swim because of all the equipment on. When I tour through, I don't just start with the whole thing but focus on each part and its significance. Like the bow shape, the pilot house, the crew quarters and the engine room," said Murabito.

Look for Murabito this summer on the west pier as he guides visitors on a tour of the LT-5 tugboat and brings history back to life.

"I love my job at the museum," said Murabito. "And I have Mercedes, the director, who supports my volunteering here, it's the only thing left for me, she's got faith and knows how to run a good ship."

Located in Oswego's Historic Maritime District on the West Pier, the marine museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

WWII Veterans who would like to participate in the recognition ceremony should contact the marine museum at 315-342-0480 or email info@hleewhitemuseum.com. For more information on the LT-5 as well as the Celebrating Our WWII Heroes event, visit: hleewhitemarinemuseum.com .

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