Editor's Note: The following article appeared in the "Delaware County
Sunday Times" on November 12, 2000. It was written by John M. Roman, of the
Times staff. We thought everyone should share this story.
RIDLEY PARK - Retired Master Sgt. Lewis D Ambrosia, a veteran of World War II
and Korea, has always been grateful he and his six brothers didn't suffer the
fate of the five Sullivan brothers.
The Sullivans of Waterloo, Iowa, were among 500 sailors who lost their
lives while serving aboard the USS Juneau Nov. 13, 1941, after a Japanese
The Sullivans, angry about the attack on Pearl Harbor and the death of a
friend, had managed to argue their way past Navy regulations that prohibited
members of the same family from serving together. Their deaths shocked the
The seven D'Ambrosia brothers, the sons of the late Octavio and Elvera
D'Ambrosia of West Philadelphia, all joined the 111th Bomb Group of the
Pennsylvania National Guard in Philadelphia when the Korean War broke out.
Five of the brothers had served during World War II - Claude, Cleo,
Thomas, Idillio, and Lewis.
The seven men, ranging in age from 22 to 35, enlisted after the Bomb
Group was activated in April 1951 by the federal government for overseas duty.
"We were all proud of what we did -- I'm glad I served," said Lewis, 81,
the fourth-oldest brother, of Acres Drive, who is a retired Ridley School
District Maintenance worker. "All my brothers felt the same say ... my whole
family," he said.
Cleo Michael, Daniel, Claude and Justin are deceased.
Lewis has two other brothers who live in Delaware County, Thomas, 80, of
Havertown, and Idillio "Willie", 74, of Upper Darby.
All seven D'Ambrosia brothers had aviation in their blood, Lewis recalled
-- even though only two, Daniel and Thomas -- were licensed pilots. The other brothers centered their interests on aviation engines and mechanics, previously being experienced auto mechanics. His youngest brother, Cleo Michael, was interested in aviation from his model plane building days.
Claude developed his interest in aviation during World War II when he was
assigned to a helicopter squadron before going overseas. In Texas, he met
Major Sandusky and Igor Sikorsky, pioneers in helicopter development, and
worked on the hovering aircraft and next on planes.
Lewis said his brothers, Thomas and Claude, both served in the Vietnam
Idillio saw combat in France during World War II with Gen. George
Patton's Third Army from 1943 to 1945.
Thomas served in the Pacific under Gen. Curtis LeMay of the 20th Air
Force from 1942 to 1946.
Lewis served in England with the Eighth Air Force from 1942 to 1945.
"When I was only 15, I enlisted in 1940 with the Pennsylvania Army
National Guard at the Broad and Diamond Streets armory near Temple
University," Lewis said. After serving six months, Lewis said his mother
found out he was going overseas with the 108th Artillery and notified his
commander, who canceled him out.
He was finally able to join the Eighth Army Air Force at age 18 under Lt.
Gen. James H. Doolittle, who later became a national hero when he led the
first World War II bombing raid on Japan in 1942.
Lewis was stationed near London as an aircraft flight engineer, repairing
all kinds of damage to aircraft from engines to fuselage on B-17s, B-25s,
B-29s, and the B-26 Invader, all propeller driven.
With the 457th Bomber Group, 94th Wing, "we supported the Normandy
Invasion," he recalled.
"We worked 18-20 hours a day, trying to get them back in shape for the
next mission (to Europe)," he said.
When he was discharged in 1945, he was awarded the American Campaign
Medal and World War II Victory Medal. In 1946, he enlisted in the Army Air
Force, serving in the Aleutian Islands and Alaska with the 20th Air Force for
two years. He was among the crew that built the northernmost airstrip in
Greenland. He was also stationed in Iceland.
A veteran of the Korean War, Lewis spent 14 months at an air base about
30 miles south of the 38th Parallel, the demilitarized zone, with the Fourth
Fighter Wing, providing technical support.
Lewis rejoined the Air National Guard 111th Bomb Group at the
Philadelphia International Airport, serving 26 years before ending his
service with the rank of Master Sergeant in 1979.
Recently, Lewis was honored at the Herbert W. Best Veterans of Foreign
Wars Post 928 in Folsom, where he and his brothers memory were given a
Aviation still remains in the D'Dmbrosia family's blood.