A World War II Iron Soldier’s Tale
by U.S. Army Pfc. Matthew Marcellus
July 9, 2020
As duty and heroics fade to memory and become legend, it’s
crucial to reflect upon the stories of the Soldiers of the past and
the legacy they’ve built for today.
For Sal Rauseo, the son
of Michael Rauseo, a 1st Armored Division Soldier and heavy truck
driver who served during World War II and whose hometown was
Everett, Massachusetts, this legacy is an enduring testament to his
father’s character and service.
Mike Rauseo, a heavy truck driver and Soldier with the 1st Armored Division who served from 1942 through 1946 aims a weapon for a photo opportunity during World War II. Rauseo served with 1AD in Tunisia and Italy, distinguishing himself as a Soldier-athlete who would compete and coach numerous 1AD affiliated sports teams.
(Courtesy photo by Sal Rauseo)
Mike’s experiences growing up in the 1920s and 1930s as the son
of Italian immigrants in New England shaped his character and pride
in serving with the Army and 1AD during World War II.
grew up during the Depression and like a lot of teenage boys, he
went off to work at these camps where the money would be sent back
to the family to help support them," said Sal. “When they got out of
those is when they joined the Army; being 21 or 22, that’s what they
felt was their obligation.”
Although Mike was the son of two
Italian immigrants, his pride in his American heritage always came
first throughout his life.
“For him and his generation, they
were Americans,” said Sal. “Even when he had to go to Italy to
fight, where we had a lot of relatives which he visited after the
campaign, he was very proud. He thought of it as part of his
Further serving as part of 1AD operations
in Tunisia as well as Italy and the battle of Monte Cassino,
although he rarely spoke about the details of combat, Mike’s
experiences as a Soldier went far beyond the battleground. He was
also a highly decorated boxer during the war, coaching the 1AD
boxing team as well as competing and winning numerous championships.
“An article says that his entrance into the spotlight was in
1943 when he won the African middleweight campaign,” Sal recounted.
“He took to the ring again and duplicated his previous feat for the
Italian middleweight campaign.”
Mike’s boxing prowess
transcended Army athletics, as his skill and prowess were noted by
the top boxers of the era.
“There was a light heavyweight
champion at the time named Billy Conn who stepped up to face Joe
Louis for the World Heavyweight Championship in the early 1940s,”
said Sal. “In between then and 1946, Billy Conn threw a tour of the
battlegrounds where he met my father and asked him to join him on
the tour after the war as a sparring partner. My father turned him
On top of winning multiple boxing championships during
the war, Rauseo excelled across 1AD sports and athletics, earning
recognition and even participating as the quarterback in the Army
all-star football game at Olympic Stadium, Berlin, Nov. 16, 1945.
The stadium is notable as being the same in which Jesse Owens, an
African-American, dominated track and field events during the 1936
Olympics, held during solidification of the Nazi regime in Germany.
“There's one article that says that during the previous
gridiron season, he entered the limelight with a consistent
60-minute performance,” said Sal. “he also starred on the 1st
Armored Division baseball and softball team.”
pursued athletics following his honorable discharge from the Army in
1946, before injuries caught up with him.
“He played football
for a year, but he had some injuries, so he stopped doing that,”
said Sal. “He sparred a couple of boxing exhibitions, but after that
he didn’t really go back into sports.”
Mike would focus his
energy and dedication on becoming a firefighter in 1956 and
continuing to raise his family and being an integral part of his
“He was very, very proud of being a firefighter,”
said Sal. “But he never really got back into sports, he was too busy
working and raising a family.”
Mike passed away in 1980, he left a significant 1AD heirloom to Sal,
an engraved signet ring emblazoned with American eagles and
displaying the division’s distinctive unit insignia flanked by
commemorations of the division’s Africa and Italy campaigns during
World War II on its face.
“He kept the ring his whole life, it meant a whole lot to him,”
said Sal. “The ring was always kept in a box and always taken care
of, and that’s why I’ve kept it and why I hope that my kids will
Heirlooms such as the signet ring are a physical reminder of the
heroics, struggles and successes of Iron Soldiers during World War
II, ensuring that their sacrifices and unquestionable bravery will
not be lost over time.
As 1AD continues to evolve and press forward to tackle new
threats and dangers, it remains imperative to remember the legacy
and stories of Iron Soldiers of the past. Their stories become
legends which define the character of the division, reinforcing a
history that inspires awe and pride across 1AD.
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