By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Eric Dietrich, Expeditionary Combat Camera Reserve
BARRE, Mass. (NNS) -- Family, friends and well-wishers gathered in Barre, Massachusetts, on May 23 for a ceremony to dedicate a bridge in memory of a World War II veteran.
The bridge, which crosses the Ware River, was officially named the Seaman 2nd Class Basil D. Izzi Memorial Bridge during the ceremony in his hometown.
Izzi, a U.S. Navy Reserve Sailor, survived for 83 days on a raft during the war with two Dutch sailors after the merchant ship he was guarding was torpedoed by a German submarine several hundred miles off the coast of South America.
Several Massachusetts state senators, including Sen. Anne Gobi and retired Sen. Stephen Brewer, a resident of Barre who also co-sponsored of the bridge-naming bill, were also in attendance for the ceremony.
"Those of us who knew Basil Izzi knew a quiet man with a huge amount of kindness," said Brewer, quoting Barre Gazette journalist Lester Paquin. "He exemplified the 36 million Americans who went off to World War II."
Family members of Izzi officially dedicated the bridge by tossing a wreath into the waters below, "In honor of all who have gone down in ships," as stated on the memorial placard. Immediately following the ceremony, workers erected signs bearing the bridge's new name on both ends of the structure.
"Basil is remembered in many relationships: Dutiful son, big brother, generous uncle, favorite cousin, loving godfather, best man and trusted confidant," said Kenneth Izzi, Basil's brother. "Basil is gone now, but the memories, like this very bridge, are strong and everlasting."
Izzi was part of an armed guard compliment aboard the Dutch merchant ship SS Zaandam headed for New York from South Africa when it was sunk by the German submarine U-174 in the South Atlantic Ocean on Nov. 2, 1942.
After the ship sunk, he was picked up by a raft carrying four other survivors; including Ensign James Maddox, Izzi's gunnery officer, fellow American Sailor Seaman 2nd Class George Beazley, and Dutch sailors Cornelius van der Slot and Nicko Hoogendam.
The men survived for months by eating fish, capturing seabirds and drinking rainwater; however, on the 66th and 77th day Beazley and Maddox passed away, respectively.
On Jan. 24, 1943, the remaining three survivors were rescued by a U.S. Navy patrol boat off the coast of Brazil.
Following the recovery, Izzi toured war plants across the country speaking about his ordeal.