Salvadore S. Campagna (1945/02/18)

"Sam" Campagna was the county's first death in the Iwo Jima campaign.

Salvadore "Sam" Campagna was born in June 1926 at Geneva, New York, to Anthony and Betty Campagna. The Campagna family, which also included daughters Phyllis and Rosemarie, moved to San Jose, California, in the 1930s. Sam received his grammar school education in Santa Clara County. Anthony and Betty later divorced and Betty married a Watsonville man whose name was Arreg. Sam joined his mother, her new husband and his stepbrother Teddy in the Arreg home in the Pajaro Valley and attended Watsonville High School.

In June 1943, on his seventeenth birthday, Campagna enlisted in the US Navy and was sent to the US Naval Training Center in Farragut, Idaho for boot camp. After completing training as a fireman, he was assigned to a ship, believed to have been the destroyer USS Gamble, serving in the Pacific Theater. The Gamble was primarily used for placing explosive mines at sea and exploding those of the enemy.

In October 1944 the USS Gamble returned to California for repairs and Sam visited his family the last time.

“After overhaul and refresher training, Gamble departed San Diego 7 January 1945, en route via Hawaii and the Marshalls to Iwo Jima where she arrived 17 February, to lend fire support to the various sweeping units, and to explode floating mines. During her shelling, a direct hit on an ammunition dump exploded the enemy magazine like a giant firecracker at the foot of Mt. Surabachi. On 18 February 1945 Gamble was hit just above the waterline by two 250-pound (110-kg) bombs. Both fire rooms immediately flooded and she became dead in the water with two holes in her bottom as all hands fought raging fires, jettisoned topside weight and shored damaged bulkheads. Five men were killed, one missing in action, and eight wounded. As marines stormed the shores of Iwo Jima the next day, Gamble was taken in tow by Dorsey who turned her over to L8M-126 for passage to Saipan.”

Fireman First Class Salvadore "Sam" Campagna was reported to have died on February 18, 1945, and was buried at sea. Sam's commanding officer later wrote Betty Arreg informing her of the circumstances of his death and indicated that,
“It may be of some comfort to know that he died at his job performing it well. So violent was the explosion when we were hit that Salvadore and his buddies in the fire room were killed instantaneously. At least he did not suffer.”

A follow-up letter to Sam's mother informed her that a requiem mass was celebrated in the chapel on the island of Saipan for her son, who had been buried at sea with Catholic services and full military honors on the night the ship was hit.

(Note: During the war the name of Campagna's ship was withheld for security reasons. On February 18, 1945 The USS Gamble was the only US naval vessel reported to have come under enemy attack.) (ABMC; WIKI, USS Gamble DD-123; WRP May 18, 1945 1:1)

Creator: Nelson, Robert L.
Source: Remembering our own: the Santa Cruz County military roll of honor 1861-2010. Santa Cruz, CA: The Museum of Art & History, c2010.
Date: Undated
Type: OBIT
Coverage: 1940s
Rights: Reproduced by permission of Robert L. Nelson and The Museum of Art and History.
Identifier: RO-CAMPAGNA


Nelson, Robert L. “Salvadore S. Campagna (1945/02/18).” Remembering our own: the Santa Cruz County military roll of honor 1861-2010. Santa Cruz, CA: The Museum of Art & History, c2010. SCPL Local History. Accessed 30 May 2020.